No matter what Europeans are doing, they’re doing it stylishly, and Spaniards are no exception.
While Spain may not have the same style status as France or Italy, it has found its place in the fashion arena thanks to a host of high street brands and luxury Spanish fashion houses. Spaniards ooze panache, and they do so by favouring well-fitted pieces and natural hues. If you’re visiting Spain, it’s handy to have a basic understanding of Spanish style and how it’s carried through each season. And that’s where I can help you decide what to wear in Spain.
However, style isn’t the only factor when building your Spanish wardrobe. You’ll also need to consider the weather. Spain’s Mediterranean climate means that you can typically expect dry summers and cool, wet winters. However, temperatures vary from north to south, so be sure to check the weather while planning your trip.
Here are some tips on how to show up in Spain without sticking out like a sore thumb.
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What Do The Locals Wear In Spain?
The style in Spain is a mix of modern and chic, combined with conservative cuts and colours. And while the Spanish dress code is not as scrupulous as some of its European neighbours, there are a few rules you’ll want to follow to avoid any of those embarrassing style blunders.
- Look sharp. You’ll rarely see the Spanish wandering around in shabby clothes or sportswear. Spaniards take great pride in their appearance and look well put together in every season. Nix the dirty denim, sports t-shirts and shabby shoes, especially if you’re visiting style-conscious cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
- It’s all in the fit. Baggy shirts and shorts just won’t cut it in Spain. Quality and cut are key to mastering the Spanish style, with locals choosing high-quality fabrics and fitted ensembles.
- Keep it classy. As a rule of thumb, the Spanish tend to avoid mini-skirts or skimpy outfits, and swimwear is usually reserved for the beach. The church is still an integral part of Spanish life, so it’s important to make sure you dress appropriately, especially when visiting churches or other religious sites.
- Seasonal style. Spaniards typically dress according to the season, not the weather. So, even if it’s scorching hot in the spring, don’t be surprised to find locals wearing (smart) jeans and a jacket.
- Wardrobe staples. You can’t go wrong with a pair of well-fitted denim, whatever time of year you’re visiting Spain. In fact, it’s common for both men and women to wear trousers or jeans on a daily basis, despite the heat. Shirts and classic button-downs are also year-round favourites and can be easily layered with a winter jacket. And you can’t go wrong with black, grey, and other earthy hues.
What to Wear in Spain in the Spring
Spring is often considered one of the best times to visit Spain, when the weather is warm and there are fewer crowds. Spain’s weather varies by region, but average temperatures typically range from 15°C (59F) in March to 21°C (70F) in May. While March might be too cool to take a dip in the sea, there’s no better time to explore Spain’s lush interior than the temperate days of spring.
The rainy season starts in April in Spain, so travellers should come prepared with a rain jacket and an umbrella. In general, the further north you go, the more likely it is that you’ll experience April showers. If you’re visiting Spain in spring, your packing strategy is simple: layer, layer, layer.
- Layers. For a solid springtime base, you can’t go wrong with cotton camis and fitted tees. A t-shirt layered under a maxi dress with a light cardigan thrown over the top, is the perfect way to bridge the gap between chilly in the morning and temperate in the afternoon. Stick to neutral hues that can be mixed and matched to create multiple ensembles.
- Bottoms. Perfect for dressing up or down, a pair of skinny jeans will never fail you, regardless of the season. For spring days that creep into summer, a pair of tailored shorts or wide-leg culottes are the best way to go. Though, keep in mind that you’ll rarely see the locals wearing shorts away from the beach, so keep them classy to avoid those awkward side glances.
- Outwear. A brolly will do a good job at keeping your hair in check. Pack a trusty rain jacket, especially if you’re planning activities such as hiking or biking where you’ll need both hands.
- Shoes. Sturdy sandals with thicker soles, like Birkenstocks, are the best option for gallivanting around the beach towns and the cities. Espadrilles and sneakers are also easy and breezy options. Flip-flops are fine, but they’re not typically worn beyond the beach.
- Swimwear. Whether you are travelling to the city or the seaside, always pack swimwear. Leave it at home, and you might miss out on an impromptu dip in a lush hotel pool.
- Accessories. While some regions are rainier than others, you never know when an unexpected shower will hit. Slip an umbrella into your suitcase so that you don't get caught out if it does start to downpour.
What to Wear in Spain in the Summer
If you’re visiting Spain in the summer months, you are likely seeking seaside staples and subtropical temperatures. Spain’s climate can vary significantly from one corner to the next, with Andalucia experiencing particularly high heat in the summer months.
Cities like Seville and Madrid bask in balmy temperatures of around 32-36°C (90-96F), so it’s wise to take it easy on the sightseeing during the summer months. Travellers visiting the north of Spain should come prepared for rain, cool nights and hot days.
Even in the midst of scorching hot summers, Spaniards know how to piece together outfits that marry fashion and function. Here are a few items you’ll need to keep it cool in Spain during the summer.
- Bottoms. Shorts are a staple fashion piece for warmer weather. Denim cut-offs work well for a beach break, while tailored shorts will keep you cool in the city. Long flowy skirts or cropped trousers will also serve you well in warm weather.
- Tops. Light cotton tops, like printed tees or camis, will keep you cool in the dog days of summer. Drape a lightweight jumper or a shawl over your shoulders when you’re visiting religious buildings.
- Dresses. Floaty jumpsuits and breezy maxi dresses are easy-to-wear styles that require minimal effort, yet work for multiple occasions.
- Swimwear. It might be tempting to have 5 bikinis on rotation, but the reality is, a recycled swimsuit is likely to go unnoticed. Choose two swimwear options – a one-piece and a bikini – that you can wear under a maxi dress or a t-shirt and shorts combo. A kimono cover-up will be your best friend on beach days when the sun starts to dip, or it’s your turn to do the ice cream run.
- Shoes. If you’re not planning on leaving your poolside position, a pair of flip-flops and some smarter sandals will suffice. City slickers should make sure their footwear is comfy enough to carry them from museum to monument. Opt for non-slip shoes with rubber soles.
- Accessories. Complete your summer look with a wide brim sun hat and a pair of statement sunnies. If your itinerary includes both city and seaside, you’ll need a beach bag and a cross-body bag. Made reservations for a fancy restaurant? Statement earrings or a chunky necklace can take any outfit from seaside to soirée.
What to Wear in Spain in the Autumn
Spain has long been a go-to for travellers looking to soak up the last of the warm weather before the winter sets in. Temperatures rarely dip below double figures in October, which means the weather is warm enough to enjoy the beaches but cool enough for those who prefer to fill their days getting to know the island’s lush interior.
While daytime temperatures hover at around 21°C (69F), autumn is the wettest season in Spain, so visitors should come prepared for rain and shine. Like Spring, the key to navigating the tricky transitional season of autumn is to layer your look.
- Bottoms. Thin denim jeans are ideal for dry days, but on the days when it’s both warm and wet, opt for a pair of tailored shorts, skinny trousers or leggings. Quick-drying fabrics will keep you cool and comfortable during the occasional autumn showers.
- Tops. T-shirts and tank tops are still in play during early autumn, especially in Seville and on the Costa del Sol, where the warm weather lingers longer than anywhere else in Europe. Light colours, like white, are an obvious choice to keep the heat at bay, but are they practical? Probably not. Be sure to pack a few showerproof options – a long-sleeved breathable tee or a lightweight sweater makes a great base for your raincoat.
- Dresses. On cooler days, throw a denim jacket over a knit dress for a relaxed look, or layer a crisp white tee under a slip dress for an evening out. When the sun reappears, simply peel back the layers.
- Outwear. There’s nothing worse than getting caught in the rain unprepared. Opt for a rain jacket that’s lightweight enough to keep you cool when the sun shines.
- Shoes. Shoes are often the trickiest part of dressing for transitional weather. It can be confusing to know whether to pack sandals or boots when the forecast promises both rain and shine. Sandals and sneakers are still a comfortable choice in most of Spain during early autumn, but if you're visiting Spain’s colder capitals, low-heeled, open-toe booties, loafers, mules, and classic ballet flats are good inter-seasonal options.
What to Wear in Spain in the Winter
The skies remain sunny and clear throughout the winter months in the southernmost regions of Spain, but with average temperatures of 5-16°C (40-50F), you’ll need to swap your swimwear for something slightly warmer.
If you’re looking for some festive fare, the Christmas markets in Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville will satisfy your Christmas cravings. For those who prefer the fresh mountain air to merry markets, now’s the time to hit the slopes of the Pyrenees or the Sierra Nevada - home to Spain’s most sought-after ski resorts.
Keep in mind that, while Spain enjoys a mild climate, its diverse landscape means that you will experience seasons differently depending on where you are visiting. If you’re travelling up to the mountains, opt for an extra layer; if you’re heading south to Malaga, Costa Tropical or the Canary Islands, you might even need your swimsuit. Here are a few fundamentals that should find their way into your suitcase, regardless of where you’re travelling to.
- Bottoms. Denim jeans are a fail-safe option during the winter in Spain. If you’re travelling to the south of Spain, long skirts and cropped trousers will keep you cool in the warmer weather.
- Tops. A few thin layers can help build a cosy outfit. Consider long-sleeved tees, tank tops or lightweight sweaters to wear underneath your jacket. For a smarter option, wear your versatile denim with a classic button-down, layered with a cardi for an effortlessly chic combination.
- Outwear. A medium-weight jacket or lightweight blazer is perfect ‘throw on’ options for a breezy evening, but if rain is forecasted, you’ll want a raincoat at the ready.
- Shoes. The shoes you choose to pack will largely depend on which region of Spain you’re visiting. A pair of leather boots will keep your socks dry and your tootsies toasty during the occasional winter drizzle in the city. Winter sun-seekers in the south of Spain should opt for shoes that are more breathable, like sandals, espadrilles, or sneakers.
- Accessories. If you’re travelling to the north of Spain, a cosy scarf, a beanie and a decent pair of gloves should be on your packing list.
What to wear in Spain on a night out
Spaniards are stylish whatever they’re doing, but the style dial gets turned up a notch when they head out for the evening. Make sure you have the right wardrobe with these evening attire tips.
- Fancy Dinner Plans. A simple cami is an easy way to dress up your typical tank top and jeans ensemble. Complete the look with a statement necklace and a pair of wedges or strappy sandals. For something more elevated, the trusty Little Black Dress exudes elegance and can be layered or accessorized to create multiple looks.
- Tapas and Tango. Match a basic white tee with a silky slip dress and a pair of white sneakers for a laid-back look. For a cooler evening, drape a denim or leather jacket over your shoulders.
- Casual Beachside Bar. One-piece shirt dresses and maxi skirts with breathable fabrics, like cotton, can be paired with sneakers during the day and elevated with a killer pair of heels in the evening. A jumpsuit is a comfy alternative to a skirt and top combo. Swap your beach bag for a smaller, fancier option.
Essentials and Cosmetics
There are a few non-negotiable essentials and cosmetics that should always find their way into your luggage, regardless of what season you're visiting Spain.
- Documents: passport, VISA, travel wallet, cash, travel insurance.
- Beach essentials: sarong, beach towel, floaty, beach bag, waterproof phone pouch.
- Sun protection: sun cream, sun hat and sunglasses. You will be out in the sun a lot in Spain, so be sure to slap on a lot of SPF 30 before you leave every morning.
- Weather protection: A small umbrella.
- Electronics: Smartphone, headphones, camera, universal adapter, charger, power bank.
- Toiletries: Shampoo & conditioner, moisturizing cream, razor, face wash, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and tights.
Don't forget to check suitcases sizes that match your trip. You will want something with multiple pockets to be able to fit in not just clothes for Spain but also a copy of your documents, travel insurance and your travel adapter or power bank.
You now know what to wear in Spain and how your Spain packing list should look like. Wishing you a great trip in Spain.