Paris' Largest Park Debuts Clothes-Free Section

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Unidentified people picnic, rest and play in Bois de Vincennes in June 2013 — long before the clothes-free concept was floated. (Photo: Elena Dijour/

Common signage you'll likely encounter in a large urban park: Don't feed the ducks. No barbecuing. Fireworks prohibited. Park closes at dusk. Dogs must be leashed at all times.

Now through Oct. 15, visitors to Bois de Vincennes, a sprawling public park on the eastern fringes of Paris, might come across posted notices relaying altogether new information:

Vouz entrez dans un espace ou la practique due naturisme est auorisee.

Accurate translation: "You are entering a space where the practice of naturism is authorized."

Not-so-accurate translation: "Heads up, there are naked people ahead."

As the French capital's largest park at 2,459 acres (that's almost three times the size of New York's Central Park and roughly 10 percent the total land area of Paris) and one of two major "green lungs" within city limits, there's plenty to see and do at Bois de Vincennes: Stroll through an arboretum, unwind in a botanical garden, bike through a dense deciduous forest, enjoy an afternoon at the zoo, take a rowboat out on or enjoy a picnic alongside a quartet of scenic lakes.

That being said, if there was one Parisian park where there's ample room for folks to sunbathe, socialize and simply enjoy the greats outdoors in the buff, Bois de Vincennes would be it.

Taking the concept for a test drive

Sign at nude section of Bois de Vincennes in Paris
Parisian officials hope that a grassy new section of Bois de Vincennes will make naturists feel more comfortable being clothes-free in the city. (Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

For now, Paris' inaugural naturist zone within a city park is experimental in nature as officials gauge how clothed park-goers adjust to sharing Bois de Vincennes with urban nudists. As mentioned, signage clearly denotes the designated clothing-free area, which, per the BBC, is roughly the size of a soccer field and located near the park's bird sanctuary.

Considering the zone's proximity to a major ornithological reserve, it does seem likely that some birders, while on the lookout for song thrushes, will inadvertently stumble across a throng of tushes. Perhaps instead of doing a quick 180 out of there, they'll respectfully shed those binoculars — and their pants, as well — for a spell. Everyone is welcome at Bois de Vincennes' newest section provided that they mind the posted rules and refrain from verboten shenanigans such as exhibitionism and voyeurism. Clothing may not be a requisite, but respect is.

"The creation of an area in the Bois de Vincennes where naturism will be authorized is part of our open-minded vision for the use of Parisian public spaces," Penelope Komites, the city's deputy mayor in charge of public parks and green spaces, tells Agence France-Presse.

Not all city officials, however, are enthusiastic about the naturist section at Bois de Vincennes as Komites. When the scheme was approved in the fall of 2016 with Bois de Boulogne being mentioned as another possible site, one city councilor referred to the concept as "demented."

The zone is open from 8 a.m. through 7:30 p.m. And clothes-shedding park-goers needn't fret about incurring any mysterious rashes after an extended lay in the grass as a complete ban on the use of chemical pesticides in Parisian parks was instituted earlier this year.

'A true joy'

Bois de Vincennes, Paris
A leafy place of refuge for Parisians since the mid-19th century, beautiful Bois de Vincennes is popular with cyclists, joggers, birders, picnickers and outdoor recreation-seekers of all stripes. (Photo: Guilhem Vellut/flickr)

While the au natural section of Bois de Vincennes is a first for Paris, France is a famously fine place to commune with Mother Nature in a textile-free manner.

Known for its relaxed attitude toward nudity, public or otherwise, the country is home to a large number of sanctioned nude beaches, naturist campsites and assorted bucolic locales where dropping trou and getting an all-over tan is permissible. As noted by Feargus O' Sullivan for CityLab, France holds the distinction of being home to both the largest and oldest naturist resorts.

However, with the exception of one Parisian public swimming pool with designated hours for nude swimming, naturism in French cities is an entirely new concept.

"It shows the city's broad-mindedness and will help change people's attitudes toward nudity, toward our values and our respect for nature," Julien Claude-Penegry of the Paris Naturists Association tells AFP of the new section at Bois de Vincennes, noting that officials should expect it to be a hit. "It's a true joy, it's one more freedom for naturists."

There are believed to be more than 2.6 million "naturism enthusiasts" in France, many of whom, no doubt, have been itching to take advantage of one of Paris' most beloved green spaces for a long while now.

Stateside, you'd be hard-pressed to find a major urban park with a section reserved for naturists although, prior to 2013, public nudity was permitted everywhere throughout the city of San Francisco. (Technically, you can still gallivant around town in your birthday suit, you'll just need an official parade permit to do so.) Clothing optional urban beaches, however, are a different story with major cities such as Miami, San Diego, Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and, yep, San Francisco offering stretches of sand within city limits that cater to swimsuit-eschewing sun-worshipers.