I have read that you cannot visit the sagrada familia with bare kneees or bare shoulders. Does this apply to any other sights in Spain? If it's hot I like to wear shorts and sleeveless tops.
Run google street view on any street in Barcelona and see what half of the people goofing off are wearing.
Repeat for anyplace else.
Repeat until convinced.
Thanks, but I'm specifically wondering about getting into certain sights. I have read that you cannot visit Sagrada Familia showing knees and shoulders, I'm sure you can wear whatever you like on the street.
The dress code is at churches in Spain. It's most enforced at the most heavily visited churches, including Barcelona Cathedral, which need to make more effort to maintain a certain atmosphere. Rick's Spain guidebook often will warn you in the description of that church/site.
I was in Barcelona in June 2013. You definitely will not be alllowed to enter the Barcelona Cathedral with bare knees or shoulders. I saw "guards" standing at different entrances, turning people away.
Sorry, misread and thought you had the churches pegged.
Sagrada Familia is an odd case. It has a dress code that is generally enforced as you suggested, but not always. I wouldn't take a chance on being refused entry. The basilica (it's not the Barcelona Cathredral, that's a couple of miles away down toward the port) is also a construction site - - you can nose around the exterior in anything you want.
Most of the larger churches have a similar standard and are downright picky (Madrid, Seville, Toledo, Segovia, etc). Cordova is another special case - - you can get into the grounds, but not inside the Mezquita.
As for the smaller churches, they probably wouldn't toss you out if you wandered in to look around, but you'd feel out of place if mass were being held. If it's empty except for the padre, he won't care and will probably give you a tour and history lesson.
Other than the churches, wear whatever you want and you won't be out of place.
Since everybody else is talking about the Barcelona Cathedral, apparently, and not the Sagrada Familia basilica - - the higher dress code applies, but I've never seen any guards.
These churches are active places of worship. whether you are believer or not, or whether there are posted dress codes and security guards enforcing them or not, you should be respectful of the people who may be using the church for non-tourist activities, whether a service is taking place or not.
I was there when it was cold and I wore pants and long sleeve shirts so I can't speak from experience. No one was in clothing that could be turned away. However, in Italy and Greece I did run into this problem in the summer. Just bring a cardigan sweater in your bag for your shoulders, and a big scarf/sarong to wrap around your shorts like a long skirt and…you're in. Remove them when done visiting. You may look a bit silly, but it beats not visiting these sites, or wearing long pants/sleeves in hot weather. In some of the Italian churches they actually had scarf type coverings for visitors to borrow, but I have no idea if that's done in Spain.
No exposed shoulders, knees, or midriffs is a fairly common rule for visiting Catholic churches. The rule isn't to dress nice, just modestly - flip-flops are fine.
The Barcelona Cathedral is the only place I've seen a sign actually spelling out the dress code (even though it's true that Barcelona is much less Catholic than most cities in Spain). I didn't see a sign at Sagrada Familia, but it's a safer assumption to assume the dress code than to be turned away when you get there.
Many people might wear a tank top and carry a scarf in their daypack to wrap around their shoulders if needed. A second scarf can be an over the knees skirt. I guess it depends on how hot it is the day you visit.
Are you wearing 100% cotton?
For hot weather, it is best to wear fabric that wicks away moisture. You can get travel clothes on TravelSmith or Magellan that have UV coverage and mesh for cooling. Sleeves are actually better in keeping you cool and protected. Skirts are more cooling than shorts. Less is not necessarily better. Also, be sure to wear a sports type hat that wicks moisture.
I visited Spain last July and visited many cathedrals and churches. If I recall correctly, La Sagrada Familia was not very strict, but other places of worship were. Example: the cathedrals in Sevilla and Toledo. I saw the guards in Sevilla turn away a group of college-age women because they wore little tank tops with spaghetti straps, and very "short" shorts. I know it's very hot in the summer, but I ended up wearing comfortable and cool summer dresses most of the time that were right above my knees, that had either short sleeves or were sleeveless. I also carried in my backpack, just in case, a "faux" Pashmina scarf that I purchased in Spain for 8 euros from a street vendor! I think if you wear longer shorts with a top with wider straps you'll be fine, just make sure to have a scarf to cover your shoulders. Have fun!