Category Archives: Ask me a question about Spain

Ask me a question about Spain: The Siesta


A Fallas Festival (Valencia) satire of the British attitude towards the Spanish siesta — “The britishland vs. Ca Pepe”. (Ca Pepe = Pepe’s house, referring to Spain).

“…are afternoon siestas common, especially in the cities, and particularly in technology heavy businesses?”

In Spain, the siesta is a short nap of 15-30 minutes taken in the middle of the afternoon, after the midday meal. The siesta is historically common throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, but most strongly associated with Spain.

A siesta is not the definition of the 3 hour break taken in the middle of the working day — many foreign tourists confuse la siesta with the 3 hour break, mistakenly assuming Spaniards sleep through the entire afternoon!  In fact, businesses, schools and government offices shut down from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. to allow the locals to enjoy lunch with their families, work colleges, or friends. In larger cities, the post office, national supermarket chains, bigger retail stores and some pharmacies stay open — but most towns, with the exception of restaurants and bars, completely close up.

Spaniards work from 8:30am to 8:00pm, and the long lunch break is important. Spaniards rarely invite business friends to their home, preferring to meet them in a restaurant or café.  People generally will not start discussing business before coffee has been served. In general, the Spanish are a very open and communicative.  No matter if you work in a large company or a small business, the long lunch break is a part of business and social life.  A hurried sandwich or salad at your desk is considered anti-social in a country where food and social exchange is very highly valued.

The tradition of the family dining together still exists here. If you work and can go home for lunch, are an ama de casa (housewife), a student in an elementary school or high school (many schools run from 9am to 5pm, with a two-hour lunch break) or retired, the siesta (short nap) is still a common tradition.

Tourists frequently find the 3 hour break both confusing and annoying. Many can’t understand why so many shops are closed and the streets are almost empty. In places where tourism is a big part of the economy, it is not difficult to find enterprising restaurateurs taking advantage of tourist frustration, offering a “Spanish lunch” at 12 noon — but you will find yourself eating an over-priced, mediocre meal surrounded only by other tourists. A real Spanish midday meal is never served before 1:30pm!

Best advice — shift your schedule and eat like a local during your stay.  There are restaurants and bars in every corner of Spain that serve a menu del día – a complete three-course lunch meal that offers good value for money and a great way to enjoy Spanish regional cuisine.  Whether or not you opt to take a siesta after the meal is your choice!

Photo©La Gringa Ibérica