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COMPARE: Which is the best country in Europe to get naked in?

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The Local ([email protected])
COMPARE: Which is the best country in Europe to get naked in?
People take a nudist yoga lesson at the Point Ephemere on June 10, 2018 in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP

From expected nudity in Nordic saunas to topless sunbathing on the French Riviera, attitudes and laws around nakedness differ across Europe. The Local's correspondents give you the low-down on where you can let it all hang out.

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Sweden 

Swedes have historically treated being naked in the sauna, when swimming, or when sunbathing as not being a particularly big deal.

But attitudes have changed since the liberated 1970s when women went topless on the beach and it was normal to sunbathe naked in city parks, with elder Swedes complaining of a new, unhealthy nakenskräck, or "fear of being naked". 

READ ALSO: How to get naked in Sweden without embarrassing yourself

There is no law in Sweden against swimming or sunbathing naked in any public place, but some municipalities, bathing areas and parks may have local bans, and if you break them, you can be told to leave the area, or in the worst case prosecuted under the Public Order Act. 

Flashing – exposing your genitals to another person – can be a form of harassment or sexual harassment if it is considered to be directed, as can public masturbation. 

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Where can you get naked in Sweden? 

There are 90 dedicated nudist beaches spread around Sweden, but you are actually free to swim naked almost anywhere, although you wouldn't do this at a crowded beach or pontoon. Instead find a quieter spot before slipping in. 

You are expected to be naked when having a sauna at the small wooden huts, or bastu, that dot Sweden's lakes and islands. The same goes for the more lavish kallbadhus, or "cold swimming houses", you find out on piers in Swedish towns and cities. 

At a smaller bastu, groups of people who know one another usually take turns, and will sometimes, but not always, split into a male and female group. At a kallbadhus, there is normally a male sauna, a female sauna, and a mixed sauna.

When it's time to cool off by jumping in the water, most people walk or run the distance without covering up. 

France

France has a thriving naturist community - but naturism itself is generally practised only in defined areas such as nude beaches or within clubs or activities such as naked art gallery trips (or in the famous nudist town of Cap d'Agde on the Rivieria).

In everyday life, France doesn't really go in for nudity - swimming pools, spas and saunas, in contrast to other European countries, generally require users to wear a bathing suit. In fact, French municipal pools have strict rules on the type of swimwear that can be worn, including Speedos for men.

In other public places there isn't a law specifically forbidding being naked, but it's unusual and you can be arrested for disturbing public order, depending on the location.

Women going topless on the beach is fairly common - although becoming less so, especially among younger women - but is not allowed in municipal pools or spas.

If you want to fully strip off, the best thing to do is head to a designated nudist area such as a beach or section or certain parks, or get in contact with a nudist club.

There are several of these popular clubs in France who hold activities such as naked art gallery or theatre trips and generally spread the word about what they see as the wonderful, liberating world of being nude.

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"The first rule for any naturist is to respect other people," Jacques Freeman of the Association for the Promotion of Naturism in Liberty (APNEL) told The Local. "And it's really important not to be confrontational about your choice to be nude, for example if your neighbours don't like you sunbathing naked in the garden."

Find a full explanation or where you can get naked in France HERE.

Germany

Germany is famous for its long-standing Freikörperkultur (or FKK as it's commonly called). There are many officially designated FKK beaches and lakes, as well as specially designated sections for those who want to strip bare. And in the colder months, Germany is known for its sauna culture, in which it’s the norm for guests to bare it all. 

READ ALSO: The truth laid bare: What you need to know about Germany's sauna culture

The FKK movement, which sprung up in the 19th century, is tied to the belief that people shouldn’t feel shame in the human body. In the 20th century, amid rapid industrialisation, it also became about embracing the great outdoors, and taking the time to slow down.

To this day, there are few restrictions on public nudity in Germany - although the rules around it can be confusing. Recently, a Berlin woman successfully sued for the right to swim topless in a city swimming pool, and now all capital residents can swim or sunbathe at least partially nude.

But everyone, regardless of gender, still has to wear a “commercially available” swimming bottom when in a Berlin public pool. The point is not that pools cannot add clothing restrictions - merely that it has to apply to everyone equally.

READ ALSO: The laws around going topless in Germany

Denmark

Naked communal showers at the swimming pool, nude running races and topless sunbathing are all frequent occurrences in Denmark and attest to the generally easy attitudes Danes have towards public nudity.

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Denmark has no laws prohibiting nudity. As well as the naked communal showers before swimming, you will find winter bathers taking a dip in the nude, because a freezing wet costume is uncomfortable. Sunbathers often take their tops off, and there are famous naked runs at the Roskilde Festival and Aarhus University.

A survey conducted by the University of Zürich in 2016 showed that Denmark had the lowest number of people who suffered from gelotophobia – a fear of ridicule – in any country surveyed. Just 1.62 percent of Danes suffer from this, according to the study, as opposed to 13 percent of British people.

However there has been a shift recently, with the younger generation in Denmark becoming more self conscious about their bodies. An example of this is the controversy which surrounded national broadcaster DR’s programme John Dillermand in 2021. Aimed at four to eight year olds, the animation is about a man with the world’s longest penis (dillermand literally means “penis-man”) that can do extraordinary things like rescue operations or hoisting a flag.

“We think it’s important to be able to tell stories about bodies,” public broadcaster DR posted on Facebook after the programme’s launch.

READ ALSO: Why are many Danes so comfortable with nudity?

Italy

Attitudes to nudity can be hard to pin down in Italy, a generally socially conservative, Catholic country with strict and sometimes confusing laws on ‘public decorum’ which mean you have to think carefully about where to go for an all-over tan.

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If you’re coming from most other parts of Europe, you likely will find things in Italy somewhat restrictive - though visitors from the US, for example, may find attitudes comparatively liberal.

You might have heard that going nude in Italy can land you with a fine of up to €10,000, and technically this is true, though such steep fines are unheard of these days.

Sunbathing in the nude is not an offence in Italy as long as you stick to certain beaches: Italy’s highest court ruled in 2000 that sunbathing nude on beaches “normally frequented by nudists” is not a crime as it “does not offend morality or modesty”. But if you bare all on the wrong beach you could fall foul of Italy’s public decency laws.

These laws mean you can be fined hundreds or even thousands of euros if you cause offence by not adequately covering up in any place where you can be seen by other people.

This will unsurprisingly apply if, for example, you go skinny-dipping in a fountain or stand nude on the steps a cathedral, but police can (and do) also use these laws to crack down on people walking around town shirtless or in beachwear, or even sunbathing on their own balcony if it upsets the neighbours. 

Despite all this, Italy does have a thriving community of naturists and, while there aren’t as many famous naturist spots in Italy as there are in some other European countries, there are definitely some beaches where you can strip off without getting into trouble.

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Austria

Austria is a fairly open country when it comes to nudity.

If you happen to leave the television on after the Zeit im Bild programme, Austria's main news programme that starts at 7pm, you might see an advertisement for a sex toy. And if you browse the channels a bit and end up watching a reality show such as, for example, Tinderrreisen (a show where young Austrians travel through Europe and go out on dates with locals), you might see some full-frontal nudity - at 8 pm. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about getting naked in Austria

Nudity is also common in public. Austrians won't blink twice if they see a woman going topless near a river, lake or even a park, for example. Full nudity, however, is mostly reserved for particular areas, so don't remove your bottoms unless you are in an FKK-Bereich (Freikörperkultur) or nudity-allowed spot.

At the same time, don't be too surprised if you spot a man doing a stand-up paddle naked on the Danube - we know it can get confusing, but it's all part of the free body culture.

READ ALSO: Clothes to nudity: The biggest culture shocks for foreigners in Austria

Typically, it is more or less acceptable to swim naked in almost any lake or river in Austria so long as it’s not too crowded and there is enough space to allow you not to impose yourself too much on anyone else.

Nudity is also expected and not a big deal in saunas and dressing areas of public pools and gyms.

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Of course, you will get yourself into trouble if you decide to go naked to a shopping centre or bar, for example. And exhibitionism is a crime in Austria, as well as sexual harassment. It's also important to remember that being naked in Austria does not imply anything sexual and it is considered inappropriate to make sexual advances towards someone while they are naked - staring is also impolite to say the least.

Switzerland

Switzerland has a fairly liberal attitude when it comes to public nudity. In general, it's not against the law - as long as it is not indecent. 

However, the term indecent is not clearly defined so it is open to interpretation. One famous case popped up in 2009 when residents of Appenzell Innerrhoden complained about people hiking in the mountains while in the nude. 

The residents raised the complaint because they said the walkers, who were only wearing hiking boots and backpacks, passed families with children as well as a Christian rehabilitation centre. The case eventually ended up before the cantonal court, which ruled that people should cover up when walking in public places. However, this ruling only applies in Appenzell, not in the rest of the country.

If you're looking for places to strip down, there are a few beaches where FKK (from the German Freikörperkultur or free body culture) is officially tolerated in Switzerland (for instance there's an FKK area at Katzensee near Zurich). When visiting public saunas, it is also usually the norm to not wear a swimsuit. 

But it's always good to get in the habit of checking the local authorities or facilities that you're visiting to find out if there are any rules before embracing naturism. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about getting naked in Switzerland

Spain

If you’ve spent a summer in Spain, you’ve probably noticed that it is one of the most permissive places for nudism in Europe. It is completely normal to see topless women (of all ages) sunning themselves or naked children running around at the local beach.

This is because in Spain beaches do not need to be designated as “nudist”, but rather must opt out with the creation of local bylaws.

READ ALSO: Bare necessities: The rules you need to know in Spain for taking your clothes off

There is no taboo about going topless on public beaches in Spain (in fact Spanish women do it more than any other European country) and many even do so at public pools too. However, if you’re hoping to get your kit off in Spain, it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between topless sunbathing and full-frontal nudity, as well as between legality and social acceptability.

You’re unlikely to see nudists milling around among families on the beaches of busy resorts, and they generally congregate at the furthest reaches of beaches or on more isolated or hard to reach stretches and coves.

For full nudity it’s best to stick to nudist beaches, of which there are a whopping 422 scattered around the coastline, in addition to 95 nudist campsites. In these spots you’ll find anyone from friends to extended family members and even Granny and Grandpa getting naked on the sand.

Some of the best include El Torn, located just along the coast from Barcelona in Tarragona and probably the most popular nudist beach in Spain, and there’s also Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, and the famous Vera, in Andalusia's Almería province.

READ ALSO: Dare to bare all: Top ten best nudist beaches in Spain

Vera once held the Guinness World Record for 'biggest ever group skinny-dip', and is more a bona fide naturist institution than a simple nudist beach. It is also home to Spain’s first naturist hotel, the Vera Playa Club Hotel.

Norway

Norwegians are a bit shier about stripping off than their Scandinavian neighbours, and there is something of a generation gap when it comes to being comfortable being in the nude.

Typically older generations are more likely to take to nudist beaches or be in the buff while in a sauna.

Despite younger Norwegians being more uncomfortable with being nude, nudity in itself isn't a social taboo. A recent poll by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK found that 82 percent who answered felt it was acceptable for people to bathe naked in public places or that they did not care.

Nudity is most commonly accepted in designated nude beaches and saunas in Norway.

The country is home to around 20 nudist beaches, and some of the most popular ones include Huk Beach, west of Oslo, Kollevågen Beach in the vicinity of Bergen, Strandskog Beach (also close to Oslo), and Mauren Beach near Ålesund.

Along with beaches, saunas are Norway's second area of clothes-free relaxation. However, they are usually gender-segregated, and it might be considered impolite to wear any clothing inside the sauna in many places.

From a legal standpoint, no law in Norway expressly prohibits being naked in a public place, and no law explicitly prohibits swimming naked at the country's beaches. However, relevant regulations do state that "exhibiting sexually offensive or other indecent" behaviour is illegal.

READ MORE: How, where and when can you get naked in Norway?

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