Avoid The Tourist Trap! Dodge These 7 Style Missteps On Your European Adventure

Do you have a trip to Europe on the calendar? Where to go, what to see…there are so many details to consider. But one thing you definitely want to think about sooner rather than later is what you will pack and actually wear on your trip! You don’t want to stand out and look like a tourist. Blending in is not only a more comfortable approach to travel, but it’s also a MUCH safer way to travel. Immersing yourself in the culture is just as key to a successful trip as taking in the breathtaking landscapes, historical sites, and cuisine.

It’s true in Europe that the fashion can be as diverse as the languages spoken. But falling into basic missteps is easier than you might think. Erin is an expert packer and traveler. She lived in Spain for 6 months, has visited over 30 countries, and just returned from a family trip to Italy. All of her experiences have made her a pro at what NOT to wear and what TO wear in Europe instead! So, before you pack your bags let’s dive into her best tips to ensure you feel and look as fabulous as the scenery around you!

If you’d like to see all of the outfits Erin packed for her summer getaway in Italy, make sure you check out this post next. You’ll also find her pro-packing tips here.

What To Wear In Europetailored vest and pants

What To Wear In Europe

We want to start off this post with a bit of a disclaimer. What you might wear let’s say on a trip to Italy, Germany or Greece would differ depending on what you plan to do, the time of year, and the weather. And, what you might wear in France could be vastly different from what you might wear in the Netherlands. Similarly, an outfit you’d choose to wear on Main Street in Nashville could be very different from what you’d pack for a day of shopping in Los Angeles. The purpose of this post is to dial in on some basic generalities and tips that work for what to wear when visiting capital cities in Europe (vs. the countryside).

Tip # 1) Avoid Activewear

In the capital cities, Europeans generally skip activewear when it comes to their day-to-day looks. The emphasis on casual dressing is more elevated. More stylish and chic. But you can still be comfortable! A comfortable pair of lightweight trousers can replace your leggings and we’d argue…might even be MORE comfortable. Especially in the warmer months, an outfit like the one Erin is wearing above would be way more comfy than a tight pair of leggings that don’t breathe. Not to mention way more sophisticated and elegant. And you’ll wear the separates out to dinner, sightseeing, shopping, etc.

Erin has tried over a dozen pairs of lightweight trousers for her recent trip to Italy and loved this set by Aritzia (pictured above) so much she now owns it in 3 colors. It’s breezy, chic, and effortless. The pants come in Regular, Short, and Tall so you’ll get that perfect fit. You won’t stand out in a bad way, yet this outfit takes no more effort than throwing on a pair of workout leggings and a T-shirt. In the cooler months, you can substitute your workout leggings with a sleek pair of bootcut or wide-leg jeans to get the same effect. Save your leggings for hikes and sporty activities!

Avoid Wearing High Heels in Europe

Tip #2) Avoid Wearing High Heels

Wait, what? When you think of looking sophisticated and elevated, you might think heels are a go-to. But, not so much in Europe. Well, it depends on the heel type! Most cities in Europe are older and there are a lot of uneven and cobblestone walkways and streets. So, during the day, even for an elegant lunch, if you do want some height or just feel better with a leg-lengthening shoe try a wedge sneaker, platform sneaker, or wedge or platform sandals. A wedge sandal with an ankle strap would be ideal for added stability! You could also go with a shoe with a block heel if you plan to take a cab to dinner for example, and won’t be doing a ton of walking.

In fall/winter, you could wear a bootie with a block heel or lug sole. This way you can effortlessly blend fashion with function. Click clacking along in a stiletto heel would honestly just be a rookie mistake. You’ll be uncomfortable and chances are, you’ll stick out and not in a good way! On her recent trip to Italy, Erin packed platform sneakers, closed-toe espadrille sneakers, ballet flats, comfy walking sandals, and a pair of platform sandals for nice dinners. You’ll see more of the shoes she packed throughout the post!

STYLE TIP: Even comfy shoes like sneakers might need some breaking-in time. Make sure you wear the shoes a few times before packing them! Brand new shoes + lots if walking = rookie mistake!

Avoid Super Sexy Clothingnavy blue Staud dress

Tip #3) Avoid Super Sexy Clothing

If the goal is to blend in on your trip and not draw too much attention, think elegant vs sexy. Classy, and sophisticated more than edgy and showy. Remember drawing attention to yourself can make you an easy target for petty theft and pick-pocketing. Try to keep Erin’s One Skin Rule in mind. When wearing a mini dress, you can offset the shorter hemline with some coverage on top. In the images above, you’ll see 2 different mini dresses Erin packed for Italy. The Aje blue printed dress on the left and the navy blue Staud dress on the right are both short but the necklines are definitely more modest.

For more tips on how to look polished with your everyday outfits, this post is a great read.

What To Wear In EuropePrada belt bag

Tip #4) Ditch Utilitarian Backpacks

Those nylon utilitarian backpacks are great for actual hiking, but wearing one around Europe to sightsee is a big no-no. That will scream tourist! This goes for nylon fanny packs and super sporty crossbody bags too. Erin recommends going with something that has more of an elevated design. A chic backpack, crossbody bag, or belt bag would work beautifully. In particular, belt bags and crossbody bags are safest…you’ll feel more in control with the zipper or closure to your bag in sight at all times. In the images above, Erin is wearing a gorgeous Prada belt bag that just fits the essentials. She also carried a larger Valentino crossbody on several days out and about in Italy. You can see more of that bag in tips #1 and #2. You don’t need a designer handbag to look chic though! Erin loves Quince for high-quality handbags that are affordable.

What To Wear In Europewhite Cinq a Sept cropped blazer over a Bronx and Banco dress

Tip #5) Replace Outdoorsy Outerwear With Chic Third Layer

Similar to workout leggings, save the sporty windbreakers for actual hiking or sporty activities. If your trip agenda is mostly walking around capital cities in Europe, an elegant blazer, lady jacket, trench, or cardigan are excellent choices in the warmer months. If you’re traveling in the fall/winter a leather or wool coat or jacket, or wool or tweed blazer is a great go-to. Having a chic third layer is essential when visiting churches or religious sites where there are rules about being covered up. And temps can drop drastically from day to night so that third layer will offer some comfort and warmth too.

In the look above, Erin is wearing a beautiful white Cinq a Sept cropped blazer over a Bronx and Banco dress. This look is so elegant, and Erin felt very appropriately dressed when she visited the Sistine Chapel in Rome. She paired the same blazer with multiple dresses during her trip.

What To Wear In Europe

Tip #6) Replace Casual Shorts With Elevated Shorts

Let’s talk about shorts. When traveling to Europe in the summer, it can be tempting to pack your sporty shorts and denim shorts to keep cool. But, if you are trying to look elevated on your trip, you could easily replace those with a chic pair of linen shorts or a romper. Erin is wearing an English Factory romper that looks like a skirt but is actually shorts. It’s made of terry cloth so it’s not great for REALLY hot or humid days, but it is so classic and…easy! The double-breasted silhouette and white piping make this piece special and elegant. Yet you’ve got the comfort of shorts.

And speaking of comfort, Erin paired the romper with a pair of closed-toe ballet flats by Cole Haan. Erin said these are great walking shoes! They have a cloud-like cushioning that absorbs impact and distributes your weight consistently.

Europe neutral outfits

Tip #7) Stick With a Neutral Color Palette

Erin did bring some fun printed tops and dresses on her recent trip to Italy (like the one in Tip #3), but she also wore a lot of neutrals like black and white. It’s not to say that patterns and bright colors are something you shouldn’t wear. It’s just that neutral tones are one of the easiest ways to look elevated. And, if the goal is to avoid standing out and blend in, wearing neutrals is a must. Very loud and colorful pieces are going to draw attention your way. So, your choice! If you do opt for prints, we’d recommend a smaller-scale print over a large one and muted colors over bright colors.

In the look above, Erin is wearing a dramatic off-the-shoulder, puff-sleeve top by Cult Gaia but since the top is black, it has more of an understated elegance. She paired the top with some ivory pants by Reiss that have a drawstring waist, elastic waist, and leg-lengthening stripe down the side. These pants are incredibly comfortable. lightweight, and come in both regular and petite lengths. Note: Erin IS wearing a gorgeous pair of Dior slingbacks with this outfit. If you’re walking to dinner, you would want to swap the heels for something more practical like wedges or a block-heeled sandal as mentioned in Tip #2.

For even more tips on how NOT to look like a tourist in Europe, make sure you check out Erin’s YouTube video where she shares even more tips here. It’s a must watch!

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4 thoughts on “Avoid The Tourist Trap! Dodge These 7 Style Missteps On Your European Adventure

  1. I discovered Busbee Style when I was searching for advice on what to wear in Paris last year. The elevated basics advice was perfect. I felt elegant, stylish, and comfortable even on sightseeing days. I’m headed to Dublin this year – definitely a different aesthetic and climate, but I’m using this same advice again. I’m truly grateful!

    1. Thank you SO much for being here in this amazing community, Doreen! We’re honored to be a part of your style journey… Have the BEST time on your upcoming trip to Dublin! ~Team Busbee

  2. Hi Erin, I was wondering if you could give me some ideas on what to wear on a Viking cruise through Germany in October? I look up the temperature and it said about 50 degrees at this time thank you in advance

    1. Layers will definitely be your friend, Lori! Lightweight packable puffer coat for sure… I’d probably stick to denim and sweaters and/or blazers for the most part, plus a trench coat that you love. Number 1 tip…pick your color story and stick to it! Mix and match your pieces to make the most of what you pack. Here’s two other helpful blogs on packing for you…

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