Spaniards LOVE their food! In fact, the typical Spaniard probably eats more times throughout the day than most people around the world.
They spread their meals throughout the day, take their time eating, and walk between meals. In case you are confused why the restaurants don’t open for lunch until 1:30, and dinner isn’t available until 8:30 or 9:00, we’ve described the typical Spanish schedule for meals (and snacks!) so you can be prepared and plan to eat at the correct times!
Below is a brief description of a day of Spanish meals, from breakfast to dinner, with approximate mealtimes, as well as sample menus.
- Breakfast “desayuno”
- Brunch “almuerzo”
- Lunch “la comida”
- Afternoon Snack “merienda”
- Dinner “cena”
El Desayuno – Breakfast
A typical breakfast in Spain is typically small and sweet; it almost always includes café con leche (coffee with milk), which is can be accompanied by one of the following: a croissant, toast with jam or tomato, or simply toast with olive oil. Some families buy sweet magdalenas (muffins) from the neighborhood bakery. Often this is also served with a glass of fresh orange juice.
El Almuerzo – Brunch
A typical brunch in Spain, unlike breakfast, is going to be salty and more filling. It is eaten around 11:00am or 12:00pm and usually consists of a “bocata”, a small sandwich on a baguette, with one or more of the following: spanish omelet, ham, cheese, and tomato. The bocata is accompanied by olives and peanuts to share, and finished with a coffee or “cortado”, espresso with milk.
La Comida – Lunch
Lunch is the mid-day meal, or la comida as it is called in Spain, and it is the largest meal of the day. It usually comes with multiple courses, eaten between 1:30 and 3:30 pm.
Since Spanish lunches are always large, and courses come one at a time, pace yourself! Spaniards believe in taking their time and enjoying their meals, so la comida can easily last an hour and a half or longer.
A sample “comida” will depend on the region, but usually includes: fresh seafood or meat, salad or soup, a dish of rice, pasta, or potatoes, and bread is always on the table. After the meal, fresh fruit or dessert is served along with an espresso, and often followed by a short siesta (nap)!
La Merienda – Late-Afternoon Snack
The late-afternoon snack is called la merienda and is typically small, but necessary since dinner isn’t usually eaten for another six hours after lunch. La Merienda depends on each family and region, but can be anything from a small ham and cheese sandwich to something sweeter like coffee with cake. It is usually eaten around 5:00pm or 6:00pm.
La Cena – Dinner
Dinner in Spain is fairly small, especially compared to la comida, and is eaten around 9:00 or 10:00pm throughout the week, even later on weekends. A typical dinner might include a salad, fresh fish or meat served with with potatoes or vegetables, and of course accompanied with bread. A light dessert of fresh fruit may also be eaten.