What Not to Wear in Spain: Don’t look like a tourist

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If you’re visiting this beautiful Mediterranean country, you don’t want to look like a tourist. For one thing, dressing like a tourist could make you a target for pickpockets. So how do people dress in Spain? It’s easy to fit in and dress like a local in Spain if you follow these “dont’s”.  As a US citizen residing in Spain since 2008, I’m happy to share general tips on what not to wear in Spain.

How to dress in Spain so you don’t look like a tourist

So in writing this blog post, I noticed how much bad advice is given about what men and women wear in Spain. The Internet shows Instagram photos of women wearing tons of accessories – from hat, sunglasses, and carrying a tiny handbag. Sure, there are very stylish women in Spain. But they don’t dress to the nines every day. So if you’re studying abroad in Spain, or if you’re a future tourist, read on so you know what NOT to include in your Spain packing list. (If you want to know WHAT TO WEAR, read my guide on what to wear in Spain according to season!) Then read my basic packing list of essentials to bring to Spain!

Don’t wear a flamenco dress.

Know what to wear in Spain
Don’t walk around like this, please

Despite Spain being the hometown of flamenco dresses, locals do not walk around dressed like this, not even on the weekends. As a Barcelona resident, I find it ridiculous when tourists walk around with ruffled, fluttery skirts in Barcelona. I get it – you’re in Spain, and you want to embody the passion that is Spain. But, as I said above, if you look like a tourist, and you may be a target of pickpockets or other weirdos.

Don’t wear skimpy clothes.

Women tend to dress fairly conservatively in Spain. It’s true that women, especially young women, dress in revealing clothing in the past few years. It’s my observation that young women also like to wear tight workout clothes even if they’re just buying eggs at the supermarket. I think it’s like in many places in the Western world. But, for the most part, Spanish women do not wear outfits that expose a lot of skin.

Your attire in Spain should not be workout clothes
Leave the workout clothes for the gym, not as your sightseeing outfit

Don’t wear flip flops.

While you’ll see a few locals walking around in the supermarket wearing rubber flip-flops, Spaniards usually don’t wear them unless they’re at the beach. Yes, they may wear an attractive leather sandal, but they usually won’t wear the ones that are flimsy and don’t provide any real support.

Wear comfortable stylish shoes instead of flip flops
Flip flops are not in the Spain dress code

Don’t wear a big, floppy hat.

A large straw hat can be cute, make a great accessory, and also shades you from the sun. They also complement your Spain outfit. But if you include a floppy summer hat in your Spain clothes, it is very obvious that you’re a tourist. So what do people wear in Spain when it’s sunny in the city? Maybe a straw hat with a more subtle brim. Or a baseball-style cap. But lots of times, they wear nothing.

Just wear this big floppy hat at the beach

Don’t wear excessive makeup.

Spanish women are very subtle when it comes to wearing makeup. If I compare Spanish women to women of other countries, I notice that Spaniards will just wear a little eyeliner and maybe some lipstick. That is it. I also notice that women from other countries tend to focus on defining and darkening their eyebrows. When I go back to my hometown in southern California, I also notice women have an eyelash obsession. Makeup trends seem can seem regional, and for the most part, Spanish women use cosmetics very minimally.

Women in Spain generally don’t overdo the makeup like this

Don’t carry a purse that can be ripped from your hands.

Do not carry a purse that you hold in your hands. Don’t wear it on your shoulder either. If you are visiting any of the major cities like Barcelona, Madrid, or Seville, I advise you carry a crossbody purse. This is a purse that has a long strap and can be worn diagonally across your body. These larger cities have more pickpockets than most. Therefore, it’s smart to carry a purse that can be worn across your body. If you come to Barcelona, you’ll notice almost all women wear a crossbody purse.

Watch out for pickpockets. This purse can be easy ripped off your arm.

Don’t wear clothes that are not in season.

In Spain, the climate is that of traditional seasons: winter is the coldest time, summer is the hottest time. Spring and fall temperatures are in between. Spaniards wear warm coats, scarves, and jackets in the winter. They wear shorts and sleeveless tops in the summer. Listen up: if it is sunny in the winter, Spanish locals do not wear shorts or espadrilles. It doesn’t matter if it’s 80°F / 27°C outside. Only tourists wear summery clothes in the winter!

Barcelona clothing in the summer
Don’t wear shorts in Spain the winter

Other clothing items to avoid wearing in Spain

  • Outfits that that show excessive skin
  • Baggy, oversized basketball shorts
  • Baseball caps with huge sports logos
  • Glasses worn over a baseball cap

Now that you know what NOT to wear. Read my post on what you SHOULD wear in Spain. I’ve organized this blog post based on season and region! Also, if you are coming to Barcelona specifically, read about what to wear in Barcelona.

FAQs

Can you wear shorts in Spain?

Yes, it is acceptable. Shorts are worn in the summer months of June, July, and August. Locals also wear shorts in late spring and early fall if it’s hot. Even if you get a random hot day in the winter, Spaniards will not wear shorts. They dress for the season we’re in, and not the weather.

If other websites tell you Spaniards never wear shorts, they have never been to Spain.

Do people wear sneakers in Spain?

Yes, they do. The sneaker is becoming more and more common, not just among young people. While many Spaniards still dress traditionally, I also see many locals in their 70s sporting their sneaks.

Can you wear leggings in Spain?

Yes, you can wear leggings. As I mentioned, while many young women wear the trendy leggings that look like they’re painted on the butt, it’s not the norm.

How do you dress like a Spaniard?

Dress stylishly. For example, a well-fitted pair of pants and a V-neck sweater, with leather boots would like nice in the fall. Don’t wear clothes that are too tight or too baggy. As I mentioned, read more in my blog post: how to dress in Spain.

So those are my fashion tips on how not to dress in Spain. Don’t like them?  It’s your life and your Instagram account, so dress however you want. The world is your oyster! Have any questions about clothes for Spain? Let me know in the comments. I read all of them!

By Justine Ancheta

California native, churro aficionado, and mom of 3, Justine Ancheta writes fervently about Barcelona and Spain. Since 2008, she's been eating burnt onions (calçots) and tripping on cobblestones in the Gothic Quarter. She shares tips on popular attractions, exposes offbeat non-touristy spots, and gives insight on exploring Barcelona with kids. Her next Catalan culture challenge: top level of a human castle (castellers).

8 comments

  1. Hi Justine! Thx for your article. I’m traveling with my 2 teens to Madrid and Granada to visit my daughter studying abroad in about 2 weeks. I’m stumped on packing – especially for the teens. It seems like it
    May be chillier than I thought? Any suggestions for teens boys and their mom? Thanks!

    1. Hi Eileen! Spain in the spring is fantastic. So…it looks like in Madrid next week on Monday (April 8), it’s gonna have a high of about 63F. Granada will be 67F. That sounds like a light jacket or medium sweater to me. I think it will be lovely. You’ll have missed the rain this past week! The boys can probably wear hoodies. Older people don’t usually wear shorts until summer. But I’ve seen a few teens who like to. Hope your daughter is having a fun time 🙂

    1. Hi Philip, If you read the second paragraph, you would see it says “(If you want to know WHAT TO WEAR, read my guide on what to wear in Spain according to season!) Then read my basic packing list of essentials to bring to Spain!”

      Also, do a search on my blog and I have about 10 articles about what to wear in Spain and Barcelona. Hope that helps.

  2. Packing for Barcelona and Andalusia leaving May 7. Planning to bring white pants instead of jeans. Advice please! I’m a retired 65 year old!

    1. Oh my goodness..I think you should be good! It is warming up in Spain, but not too hot, so either white pants or jeans would work. Hope I caught you. It’s May 7 today :-/

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