How to avoid looking like a tourist in Madrid

Shopping in Madrid, Travel tips

by Julie Espinosa

What to wear... or not!

To avoid obviously looking like a tourist, choose a sleek bag over a fanny pack or backpack (men may opt to carry man-purses). Don’t ever wear socks with sandals or white socks, period.

To really blend in, you’d do well to emulate current trends (as filtered down from the annual Cibeles fashion week) by checking out stores like Zara, H&M, Mango, Sfera and Pull and Bear. To score cheap duds from Zara, scour their outlet, Lefties (Calle de las Carretas, 10, Metro: Sol). Right now, tailored bermuda shorts or the shirt-dress with stockings look is popular, but it probably won’t be next season.

In general, the look about Madrid is mostly classy and rarely ostentatious. No matter what your age, you would do well to dress up for going out at night, when madrileños like to strut their stuff with a more sophisticated “European” look, which roughly translates to a darker palette and dressier footwear.

But by no means does “European” exclude jeans; today’s under-40 crowd will wear jeans almost anywhere. For more mature travelers, a matching pant-suit would give women good mileage and khaki slacks would prove versatile for men.

Accessory tip: All women wear scarves or shawls in Madrid, from roughly September through April. Older, traditional madrileñas will drape an embroidered shawl around their shoulders to ward off a chill, whereas college-aged women tie pashmina-type scarves—available in practically any color or pattern—around their necks.

Related reading: What Shoes Should I Wear in Madrid?

Info: Zara’s outlet, Lefties, is at Calle de las Carretas, 10, Metro: Sol (See map below):

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Comment from Richardksa
Date: November 13, 2007, 11:54 am

Good info, but I am of the wrong sex to enjoy your tips, unless I want to draw some very strange looks. If, say, I wanted to spruce up my normally scruffy wardrobe, where would I go, and what should I buy, to look smart and fashionable (for a middle-aged bloke) in the streets of Madrid?

Comment from Julie E.
Date: November 13, 2007, 11:04 pm

Mmmm, classy menswear….

As to what, I would recommend that the first pieces you add to your wardrobe (at least for this time of year) be a sweater, a “cazadora” leather or suede jacket and a winter scarf. Stick to solid colors.

As to where, I can only offer a few second-hand suggestions and hope someone else will have personal experience to critique or add to these:

Upscale stores:

outlet center in Getafe (to south):
outlet center in Las Rozas (to north):
List of other outlets:

Happy shopping, Richard. Anyone have any other recommendations for him?

Comment from ValenciaSon
Date: November 15, 2007, 12:06 pm

Good story Julie but “today’s under-40 crowd will wear jeans almost anywhere. For more mature travelers, a matching pant-suit would give women good mileage and khaki slacks would prove versatile for men” seems a little ageist. I’m not ready to dump my jeans and neither is my over 40 wife. I do wear khakis to work sometimes. I used to think like you did when I was in my 20s. Trust me, a 40-something is not a mature traveler, just more seasoned.

Comment from Julie E.
Date: November 15, 2007, 11:32 pm

I admit that’s an overgeneralization. I’ve seen plenty of 40 to maybe 60?-year-olds in jeans around Madrid–both locals and visitors, although among Spaniards, wearing jeans is far more common at younger age levels. Surely as the years go by, even more and more different ages will be seen in jeans. “Seasoned” is a great word choice and I’ll keep it in mind as my writing gains more…seasoning. : )

Comment from luke
Date: November 29, 2007, 12:08 pm

Compared to London, Madrid society has a spookily homogenous taste in interior decor, cars, fashion etc. It seems to me that to fit in as a man in Madrid you need to dress smart casual (tuck your shirt in) or if you’re a teenager then Goth seems to be the alternative option. Anything out of the norm and people might think you’re a foreigner or a drug addict.