Can people go topless in French towns in the summer?

The Local France
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Can people go topless in French towns in the summer?
Illustration photo: AFP

As temperatures soar in France this week, you might be tempted to remove your top in order to cool down. But beware, you could pay hefty price for going topless in a French town.


Even if nudism is enjoying a boom in France that doesn't mean you wander round French seaside towns bare-chested in order to beat the heat.
While it is no longer illegal in France to be shirtless in public -- that law was abolished in 1994 -- several municipalities, including several seaside towns have taken action against people who don't cover up, with mayors ordering the police to fine those baring their chests. 
For example those who decide to go shirtless in the town of Trouville-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast, face fines of up to €17 while at La Grande Motte, a popular seaside resort in the southern French region of Occitanie this penalty jumps to €60.

How to make the most of Paris in the summer heatPhoto: AFP

Last year, Bandol on the French Riviera introduced its own fine of €38.

However while you might get an on-the-spot fine for going topless in certain French towns, according to lawyer Elise Humbert these penalties aren't strictly legal. 
Up until 1994 French law prohibited any public show of contempt for modesty and the crime was punishable by up to two years of prison and up to €15,000 in fines. 
But today, only "sexual exhibition imposed on the sight of others" is punished with offenders facing up to one year in prison and up to €15,000 in fines.
As a result, there are cases of people who have challenged these local fines in court and won. 
In 2008, for example, pensioner André Bauer who had been convicted twice for walking around bare-chested brought his case to the administrative court of Montpellier in the south of France. 
In the end, the court decided that there was no justification for prohibiting going shirtless. 
This ban can only be "decided if there are particular local circumstances that justify it," Humbert explained to the French press.
Even so, you might want to avoid the hassle and just cover up. 
For women the issue of going topless can be a bit more complicated... and that includes on the beach -- even though it's fine for women to be topless on most public beaches in France, it's not accepted everywhere. 
Touristy spots along the Riviera and Atlantic coast are good bets, and it's also worth noting that for reasons ranging from skin cancer to people taking pictures on mobile phones, French women aren't quite so willing to take off their bikini tops in public. 
Photo: AFP
If in doubt, it's a good idea to check out the rules at public beaches and ask the locals what's acceptable.
Meanwhile in parks in Paris it is strictly forbidden to go topless unless you make a special trip to a designated naturist area. 
In fact bathing suits should not be worn in official city parks and, according to the official rules, dress should be "decent and in accordance with good morals and public order."
And those caught wearing inappropriate clothing face fines of up to €38 euros, police say.
But even though you aren't supposed to sunbathe topless, that doesn't mean you won't see people doing it. 
At Paris plages however the rules are a little more relaxed. Police say that "when the thermometer rises a few degrees to put on your best bathing suit and find a little corner of grass or the welcoming banks of the Seine to put down your towel." 
For more rules on going au naturel in France, click here
Going au naturel: The rules for taking your clothes off in France
Photo: AFP



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