Sometimes you're just too socially awkward to explain to the barista/bartender/hostess/gatekeeper that you just really need the washroom. Luckily, my brain is an encyclopedia of random things about Toronto, so I put a list together of free public washrooms downtown by neighbourhood.
Winners on Bloor
Tucked behind women's athletic wear are little known public washrooms. Relieve yourself, and then go find the deal of your dreams on a pair of Frye boots. (Seriously. I've found Fryes at Winners for $150.)
Hazleton Lanes (now Yorkville Village)
You probably know this as the mall that contains Whole Foods. What you probably didn't know is that it ALSO contains 3 quiet public washrooms. An accessible one on the main floor (to the left of the escalator, behind the elevators), a set down the hall by the Whole Foods elevators on the lower level, AND a set at the back of Whole Foods. Who'da thunk you can find free anything in Yorkville?
*note: this building is under extensive renos, so there's a chance one of these is closed.
Around U of T
The bane of U of T students' existence becomes a shining beacon of relief when you really gotta go on St George. Hidden in this giant peacock is a large public washroom on the main floor, in front of the escalators. The ladies just have to walk up a tiny staircase to heaven to find multiple stalls, a long elegant trough sink, and a vanity mirror set to the side so you can take a sneaky mirror selfie on your way out.
This miniature castle has washrooms all over the building, but my personal favourite are on the second floor, down the hall from the library. They're newly renovated, and have old fashioned windows looking down into the quad. With the windows open on a warm spring day, this is a surprisingly peaceful room to do your business.
Isabel Bader Theatre
Located on the Vic campus (north east of Queens park), this theatre holds TIFF premieres, so the salles de bain were created with starlettes in mind. The washrooms in the basement of the Bader are the swankiest you'll find at U of T. True bliss.
(Pro tip: Avoid school washrooms at the top of the hour if you don't want to wait in line with antsy undergrads)
Lillian H. Smith Library
This is one of the coolest libraries in the city, so it's well worth more than just a free washroom. Get a good look at the doors when you walk in (if you can hold it in that long) before going up to the second floor for the washroom. Then go to the top floor to check out the children's book collection. Seriously. Go. You're reading an article about bathrooms, I'm pretty sure you're the kind of person who likes kid books.
(Bonus: Toronto libraries have free wifi, so can entertain yourself while on the john. We live in a beautiful world.)
Dragon City Mall
These aren't ideal washrooms, they honestly seem kinda sketch, but sometimes you just have to suck it up. I've only been once like four years ago, but if memory serves me well, they're on the second floor close to the escalator. Grab egg waffles on your way out, they're 2 for $5 and are way better than any waffles or pancakes you've ever had.
Yonge and Dundas
Anything but the Eaton Centre!!
The coolest thing about living in a city with a bunch of colleges and universities is that during the school year, those buildings are WIDE OPEN and they ALL HAVE BATHROOMS. Ryerson is right behind the AMC movie theatre on the north side of the square. I avoid Y&D at all costs and don't go to Ryerson, so I don't have a personal fave toilette, but there are many buildings to choose from!
Toronto Coach Terminal
It's a little west of Yonge, but worth it to avoid the Eaton Centre crowds. You'll find the washrooms in the basement, which you can shortcut to through the Atrium on Bay (you know, the mall where a security guard took down a man armed with a machete).
Head down to the basement of our spaceship of a City Hall to find the washroom. And while you're in the building, make sure you admire the city-for-ants version of Toronto they have on display on the main floor. It's pretty fucking adorable.
The PATH system is one of our city's greatest treasures. It's Eaton Centre-levels of busy before the workday starts, at lunch time, and again after the workday. But in between you won't have to worry about getting stuck behind slow walkers when you're about to burst. There are washrooms all over the PATH, so pop in anywhere you see the PATH logo. My personal favourite is in the TD tower, across from the Tim's by the Wellington St entrance (wow those are the most Canadian direction's I've ever given). These washrooms are sleek and softly lit, to the point where you're surprised you don't have to tip someone for handing you paper towel.
I'm not sure how many Torontonians know that the CBC building is open to the public, but it is! The washrooms are down a little hall beside the atrium, behind the convenience store. When you can finally focus on something other than your bladder, head over to the CBC museum!! It has Mr Dressup's stool (true fact: it's not bolted to the ground and I was once very tempted to steal it), and the puppets from Canada's Sesame Street, Sesame Park.
These washrooms are especially fab because they're 24 hours! There's a door to the left side of the diner that leads into a kind of lobby. In this lobby are the washrooms that the diners sends their patrons to. tbh, I've never used them at an odd hour of the night, so I'm not positive if this door is unlocked late. But if you're in the area in the middle of the day and are desperate for a toilet, this is your spot!
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Right beside the top of the escalators are some prime public washrooms. Walk through a hallway plastered with celeb photos and movie posters to find multiple clean stalls and huge mirrors. The Lightbox gives student discounts, FYI. So catch an indie flick while you're in the building for basically the price of a pumpkin spice latte.
And those are my places to go when I really gotta go. I hope this list helps stop you from buying a $5 coffee when you just wanna pee. Go forth and explore washrooms you'd never even thought of before!