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Bare necessities: The rules you need to know in Spain for taking your clothes off

Is it acceptable to go topless at the beach in Spain, and what about those who like to take it a bit further and strip off entirely? What's the etiquette?

Bare necessities: The rules you need to know in Spain for taking your clothes off
What are the rules you need to know about before taking your kit off in Spain? (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

Spanish beaches may seem pretty laid back and the right to be naked is enshrined in law.

However, it’s not just a simple case of getting your kit off willy-nilly, there are some rules you need to abide by.

Here’s what you need to know about getting naked the Spanish way.

But first a bit of history.

In 1978, Spain’s constitution did away with the prudish laws of the Franco era and effectively permitted nudism as a human right. However, it could be argued that being naked in public caused a “public scandal”, which was punishable by law. That wasn’t corrected until 1989 and then came into force in 1995 under a new penal code.

Since then nudism cannot be punished unless it constitutes “exhibitionism and sexual provocation”, under Article 185 of Spain’s penal code, and was carried out in front of a minor and with sexual intention.

This effectively makes Spain one of the most permissive places for nudism in Europe because public areas do not need to be specifically authorised as “nudist” but must opt out with the creation of local bylaws.

“We have freedom of expression, and we can express our nudism, our ideology and philosophy of life as long as we do not act against the law…” insists the Spanish Naturism Federation (FEN). “ and as there is no law which goes against nudism, we can express our nudity freely.”

So can you just get naked on any beach you want? 

That may be the case legally but in practice you don’t see nudists milling around among families on the beaches of busy resorts, instead they congregate at the furthest reaches of beaches or on more isolated or hard to reach stretches and coves.

Worth remembering that if you are driving along the coast looking for that perfect secluded beach, you find more than you bargained for.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish women still bathing topless whilst around Europe women are covering up?

Photo: AFP

That said certain town halls have made it illegal to go nude on certain beaches or to walk away from the beach areas without being properly covered up.

Where is it banned?

So far, councils in Barcelona, Cadiz have prohibited nudity on certain of their city beaches. Bizarrely, landlocked Valladolid has also introduced a ban on public nudity, a bylaw that has since been overturned.

Currently Spain’s Naturist Federation are fighting to have the bans overturned and have taken the cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

Going topless

There is no taboo on going topless on public beaches in Spain and in fact, Spanish women are bucking the trend across Europe and doing it more than ever.

It’s even acceptable to sunbathe topless at the public pools, although cover up before you take a dip in the pool.

Going the full monty

Photo: alobos Life/Flickr

Once you have found the local spot where the nudists congregate there is a certain etiquette to follow.

Although there is no rule that says you have to go naked although you may stick out if you are the only one covering up. But if you are just keeping your nudist friend company, or want the thrill of skinny dip but don’t want to risk overexposing your white bits then there are a few things to remember.

Don’t stare and don’t take photos.

Some nudist beaches will have chiringuito beach bars where it is ok to be naked. If that is the case then do remember that for higiene purposes, it’s only polite to sit on a towel.


Member comments

  1. Just an update from the report above….Cádiz has recently decreed that all beaches in the city are now nudist (not that we are seeing a rush of nudists yet….)

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