Nudism and Naturism around the World: Europe

While diving into all the content of our website for blog posts which we could include in our brand new Extended Versions of our Naturist Guides, we stumbled upon several forgotten ones from the early days. One of the first blog posts we ever published was called Something about Cultural Differences in which we talked about nudism in different cultures around the world.

When we were reading that post again we felt that something was missing. Although the information is still quite accurate, most of what we wrote were things we had learned from the internet. Our only naturist experiences had been in a handful of European countries and honestly, we didn’t know that all that much about the global naturist lifestyle at the time.

Today, after almost two years of traveling around the world, we thought it was time for a re-write. Not only have we visited many naturist places, we’ve also gained a lot of personal experiences about how things are handled differently and we had the chance to talk to lots nudist club members, naturist federation board members, nude resort owners and so many other naturists and nudists.

It wouldn’t even be possible to put all that information in just one blog post. So we decided to split it up in three different posts. Today: Naturism in Europe.

Europe is where modern naturism got started

Nudism and naturism as we know them today originated from Western Europe. In the first half of the 20th century groups of people from mostly Germany and the UK got together to enjoy being naked in the company of others. Without the whole thing turning into an orgy. Just like today, people had different reasons to enjoy nudism or naturism but back in the day the most common one was because of the health factor (both physically and mentally) which was achieved by being naked in nature.
Which seems like a pretty sensible idea in the aftermath of the industrial revolution.

Historians and psychologists don’t always agree about at which point non-sexual social nude lifestyles started to flourish and what exactly was the trigger for them to grow into what we know as the naturism and nudism of today. Since we are neither historians nor psychologists, we can only guess. Just like with everything in history, it was probably a mix of reasons, coincidences and being in the right place at the right time.

It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that today the holy grail of naturist opportunities is still in Europe, its birthplace. But we have to be careful with that statement because Europe is a large continent with many different countries and cultures. The nude habits in one country are certainly not the same as in the one next door.

Naturism in East and North Europe

In eastern Europe the naturist options are much more limited than in western Europe, that’s for sure. But you would be surprised about the eastern European countries which do have at least a couple of unofficial nude beaches or naturist clubs. Ukraine for example has several nude beaches at the coast of the black sea and hosts a festival called KaZantip which is often called the little European sister of Burning Man. Just like her big brother, she’s not a stranger to nudity.
Also Romania, Bulgaria and Poland do have nude beaches and Hungary is becoming more and more important as a naturist holiday destination.

In the north of Europe, the average temperatures may not be that attractive to the majority of naturists but yet there’s quite some social nudity going on. Finland, Sweden and Norway are well known for their saunas and all these countries have several naturist clubs and campings for the long summer days. And those can be very long over there.
Naturist campings can also be found in Denmark and here’s a fun fact about that country. All public beaches are clothing optional by default. How cool is that?

Naturist clubs and nude spas

For the largest selection in naturist places you still have to be in western Europe. The options are huge and include campings, resorts, clubs, B&Bs, nude events and the so called naturist village.
An important distinction we can make here is between the countries which merely focus on local naturists and those who focus mostly on naked tourists.

Germany, The Netherlands and also our home country Belgium have a long history in local naturism. Germany was the birth math of naturism as we know it and naturist camping Athena Ossendrecht on the border of Belgium with The Netherlands was one of the first places to host the international INF Congress. Other than a historical importance, these countries still offer a lot for the local naturist in the form of campings, clubs and nude beaches.

Germany also has a history in wellness, spa and communal bathing. A habit which is by default practiced nude. Do you know any famous German bathing suit designers? We don’t think so.
Several decades ago the nude spa also found its way towards Belgium and The Netherlands and because the weather is this part of Europe is not always decent enough to drop your clothes outside, these indoor facilities know a huge success. Interestingly, more and more Belgians and Dutch start to enjoy social nudity in the spa without identifying themselves as naturists or nudists.

The misconception about English naturism

A European country which isn’t often at the top of favourite destination lists of the nude traveler is the UK. In the comments we often receive on Naked Wanderings it strikes us how many people still believe that the Victorian age has never ended and that the British are still the prudes of Europe.

As naturists we know the burdens of misconceptions and prejudices and the English naturists probably know these better than most others. The truth is, during the last decade or so naturism has grown exponentially in the UK. There are several nude beaches spread around the country’s coast, there are more than 50 campings, clubs or other types of naturist facilities and Great Britain is one of the pioneers in Europe when it comes to nude events. Their NKD festival and Nudefest have become quite famous and so is the North East Skinny Dip.

The driving force behind all this progress in English naturism is certainly the federation British Naturism which keeps looking for new and better ways to attract new naturists and increase the naturist options.

It’s not all rainbows in the UK though. The discrimination of single male naturists is still a hot topic in this country and we met the owner of an English naturist B&B some time ago who doesn’t want to publish the address on his website out of fear for voyeurs. But that’s not typical for the UK. We’ve seen similar issues at other places around the world.

Some of the best news from the region came probably last year from the northern neighbour of the UK: Ireland. Which has opened its first official nude beach. Naturists in this country have struggled through a long and difficult path and it seems like they are finally getting there. Ireland does have a naturist club and their naturist federation already exists since the sixties. Apparently they are now gaining the strength to start things moving.
We applaud that very much!

Sun, beach and lots of nudity

When people talk about naturism in Europe, 90% of the time it will be about either Croatia or France. Both countries have a long history in naturism and are still considered the crown jewels when it comes to European naturism.

It’s said that the first significant step for naturism in Croatia was initiated by the British (who would have thought) King Edward VIII who took his mistress to Rab island for a skinny dip. Due to the increase of naturists all around Europe and the little options they had, Croatia was the first country to start focusing on nude tourism. With a lot of success. While naturist vacations in Croatia are still limited to camping (or rental accommodation at a camping) it’s a favourite holiday destination for many European naturists.

France, on the other hand, was the country where organised naturism really got started with the founding of the INF-FNI (the international naturist federation) back in 1953 at CHM Monta. Since then, France has been focusing on both local naturists as tourists and has become the number one naturist destination in Europe.

A big player when it came to promoting French naturism is of course Cap d’Agde. The world’s first naturist village. It didn’t matter whether we were in Brazil, Canada or Thailand, there will always be someone asking: “Hey, you travel to naturist places around the world, how is Cap d’Agde?”. Although Cap does get some bad publicity for being a bit more liberal than the naturist standards, for naturists around the world it’s a mythical destination and a top naturist’s bucket list item.

Many naturists tend to forget that France is more than just Cap d’Agde. The country has it all. Kilometers and kilometers of nude beaches, cosy little naturist campings, large naturist villages or naturist B&Bs between the wine fields. It’s all just there.

Upcoming naturism in Europe

France, Croatia and Germany have know naturism for as long as most people alive can remember. But it’s a misunderstanding that this is the same for all western European countries.
Although naturism has been practiced in Greece for many years, the country today still only counts a handful of official nude beaches (and many hands full of unofficial ones). The first naturist resort in Greece was Vritomartis, which opened its doors in 1989. About half a decade after the first naturist places appeared in Croatia. A country which is not all that far away.
Even today, Greece doesn’t have more than ten naturist resorts.

Also Montenegro, which is right around the corner of Croatia is not yet on the top destination list when it comes to nude vacations. Ada Bojana island in the very south of the country has long been the only naturist camping around. Today there’s another one called Full Monty which is right next to the Croatian border. Nude beaches do exist in Montenegro but they are few and not very appealing.

On the other side of the Adriatic sea there’s Italy. Few people know that naturism has been illegal there until 2006. That’s really not so long ago. The good news is that today Italy is quickly gaining ground on the naturist travel market. With several official nude beaches and already more than twenty naturist resorts the country is certainly attracting its fair share of naturist visitors.

A sad but interesting historical story can be found in Portugal. Organised naturism has been known in this country as early as the 1920s, but the dictatorial regime put an end to public nudity. It took many decades before naturism was allowed again, in 1974. Today naturism is steadily growing in Portugal and more and more naturist resorts are opening their doors.

A country of which we can not make head nor tails when it comes to naturism is Spain. They do have a strong naturist federation which fights actively for the rights of naturists. They have famous naturist resorts like Vera Playa, Costa Natura and some on the Canary islands. New naturist spots like Lavinia Naturist Resort near Alicante are popping up while others seem to be forced to close their doors or turn to textile because they lack customers. Maybe it’s a general tendency of tourism in Spain, we honestly don’t know.
But we hope to figure it out pretty soon.

Naturism vs nudism in Europe

You may have noticed that we’ve used the word naturism a lot in this article. Much more than the word nudism. The reason for that is that naturism is still the most accepted term in Europe when it comes to social nudity (with “FKK” on a second place). While nudism is used more and more often, in many countries it still has a bit of an undertone which leans towards exhibitionism.
So if you’d find yourself lost in Germany, Belgium, France or Greece (for example) it’s always better to ask for the nearest naturist resort than the nudist resort.

The length of this blog post might be an indication about how big naturism in Europe really is. And this is just a summary. Not only can naturist places be found in almost every European country, the general acceptance of social nudity is something that keeps growing. Even if you’d get caught giving your naked behind a decent tan at a beach which isn’t designated for naturism, chances are low that this will have you end up in jail or any other really big troubles.
Nick&Lins

View Comments

  • Your newsletter is a rich mine of plenty of information on naturism . It is so enriching ! Hat's off to your efforts.

  • Me täällä Suomessa ymmärrämme että, naturisti on sellainen, joka on aina kun mahdollista on ilman vaatteita.
    Nudisti on satunnaisesti, esimerkiksi ulkomailla rannalla ilman vaatteita.

    • Thanks a lot for that interesting insight Yrjö!

      Translation:
      Here in Finland, we understand that a naturist is one who is whenever possible without clothes.
      Nudist is occasionally, for example, on the beach without clothes.

  • Wow long one hah.
    Interesting ,i wouldnt know so it must be as its written.
    But that last last part wow .. to me, its totaly the other way around.
    As i mentioned before, i was never even thinking about any of this till the last couple of years.
    And here was the place that ive heard about the word naturism for the fist time ever.
    Eventho here nudism or nudieism isnt that popular ,mostly cause of the fake moral thing and ,simply cause of the way ppl are raised from day 1 ,there are ppl that practice this of course.
    Matter a fact, in my city in the old days it was more popular and accepted then now.
    We even had a little island, that was "aimed" towards nudies.
    Anyhow, as i said before, when i was a kid, thats the 1st time i saw nudies, on the other side of the bay here at the local river, long time ago, and far away, and i didnt think much of it then.
    Then later, we had one of the most popular movies made here in the 80s.. and it was about nudism.
    So what i wanna say is, that all of my life (for as long as i cared or ever heard about naked ppl) it was always nudism here ,that includes Croatia and Monte, (that 80s movie was filmed there).
    And the only conotation it had, was what it is, ppl swiming nude, being on a beach nude, nothing more, nothing less.
    So i really wonder how the hell did that word became a "clue" to exib ... makes no sence to me.
    For whats "worse" ,as you mentioned, Cap is a "naturist" city ,resort, so naturist .. yet its the worlds no1 swinger place ,and that word is considered as the "good" one.. very odd.

    • It could be that because former Yugoslavia was focusing on nude tourism from the early beginning, they have adopted the term nudism rather than naturism (but we don't know this for sure).

    • Haha Bill that's awesome!
      But you didn't read the newsletter very well :-s
      We clearly said the "Thursday post"...

      We know, our planning of blog posts made it a bit confusing. Try again in two days ;-)

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