12 Sep, 2011 @ 22:03
2 mins read

Que hora es? How to adapt to a Spanish schedule

IF Spaniards can be counted on for one thing, it’s knowing how to party. Going to bed after 5 a.m. on the weekends is considered par for the course. One of the hardest things for ex-pats or travelers to get used to is the Spanish schedule. So set your watches to slow, here’s how it all works:

11 a.m. – Breakfast  In Andalucía the standard breakfast consists of strong café con leche with a large packet of sugar dumped in for good measure. Accompanying the coffee is tostada con tomate. This is a piece of toast with shredded tomato spread on it. The best and final touch of the meal is pouring a liberal amount of olive oil on top and adding a dash of salt. One of my favorite places to savor the olive oil is in the Jaén province: A place with more olive trees than people, and a time honored tradition of producing amazing olive oil.

9 a.m.-2 p.m. – Between these hours things sort of get done. Kids go to school, women shop, people go to work. Stores are open, bars serve breakfast. Old people take in the sun on the park benches. African immigrants hawk goods on the streets. People stand around talking to their neighbors.

2:30 p.m. – The hour de comer. Every day around this time I hear the metal coverings of the shops pulled down with a loud whoosh and crash. The children run home and the last baguettes are bought as women rush home to put a meal on the table. By 2:30, only lone dogs bark and scraps of newspaper flutter in the street. The whole world is at home with their family eating a giant meal. It’s like what Americans eat for dinner, only Spaniards eat it for lunch. With different ingredients.

3-5 p.m. – Siesta time. Let’s be honest some people take it, others don’t. I think most foreigners believe everyone in Spain is asleep at this time, but many children go play sports, businessmen keep working and afternoon classes start up. Although I will say, it is nice to occasionally take an afternoon nap with the approval of an entire country to back you up.

5 p.m. – La merienda. This is snack time. Time to have something sweet, like this or this, with a cup of strong coffee. Enough sugar and caffeine to get you ready to go back to work, or start shopping.

5:30-8:30 p.m. – Things get going again. When I first arrived, I found it funny that closing time in America meant re-opening time in Spain. With a whoosh and crash the metal shop coverings are lifted and the registers unlocked, ready to take in money from shoppers.

9-10 p.m. – Bars start filling up with people craving tapas. (We’ll explore tapas more in another entry.) Because my town is in the Granada province, you can order a drink and you get a free dish. Many people have tapas for dinner since they eat such a large meal for lunch. Others opt for heading home and having a family dinner.

10-12 p.m. – If this is a week night people may stay at the bars eating tapas and then head home to get some rest before starting over again the next day. If it’s the weekend, people are just getting started. Usually tapas and beer are consumed until fairly late on Fridays and Saturdays, and then people move to the clubs around 1 or 2 a.m. The later the better.

2 a.m.-5 or 6 a.m. – These are prime weekend hours for clubbing, dancing and socializing. The hours Spaniards really come alive. You haven’t partied until you stay out til sunrise. I recommend trying it at least once, you may have to train for it, but it’s well worth it. Plus, it’s the perfect excuse to run by a kebab shop. A nice greasy kebab is the answer to whatever ails you at 5 a.m., especially if you’ve had one too many drinks.

Luckily, since breakfast isn’t until 11 a.m. you have plenty of time to sleep in and start all over again.

“¡Buena suerte!”


  1. I´m really sorry if this was your experience in Spain, but luckily, women in Spain work outside and are bussineswomen too; and even somethimes “men rush home to put a meal on the table”.
    Spanish society is a litte bit less sexist than in the past, thanks to the effort of many people.

  2. Sorry, but this article is not correct.

    I am Spanish, and we “breakfast” at 7 or 8 am, as the rest of the world. But our “breakfast” is usually only a coffe or milk. For that, we stop around 11 to “almorzar”. That meal, “el almuerzo” can be as you described.

    We usually work from 9 to 2 or 3, and then from 4 or 5 to 7 or 8. So, it’s not possible to “sleep” until 11 for breakfast.

    The “siesta time” is something reserved usually for the weekend. Possibly 90% of the country don’t do that during the week ;)

  3. Interesting journal from someone who obviously doesn’t have to go to work. Neither expat nor Spaniard today manages to take it that easy until they are retired, nor are their meals as traditional, generally speaking. It’s all a bit faster paced now, I think. This is a privileged viewpoint, not a standard one.

  4. First of all Eva and Daniel, the writer is discussing her experience in a particular small town of Granada. You would know that if you read the introduction to her blog by the Olive Press. Of course her account isn’t universal but for those who don’t know anything about Spanish life and culture it conveys an accurate if not total representation of her host community. I have lived in Spain for many years and I have never seen my male Spanish friends run home to put a meal on the table, unless they are unemployed, that is. Women still have to bring home the bacon and fry it in a pan. Spain still has a long way to go on the home front for gender equality. I know that in other parts of Spain the reality is different but the only error in the article worth commenting on would be breakfast which varies depending on work and family schedules, like Daniel has stated.

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