Julie Andrews never got around to listing nude sunbathing as one of her favourite things, but The Sound of Music could have been a little more interesting if she had.
The Austrians, like their German neighbours, have few inhibitions about taking their clothes off in public, and with summers a lot hotter and sunnier than you perhaps think, the naturist holiday scene there is thriving. Whilst the country doesn’t have a coastline, it does have hundreds of beautiful lakes. And it is here, along with its secluded woodlands, peaceful mountains and designated naturist centres and campsites – as well as its multitude of spas, saunas and wellness facilities where swimsuits are verboten - that you can enjoy a genuine back-to-nature experience, breathing in the freshest of air amidst glorious scenery.
The Austrians are a friendly, fairly laid-back nation, and are noted for their slightly off-the-wall sense of humour, particularly where public nudity is concerned. It regularly hosts the World Bodypainting Festival. And where else would you find a museum offering free entry to an exhibition of nude paintings to anybody turning up without clothes on? A department store giving away designer clothing to the first series of naked shoppers to arrive at its January sale? Naked hikers crossing the Alps wearing nothing but walking boots? And twenty-four lithe ski instructors posing naked in the snow for a tourist board calendar?
Unless you are feeling especially hardy, nobody is suggesting you follow suit by stripping off when the thermometer hits zero, but from May to September at least, Austria is a good bet for an enjoyable and exhilarating clothes-free vacation.
Here are some of our favourite places to be naked in one of Europe’s most beautiful countries:
CAMPING & HOLIDAY VILLAGES
Naturistenpark Lobau on the outskirts of Vienna is a family-friendly naturist club with plenty of space for tents, caravans and mobile homes. On the edge of a national park, it is ideal for nude swimming, and has a range of sports facilities as well as restaurants, children’s play areas, a sauna club and a hot spring baths.
Rutar Lido in Eberndorf, near Klagenfurt, is a naturist holiday village with a riverside nudist beach, camp site and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Set in over 30 acres of meadows, woods and parkland, there is a choice of accommodation between campsite, hotel and apartments, whilst nude recreation includes strolling through the alpine pastures, a sauna complex, and a variety of sports and leisure activities for both adults and children.
With the Austrians’ relaxed attitude towards nudity, many campsites, if not fully naturist, have FKK zones, so if you are touring the country, it is usually not difficult to find somewhere to work on the all-over tan. Naturist or part-naturist campsites in perhaps the best known area of Austria, the Tyrol, include Liga Vols near Innsbruck and Seen Camping Stadlerhof near Kitzbuhl, whilst in Styria, the south-eastern state centred on Graz, you will find Freie Menschen near Eggersdorf and Rothenfels near Oberwolz particularly welcoming to naturists.
Bordering with Slovenia, Carinthia - Austria’s southernmost state – also offers several options, with FKK camps at Tigringer See, Sabotnik, Karntner Lichtbund and Mullerhof. Pesenthein meanwhile is a delightful camp, situated on Lake Millstatter, which offers nude sailing.
Gastehaus Luhrmann near Ramsau in Styria is, to date, the only naturist hotel in Austria. Guests need to wear clothes in the restaurant and reception areas, but otherwise are free to be naked in the swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, on the sun terrace and in the park. Outside of the hotel, leisure options include hiking, cycling, mountain biking, rafting and jet-boat cruises, with skiing on the agenda in winter for those brave enough to want to leap out of the sauna and roll naked in the snow (some guests do, by the way!).
If you are visiting Austria on a non-naturist holiday, it is also worth remembering that almost every decent-sized hotel will have a mixed sauna, where nudity is the order of the day.
A sound mind in a sound body could almost be included in the words of the Austrian national anthem. Spa holidays combine medical supervision with tailored fitness programmes, balanced nutrition, a range of treatments from the therapeutic to the sensual, and a relaxed and friendly ambiance – including no inhibitions about clothes in saunas, treatment rooms and relaxation areas. Spas in Austria are characterised by the use of naturally occurring waters, spa salts and minerals that enable the body to detox and revitalise. Therapeutic methods like reflexology, massage and body wraps are popular, with a wide choice of specialist wellness centres and spa-oriented hotels to choose from.
Among the best (with the nearest airport in brackets) are:
Large public saunas are common in most cities, often attached to swimming pools or bath houses, a delightful legacy from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire and still thriving in many parts of central Europe. Perhaps the most famous is Vienna’s Jorgerbad, built just before the First World War and the city’s first indoor pool. In addition to swimming, you can bathe, shower, take a sauna, use the solarium, have a massage or even visit the hairdresser. Nudity is the norm in the saunas, whilst certain evenings are set aside as FKK night in the pool.
LAKES & RIVERS
In the absence of any seaside, Austrians will head down to their version of the beach – the lakeside or riverside – to swim and sunbathe, often without the encumbrance of clothes. Stripping off for a swim, certainly in one of the quieter mountain lakes, is common, whilst Donauinsel (Danube Island) in Vienna has long been a favourite with skinny-dippers in summer. The city has several other FKK beaches, such as Abschnitt, where you can bare all in the summer sunshine.
* Please quote www.NaturistTravel.net when making a booking or enquiry.