Why do Spanish people eat so late?i

For my next blog post I’m taking a break from barrios to talk about culture and my favourite topic: FOOD!

So you’ve moved to Madrid and you’ve discovered that Spanish people operate on a completely different timetable regarding meals. Typically, Spanish people have a coffee in the morning around 8am and then go to work, around 11am there is a break where people have their “second breakfast” (like the hobbits) and then lunch is around 2pm and consists usually of a relaxed social gathering to have a menu del dia for around two hours. Finally, when they finish their extremely long day at work, they get home and have dinner usually around 9 or 10pm.

This can cause havoc for foreigners with a much earlier eating schedule.

But why do they follow such unusual eating times compared to the rest of Europe? The reason has a lot to do with politics.

Spain is actually geographically located in the same time zone as the United Kingdom and Portugal (Greenwich Mean Time) but the times are aligned with Central Eastern Time (CET) same as Belgrade located a mind-boggling 2,500 km away.

Spain has been living in the wrong time zone for the last 70 years.

Franco, the dictator, put the clocks forward one hour in 1940 to align Spanish time with Nazi Germany.

Though the time zone changed people continued with their daily life just one hour later than the rest of Europe. So lunch at 1pm became lunch at 2pm, dinner at 8pm became dinner at 9pm.

After the dictatorship, the clocks were never changed back. In fact, there is a coalition who are proposing that Spain return to its correct time zone and change the antiquated daily working schedule that no longer reflects the lifestyle of the average Spanish person.

The current Spanish schedule is still stuck in a forgotten era. The workday begins at 9am and finishes at around 7pm or 8pm due to the long two hour lunch breaks that were designated for siestas, this was ideal when people lived a stones throw away from their work and walked home to have lunch and a siesta but this is no longer the case.

Most people live outside the city centre due to the inflation in house prices and have to commute to work which makes napping at lunchtime impossible.

According to the BBC, “a January 2017 study by research company Simple Lógica found that less than 18% of Spaniards nap regularly, while nearly 60% never take a siesta.”

Most of my students have expressed a desire to return to the 9 to 5 work culture so that they could have more productive afternoons, spend more time with their children, go to the gym… instead of having their long work days which see them returning home at 8pm or later, exhausted and drained, leaving their children in the care of babysitters, nannies or aging relatives for the huge percentage of the day.

However, it looks like pigs will fly before a change in schedules will be implemented. Spain is a country of change as seen in the leaps and bounds in women’s rights, gay rights etc in the last 40 years, but they are sticklers for tradition and habits like this are hard to break.

The good news is that in the last two or three years brunch has come into fashion! So it’s become trendy to eat earlier. So don’t fear! Brunch being in fashion will save you from hunger!

Here are my favourites in Madrid:

federal-cafe.jpgFederal Cafe 

Plaza de los Comendadoras 9, nearest metro San Bernardo

Australian hipster brunch place with great baked egg dishes, eggs benedict, burgers, smoothies and more.

15 – 20 euros per person


Pum Pum Cafe12923129_1020246761356900_8630190501454556520_n.jpg

Calle Tribulete 6, nearest metro Lavapies

A cute tiny cafe with great brunch and atmosphere, but tends to become incredibly full!

15 – 20 euros per person


Carmencita Bar / La GringaCarmencita-Bar-1-1.jpg

San Vicente Ferrer 51

One of the oldest brunch places in Madrid serving American style brunch, mimosas, eggs benedict and burgers.

15 – 18 euros


New Addition!

The Toast

Calle Fernando del Catolico 50IMG_0860.JPG

A cute quiet cafe with American style brunch and pancakes, french toast and mimosas.

15.90 euros for American style brunch



There are many western style places like Tierra Burrito Bar or Honest Greens that open from about 13:00 so all is not lost!

Madrid is the hub of amazing food from all over the world, so Bon Appetit!

See you in my next post!

3 thoughts on “Why do Spanish people eat so late?i

  1. Paul Pearson

    To be honest I actually think this a bit of an urban myth which seems to have been spreading on the internet for the last couple of years (I blame the bbc in particular). My understanding is the problem has always been the Spanish working day and high temperatures in the afternoon, particularly in the South. As Spain was traditionally an agricultural country, workers in the fields would have a long break during the hottest part of the day and then return to work for a few hours in the evening when it was cooler. Unfortunately this has carried over into the modern world which explains shops closing from 2-5 every day, people working til 7 or 8 and then knock on effect on meal times. It’s perfectly possible, and more and more businesses are, working on a 8 or 9 to 5 or 6 timetable. And with absolutely no need to change the clocks. And we can continue to enjoy lots of light in the evenings:) If I was in Belgrade I’d be campaigning to put the clocks forward!


    1. Madrid Insider

      Good point about the shops closing and it’s affect on mealtimes. I had heard about the agricultural impact before. Thanks for the interesting comment


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