Topless swimming fails to take off at Hamburg's public pools

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
Topless swimming fails to take off at Hamburg's public pools
While bikini tops are not strictly required on certain days at a couple of Hamburg's public pools, most swimmers have chosen to keep them on. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

A district in Hamburg allows women to swim topless at its public pools, but no one has really taken advantage of the offer. We look at what might be putting people off and where in Germany topless swimming is allowed for everyone.


In Hamburg, women have had the freedom to swim without a bikini top at select public pools for a year now, but nobody seems to do so.

Following calls for equal treatment between the sexes regarding dress codes in Hamburg’s Eimsbüttel district, a decision was made to allow women to be topless in the district's swimming pools.

Two of the district’s pools have since adopted pilot projects for mixed gender topless swim days: on Tuesdays in the Kaifubad in Eimsbüttel, and on Thursdays at the indoor pool in Wandsbek.

But in both cases the pools’ regular visitors seem uninterested in ditching the upper halves of their swimwear.

According to the Hamburger Abendblatt, a spokesperson for Bäderland, which operates the swimming facilities, says there has been “a sighting” at Kaifubad where one woman is said to have swum topless over the course of the year.

Hesitating to drop the top

Prior to changing the dress code rule, an online survey conducted by Bäderland found that 47 percent of its female guests were at least positive about the question of topless swimming.

Additionally, a survey conducted by Hamburger Abendblatt found that most people would prefer to swim topless, but not if they were the only ones.

Considering these results, the humorous comment made by the Bäderland spokesperson actually provides a hint as to why topless swimming at public facilities hasn’t taken off. If the act of going topless has turned one woman into “a sighting”, then there is an obvious reason why others might feel less than comfortable doing the same.

In this sense, it seems the pilot project has failed in its effort to truly bring freedom of choice and gender equality into its dress code.

Still, the project will continue this summer.


Where in Germany is topless swimming allowed?

While Germans, with their Freikörperkultur (known as FKK) or 'free body culture', are known to not shy away from public nudity, the debate around topless sunbathing or swimming in public spaces has created controversy.

VIDEO: Why do Germans love getting naked?

When an attempt was made to make a number of topless sunbathers cover up, on the banks of the Isar River in Munich, it sparked a debate that reached the city council

Ultimately an urgent motion was introduced which clarified that bikini tops were not strictly necessary.

The issue came up again in Göttingen in the summer of 2022 after an ostensibly female swimmer was asked to cover up at a local pool, only to protest that they identified as male. 

After some kerfuffle, the city decided that the fairest solution was simply to allow all swimmers the freedom to swim oben-ohne (without a top), if they wished.

Similar arguments have since been made in other cities across Germany, and several cities have amended their public swimming rules accordingly, including; Siegen in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Lower Saxony state capital of Hanover, and Berlin.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED - The laws around going topless in Germany



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