What should I wear in Spain?

by | Mar 24, 2017

Walking the streets of Gran Canaria, Spain
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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

Spaniards don’t wear shorts or sneakers for anything other than sports, so if you aren’t planning on working out, leave these at home. Light fabric pants, capris, skirts, dresses are all fine for summer. Daytime and nighttime temperatures can vary by 20 degrees or more, so have a lightweight sweater or jacket on hand for evening (unless you’re in Andalucia in July or August). Browns are preferable to black. For walking the many cobblestoned streets, get a comfortable pair of flat sandals or shoes, this is what Spanish women favor. Espadrilles are great, but take a look around and you’ll notice that Spanish espadrilles (“alpargatas”) have a much lower platform than ones you can buy at home. And for those hot summer days, get a lovely Spanish fan and use it, not only is it a wonderful fashion accessory, but it’ll also actually work at keeping you cool!

Gira, New York, USA (2007)

It’s hot, hot, hot in Barcelona in the summer. Unless you want to shout, “I’m a tourist”, leave the shorts and athletic shoes at home. The women dress up more here. A good choice is a simple linen dress in a conservative color and something to cover your arms if your dress is sleeveless. You will not be allowed in some cathedrals in sleeveless clothing. Stick to comfortable sandals for your feet. I had a sleeveless long dark blue linen dress that I wore from Spain, through the south of France and up to Switzerland that worked well everywhere! However, if you plan to purchase your outfit in Spain be aware that the women are tiny. If you are a larger size, you may have difficulty finding a dress that will fit. Try the Territory Ahead catalog before you leave!

Mari, San Francisco, USA

In Spain, women seem to favor dresses (long or short OK). Pants are also ok. but shorts mark you as a tourist.

Dodi, De Funiak Springs, USA

Spaniards are very fashion-conscious people so always leave your house looking well-groomed. Fitted clothing is preferred as baggy clothes are considered sloppy, and black is a favorite color. No shorts. You don’t have to worry about dressing too skimpy or revealing, however, it will bring you extra attention (if that’s what you want).

Rose, Madrid, Spain

Many, if not most, of the tourists walking around Barcelona were scantily clad and looked plain ugly compared with the conservatively and elegantly clad Spaniards. No one a day over 20 or a gram overweight can successfully wear short shorts and midriff-baring tops. While on holiday it is difficult to look as stylish as the locals but one can look decent and smart. Minimally clad tourists give travel a bad name.

Margaret, Canmore, Australia

Wear loose dresses (with sleeves are better) and comfortable dress shoes or sandals. Some areas are still old-fashioned and locals will look disapprovingly at shorts and t-shirts. They will even keep you from going into churches if you are not attired appropriately. Loose dresses meet any entrance requirements, will not earn you stares, and will keep you cool under a hot sun.

Jennifer, Duluth, USA

In Spain, wear a skirt or long pants when touring cathedrals and other religious sites. Definitely no shorts! I was refused admission to a church because I was wearing shorts.

Ling, New Jersey, USA

I travelled in Spain during the summer months. July and August are dreadfully hot (I left near the end of June to avoid the heat) yet I still found myself in need of the skimpiest clothes possible. It is very common and accepted for women, if you have the body, to wear short, revealing slip-like dresses, or sheer tank tops (it is so commonplace there you won’t get ogled). Always look neat and polished (not necessarily too cosmopolitan), no ripped jeans or wrinkled t-shirts. Go light on jewelry, forget about needing even a light jacket at night, there is hardly enough chill unless you will be next to the sea. Wear comfortable shoes if you will do a lot of walking, but if you want to blend in, most Spanish women prefer trendy footwear, like platform sandals. Actually, they prefer almost everything trendy (big hint — don’t look dowdy or frumpish. At least some style is suggested).

Brenda Sanabria, Paterson, USA

Regardless of how wonderful and lightweight your top windbreaker is, if it’s hot pink, leave it at home! I felt that I was sticking out like a sore thumb in Spain where most of the women wear conservative, dark clothes, furs, and heels! Same in Italy. Black is boring but tasteful in most situations.

Kathy, Portland OR

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1 Comment

  1. Julie

    I kind of think that it is a disservice to tell people that “no one” wears sneakers or shorts .. even Spanish people. I read these articles about other countries as well. I’ve been to Italy, Ireland, Portugal and France. A lot of people dress just like Americans. I think people need to be comfortable in what they wear (as well as knowing, respectfully, that certain items are preferred when entering sacred churches). I need to wear supportive sneakers if I am walking a long time. I try not to dress like a slob, but I don’t mind if they know I’m a tourist. I am a tourist. I used to take these articles to heart and then when I arrived, found they are not necessarily true. It can be intimidating enough to try and pack “appropriately”. If you are not comfortable in it at home, you’re not going to wear it anywhere else.


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