Please sign in to post.

How liberal is Greece, relative to other European countries?

We are conservative in our values. We are planning a trip to Europe with 3 kids ranging from 10 to 16. We expect to see some topless beaches and some nudity in art galleries etc., which I guess is part of the European experience. We will be in London, Paris, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy for sure. We have recently hear that Greece is more liberal than the countries mentioned above in terms of more topless beaches, nude beaches, a higher % of gay/lesbian activity, and that in many ways they enjoy shocking conservative Americans. I know that is a general statement, but a few people with similar values have been there told me that they would not feel comfortable taking their kids there. We all want to see Greece, but given the political unrest on top of the comments above, I have reservations. I know that Amsterdam is very liberal and I hear that Greece is may be the 2nd most liberal area in Europe. Can I get some comments? Thanks!

Posted by
864 posts

I never saw anyone topless during my 2 week tour of Greece but then I'm not a beach person. For a fact most ancient Greek statues are nude. Certainly Greece didn't seem oddly liberal and no one, I mean no one who knows me would describe me as anything but a conservative. Actually the Greeks seemed very conservative outside of Athens. Your children are old enough to handle a couple guys holding hands etc. (When I lived in Thailand you'd see male police officers holding hands - it's a cultural thing so who knows!) All that said Greece can be a tiny bit dicey now (at least in Athens) and who knows what random strikes will hit here/there. My husband and I would still go if we'd planned a trip but with dependents maybe yes/maybe no. Depends on how good they are as travelers (my oldest at 17 was better organized than my husband - ha ha). Sounds like you're planning an awful lot. Remember seeing less is actually sometimes seeing more.

Posted by
425 posts

WOW! Never heard anything like that. There IS probably more topless bathing in Greece as it is one of the main holiday destinations for Europeans, and generally speaking we don't have a problem with human bodies - it's nothing to do with shocking Americans. BUT ... Greeks are a very conservative nation and what is acceptable on the beach is certainly NOT acceptable in the town. What I would say is that if you have a problem with this, keep away from European beaches in general. But especially Mykonos! Mykonos is a ... how can I put this .... gay-friendly beach destination. As far as Amsterdam is concerned, the red light district is a definite area of Amsterdam and so can - if you wish - be avoided quite easily. A bit like steering clear of the Van Buuren area of Phoenix. Here in France, I would advise you to avoid the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay.

Posted by
389 posts

Greece is outwardly much more religious than the Western European countries- the monasteries are powerful, I saw young men kissing a priest's hand in an airport... Don't avoid the great art galleries! I've never known anyone to be titillated by the Venus de Milo or even the 19th century nudes. I just don't think the brain reacts the same way to nudity in art as it does in other contexts.

Posted by
8960 posts

I'll play devils advocate:) IMO an essential part of travel seeing and experiencing things alien to one's everyday life. Just because you set your eyes on something contrary to your own values, doesn't mean you endorse or approve of it. I can't really think of anything in even the most "liberal" parts of Europe that's going to permanently scar either yourselves or your children. They've probably seen stuff ten times worse on the internet without you knowledge;) While it's perfectly understandable to not want to intentionally take your children through a red light district, OTOH in any big city your gonna see lots of unexpected vices....porn shops, drug dealers, junkies etc. It's a part of travel you can't realistically avoid, and you shouldn't let it form your itinerary. Go to Greece and enjoy!

Posted by
425 posts

(I know irony is not really easy to put over here, so I had better point out that my comment about the Paris art galleries was "tongue in cheek"!)

Posted by
4524 posts

Greeks in general are actually quite conservative, especially those in the outlying areas. They tend to look down on public drunkeness amongst themselves. But the beaches are populated by other tourists. That said, Greek island beaches are likely to be topless and some may be fully nude. Some islands are known as drunken party places ala Spring Break type destinations. But visting Athens, Delphi and mainland sites, you'll find things more to your liking. If you're going to islands, research each one first to avoid issues. You will not avoid nudity in Europe by avoiding museums. It's in advertising, prime time tv and in public parks. It's far more tasteful in the museums. And I doubt anyone is out to "shock" us Americans, they are just living their lives with different cultural attitudes than many Americans have. I'm pretty socially liberal, but even I was really saddened walking around the Amsterdam red light district and found it quite depressing. As another poster said, exposure to different values can often reinforce your own. That said, I'd make sure you know where each city's red light district is (often near train stations) and avoid them even in daylight.

Posted by
2876 posts

Full nudity on Greek beaches is fairly rare, especially those in high-traffic areas. Naturists tend to seek out more private places to sun themselves. By the way, it has nothing to do with shocking conservative Americans.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks to everyone for the replies. I expect to visit some of the museums and as I stated earlier, some of the toplessness in museums and beaches is just part of the European cultural experience. I just did not want to spend the extra time and extra money to go somewhere that would be too much of a cultural shock. I thought I had made my mind that I wasn't going, but the repsonses have muddied the waters a bit. It makes sense that Greeks could be more conservative, but that the beaches are filled with tourists, which may have differing views. I will definitely check and see what islands would be best. I was leaning towards flying from Rome to Santorini for 3 days to finish the trip on the beach before heading home. Any thoughts on which beaches in Santorini are more conservative (or which ones are most liberal, so we know which ones to avoid)? Thanks again!

Posted by
2876 posts

By virtue of their popularity you'll see more nudity, mostly topless, on Santorini's Kamari Beach and Perissa Beach since there will be a lot more people there. Vlichada and Monolithos Beaches will be more conservative. Avoid Baxedes, Paradise, and Koulombos Beaches.

Posted by
1525 posts

Our children have been with us to some 20 countries in Europe. We have strolled by numerous "adult" stores of one kind or another without giving it much thought. We have been to two beaches where clothing was optional, including one on which we had to change into our suits in the open (we chose to be suited). We have purposely exposed them to things that are different than at home and taken every opportunity to discuss those differences. We have always kept them safe. We hope that they will grow up to be kind, understanding, accepting, wise and compassionate individuals with the ability to make their own choices and deal gracefully with the consequences of those choices. Along the way, they will naturally share some of our beliefs and values, but just as naturally, they will forge some of their own in their ever-changing world. That is how it should be... I suggest you either stop worrying about what other people are doing or thinking, or stay home. Questions of political unrest are legitimate to the extent that they might cause disruptions to your plans. That is the only legitimate question.

Posted by
864 posts

Randy: You are so right and I was so wrong to vent. Thanks for the course correction.

Posted by
31319 posts

Bryan, Despite the potential "issues", I believe this trip would be a valuable experience for your children, one which provides them with an opportunity to observe different cultures, languages, foods, etc. It sounds like you're willing to tolerate some nudity in art work, statues, etc. so you shouldn't have any problems in most of the countries you'll be visiting. I haven't found Greece to be any more "liberal" than other locations. I've encountered topless bathers in France and Italy, so this is not something that's limited to Greece. Of course, as someone else mentioned Mykonos has a bit of a "reputation", as does Corfu. Lee provided good information on which beaches might be best on Santorini. If you'd rather not take a chance on the beaches, there's always the pool at the Hotel. Although you won't be visiting Amsterdam, I was there recently and took a tour of the Red Light district. I found it to be quite an enlightening look at how one jurisdiction has chosen to deal with this "issue". Another aspect of visiting Greece is the civil unrest that's currently taking place. That would be more of a concern, as it could disrupt transportation, but hopefully this will settle down shortly. WHEN are you planning to travel to Greece? There's a possibility you could encounter behaviour or sights that go against your values in ANY location in Europe, but hopefully you'll be able to put this in perspective for your children in a way that will reinforce your values. Happy travels!

Posted by
3696 posts

I understand wanting to keep your children from harm, but I feel this is how children learn whether or not their values and beliefs are strong. I think the scare stories from people who have not traveled to Europe are riduclious...they know not of what they speak...so unless your conservative friends have had their children scarred by the liberals in Europe shocking their children, I would take it with a grain of salt...I would want to see for myself, and obviously take all precautions with political unrest....

Posted by
506 posts

First off, I will reveal myself as very (but not reckless or value-less) liberal. Take my remaining response accordingly. Europe is a funny place. It is "liberal" in some ways, and "conservative" in others, even within individual countries. And of course, Europe is not just One Place. Politics and values vary among countries. And among regions within countries. Europe doesn't define politics or issues along the nice crisp lines some US people try to follow. If you're afraid of encountering outside influences that might challenge your values, then I would say don't travel - to Greece or anywhere else. In my mind, travel is, and should be, an eye-opening and mind/soul/heart-expanding experience, not a confirmation of what we already know or believe. But since you are open to the idea of European travel, have done some research, and have acknowledged and seem willing to accept at least some sights and experiences that you are uncomfortable with, I think you are ready for travel. I suspect that you have raised your children in a value system that reflects your own, have prepared them for different lifestyles, and have enough confidence in your own beliefs (which you have passed on to them) that you can trust them to witness and participate in new experiences without buying into them or ruining your kids. Trust yourself in your parentage, trust your kids, and go enjoy whatever you confront. You and your kids will love the trip.

Posted by
12040 posts

Let me throw a monkey wrench into this conversation... when applied to politics in Europe, the word "liberal" usually has a very different connotation from the understanding of the word in the US political system. It describes centrists parties that advocate laissez faire policies, both with regards to business and personal morality. Examples include the Liberal Democrats in Britain, the FDP in Germany, Open VLD in Belgium and VVD in the Netherlands. By that definition, Greece would be one of the least "liberal" countries in Europe, but one of the more "social democratic". Maybe a better way to phrase the question would have been "How sexually open is Greece, relative to other European countries?" In my rough, unscientific estimate, I would say the people are less open than the European average, but they usually don't interfere with the hedonism of tourists, provided it doesn't get out of control. IE, no country tolerates rowdy drunks running amok. Even Amsterdam has its limits. I would be more worried about strikes disrupting your plans than the small chance of your kids seeing an exposed female breast. If you're really worried, just stay away from the beaches, street parades/parties and night clubs. As for artwork, you can't avoid nudes in European artwork anymore than you can in America. But you won't find anything frankly pornographic unless search for it.

Posted by
5465 posts

Bryan; I would agree with the majority of the posters and say that you should have no worries. Certainly, any of the mainland will not be an issue, including Athens, Delphi, the Peloponnese, Meteora, even the beaches on the mainland will rarely be topless and almost never nude. In the islands that are heavily touristed, yes, you will have a larger percentage of topless, but nude will be relegated to specific beaches. A good tact is that the beaches in or near a town will be the most "Conservative", the further you get away from the beaten path, the more you will see (I guess literally). As for overt diplays in regards to gay couples, I do not recall that to be an issue at all. The only place that I even noticed something close was Mykonos, and that would have been on Super Paradise Beach where a section is defacto recognized as the nude gay section; pretty easy to avoid. Overall, go, if anything choose your beach carefully, opting for the Town beach.

Posted by
961 posts

On top of all the discussion.... may I say that after "London, Paris, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy" that flying to Santorini ( or anywhere else) sounds... exhausting! I'm talking about getting to the airport, security, waiting, flying, waiting more,transiting, getting to the hotel, getting the suntan lotion and suits on..... you're losing a day!
How about just enjoying an Italian beach for 3 days and then leaving from Rome to home? Save Greece for another trip; I say this having just come back from Athens/Rome. Heck, save Italy for another trip also as there is so much to see. We've taken our kids to Europe 5 times and they've been to Amsterdam a couple of times with no damage so far. Enjoy the trip- the time is coming when they will not want to be seen with you even in Europe!!

Posted by
7 posts

Just to add my two cents' worth...One thing worth mentioning is the hotel TV channels. I recall seeing more graphic things pop through in Europe. My parents' approach when traveling with our family was always to expose kids strategically - not to shock, but to open our minds to other cultural differences (nude art, beaches, alcohol/drinking ages). In my opinion, it was a good way to open the topic for conversation and a general awareness. I'd be more concerned about what they can turn on in their hotel room, than anything they'll see out and about on the street.
Enjoy your trip!! Your kids will have a blast, and you will not scar them!

Posted by
4 posts

I think it might be best for you to stay home. Perhaps a family trip to the National Parks in the west, would be better for you. I have been to Amsterdam, in art museums in Europe and the United States, as well as to the our National Parks. I have found all equally rewarding.

Posted by
94 posts

When I travel in europe I target doing and seeing things I cannot do in the U.S. Beaches are abundant here why spend valuable $ vacation time at one in europe? Especially, if you think you may see something you deem inappropriate. Instead, spend time at secondary sites after you see the Main ones! My experience was the Greek values were the same as mine, hard working and trying to make a living. I just feel SO much sympathy for their current finance situation.

Posted by
94 posts

When I travel in europe I target doing and seeing things I cannot do in the U.S. Beaches are abundant here why spend valuable $ vacation time at one in europe? Especially, if you think you may see something you deem inappropriate. Instead, spend time at secondary sites after you see the Main ones! My experience was the Greek values were the same as mine, hard working and trying to make a living. I just feel SO much sympathy for their current finance situation.

Posted by
11450 posts

Wow .. alot of you seem to feel its your place to make judgements of Bryans family values,, perhaps just answering the question would be nice( as some of you did). I have no problem with topless beaches,, or having my kids at them, but that is ME and since some of you are pushing some sort of "respect the values of others" lets start by allowing Bryan to steer his family as he sees fit and respect his values, no set is better then the other. Bryan, its been years since I have been to Greece, went to Athens, Mykonos and Paros. It is tourists who go topless ,, not locals from my observations,, and then only at beaches on the islands. Never saw any toplessness in the city (Athens) of course. I will come right out and say it,, if open displays of public affection( hand holding , hugging etc) of gays is something you do not want your kids to see, then don't go to Mykonos. This is not a judgement of such behaviour,, but my observation of what i personally saw. At this point, and after reading a few travel forums right now,, I would watch the political situation/strikes situation in Greece,, and perhaps opt for Italy right now..

Posted by
11450 posts

Bryan will add this,,Amsterdam.. (other then the Red Light District ) is not that bad in terms of what your kids may see,,

Posted by
26423 posts

Pat, It really is pockets, and easily either seen or missed. The window dressing, almost like cartoons, in the red light district is pretty highly controlled, but there are two types of vice people - the ones who (mostly) play by the rules and those, particularly the badly drug affected and the lowest of the low who don't. I remember not long ago being quite aware of the druggies, their dealers, and street prostitutes in the areas I mentioned. Maybe I notice it more because of the sort of work I do where I have to be aware of people. The druggies I mention are those really strung out on the hard stuff more than the frequenters of coffee shops. There can be quite a whiff of smoke from cannabis smokers both in the RLD and in other areas. It is still a fabulous place. These things are not limited to Amsterdam, let's be clear. I remember when I was about 14 or 15 going on a school trip to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and our group being propositioned by a prostitute complete with a flash. So it can happen many places...

Posted by
26423 posts

Well, hmmm... Amsterdam, eh? I guess it depends what you want to shield your kids and yourself from. We love Amsterdam and go as often as we can. But, if you are sensitive... hmmm. If you go towards the Damrak you will see sex "museums", drug "museums", plenty of drug users and free association between different peoples, including sex shows and imaginative clothing. Vondelpark, Leidseplein, and most of that activity is not in the Red Light district, as defined. Plenty street prostitutes and drug addicts, and drug dealers in the vicinity of the Centraal Station, especially to the right and behind. Despite the high levels of petty crime we always feel relatively safe there but if you want the kids in a bubble you might think twice. Not a lot (can I remember any?) nudity in their art though...

Posted by
11450 posts

you know Nigel,, it has been years since I have been to Amsterdam,, and well, what you describe sounds rather unattractive to me,, and I am not particularily conservative,, so I guess things have changed quite a bit since my visits. What a shame.
I recall that it was a small area like that,, but now you seem to describe is as being alot more spread out.

Posted by
11450 posts

Nigel, I will agree that all the things you mention are not limited to Amsterdam,, here,, in lovely Victoria B.C. we have a few pockets of areas that you will see similar( well not the window displays,, are ladies are outdoors)...but tourists can easily avoid those areas as they are in more industrial neighborhoods,, and there are no touristy sites around them.
As for whiffs of pot,, ha ha,, on the ferry coming back to our island after being away in the States on holiday , my 11 yr old and I caught quite an odour of pot from some young folks who had likely just been hotboxing in their car, or in up on a corner area of the deck,, my daughters comment was " wow, you can tell we are back at home now". The smell of pot would be the least of my concerns in any city.

Posted by
653 posts

Bryan, if you decide to go to Greece and particularly its beaches, your hotel can tell you which ones are clothing optional. Nudity is, I think, part of the human experience, not just European.

Posted by
11450 posts

Zoe if Bryan visits your town is there a huge chance he willl see alot of nudity.. well , he won't here, nudity may be a human condition, but its not culturally accepted in many places.. theres no public nudity accepted here on our public beaches.. although there some isolated places where you could find it.. in 49+ years here though I have never "stumbled "across it. I do want to add this though,, while topless or nude beaches may be popular in parts of the Greek Islands,, it is NOT the locals,, its the tourists,, many locals do not like the nudity.

Posted by
4 posts

We have travelled to Greece several times and been to the beaches on a couple of the islands. On the islands where there are a lot of tourists, you will see the topless beaches. In general Greeks are very conservative.. ( no shorts or sleeveless shirts in churches.) Most of the scantily clad are from northern Europe and the U.S. I have taken my children since they were babies to Greece to visit my husband's relatives and never had a problem. Ask at your hotel for a beach where everyone has their clothes on.

Posted by
11798 posts

I think Greeks are traditional and family oriented, especially outside the big city. I also think most Greeks really appreciate families (at least when the kids are polite) traveling together. The activity you are worried about is at the "famous" hotspots that people flock to in summer. Those are resort areas, not really Greek areas - you're as likely to run into a Brit or Russian as a Greek. Do some research in travel books, tripadvisor.com, etc. Avoid the resort hotspots and you will be happy.