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Vatican City Dress Code – What to Wear When Visiting

Being informed about and respecting the Vatican City dress code is an “essential” that any would-be tourists must take into account before visiting this breathtaking part of Europe.

Millions of people visit the Vatican every year but some are turned away because of what they are wearing! Even though it is a major tourist attraction for people of all backgrounds, Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museums, is also a major holy site for the Catholic religion.

As such, it is important to think about what to wear to the Vatican, or to any church in Italy, for that matter. So let’s look at Vatican City dress code a little deeper.

vatican city dress codeEntry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens is permitted only to appropriately dressed visitors. For women, low cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, miniskirts are not permitted. Men wearing hats are not allowed.

As a guide, you could think about it this way – the dress code for visiting the Vatican is the same that applies when you visit any church in Italy. What to wear at the Vatican? The absolute minimum required for both males and females who want to visit Vatican City and join the Vatican Museums guided tours is covering both your knees and shoulders.

Vatican Dress Code in the Summer Months

vatican city dress codePreferably you should wear long pants and long sleeve shirts, but in the summer months when temperatures can go as high as 90 degrees, many visitors forget these requirements. Even though Roman summers may be blistering hot, when you step inside the Vatican Museum and St Peters Basilica it is much cooler inside than outside so you don’t have to worry about overheating.

Here are a few ideas on what to wear to the Vatican in the summer heat.

The general idea is to wear a breezy long dress or trousers (for knee coverage) and pair with a light removable layer such as a denim jacket or cardigan you can wear to cover your shoulders once inside. Jeans and a cute sleeved top are perfect when the weather is moderate.

The rest of the year, you’ll be fine with long sleeves and jeans. Just be mindful of low necklines, sheer fabrics, and clothing that’s overly tight fitting in certain places. They’re very big on modesty there.

Can you Wear Leggings to the Vatican?

There is mixed opinion on whether leggings or  tights count as pants according to the dress code for Vatican City. I have heard first-hand of many people have been turned away for wearing leggings to The Vatican, so you probably don’t want to take the chance — although there is no official rule that it is not accepted. When I went, I wore tight black pants (made of legging material) under a dress and I didn’t even get a second look. It may depend on who is letting you in, but it will be a hassle if you are wearing the wrong thing, so plan accordingly.

Safety Precautions

To ensure the safety of visitors and to protect the artistic patrimony, the Vatican Museums require all knives, scissors and/or metal tools of various types to be stored in the cloakroom. The cloakroom service is free to use.

Remember! No matter where you go there are always travelers with varying levels of respect and courtesy with regards to their choice of clothing at religious sites. It is your decision whether or not you wish to adhere to or respect the Vatican City dress code and entry guidelines that we’ve outlined here – as long as you understand that bad decisions may have disappointing consequences.

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