The Skinny on Nude Bathers in Germany

For decades, summers in Germany have attracted scores of nude bathers to beaches, parks and lakes. Between eight and twelve million Germans enjoy clothes-free sunbathing, says French geographer Emmanuel Jaurand, author of “A comparative study on the naked cult in Germany.” One reason for the desire to go naked is that German summers tend to be short, and sun worshippers want to assure an all-over bronze tan. Another is the longing to reconnect with nature. Foreign tourists are often caught by surprise when they take a stroll through a park and suddenly bump into a man or a woman in the buff.

FKK- Freikoerperkultur

The first Freikoerperkultur club, FKK for short and literally translated “free body culture,” was established in Essen, Germany, as far back as 1898. Two years later, a number of Swedish bathhouses sprung up in Berlin and at the North and Baltic seas. The first nude beach in Germany was established in 1920 on the island of Sylt. Freikoerperkultur still endorses a naturalistic approach to sports and community living. Nude bathers enjoy the experience of reconnecting with nature without sexual connotation.

Declining FKK membership

Despite the German love for clothes-free sunbathing, membership in FKK clubs has decreased by about 2% per year since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The clubs’ largest contingent is currently 50 to 60 years old. Members under 25 have become rare. However, the decline in membership does not seem to connote a decrease in the German affinity for nude bathing in public. It only seems to indicate that nude bathers prefer to do so without the constraints of club membership. In fact, nude hiking is the newest wave. The first German “nude hiking trail” was established in 2010.

Expedia Study on Nude Bathers

The 2014 Expedia Flip Flop Report examines the most prevalent joys and anxieties among beachgoers worldwide. The study was conducted among 11,165 adults 18 years of age and older, across 24 countries on five continents. For the third year running, Germans were the likeliest to be nude bathers. However, this year – for the first time – Austrians tied their German peers.

Nude Bathers – Another Perspective

On a carriage ride through the Wadden Sea our couch woman cautioned, “… at a FKK Beach, you’ll see the human body the way God created it and McDonald’s shaped it.” Keep that in mind!


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



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