Where to go when ya gotta go: The best public restrooms that Boston has to offer

by Alan Maltzman on February 9, 2010

A public Pay Toilet in downtown Boston

A public Pay Toilet in downtown Boston

[Flickr/michelle murphy]

One of the many perils of touring any city is trying to find a conveniently located public restroom. Very few restaurants like to accommodate non-paying tourists breathlessly trying to push their way to back, and even most fast food emporiums insist you that become a customer before using their facilities. To make your wanderings throughout Boston as painless as possible, here’s a list of the city’s better placed public bathrooms (for those with small children or elderly adults – you even might want to print this out!):

1. The Boston Public Library – Located on Dartmouth Street in Copley Square. Enter the main building, pass the security equipment/check-in desk, take a left before the stairs and then follow the signs. Make sure to check out the lions guarding the elegant stairway going up to the main reading rooms, and after the pressure is off, take a walk through the lovely center courtyard. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be staying in one of Copley Square’s great hotels – like the Marriott Copley Place, Westin Copley Place, the Lenox or Fairmont Copley Plaza – you can just go there simply to appreciate the architecture. Open 9 AM – 5 PM Monday-Saturday (longer during the summer) and 1 PM – 5 PM Sundays.

2. The “New” State House – This is the building with the big gold dome atop Beacon Hill, near Fifteen Beacon. Enter through the security entrance to the right (past the statue of General Thomas J. Hooker), pass security, and then take a left and follow the signs. It’s not exactly a short walk through the State House’s twisty corridors, so make sure to plan accordingly. The building is open 9 AM – 5 PM Monday-Friday.

3. The Boston Common Visitor Center – Located about halfway down the Tremont Street side of the Common.  Open 9 AM – 5 PM daily.

4. The National Park Service Visitor Center – Can be found in back of the Old State House at the corner of State and Devonshire streets. Open 9 AM – 5 PM daily.

5. Faneuil Hall -  Go to the backside of the building (near Quincy Market) and enter through the CENTER doorway, up towards the Great Hall.  At the top of the first set of stairs, the Women’s Room is on the left and Men’s Room is on the right.  When you’re finished, make check out the Great Hall or have lunch across the street at the Millennium Bostonian hotel. 9 AM – 5 PM daily, except when there are special events.

6. Quincy Market -This marketplace has the only public bathroom that’s conveniently open from early in the morning until late at night (at least 8 AM to 9 PM). Enter the doors under the glass canopy and look for the round “Rest Rooms” sign leading down a set of stairs. Note that you can enter and exit from either end of the Market, so remember which way you came in.

7. The North End Information Center – Located along the Freedom Trail between the Old North Church and Copp’s Hill Burial Ground on Hull Street. Usually open 9 AM to 5 PM.

8. The Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center (Bunker Hill Pavilion)In Charlestown, located at 55 Constitution Road near “Old Ironsides”. Open daily 9 AM – 6 PM.

Honorary Mentions:
The city’s two Pay Toilets – one located on Congress Street by City Hall and one by the New England Aquarium’s main entrance. They cost a quarter (25 cents) each, but have become tourist attractions in their own right. Tourists can often be spotted snapping pictures of these large contraptions, so you always run the risk of ending up in someone’s scrapbook album. Open 9 AM to 6 PM.

- Alan Maltzman of BostonCityWalks.com

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

BS February 9, 2010 at 5:13 pm

oooh this is super helpful – thanks!

kathy April 21, 2010 at 7:35 am

GB you. I needed this site hope I can find these places. Map would help. Last time I went to Boston I went with someone who also has a small bladder and the trip was terrible. We spent most of our time looking for a bathroom.

Alan Maltzman April 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm

You’ll find these conveniently located near the major tourist spots. You’ll recognize the places when you get there.

Good luck!

katie July 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm

any info on which of these have wheelchair access?

Alan Maltzman September 4, 2010 at 7:49 am

The two pay toilets were made with wheelchairs in mind. The Visitor Center on State Street has a wheelchair ramp so is fairly easy to negotiate. The rest, while retrofitted to allow wheelchair access, require some contortion to use. For Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, you first have to find the elevators, which really are not very visable.

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