There’s a good reason why the cult TV show Eurotrash used to have a regular feature entitled Naked German of the Week. Quite simply, the Germans take great delight in taking their clothes off in public. In any case, you could hardly have seen it working if it had been called Naked Belgian of the Week.
It’s a bit of harmless fun, of course, although in Germany - where the naturist movement pretty much started - they take their nudity fairly seriously, which is great news for anybody visiting the country. Far from being coy or prudish about being naked in front of friends, family or perfect strangers, the Germans just get on with it, in a refreshingly matter-of-fact way. What is more, you don’t necessarily have to go to a specialist naturist beach, club or campsite to bare all - you can shed the lederhosen, along with everything else, on beaches, by lakes and rivers, and in parks, spas and swimming pools in hundreds of locations all over Germany.
Here are some of our favourite places to be naked in what is, after all, a very beautiful and often under-rated destination.
One of Germany’s oldest and prettiest spa towns, nestling in the Bavarian Alps. With manicured parks and gardens, concert halls and its briny salt cascades, it has a very traditional feel. There is nothing old-fashioned however about the ultra-modern Rupertusterme spa, leisure and wellness complex. Inside or outside, summer or winter, you can be naked all day in the array of treatment rooms, saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms, swimming pools and sunbathing areas, as well as the café, where the only thing that comes dressed is the salad. The mass sauna sessions are great fun: up to 50 of you pile into a huge sauna, the heat is cranked up, and two jovial attendants waft the air with towels to spread the heat, salt and eucalyptus oils through the air. Finish off outside with a brisk salt rub-down and a dunk in the ice-cold pool for a totally invigorating experience.
THE ENGLISH GARDEN, MUNICH
A vast public park close to the city centre. Between the Monopteros and the Japanisches Teehaus lies the Schönfeldwiese (beautiful meadows) where nude sunbathing has been allowed since the 1960s. It caused something of a stir at the time, but is now part of Munich’s daily life. The city enjoys glorious summers, and whenever the sun is out, you will find hundreds of locals - singles, couples, families, groups of friends - topping up their all-over tans. Even businessmen will frequent the park during their lunch hour, strip off, fold their clothes neatly into a pile, and calmly sit there reading the newspaper - a perfect escape from the stresses of the day.
RIVER ISAR, MUNICH
Running through the heart of the city, the Isar flows fast enough to allow surfers to practice their skills. For something more leisurely, head down onto the riverbanks or one of the shingly beaches close to the Ludwigsbrücke bridge, where nude sunbathing is the norm. In the height of summer, locals and visitors alike can be seen basking like seals, cooling off with a quick dip in the water or a cold beer. A great place for a picnic, to sit and read a book, or take a well-earned post- sightseeing nap.
Infamous as the location of Hitler’s mountain-top eerie, the Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden these days boasts an über-chic Intercontinental Hotel with spectacular views, a fascinating salt mine and museum, and the Watzmann Therme, a spa and leisure complex offering a range of treatments, indoor and outdoor saunas (including Finnish, steam, herbal and the duct-cleaning Aromarium) and an extensive outdoor nude swimming and sunbathing area.
Berlin’s own mini lake district, a vital lung in the heart of the city. Mansions, villas and holiday homes have been built over the years by wealthy Berliners as weekend retreats, whilst day trippers head there when the weather is good to swim, sail or sunbathe nude on the Strandbad Wannsee, an open-air lido and the longest inland beach in Europe.
The re-unification of Germany opened up more of the Baltic coastline, but one of the best resorts, with a great beach for baring all, is in what was the old West Germany. Travemunde, close to the historic port of Lübeck, has been a popular seaside resort since the early 19th century, and as well as its family-friendly FKK beach, boasts the Vorderreihe boardwalk, the oldest German lighthouse on the Baltic coast, a museum ship, and a ferry terminal for trips to Denmark, Sweden or Finland.
Members of the naturist movement began flocking here in the 1920s, earning Sylt its reputation as one of the birthplaces of modern nudism. Five miles off the north west coast, it is usually referred to as an island, although is in fact a giant sandbar tenuously attached to the mainland. Jutting out 25 miles into the North Sea, it has the longest continuous beach in Germany, and its spas have made it a popular retreat for Germany's rich and famous, as well as naturists of more modest means.
In the heart of Lübeck Bay, this is one of the largest health resorts in Schleswig Holstein, with a long spa promenade and 8km of sandy beach with beach volleyball courts, play areas for children, and a large designated naturist area. It also offers surfing, sailing, pedal boat trips, diving, parasailing and other watersports, as well as a zoo, rambling, cycle tours, horse riding, golf and the not-to-be-missed Grömitz Wave sea surge pool.
A naturist family leisure park in the warmest part of Germany, close to Freiburg (Germany), Basel (Switzerland) and Mulhouse (France), hence the name (“three country corner”). Completely surrounded by forests and lakes, there are few better places for the unlimited freedom of naked swimming, sunbathing, walks, bicycle rides and fishing, whilst the Steinenstadt is a natural swimming-pool designed following pure ecological guidelines.
Germanys most famous spa town, noted for its racecourse, casino, kurhaus and designer shops, and so good they named it twice. The Brenner’s Park Hotel has superb health and beauty treatment rooms where nudity is the day, as it is in the town’s traditional spa complex, the Roman-Irish Friedrichsbad, and its modern counterpart, the Caracalla Spa. Just outside the town is the magnificent Schlosshotel Bühlerhöhe, one of the world’s great hotels. Set on a mountaintop overlooking the Black Forest, this five-star chateau-style hotel really is a haven: wonderful views, fabulous food, and a great spa complex.
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