The Swedish capital is one of the most beautiful and yet still largely unknown cities in Europe: one-third water, one-third parks, and one-third architectural gem, built on 14 islands woven together by 54 bridges and surrounded by woods, water, and the clean, fresh air for which Scandinavia is famous.
It’s one of the few cities anywhere in the world where you can (or would even want to) go swimming within the city itself - and the good news for naturists is that the Swedes are very open-minded when it comes to public nudity. Many, if not quite all, like to swim and sunbathe naked: it’s not considered anything unusual, and – despite some of the pre-conceptions that exist about the country - is strictly non-sexual.
Friends and families mix happily together - totally naked and without a second thought - in the sauna, by the water, and out on it. Summers are short in Sweden, although compensation comes in the form of long days of almost continuous light, and Stockholmers love nothing more than to drive, cycle or sail out to the islands and beaches close to the city, where a lot of people have summer homes and boats.
If you have Swedish friends, or make some whilst you are there, you’ll often be invited along for a day’s sailing, a swim, a sauna, and a long and usually fairly alcoholic supper. If not, there are still plenty of opportunities to get naked and enjoy some smiles of a summer night of your own.
Stockholm is perfectly designed for swimming: it's spread across a series of islands between the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren, which means there is water literally five minutes from anywhere in the city centre.
The country’s relaxed attitude toward nudity has its limits of course, and you can’t just drop your kit anywhere, although skinny dipping is a popular pastime with post-clubbers in the summer, especially when the sun has a habit of coming up at around 3 a.m. Elsewhere, be discreet, or follow the locals, and strip off if somebody has already set the pattern. There are plenty of places where nude sunbathing and swimming is the norm, in parks, sections of the river or lakeside, or on many of the city’s outlying beaches.
Agesta is Stockholm’s official nude beach, located at the southern end of Lake Magelungen, close to Farsta and Sodertorn. Owned and operated by the city authorities, it’s a sandy beach suitable for children, and has BBQ areas and tables, toilets, rubbish bins and drinking water.
Langholmen, a rocky hill to the west of the city, is a popular nude sunbathing area, whilst on the western tip of Langholmen island, you’ll find plenty of nude swimmers, especially in the late evening or early morning.
Saltsjabaden has a mixed sauna and a wooden bathhouse (with, for some reason, separate male and female sections). Both are all-nude however, and from the terraces you can look out over the sea, or head down to the water for a swim.
Other areas offering secluded spots for naked swimming include:
- Brunnsviken in the north of the city near Hagaparken and the University Botanical Institution
- Svardson beach in Erstavik
- Karson, close the Drottningholm royal palace
- Lake Glasbrukssjon and Lake Kalltorp, both in the wonderfully-named Nacka municipality northwest of Stockholm
- The north end of Lake Tullan, about 30 minutes outside the city centre beyond Sodertalje
Be warned however. Many of these areas are rocky rather than sandy, and not particularly suitable for children or anybody who isn’t a strong swimmer. Getting in and out of the water can sometimes be tricky, so make sure you don’t lose your bearings. And go easy on the akvavit!
You don’t go to Sweden for the weather of course, so if you’re a heat-seeking missile and the main criteria for your holiday is guaranteed sunshine, head for the Med. Summers in Stockholm are warm rather than hot, and autumn seems to arrive early, even by British standards. If you do happen to be in the city when the weather isn’t being too kind however, you can of course head for the sauna.
As elsewhere in Scandinavia, wearing anything in the sauna is almost a hanging offence, so naturists will feel perfectly at home. Most of the larger hotels will have saunas, whilst popular public saunas (often part of swimming baths where you do, sadly, have to don a bathing costume) include those at the Centralbadet, Sturebadet and Sydpoolen baths.
You do need to get out and about however to fully appreciate Stockholm. Not-to-be-missed attractions include City Hall (host to the annual Nobel Prize ceremony); Gamla Stan, Stockholm's old town, a maze of winding streets, antique shops and restaurants clustered around the royal palace; and the magnificent 17th century warship, Vasa.
Stockholm is also a city of trendy hotels, designer stores, modern art and pavement cafes, and where people-watching itself has almost become an art form. The good news for guys is that most Swedish girls really do look like Agnetha from ABBA in her heyday. Unfortunately for the girls, most of the men look like Bjorn or Benny…
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