Exploring Philadelphia in the summertime would be a lot easier if Google Maps had one more feature: locating the closest restroom you can use without buying something.
Today, every Starbucks restroom would appear. But there are more — and better ones. So until Google rolls out my dream app, I have found for you the city’s greatest semi-public restrooms.
Before heading out on my journey, though, I asked Twitter for some help. Some of you had great ideas; others led me astray.
To the person who told me the upstairs restroom at Di Bruno Bros. on Chestnut is great: It’s temporarily closed. To the woman who told me the food court bathrooms at Liberty Place are worth entering: No, they are not. To the guy who said the toilets across from the grilled cheese place at 30th Street Station are “clean,” you lie.
Below is a list of the 10 nicest (women’s and gender-neutral) restrooms I entered without having to buy anything — or in many cases, talk to anyone.
A disclaimer: These are not all public, per se, so I’m not suggesting you won’t be asked any questions.
1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Please never use the bathrooms in Suburban Station. Instead, walk through the concourse level to the food court-type area under the Comcast Center and treat yourself to cleanliness, decent smells, and marble counters.
51 N. 12th St.
This bathroom is way cleaner than you’d think. It’s in the back of the building — follow the green signs — and has a long line of shiny stalls (no wait time, even at lunch), plus automatic sinks and powerful hand dryers.
(Where’s the photo, you ask? When I was there — and in two of the other Top 10 — a bunch of people were populating the bathroom, and invading people’s privacy was not part of my mission.)
599 Market St.
The bathrooms in the heart of Philadelphia’s biggest tourist trap center are enormous and very clean. They have a unique sink setup that’s sort of trough-like, and the hand dryers are all built into the spigots. But there’s a big negative. At any given time, this place is packed with children on field trips and family vacations. Prayers for you.
1700 Chestnut St.
The best thing about this bathroom is that you feel like you’re doing something illegal. That elevator to the basement may feel like it’s for employees only, but it’s for you. The women’s room has stainless steel stalls and a dual-sink situation. Enjoy your personal space.
1001 N. Delaware Ave.
To get to the bathrooms, walk in through the main entrance — you’ll need to show ID — past the slots and the table games. You’ll encounter modern-style bathrooms with so much faux gold, you’ll think you stepped into Trump Tower. Generally clean, with floor-to-ceiling stalls, and everything is automatic. The restroom is also one of the only places in the casino that doesn’t smell like old cigarettes.
10 Avenue of the Arts
Enter the building on the City Hall side and take an immediate right. (Don’t accidentally walk straight and get lost in a sea of fancy women wearing animal print.) The stall walls in the ladies room are marble, and there are very nice paper towels. You can definitely use the bathrooms without speaking to anyone, and may I also recommend slowly putting on your sunglasses as you leave the hotel? You’ll feel like a rock star.
1901 Vine St.
The first-floor bathrooms are sleek, and the best part was the powerful, stainless steel hand dryers that are known for making your hands bone-dry in seconds. I would testify in court on their behalf.
120 S. 17th St.
I said, “Jackpot” out loud when I entered this second-floor bathroom. Like you would at any other hotel you’re using solely for the restroom, enter the main entrance as though you own the place. Never mind the Maserati at the valet stand. Don’t worry about the people sipping afternoon martinis in the bar. Walk past the front desk, down the hallway, and up the stairs on the right. Take a quick left and you’ve reached the promised land: a beautiful, clean bathroom with floor-to-ceiling stall doors. There are even baskets of those disposable, clothlike paper towels.
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
It is possible to use the incredible restrooms at the Barnes Museum without paying admission, but you may be asked some questions by security people and ticket-sellers. They’re in the lower level near the gift shop, so you could tell them you’re there for some merch. (Or you could awkwardly tell them you’re “waiting for a friend” and then, when you leave without going into the museum, tell them your “friend” is actually “at the other art museum.”)
The bathroom is glorious. I felt like a queen using the super-private stalls, each of which is equipped with its own sink. And the toilets flush with fancy metal buttons on the wall.
1200 Market St.
This bathroom, the undisputed king of all Philadelphia bathrooms, is not for people afraid of heights, and it’s definitely not for someone who has to go right now. I waltzed into the hotel lobby on a weekday afternoon — during a conference for patent lawyers — and was stuck in the elevator with a guy in an expensive suit who had five of those ribbons on his name tag that indicate he’s important. “Here for the conference?” he asked. “Yes,” I responded while wearing a jean jacket and dirty sneakers.
My new friend and I rode up to the 33rd floor, which is labeled “the boardroom.” Very exclusive. The bathroom isn’t as bougie as at the Ritz, but it was spotless and featured private stalls with doors that go up to the ceiling. It smelled like lavender.
But the reason this bathroom is my No. 1? When you’re done doing your business, you exit the room to this: