If you’re looking for an unusual tour of London, the London Loo Tour needs to go to the top of your list. It’s basically walking tour of all things loo-related. Here’s what to expect – without giving too much away.
I’m standing at Waterloo station looking for a woman holding a toilet plunger up over her head. She’s my guide for the afternoon on the London Loo Tour.
Yes, while most people coming to London to visit thrones are viewing gold, guilded ones in Buckingham Palace, mine are to be white porcelain and hopefully not grubby! Frankly, I have no idea what I’ve let myself in for.
A couple of minutes before 2pm I see her – a small woman waving a plunger over her head who introduces herself as Katie, my toilet tour guide for the next two hours. Soon we’re joined by five other brave folk – most of whom seem to be celebrating birthdays (erm, any friends reading this I just want a few beers in a bar thanks). Off out of the station we head to our first stop where the lavatorial learning begins.
Where Does the London Loo Tour Go?
The tour winds its way from it’s starting point at Waterloo station to Covent Garden.
Other than at one stop, you don’t actually go into any other working toilets, which might come as a relief, but we did learn a heap of stuff about the history of sanitation in the capital and, it’s brilliant if you live in London as Katie points out a heap of free loos you can visit should you get caught short.
You Will Visit the Jubiloo
The only loo you do visit is on the Southbank where you check out the Jubiloo.
I’ve been to the Southbank numerous times (we even have a post on unusual things to do in the Southbank) walked past this at least five times before and had no idea what was inside – boy was I missing out.
The toilets were created to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012 and are often described as the most patriotic loos in England. There’s British bulldog toilet seats, Union Jack mirrors and pictures of her Majesty everywhere.
It has eleven individual cubicles and at least one of them is so large, our whole tour group got into it at once! The loos flush using rainwater collected from the roof. Go in on the tour and you also don’t have to pay the 50p it normally costs to spend a penny in there!
After you leave the Jubiloo it’s time to cross the river – a place full of its own fascinating poop related history. One of the funniest things about taking a toilet tour in London is the faces of everyone you walk between the stops – there’s a lot of double-takes as people sitting in pubs and cafes, or walking past in the opposite direction realise that yes, that woman is holding a toilet plunger above her head.
A few inquisitive American folks ask what we’re doing – but don’t look any less confused when I explain we’re on a London toilet tour investigating all things looesque – the rest just stare open-mouthed muttering some variation of ‘that’s a loo plunger.’
What Do You Learn?
It’s difficult reviewing tours – I want to tell you enough about the tour to help you decide whether or not to go on it, but not spoil all the fun so all I’m going to tell you about Katie’s speech is the first fact I remembered, the one that means you’ll never be able to look at The Shard (the super tall pointy building on London’s Southbank) in the same way again.
Apparently, because it’s so tall, they realised if they had straight plumbing anything, erm deposited would be travelling so fast when it hit the ground it would create carnage – so the pipes twist.
As such, if you move fast enough after using the loo and jump in the very fast lift down, you’ll beat your poop to the bottom, Why would you not want to go on a tour that teaches you stuff like that?
Other things I learned included what the origin of the words loo and crap are thought to be (and no, it has nothing to do with the famous Mr Crapper), that there are 72 free public toilets in the Square Mile; all about toilet twinning – and the location of one of London’s hidden sights, the last street lamp in London to run on methane gas from the sewer below – and it’s right by a very posh hotel!
You’ll have to book yourself on the London Loo Tour to get the full details of all of those yourself though.
Where Does the Loo Tour Finish?
The tour finishes at The Cellar Door, a tiny cocktail bar in Aldwych which, you’ve guessed it, is situated in an old public convenience. If you go in there afterwards you get a 30 percent discount on drinks.
This was another place I’d walked past heaps of times before but never paid any attention to – in fact, I’m not sure I want to tell you about it as it’s super tiny and I won’t get a seat if I want to go again! Its loo door is also rather interesting – of somewhat unnerving – as it’s completely see through until you lock it!
What Did I Think of The London Loo Tour?
I thought it was good fun – my only criticism was I’d have preferred to find out a bit more about other interesting toilets in London (see below for that) but it certainly was a different way to spend an afternoon – and I learned heaps of ‘useful’ sewer-related information!
It might not be something you do if you’re just visiting London for a short holiday, but, if you have a longer trip, or if you live in London and are looking for something fun to do in London at the weekend it’s definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon.
If you want to find out more, check out the London Loo Tour website.
They now offer three different tours around the city. The original tour that I went on, and a tour departing from Bloomsbury which departs from the Euston area (you could combine this with some of the sights in our quirky guide to Kings Cross).
Other Exciting London Loos
Oh, and if you fancy visiting your own set of interesting loos – here are some tips that didn’t come from the tour
If you’re looking for instagram fodder, then head to this pizza and pasta restaurant in London’s Covent Garden.
The loos are full of fantastic neon signs. And the food is pretty good too!
The Toilets at Sketch
The loos at this restaurant in Conduit Street are quite possibly the most Instagrammed toilets in London. You can also drink in old prison cells that still contain the loo at the Courthouse Hotel in Soho.
Bars in old toilets are a thing in London – with names like Ladies and Gentleman, The Attendant and WC. Here’s a list of them from Time Out if you want to check out some more.
The Shard Toilet
If the tale of their plumbing has you wishing to pay these are visit, they are on the 31st floor and famed for their incredible views – I don’t like heights so I have to hold on when washing my hands, but they are pretty fab.
The White Cubicle Art Gallery
This is situated in a pub toilet in Cambridge Heath and despite it’s past, it attracts heaps of respected artists
The Art Loo in Soho
This isn’t often open to the public, but, it’s a mini gallery in an old toilet right in the middle of Soho. See more about it, and some other fun things to do in our unusual Soho guide.
What to Read Next
If you’re looking for a fun tour to take in London, the London Loo Tour is a good one, but you might also want to consider going on a Soho Beer Bike where you pedal around the city listening to Abba and drinking Prosecco! See our review on that here.
If it’s more the loo details you liked in this post, this whole blog started because we visited the Toilet Restaurant in Taipei, so you might want to have a look at our full post on that – and the fun pictures of the dinner served in a toilet bowl! Sadly it has now closed.
We also spoke to Marion, an Australian author who’s published a guide to Australia’s Most Unusual Toilets!
And, last but not least, there’s a few different interesting toilets in New Zealand – have a look at these ones in Matakana, an easy day trip to Auckland.
Who Writes Differentville?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author living in Sydney.
My travel articles have been published in titles including The Australian, Body & Soul at the Sunday Telegraph, RAC Horizons, Jetstar magazine and more.
I like the weird, the wonderful and anything that makes me jump and down with glee like I’m about three. That’s what you’ll find here.