Nothing ruins the holiday vibe or your leisurely stroll through a new city like a mad bathroom dash. An afternoon roaming the streets unhurried and relaxed suddenly becomes a herculean quest. Add a toddler wailing to ‘go potty’ and the nightmare intensifies. Thankfully, in Vienna this nightmare is avoidable. There are many public bathrooms. But they are not always easy to find or to use. Here are six tips that will help you master the public bathrooms in Vienna.
1. Embrace technology
The online interactive Vienna city map has information on the location of public bathrooms in Vienna. The City of Vienna has recently released a version for mobile phones. The Wien.at Live app lets you search the interactive city map for municipal services, including bathrooms, chemists (the legal ones) and playgrounds. To access the interactive map, select the ‘wien.at mobil’ button on the app home page and select ‘Stadtplan’ from the drop down menu. At this time the app is only in German.
Alternatively, you could search Layer, an augmented reality application (which is high tech talk for ‘fancy app’). Basically, when you load the app it will search for nearby for public toilets. You can use your smart phone like a pair of magic glasses that show you where the toilets are (by highlighting them with a picture or an icon as you look around with your phone’s camera). As a bonus for dog owners, and people who prefer their shoes untainted, version two of the app includes the location of all 2921 doggy-poo disposal stations in Vienna. I found this app a bit confusing to get working, so here is the official how-to guide.
2. Bring hand sanitiser
Public bathrooms in Vienna are generally clean and have toilet paper (and it’s on the roll not on the floor). However, the bathrooms in Vienna’s parks do not always have soap. It’s time to use the hand sanitiser squirreled away in your oversized, but totally fashionable, mama bag.
3. Carry 50 euro cent coins
Like most European cities, the public bathrooms in Vienna are not necessarily free. A number have attendants at the entrance. These guardians of the loo will deny access to all who cannot pay. The average cost is 50 euro cents per visit. You do not need exact change but it is good to designate a handful of 50 euro cent pieces as bathroom money. There are also toilets, including the ones in Volksgarten, that are locked. They can only be opened by inserting a 50 cent piece into the lock.
4. Take your toddler
There is one exception to the need to pay, one person that the guardians of the loo will always let pass: a toddler. Take your child with you and you’ll be granted access, particularly if you’re only there for a nappy change.
5. Make use of fast food outlets and cafes
Cafes generally let people use the bathrooms, even if they are not customers. I’ve found they are particularly easy going if the person doing the toilet dance is a two-year-old. However, some charge non-customers. This is where your bathroom money purse filled with 50 euro cent coins comes in handy once again.
Cafes aren’t always easy to find. The app Vienna Independent Coffee provides a map of independent coffee stores in the inner districts. In addition to pointing me in the direction of good coffee, it can be useful when needing to take a my daughter on an emergency toilet run. The larger coffee chain stores and bakeries, such as Aida, Starbucks and Ferber, are also top choices.
You my be wondering about fast food chains such as McDonald’s. This particular fast food chain is sneaky. Bathrooms are locked and the key is only given to customers. So, it’s not quite a haven for busting toddlers.
6. Manage the Mariahilferstrasse mayhem
Two days after moving to Vienna we explored Mariahilferstrasse. Jet lagged, disorientated and unable to make rational decisions, we stumbled down Vienna’s main shopping street. Like Wordsworth we wandered lonely as a cloud—until our daughter dragged us back down to earth. ‘Mum, Dad, I need the toilet.’ If you’ve been to Mariahilferstrasse you’ll understand three things: Clowns accost you, thrusting flower balloons in your child’s face. Charity workers stalk you, literally following you as they try to get you to sign a petition or hand over your credit card. And while there is no shortage of clowns or charity workers, toilets are rare. But they are not impossible to find. Here are three things you can do if you or your little one needs to go.
Stand in line at Gerngross
There are bathrooms and a nappy change station at the main shopping building Gerngross. Both are on the top floor. But, be warned, every time we’ve been there the queue for the bathrooms has been long.
Visit one of these three stores
There are three shops you can duck inside to use the bathrooms. Helpfully, they’re spaced equidistant apart. The bookstore Thalia is towards the Westbanhof end. In addition to a cafe and a children’s playground, there are bathrooms. They are not locked and are free for use.
Two blocks down towards Museumsquartier is Tschibo, my favourite homeware store in Vienna. Along with a cafe, there are bathrooms in the back that are free for use. We have ducked in here before to use the bathroom, and have walked out with three or four things we really needed. (I swear we really did need the socks, singlet tops and winter shoes for my daughter. I probably didn’t need the necklace, but it’s pretty.)
A short stroll towards Museumsquartier after the Neubaugasse U3 station is Leiner, the mother of all expensive but fabulous department stores. On the top floor there is a cafe, a children’s playground and bathrooms. There is even a child-sized toilet next to the children’s playground. (This option is ideal if you’re hungry or if the little one is totally over shopping.)
Hunt for a cafe
There are several cafes along Mariahilferstrasse and in the side alleys running next to the street. However, they are a bit shy and are easily outshone by the more flamboyant shops in the area. The Vienna Independent Coffee app is a must on Mariahilferstrasse.