The Vatican Dress Code: What To Wear (And What Not) When Visiting The Vatican

Is there any such thing as a Vatican Dress Code?

Every place of worship in the world has its rules, but a common one is that whatever is your religion or belief, you have to dress modestly if you want to access them, even if you are just a tourist looking to take nice pictures of famous artworks.

You should never wear revealing clothes in a place that many consider sacred, as a sign of respect for them. The Vatican is, clearly, no exception. You must be dressed modestly if you wish to enter Vatican City – and that includes St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel – they are the symbol of Christianity and an enormous collection of art and culture.

If you are curious about what to wear when visiting the Vatican, and what items are best left in your room, this post has you covered.

Make sure not to miss my post The Prettiest Churches In Rome.

Vatican dress code

Is There A Vatican Dress Code? 

Prohibited items

The list of prohibited items, although fairly long, all comes down to the rules of normal decency: remember that you’ll be visiting the most important Cathedral in the world, and you have to be dressed accordingly.

So, no tank tops, short shorts, skirts above your knee, and absolutely no shoulder and chest exposing clothes. It is also forbidden to wear transparent clothes and socks, even if they technically cover your body: so, don’t try to cheat the rules with some see-through t-shirt.

You should also consider your footwear. While there is no dress code for that, it’s highly unrecommended to use flip flops, slippers, and heels.

Appropriate Vatican dress code

It is obvious that the dress code brings trouble and discomfort during the summer months. If you plan to visit the Vatican City during the hot season, you need to remember that you will need to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and your knees despite the terrible heat.

For women, the best outfit would be a dress or skirt below the knee, maybe in some light fabric such as linen. You should also wear a t-shirt or shirt that covers your chest and shoulders.

For men, a long-sleeves shirt and proper pants would be ideal, but t-shirts and shorts (as long as they are below the knee) are allowed. You can wear caps and sunglasses but you will be asked to remove them once inside the Cathedral. 

Is there a Vatican dress code for kids?

The rules are a bit lax when it comes to toddlers and very young kids because everyone understands that you can’t force a three-year-old inside a sweater in August and spend a peaceful day, but older kids and teens are required to follow the same dress code as the adults.

However, don’t expect the rules to be completely bent for your kids! It’s totally up to the guards to let you in or not. Be mindful and try to dress the kids modestly. A t-shirt and not-too-short shorts should be okay.

Is the Vatican dress code enforced?

It’s completely up to the guards to let tourists in. Until a few years ago, some people managed to sneak in even if not dressed modestly (for instance, if the skirt was slightly above the knee), but now the rules are enforced way more strictly. There is still, of course, someone who sneaks in and gets away with it, but you’d better not try your luck. Respect the rules or risk being sent back to your hotel to get changed!

St Peter's Square Rome

What To Wear When Visiting The Vatican

The key for visiting the Vatican without trouble are modesty and comfort. I already pointed out that it’s a must not to wear revealing clothes, but let me also add that you need to wear comfortable clothes.

The Vatican, albeit beautiful, is a place that will tire you out. There is a lot to see and not so many places to sit. You will walk several miles and you certainly don’t want to stress your body more than necessary, right?

Wear comfortable clothes, with soft and breathable fabrics, layer them so that you can add or remove something if you need. Leave your ultra-skinny jeans and heels in your room: the visit to the Vatican is one for which you should prioritize comfort over glamour.

A very important part of your outfit is the shoes: as there is an awful lot of walking to do, my recommendation is to bring the most comfortable walking shoes you have. Sandals are okay too, but only if you are 100% sure they will not hurt your feet. You don’t want to spend your time in Rome with cuts and blisters. Avoid flip-flops, slippers, and uncomfortable shoes in general.

Obelisks in Rome

Tips to abide by the Vatican dress code in the summer

Whether you visit Rome in August or in October, you really should make it a point to abide by the Vatican dress code. Here are some additional useful tips.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes (skirt or dress below the knee for women, pants for men). You will sweat less and the heat more will be more bearable.
  • Carry an extra shirt with sleeves to wear on top, if you are wearing a tank top; or even a shawl. This is a very common trick when visiting the Vatican: since summers in Rome can be quite hot, many tourists choose to just dress as they please – always keeping in mind the Vatican dress code! – and carry an extra layer to wear once there. A shirt with sleeves or a sweater are a good option, but the best pick, in my opinion, is a shawl. You can use it to cover your shoulders (but be sure that your knees are already covered!) or to cover your legs in case your skirt or pants are too short.

Check out my post The Best Tips For Visiting Rome.

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