In Spain, and in particular, Barcelona, people accept public nudity without a second thought — although there might be a few second glances. Baring all isn’t illegal, but in recent years, ordinances have been set up to limit this basic human “right.”
Nonetheless, when you stroll down one of Barcelona’s non-nudist city beaches, apart from the topless women that set North American men to drooling, you’ll find the occasional man (it’s always a dude) who’s hanging out in his birthday suit, enjoying the Spanish sun. Some days, on certain beaches away from the center, it can be too much to handle. It’s a matter of personal taste, but I think sausage fests should be reserved for Munich’s Oktoberfest, rather than Catalan public beaches.
While the acceptance of public nudity might be in flux, the authorities don’t seem to be bothered very much, as long as nothing lewd is taking place. Nowhere is this more evident than in the near-universal acceptance of Barcelona’s “Naked Man.” This jovial senior citizen walks around the city — most notably cruising through the markets of La Rambla — without a shred of clothing on, expect for his sun visor, shoes and socks, plus his numerous tattoos … and lest I forget, a Prince Albert piecing.
I’ve seen, as has the entire city, Mr. Naked Barcelona toddle around town, chat up people he knows, and go about his day without any harassment from the police. Being naked on the street doesn’t seem to be a big deal in Catalonia.
Before I’d become aware of this easygoing attitude toward the human body in Barcelona, I received my first lesson in the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) about letting people — no matter how kooky they happen to be — live unencumbered by harsh judgments and conventional norms. I was strolling about with a friend when I caught sight of a chubby (not that kind of chubby) middle-aged man leaning against a building as he discussed something with a pal of his. His pal was dressed in business attire, while the man in question was completely naked. A few tourists passing by, giggled and snapped photos, to which this “nude lawyer” (his friend looked like a lawyer, anyway) paid no mind, as did most of the people on the street.
Then I spotted two cops walking in his general direction. The Yankee in me made me stop, waiting for a good ol’ American COPS television show style beat down — but that didn’t happen, which disappointed the schadenfreude in me, but seemed fortunate for the urban nudist.
The police officers walked right past the naked lawyer. One might have glanced in his direction, but the other officer ignored him completely. Being naked in Spain — or at least in Barcelona — isn’t worth law enforcement’s time, it would appear. A live and let live attitude, naked or not, seems to pervade Gaudi’s magnificent Catalonian capital, and this part of sunlit Spain. Of course, if you ever go as a tourist, you might want to think twice about wandering around the city in the buff. Where would you put your wallet, hotel keys and camera?