Spanish Eating Customs

If it is your first time traveling are faced with a variety of cultural differences- a new city, a new country, a new culture, a new language, etc. Yet one of the most frustrating obstacles is often something as simple as meal times! Many visitors find themselves hungry and ready for dinner around 6:00 in the afternoon only to find that Spanish restaurants don't open up for business for at least another couple of hours. So throw out your conceptions of proper meal times, eat when the Spaniards eat, and we promise that you'll be much happier- and definitely less hungry!- in the long run.
El desayuno (Breakfast)
-Before 10am.
-Often just a cup of coffee. Toast, croissants, or "pan tomaca"- a piece of toast with an oil and tomato spread- are typical picks for those looking for a bite to eat.
-On weekends or on holidays, a Spanish specialty is churros - slightly crispy sticks of fried dough - dunked in a mug of thick hot chocolate or topped with sugar..
Café (Coffee)
-Between 10:30am and noon.
-With cafés on every corner, there's no doubt that Spain is a coffee-loving country. Combine this with the contagiously social nature that defines Spaniards and you've got a country where coffee breaks are even a given part of the workday. After a couple of hours slaving away at work, it's quite common for coworkers to hit up the nearest café for a few minutes of caffeinated downtime. Don't know what to order?
-Café solo- A simple shot of expresso.
-Café cortado- A shot of expresso with just a splash of milk.
-Café con leche- A shot of expresso and an equal amount of milk.
-Café americano- A shot of expresso and lots of water- perfect for Americans who think Spanish coffee is too strong!
La comida (Lunch)
-Between 2:00pm and 4:00pm.
-"La comida" is traditionally the big meal of the day.
-No, it's not a cultural myth- Spain's infamous siesta time does exist! While siesta doesn't necessarily mean putting on your pajamas and hopping into bed for the entire afternoon, stores do close down and many people go home to eat the mid-day meal and relax with their families.
-Many restaurants offer their "menús del día" (menu of the day) at this time. You can choose one appetizer and one main course from a set menu that changes by day. These menú deals, which generally range between €7.00 and €12.00, almost always include bread, a drink and even dessert.
La merienda (Late afternoon snack)
-Once you've finished your lunch, your next meal could be as late as 11:00 at night! Many people have a light snack, also known as a "tentempié", during the afternoon to break up the day and hold them over until dinner.
-Common merienda choices include a small sandwich, a piece of fruit, or even just a hot beverage.
La cena (Dinner)
-Typically doesn't start until between 9:00 and 10:30 in the evening.
-Restaurants almost never open up before 8:00 in the evening for dinner.
-During the summer months and on weekends, dinner time is pushed even later. Don't be surprised if you see people sitting down for their meal as late as midnight!
-La cena is traditionally a bit lighter than the mid-day comida, often consisting of something as light as a salad or sandwich.
-The evening hours are the ideal time to experience Pamplona's "txikiteo", the Basque word for barhopping your way around the local tapas scene.