There’s no denying that Europeans know how to release their inhibitions and have a good time. Point in case, their love of nude beaches.
As Europe re-opens for tourism this summer, the best nudist beaches across the continent will happily welcome back droves of “naturists” and completist sunbathers. So after a year in various states of lockdown, masked-ness and isolation, why not re-enter the fray of public life in the most liberating way possible: by doing as the Europeans do, and enjoying one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of coastline in your birthday suit?
Nudity has never been as taboo in Europe as it is stateside. Europe has a longstanding social history behind the practice of nudism, and beachgoing au naturel has become a summer fixture in European culture in recent decades.
In Germany, public nudity is normal, and part of a tradition known as Freikoerperkultur (Free Body Culture). It has roots that go all the way back to the late 19th century, when Germans considered nude exercise outdoors to be a potential cure for tuberculosis and rheumatism. In 1920, the world’s first nude beach was established on Germany’s Salt Island — which remains one of the best nude beaches in Europe to this day.
The nudist movement arrived in France by 1920, where the term “nudist” was coined to describe relaxation in the nude. Saint-Tropez, France, was an early adopter of nude beaches, as was Mykonos, Greece. Nearby in Croatia, it’s said that nude beachgoing became popular after British King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson visited the island of Rab in the 1930s and swam nude in the Bay of Kanda.
Today, designated nudist sections of public beaches are a norm in Europe, and American tourists can join the naturalist sun worshipers in just about any country that adjoins the sea (and even some that don’t, thanks to lake living). From private wild enclaves to urban beaches to party spots, anyone can find a nudist beach on the continent where they feel comfortable stripping down to their bare essentials. Below, we take a look at nine of the absolute best.
Everyone who goes to Ada Bojana is required to bare it all. The nudist island is a paradise for those who want to enjoy naked sunning and swimming, with long stretches of pristine coastline expands as far as the eye can see. There aren’t many private places, so if you’re feeling shy, this isn’t the nude beach for you.
If you’re not shy about sharing a naked beach day with a large crowd, make your way to Paradise Beach in Mykonos. During the high season, the beach is a nonstop bathing-suit-optional party, and the festivities continue into the evening with a truly full-moon celebration, as few people bother to put clothes on even after the sun has gone down. If you’re looking for a more demure nudist beach experience, you can also try the island’s longest beach, Elia.
Croatia is known for its naturist beaches, and one of the best places to skinny-dip is a UNESCO nature reserve on the uninhabited Lokrum Island. Only one section of the island is a dedicated spot for nudists who want to soak up some sun: when you exit the ferry, follow the signs to the nude section (naturist beaches are marked as FKK). Be sure to bring a towel, as the shore is an incline of flat rocks that line the edge of the island.
For a fully immersed au naturel experience, stay at the naturist Cap d’Agde village, Europe’s largest nudist colony. The nude-only resort in France comes complete with a mile-long beach where you can laze around in your most natural state. You can also go shopping, dining and dancing in the buff here, or attend a naked foam party, if that’s more your speed.
You can also fit in a few hours of nude sunbathing after exploring Copenhagen. Bellevue Beach is on the northern outskirts of the city and reachable by a 20-minute train ride. Nude bathing is allowed in the northern section of the beach, but it’s standard to go topless anywhere along the shore. Denmark may not be known for its beaches, but Bellevue has a reputation for lively parties and a young, carefree crowd to go with its picture-perfect white sand and crystal clear water.
Playa Es Trenc
Playa Es Trenc is one of the prettiest beaches in Europe and a favorite spot for visitors to roam naked all day and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. The immaculate two-mile-long beach boasts an ultra-soft white sand beach contained by a rustic rocky cove that lends the whole place an air of pool-like calm. Officially a nudist beach, it’s also known for being family friendly.
Sweden probably isn’t the first destination you’d think of when planning a trip somewhere in hopes of getting a full-body tan. But bathing naked in the wild is the norm in Swedish culture, where nudity is widely accepted. You can take your bare bum for a dip at Ågesta Nudist Beach, which is just a 20-minute drive from Stockholm. It’s the only official naturist beach in the Stockholm Region, perched alongside Magelungen, one of the many beautiful lakes surrounding the capital.
Island of Sylt, Germany
Sylt Island was the world’s first official nude beach and can still be enjoyed today. The grass-covered dunes of Kampen Beach are one of the best spots in Germany to go nude with a bit of privacy. A nearly 100-foot-tall red cliff shelters the scenic area. Sections A and N of the beach are dedicated for bathers who want to be full-on nude as they soak up the sun and dunk into the sea.
The Netherlands isn’t known for its seaside, but the small country has many nude beaches. The oldest nudist beach is Callentsoog, which became official in 1973. Bare-bodied beachgoers can enjoy the dedicated sandy stretch of beach for naturalists, which sits between the 14.50 and the 16.80 poles.
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