Take heed of siesta and mealtimes

It is important while perusing Spanish cities to remember that many shops and businesses will close midday for a siesta. Generally closing between 2-2:30pm and reopening between 5-6pm. On Sundays shops are generally closed all day.

Siesta may make eating out at a restaurant confusing especially if you are accustomed to mealtimes that are different from the Spanish.

Usually people eat a small breakfast (desayuno) early in the morning with a café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) and some pastries or toast, and maybe a juice or ”zumo de naranja!”

Next there is a small snack called ”almuerzo” around 10:30am-12pm. The schools I worked at both had a small break around this time for us to eat and have a coffee. This usually consisted of bread, meats like jamón, chorizo, and sliced ham or turkey, perhaps some cheese, and a fruit. Very rarely the cooks would make tortilla española, and it was always such a treat.

Lunch isn’t eaten until later, between 1:30-3:30pm or so. Called ”La Comida” which literally translates into ”the food,” this meal is appropriately the largest meal of the day. On the weekends you may see people out having this meal at restaurants accompanied by some vinos or cervezas. By the time people have Comida, the kids are out of school and back home. This is also when siesta takes place so after your big meal you too may want to take a nap, or go have a lie-down in el Parque Retiro.

Next, is merienda, another small snack as dinner won’t be until much later at night. This is more of an eating time for children.

Last but not least, for dinner there is the ”cena,” which is a light meal taken between 9pm and midnight. People may just go out for tapas or ”tapear” for the cena, ordering a drink (which often comes with a tapa) and then switching locations after each one.

Because of these meal time, if you are going out to dinner understand that the restaurant or the kitchen may have closed at 5pm, and won’t open again until 8:30pm. This is less common with international restaurants, and more typical of Spanish run joints. You can always ask for a places’s ”horario” or schedule.

Check out this page for a more detailed description of the schedule of typical Spanish mealtimes.