Spanish Meal Times – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner in Spain – Spanish Eating Habits

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Lunch and dinner in Spain are later than you think — how do Spanish eating habits and Spanish meal times compare to your home country? For us, adjusting to such a late dinner in Spain took quite a bit of adjustment. If you’re going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain.

Understanding Spanish eating habits and the typical Spanish meal times are both important elements of enjoying your visit. For most of you, the time for lunch in Spain and dinner in Spain might be significantly different than how your own family operates. Below I try to explain meals in Spain and Spanish eating habits as best I can.

Lunch and dinner in Spain are later than you think — how do Spanish eating habits & Spanish meal times compare to your home? If you're going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain. Enjoy our quick, broad-brush guide to the traditional Spanish meal schedule. Spanish culture | Spain Food | Spanish food | Spain travel tips | Spain travel guide | Spanish tapas | spanish dish | al fresco dining

Spanish Meal Times: Spanish Eating Habits

One of the biggest differences in Spanish eating habits for us was that Spanish people eat much later (and more often) than we were accustomed to. Restaurants might not be open when you might expect them to be. Lunch in Spain starts late. Dinner in Spain starts later. For hungry kids, this can seriously impact their mood — and yours — so be prepared.

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Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner in Spain…Plus 2 More

It turns out that concepts like “three meals a day” and “breakfast is the most important meal” are not part of the culture here in Valencia. And from what I understand, the same is true for Spanish eating habits as a whole.

Spanish Eating Schedule — Meals in Spain

There are essentially four meals in Spain each day. Sometimes five, although these are not all “full meals” by other countries’ standards. The meals in Spain, in order, are as follows:

  • Desayuno
  • Almuerzo
  • Comida
  • Merienda
  • Cena

To understand Spanish eating habits, you must know these five Spanish meal times. Below is a quick, broad-brush description of the traditional Spanish eating schedule.

Lunch and dinner in Spain are later than you think — how do Spanish eating habits & Spanish meal times compare to your home? If you're going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain. Enjoy our quick, broad-brush guide to the traditional Spanish meal schedule. Spanish culture | Spain Food | Spanish food | Spain travel tips | Spain travel guide | Spanish tapas | spanish dish | al fresco dining

Desayuno: Breakfast in Spain…kinda

The first typical Spanish meal of the day. This is the Spanish breakfast, but it’s often just a pastry and a drink like coffee or a glass of milk for the kids. Out of all the proper meals in Spain, this is often the smallest.

Most kitchens in Spain have a small table for family members to sit for a quick bite before they head out to work or school. Our boy had to leave the house at 7:40 am to be on time for class, so he ate something fast between stumbling out of bed and getting dressed for the day.

Almuerzo: Brunch in Spain (Not really)

This comes a few hours after Desayuno. Perhaps this could be called Spanish brunch since it’s usually eaten between 10:30 and 11:30, but instead of poached eggs and a bloody mary, it’s often just more bread.

Here in Valencia, almuerzo often takes the form of a toasted baguette with ham and/or a tomato spread (tostada con tomate), most likely accompanied with cafe con leche (basically a latte) or cafe solo (espresso). More Spanish eating habits are slow and unrushed, and you’ll see that at lunch and dinner in Spain. However, almuerzo can take the form of a quick bite in a cafe.

You’ll see many office workers using this time to smoke, chat and have a snack at street-side tables. You may even see some school kids on the street gnawing on a small sandwich, which many kids bring to school with them — including our kids.

how do Spanish eating habits & Spanish meal times compare to your home? If you're going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain. Enjoy our quick, broad-brush guide to the traditional Spanish meal schedule. Spanish culture | Spain Food | Spanish food | Spain travel tips | Spain travel guide | Spanish tapas | spanish dish | al fresco dining

Comida: Lunch in Spain

This third meal time of the day is technically lunch but is usually served around 2 pm or even later. If you eat a sandwich at 11 am, you’re not going to be hungry for a few hours, right?

Traditionally in Spanish food culture, comida (lunch in Spain) is the biggest meal of the day, often involving multiple courses. If you go to a restaurant, they usually have a choice of set course lunches, which make up their menu del dia (“menu of the day”). These usually consist of a first plate, drink, then an entree and possibly coffee and dessert.

Valencia is the home of paella, the delicious rice dish that many people associate with all of Spain. So you can imagine what’s the most common main course here. Be warned that your coffee will almost never come until you finish your dessert. Even if you ask.

Merienda: Snack Time in Spain

The fourth Spanish meal of the day is merienda. I’ve heard it compared to what people in Commonwealth Nations might consider tea time. The way I see it played out here in Valencia, however, is mainly as a snack for kids who are just getting out of school at around 5 pm. Keep in

It’s usually more bread: a small sandwich, a pastry or some cookies. They need a snack at five, it seems — after all, dinner won’t be served for another four or five hours! Our kids are growing so fast that they usually devour a few bananas and apples when they get home. I’m sure that they wouldn’t complain if we fed them chocolate croissants.

Spanish pastries. Lunch and dinner in Spain are later than you think — how do Spanish eating habits & Spanish meal times compare to your home? If you're going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain. Enjoy our quick, broad-brush guide to the traditional Spanish meal schedule. Spanish culture | Spain Food | Spanish food | Spain travel tips | Spain travel guide | Spanish tapas | spanish dish | al fresco dining

Siesta Culture in Spain

Does finishing school at 5 pm sound like a long day? Well, kids in Valencia have a two-to-three-hour break in the middle of the day when they come home for the family meal. Most schools and businesses close for several hours in the afternoon so that everyone can go home or to a restaurant and eat together. The siesta culture is different in each part of Spain, but this was a huge part of Spanish eating habits in the entire country for centuries.

In fact, most people take off a few hours for lunch. It’s also common for people to go to work, stay for an hour or two, then close up shop and head out for almuerzo for an hour.

After living in 24/7 Tokyo for so long, this way of living was a bit of a shock, but we got used to it. It was all part of the Spanish culture shock that became part of our family story.

Cena: Dinner in Spain

Finally, the last meal of the day comes at around 21:00 or later. Dinner in Spain is often light compared to lunch. In fact, dinner in Spain looks a lot like what I enjoy for breakfast: eggs, potatoes and some kind of fried or grilled seafood (we are still a family from Tokyo after all).

Of course, dinner in Spain can take many forms, with the shared, small-plate style of tapas being the most popular. If you’re planning on dinner in Spain around 7 PM at a tapas place — or almost any Spanish restaurant for that matter — you’ll likely be eating alone.

That is if the place is even open yet. The same goes for trying to eat lunch in Spain at a traditional Spanish restaurant at noon. Sure, the tourist hotspots will be open earlier, but the food will be geared (and priced) for visitors and not for locals.

Dinner in Spain was too late for us. You may be fine starting an appetizer at 10 or 11 pm, but as a parent of two, it was tough for us — especially because we all had to get up early! I don’t know how Spanish people do it, really. It’s different when you eat dinner in Spain on vacation for a few weeks, but when it’s every day, it was a challenge.

how do Spanish eating habits & Spanish meal times compare to your home? If you're going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain. Enjoy our quick, broad-brush guide to the traditional Spanish meal schedule. Spanish culture | Spain Food | Spanish food | Spain travel tips | Spain travel guide | Spanish tapas | spanish dish | al fresco dining - Spanish Meal Times - Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner in Spain - Spanish Eating Habits

Lunch and dinner in Spain are later than you think — how do Spanish eating habits & Spanish meal times compare to your home? If you're going to visit the country for a week or a year, you might want to prepare yourself for Spanish eating habits and the time of meals in Spain. Enjoy our quick, broad-brush guide to the traditional Spanish meal schedule. Spanish culture | Spain Food | Spanish food | Spain travel tips | Spain travel guide | Spanish tapas | spanish dish | al fresco dining

Spanish Eating Habits & Spanish Meal Times: Could You Adjust?

What are your favorite meals in Spain? Would these Spanish eating habits be a plus or a minus for you? Could you eat such a late-night dinner in Spain on a regular basis? Have you been in Latin American cultures where the mealtimes were later than you were accustomed to? How did you adapt (or did you)?

Did you enjoy this post on Spanish eating habits and Spanish meal times? What did we miss? What info on eating in Spain did we miss?

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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a hotel in Spain using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel. We want you to make the most of your Spain travel time and enjoy the Spanish eating habits as best you can. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner in Spain, we hope you relish every bite!

Comments

  1. Thank you for such a useful post! I wish we had known all of this when we traveled to Spain a couple years ago. Oh well it was still a blast. Still interested in living there someday… now we’ll know how to properly eat!

    • Thanks for your kind words. Yes, it was a real culture shock for us. Especially how LATE people ate! We would be pushing the kids to bed, and their classmates would start texting them “Hey, I just finished dinner and about to start on the homework…”

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