A Girl’s Guide to Topless and Nude Sunbathing in Europe

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Certain European countries have a reputation for their laissez-faire attitude to toplessness and/or nudity on the beach. If you have the chance, I’d highly recommend giving it a go: sunbathing and swimming in various states of undress can be a fantastic experience, offering an unparalleled sense of connection with the sun and sea, a killer tan and sense of liberation that can’t be beat.

That said, the etiquette and practicalities associated with topless and nude bathing can be daunting at first. If you’re inexperienced in this regard, therefore, it pays to follow these first-timer tips:

Choose your friends wisely

You may want to think about how comfortable you are with your companions before heading to the nearest naturalist beach. Are you happy to see your best friend naked, and vice versa? How about a male friend – is this still a non-issue? How about your family? Or a group of backpackers you met at the hostel the night before, and had no idea you’d be seeing so much of in such a short time? Think about this before you reach the beach.

Do as the locals do

Before throwing caution and clothing to the wind, do some research, ask about, or simply head to the beach and see what people are doing. Even in countries like Germany where nude bathing is widespread, if you’re the only naked person on the sands you may have misjudged the situation.

Don’t disrobe until you’re on the beach

Ok, sometimes you might be able to get away with a cheeky topless dash from the parking lot to the sand – but if you’ve got a 2 km walk along the road, that may be pushing it somewhat.

Ease into it

You don’t have to run onto the beach casting your clothes aside as you go before hurling yourself into the sea with a piercing war cry (although if you do – more power to you!). Instead, if public nudity is something you’ve not done before, take it in stages. Find a spot. Settle down. Bikini up. Then, try topless sunbathing on your front. When you’re comfortable, maybe then roll onto your back. And then – who knows? After a while, the novelty will usually have worn off and you’ll be frolicking free with the best of them.

Don’t skimp on the sun lotion!

Two words: burnt nipples.

Don’t stare

The great thing about being on a beach where toplessness/ nudity is the done thing is that it quickly makes you realize that no one cares. Nudity is such a taboo thing is some cultures that it can take a while to get your head around the fact that it’s not inherently sexual, intimate or interesting. Trust me: seeing an Austrian family play a game of naked Frisbee will shatter any such illusions you may once have had.

Don’t perve

It bears repeating: if some naked lothario or topless temptress does catch your eye, it is still polite not to stare. Or at least put some sunglasses on to hide the ogling. Basically, it’s normal beach rules.

Report any creepers

If someone else’s behavior is making you feel uncomfortable (because they’re leering or saying inappropriate things, not because they’re playing volleyball in your eyeline) then you are perfectly within your rights to tell the nearest life guard and ask for them to be removed from the beach. Also, exercise basic caution and safety, as you would at any beach – if alarm bells start ringing, remove yourself from the situation.

Don’t giggle (at least not too much)

Getting the giggles is a normal nervous reaction to an unusual or slightly awkward situation – but it’s also likely to earn you some withering looks off the other bathers, for whom this isn’t a novelty. Also, it’s just downright rude to laugh at someone’s naughty bits.

Don’t take photos of other bathers

Ok, so a lot of people might not mind appearing naked in the background of your holiday snaps, but nevertheless it’s a matter of common courtesy not to photograph other people. Indeed, on a lot of beaches recording devices are explicitly prohibited, and you may find yourself removed at the expense of a naked selfie.

If you’re uncomfortable, cover up

No one is going to come over and rip off your swimsuit just because you’re feeling nervous or insecure. Traveling is a great opportunity to try new things and push yourself beyond your comfort zone – but don’t feel pressured into doing anything you feel awkward doing. If going topless or naked is too intimidating, just spend some time at the beach bikini-ed up acclimatizing to all the bare breasts and bums on show. Who knows, maybe after an hour or so you’ll be feeling a little braver? If not – not a problem!

 

Have you ever been on a topless or naturalist beach? Tell us about it below.

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About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.

4 Comments

  1. OMG BURNT NIPPLES NOOOOO! I went to a nude beach once in Australia, off of Magnetic Island. It was just my best friend and I and we had to kayak to get out there– it was so nice to swim in the water without anything on! There was pretty much no one there, which made it easy & fun. But would I be brave enough to try it in a more public place? Probably not!

    • It depends on context I think… in some places it would feel weird not to be naked! I went to a Japanese onsen with some friends once and we all had to get naked. It was weird for like 10 minutes, but by the end of the day you’re not even thinking about it.

  2. Alex of Reading on

    In Valencia, Spain now. Tops are optional, but not full. Maybe because it’s a family place. After about five minutes, it’s no big deal. But, like free speach, you gotta take the good with the bad!

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