France is a country where going naked is second nature. This is true particularly in the south of France and along the Mediterranean and a little less common on the wind-swept beaches of northern France. Find out what you need to know before you expose all in this bare-skin-friendly country. There are some unwritten rules to follow, but most are common sense.
History of Naturism in France
The first naturist resort was founded by Christiane Lecocq founded the first naturist resort with her husband, Albert Lecocq. Nude bathing was already common throughout Europe, but was clandestine in France until 1948 when the Lococqs founded the French Naturist Federation and began to publish La Vie au Soleil, the world's first naturist magazine. The idea was to make nudity a way of life and they championed healthy eating, caring for the body, and social nudity. In 1950, they opened the first nudist resort: the Centre Hélio-Marin at Montalivet in the region of Gironde. Today, it's one of the largest nudist resorts in Europe.
Naked vs. Topless
First, determine whether you want to get naked or just go topless. While France is very casual about dress, there are many spots where it is acceptable to go topless, but you would get some looks if you suddenly dropped your bottoms. If you do want to get fully naked, make sure you're on the right beach.
If you’re a novice at the whole full Monty bit, then choose going topless first: this can be a way for nudism rookies to dabble in the concept. However, you'll find that, due to creepy voyeurs and fear of skin cancer, more French women are opting to keep their tops on.
Where to Go
Once you know what you want to do, it's time to pick a destination. If you just plan to go topless, most Riviera beaches should do just fine. There are lots of tiny coves between Nice and the Italian border where most people bathe topless. But remember that Nice is a big city and going naked or even topless on the beaches in the center of town is not recommended. Instead, opt for the long stretch of pebbly beach between Nice and Antibes. Even here many people keep their tops on. So if you chicken out, you won't stand out.
If you want to go completely nude, check with the locals which beaches, or which part of the beaches, are designated for nude enjoyment. Once you're ready to undress, do it with as little commotion as possible. It's not likely to be as big of an event for everyone else as it is for you.
The most famous nude destination in the world is in France, at Cap d'Agde on the Mediterranean and in the Languedoc region, also called "Naked City."
How to Behave
Don't gawk, finger-point, giggle, take pictures, or otherwise succumb to the urge to behave like a 12-year-old boy. It can be tempting, since many people are not used to being surrounded by so much public flesh. The best way to blend in and be accepted is to just act like you would if you were wearing a bathing suit. Don't forget that some areas of your body may have never been exposed to direct sunlight before and be sure to use plenty of sunscreen.
If possible, contact the resort or do your own research about the destination before you go so you know exactly what is acceptable and what is not. Different places have different expectations, and what is the norm in one could be offensive in another.