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Topless Sunbathing on the French Riviera



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Topless Sunbathing

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Ladies! Should you or shouldn't you? Remove your top, that is, on the Riviera beaches. Is topless sunbathing legal in France? Yes! But should you do it?

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It's up to you. Ever since Brigette Bardot removed her top on a beach in Saint Tropez in the 1950s, topless sunbathing in France has been seen as an emblem of women's liberation.

But times have changed. Although topless sunbathing remains perfectly legal throughout France the actual practice has declined substantially, especially among the younger generation. Women offer various reasons for covering up. Some don't like to be ogled. Others are worried about the health effects of the sun baking their delicate skin.

I've been hitting Riviera beaches regularly for the last 25 years and can speak with some authority on the matter. I would say that on each beach there's at least one woman, sometimes more, who removes her top while lying on the beach, whether for comfort or to avoid tan lines. During the summer when Nordic visitors populate the beaches, there are more. Because young European women tend to keep their tops on, most of the women going topless are over 60. Many older women picked up the habit in their youth and are sticking with it irrespective of changing beach styles.

Although there are no rules about going topless, there are customs. No one notices women who sunbathe topless while lying on their stomachs. Lying flat on your back while topless is barely noticed. It's not uncommon to see women in private beach clubs/restaurants, lounging around topless. But they cover up when going to lunch! Standing up, walking around or swimming while topless is much rarer. Again, no rules, but it's not the custom.

So, topless sunbathing is very much an individual choice. Pick up the vibe of the particular beach and then do what seems comfortable.

Obviously, it would be very much frowned upon if you decided to stroll the Promenade des Anglais in Nice or La Croisette in Cannes while topless. In fact it would be illegal, just as strolling these public areas in a bathing suit is illegal. There's a time and a place for everything.


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