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GERMANY EXPLAINED

What are the laws around nudity in Germany?

Germany is well known for having more relaxed attitudes to nudity than many other European countries, meaning you can strip off in some public places if you want. But what are the laws you should be aware of?

What are the laws around nudity in Germany?
A woman swims naked in a lake in Hannover on New Year 2022. Photo: dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

On your own property

Unsurprisingly, getting naked inside your own house or apartment is completely okay. But in Germany it is also generally legal to relax in the nude on your balcony or in your garden.

However, there are exceptions you should be aware of.

If your neighbours can easily see inside your garden or onto your terrace or balcony, they might have the right to make a complaint about your behaviour.

According to lawyer Swen Walentowski, regular naked sunbathing on your property could lead to a fine under paragraph 118 of the public order laws, which prohibits nudity that could be considered a “nuisance to the general public”

Nudists should be particularly careful if their garden or balcony is located near an area designated for children such as a playground, or school, or near a religious building. Walentowski adds that if your behaviour is intended as a provocation then you could also get yourself into trouble.

In the most extreme circumstances excessive nudity could end in the termination of your rental contract. “In practice, however, this is rather unlikely,” says Walentowski.

Public fornication on the other hand is a more serious offence. “Sex on the balcony can result in the termination of your rental contract,” Walentowski warns.

READ ALSO: Why do Germans love getting naked?

In public areas

Contrary to popular belief, it is not legal to strip off your clothes in all areas of German public life.

Although public nudity is not specifically prohibited under criminal law in Germany “you are usually only allowed to be naked in places designated for this purpose,” according to Walentowski.

Anyone who enters a shopping mall, a bar or a restaurant in the nude is likely to be told to cover themselves up. The owners of the establishment would have every right to do this as German laws gives them a Hausrecht, that gives them the freedom to set the rules of dress and behaviour on their own property.

At a sauna on the other hand, house rules often do require that you strip off all your clothes before entering the sauna. So you can’t wear swimwear at all in certain areas, and you’ll be told off or ordered to leave if you try to. Most saunas in Germany claim that it’s more hygienic to use their wooden benches by placing your naked bottom on a towel, rather than having swimwear on.

Nudity in public areas becomes criminally relevant when the borderline to exhibitionism is crossed. This is the case when someone exposes himself for sexual pleasure. In this case, the transgressor can face up to a year in prison according to Section 183 of the Criminal Code (StGB). Interestingly, the StGB refers here to exhibitionism as an act by a man. “Women cannot be prosecuted in this context,” according to Walentowski.

A couple relax on a beach designated as FKK in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: dpa | Axel Heimken

Generally, public areas where nudity is specifically encouraged are marked out by signs that state the area to be an FKK Bereich. Standing for Freie Körper Kultur, FKK is a movement in Germany that dates all the way back to the late 19th century in which participants gather at the beach or in a park to enjoy the experience of communal nudity.

While it is not required that you are naked in an FKK area, most people around you are likely to be in the nude, and you may get a few stern stares if you are in this section with clothes on.

The city of Göttingen meanwhile is trialing a new rule in its public swimming pools that assumes that anyone, either male or female, who uses the pool on a weekend can swim with a naked upper body. The rules will apply through to the end of the summer.

SEE ALSO: The dos and don’ts of public nudity in Germany

In your car

It is indeed legal to drive your car while naked in Germany, although you should probably consider wearing shoes at the very least.

While there is no law that prohibits naked driving, anyone who chooses to sit behind the wheel without wearing shoes can be held jointly responsible in the event of an accident.

For example, if you don’t apply sufficient pressure to the brake pedal and cause an accident while wearing no shoes you could be held responsible for an accident. If you are a professional driver, the accident prevention regulations clearly stipulate that “footwear enclosing the foot” must be worn.

When driving, the following also applies: anyone who is naked when getting out of the car could cause a nuisance to the general public – comparable to a naked pedestrian, attorney Walentowski explains. If someone feels disturbed and makes a complaint, you may be handed a fine of up to €1,000.

You may remember the story (or the photo) of the naked moped rider in Brandenburg in the heatwave of 2019. He was stopped and cautioned by police, although officers later clarified that he hadn’t flouted any laws. They were just worried about people making complaints. 

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