Spanish meals and eating times.

fathersteakComer” means both “to eat” and “to have lunch”, which tends to be the most important meal of the day in Spain. “La hora de comer” (lunchtime) is later than in Northern Europe and the US, beginning at 14:00, maybe later on the weekends. If you go to a restaurant looking for a bite to eat at 12:30, chances are the restaurant will be closed.

Two hours is the amount of time alloted to enjoying lunch. Although this is starting to change in the cities, where one hour is offered to shorten what is still an eight hour, sometimes more, work day. The urban legend is that every Spaniard is having a siesta during this time. Employees at larger companies and corporations are usually back at their desks. Shop owners and family run business close their stores to go home and cook lunch before they go back to work. Which isn’t to say no one sleeps. Maybe a quick cat nap if time permits.

Madrid-Plaza_Mayor-Tapas_barShops will open again around five and stay open until eight or nine. Restaurants that serve “cena” (dinner) won’t lift their shutters until nine or ten. If you’re hungry earlier, tapas or pintxos bars will have food for the after work crowd. If you find your stomach growling in between these times, bocadillos (sandwiches) are served throughout the day in many bars.

Desayuno (the breakfast) is probably the least important of the three meals. Before going to work people might have a coffee and toast with olive oil at home. Once at the office, they’ll take a break around ten to eat a small bocadillo or a croissant at a nearby restaurant, then drink a coffee. It should be done in this order. If you order a coffee before or during your meal, the waiter or waitress will reconfirm your wish repeatedly because it runs so counter to Spanish sensibilities.

Finally remember huevos form an important part of lunch and dinner. Eggs will not be offered for breakfast, however. Don’t even  ask.