What to wear in Germany?

We are spending two weeks at the end of July traveling through Germany and plan to visit many churches and perhaps a museum or two. Are shorts appropriate for these places or do we need to stick to capris or pants? We are a group of both male and female college students and are trying to pack as light as possible - so advice for both would be appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8785 posts

Germans will not care if you wear shorts into churches. In fact it is Italy where you are going to run into the knees and shoulders covered police, the Catholics in Italy are pretty stringent on their dress codes for the main churches, which is of course their absolute right. You just won't find that almost anywhere else in western Europe, especially not Germany.
This is the nation that wears Birkenstocks, nothing can out ugly them.. LOL

Germans also have no hangups about nudity, they will sunbathe and swim nude from 1-100 yrs old .

Germany is a very relaxing country to travel in fashion wise. They just don't care what you wear! Have fun and have a beer!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7927 posts

However, I don't think Pat is suggesting you should go into churches nude - If nude is you, save it for sunny days at the lake, beach or park.

The only time I ran into dress codes in Germany was when we went clubbing but I never got turned away. I'm always casual but not "backpacker" casual.

This is what I wear. It allows me to dress up or down. Everything is in one carry-on bag under 20 lbs.


My wife gets the most use out of a casual skirt (just above her knees unless in Italy) and capris. She mixes/matches with layered t-shirts (variety from tanks to three-quarter sleeves) and light sweaters. She also packs a rain shell.

She packs a pair of dressy pants or a dress. IMO she doesn't wear them enough to justify carrying them.

Two pairs of shoes are fine for women also. You can wear a pair of sandals that work for both very casual and very dressy plus a pair of trail running shoes for most of your walking. If you have to have a third pair of shoes, okay but resist the temptation to bring a pair of shoes for every occasion. You will be so much happier if you pack light.

I bring a pair of board shorts with pockets that can double as shorts, but I only wear them at the beach, park, pool or for an athletic activity. If you ditch the shorts for a casual skirt that can be dressed up to go out and wear capris for hiking or touring, you will be happier.

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2690 posts

Actually everything that needed to be said has already been said by the above posters. It doesn't matter what you wear as long as you wear SOMETHING. I second Pat on the uglyness of Birkenstocks and for a personal reason would like to add "Crocs" to the blacklist!

Posted by Michelle
Anaheim, CA, USA
1427 posts

Yikes!! I think even the church may frown on nudity inside the church or museum!!

Sara: you can also bring a scarf to dress up your casual outfit. Its amazing how a quick flash of color can brighten up a pair of capris and a shirt.. well, maybe not a t-shirt but a plain top.

Posted by Michael
Charlotte, NC, USA
95 posts

This is a funny subject for me. My last trip to Europe had been to Italy a few years back for 2 weeks so I was so trained to think pants, etc in churches.

We just returned from 2 weeks in Germany/Switzerland and a side trip to Salzburg and saw all kinds of get ups in churches. I had brought a pair of pants in my daypack for my brother who was wearing shorts just in case we needed them for the Salzburg Cathedral. We were right near the entrance and they have a sign out about showing proper judgement with clothing attire, etc. when entering the cathedral. 2 seconds later this guy in his late 50's or 60's walks out in really short jean shorts (tight too) and a jean vest with a white t-shirt on. Of course he had black shoes and socks to complete the ensemble. Suddenly my brother didn't feel so bad in his baggy shorts and polo shirt.