Lavatory de La Madeleine in Paris, France

Visitors to the Place de la Madeleine in Paris’s 8th arrondissement tend to head straight for the famed Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine. Yet tucked away behind an unassuming, wrought iron fenced area lies another, less appreciated architectural marvel. If you’re there at the right time, venture down the beautiful tiled stairs to what has to be one of the most striking bathrooms in the world. 

The Lavatory de La Madeleine, a designated historic monument, is a public restroom that dates back to 1905. At the time, it was considered unseemly to place a toilet next to a church, so the authorities hid it underground. Walking into this Art Nouveau loo, however, one wonders why anyone would want to keep it out of sight. Warm mahogany, pristine stained glass, and tile mosaics all add to the Belle Époque ambiance.

In 2011, the restroom was falling into such disrepair that the government closed it to the public. After an extensive, pricey refurbishment, it reopened in 2023 and as lovely as ever. An attendant greets guests at the door to collect the modest €2 fee. Each individual cubicle holds a toilet, sink, and mirror. 

The shoeshine chair is original but not in use at this time. If ya gotta go, there’s no atmospheric place to do your business.

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