Spanish people like eating and we take it very seriously. If you want to enjoy a meal like a local, there are many Spanish eating times and customs you need to know to fit right in.

spanish eating times and customs
Spanish eating times and customs /Nacho Carretero Molero / Unsplash /

Spanish eating times and customs you need to know to eat like a local

1. Spanish people can have up to 6 meals per day

While some might skip the occasional meal here and there, generally, there are 6 meals the average Spaniard enjoys per day. We have:

  • The classic breakfast you will have at home
  • An extra second breakfast later on the day called “Almuerzo” that you generally do at work
  • In the weekends, a little aperitif to share called “Aperitivo”
  • Lunch
  • An afternoon snack called “Merienda”
  • Dinner
Foods to try in Madrid
Spanish eating times and customs / Feliz Girault / Unsplash /

2. Spanish eating times

We know we eat late but… have you tried having dinner during the Summer in Spain at 8pm when it is still 35 degrees? It is definitely not for us, better to wait for the sun to go down when the temperatures drop…

  • Breakfast: Between 7 and 9 am depending on your schedule
  • Almuerzo: Somewhere in between 10 and 11am
  • Aperitivo: Around 1pm
  • Lunch: Between 2 and 3pm
  • Merienda: Around 5pm
  • Dinner: Between 9 and 10pm.

3. Side bread is a must

As a kid growing up in Spain you are told you plate must be clean after every meal. They probably just meant finish your meal but you know how Spanish people really take their meals seriously.

As licking a plate is frowned upon in nice restaurants someone had the brilliant idea of always serving bread as a side, mostly for dipping purposes.

However, contrary to the popular believe, when bread is served for lunch at a restaurant in Spain it will generally come accompanied by butter or olive oil, not tomato.

Spanish people will normally only have bread with tomato for breakfast, or as a part of “A catalana” aka a sandwich with serrano ham and tomato.

4. The many do’s and don’ts in the Spanish eating customs

For no particular reason there are many things you are never supposed to do with certain things in Spain. A little bit like the fact that you are only supposed to have Yorkshire pudding with a beef roast dinner.

You never have paella for dinner, only for lunch. Churros are never a dessert but a snack or breakfast. You can have a beer during a meal but not after. You never have a heavy drink, such as vodka, rum etc. while eating a meal, only after…

The list of Spanish eating customs is endless and the only way to learn all the particularities is by spending some time eating in Spain with Spanish people.

5. The most special Spanish eating custom: Sobremesa

Spanish eating times and customs
Spanish eating times and customs / Zan / Unsplash /

Sobremesa is a concept so Spanish that you will not find a translation that reflects the richness behind the word.

Sobremesa is what happens while you finish your wine and order dessert. It is also the coffee you order to keep you awake and then, the liquor or digestif you have just to have an excuse to elongate the occasion.

Sobremesa is, essentially, a good conversation with friends after a lovely meal when you are full, content and satisfied with no other thing to do but enjoy each other’s company.

Sobremesa turns a lovely meal into an epic one as not only is the food what you remember but the memories you create with your loved ones…

You are now prepared to fit right in if you are going to share a meal with a Spaniard but remember, more importantly than any unspoken rule, that a meal in Spain is above all, an occasion to enjoy yourself.

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