The naked body both confounds and amazes us—seen as both a sign of evil by Puritans and an expression of grace by artists. Europeans, however, don't view the human body as sinful. In fact, public nudity (or at least toplessness) is prevalent at most beaches along the Mediterranean Coast, as many are known as spots for bathing in the buff. If you're traveling with children, you may want to avoid these locales (depending on your family's values).
But if you're a likely participant, nudist beaches welcome you, birthday suit and all.
Plage de Tahiti Beach, Saint Tropez, France
Plage de Tahiti—an iconic nudist beach that lies five miles south of St. Tropez—is noted for its clothing-optional policy, risqué atmosphere, and laidback (French) Polynesian culture. In the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress started the scantily-clad craze with their itty-bitty bikinis that shocked even the Europeans. But by the 1960s, the trend toward toplessness steamrolled and the beach made its mark as the place to see and be seen. Now, just about any beach along the Riviera is topless tolerant. However, there are still plenty of Saint Tropez beach options for families who wish to keep their modesty intact. Just not this one.
Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos—a popular island destination in Greece—can be reached by a puddle jumper or ferry from Athens.
Once there, take a bus, taxi, water taxi, or a rented car or moto from the port town of Mykonos to Paradise Beach. Buses run every half hour until 4:30 a.m. and water taxis run on the hour, making this a great way to go if you're the partying type. In fact, this ultimate party beach isn't a place to chill out.
After 4 pm, the scene comes alive with beer and music from both the Sunrise Bar and the Tropicana, both situated on the sand. Here you'll find that about 50 percent of beachgoers are topless and 30 percent are nude. Watch the moon cycles and hit the beach during a full moon party to enjoy the total party vibe.
Playa d'en Bossa, Ibiza, Spain
According to the Spanish Naturist Federation, nudism is patriotic right. And Ibiza—the third largest Balearic Island—is a good place to exercise it. Though not an official nudist beach, Playa d'en Bossa (or Platja d'en Bossa)—the longest beach on Ibiza— is known for its party atmosphere and topless bathers. Its popularity caused some growing pains over the years that led to inflated prices, but you can still find budget accommodations and hangouts like the Bora Bora beach bar. To get there, hop a Trasmediterranea ferry from Ibiza or the ports of Barcelona, Palma de Majorca, and Valencia.
Bellevue Beach, Klampenborg, Denmark
Just a short train ride from Copenhagen lies Bellevue Beach. And like it's aforementioned counterparts, it's known as the place to party. Expect a young, carefree crowd, loud music, and little infrastructure. Here you will find that bathers are 50 percent topless and 50 percent full nude.
The northern section of the beach is a favorite place for the gay and lesbian communities, too. The white sand and crystal clear water make it a great summertime destination (admittedly, Denmark isn't known for its beaches). While there, take the short five-minute walk to Bakken, the world’s oldest amusement park.
Guvano Beach, Cinque Terre, Italy
Located in a rocky gorge between Vernazza and Corniglia, the hidden Guvano Beach is a breathtaking spectacle. It's accessed (albeit by adventurous beachgoers) via a train ride to Corniglia and a fifteen-minute walk through an underground tunnel (if it's open) or a sketchy path. If you choose to embark on this journey, forgo the flipflops for a pair of running shoes or hiking boots. Once there, you won't find the beach bars and loud music typical of other popular nude beaches.
Instead, revel in a scene of emerald water and lush greenery. This off-the-beaten-path excursion is certainly one for the nudist's bucket list.