Your holiday guide to eating out in Spain

When on holiday a good way to discover the local culture is to try the local food. Spain has a great diet with a little bit of ‘naughty’ to go with the ‘nice’. 

The Spanish, or Mediterranean, diet is popular with nutritionists because it is balanced. Restaurants are always busy in high season, so it’s a good idea to book ahead.

If you’re holidaying in Spain, it’s as good a time as any to try the local dishes. And speaking of time, you need to know when it’s the right time to eat them.

More meal-times than you can shake a churro at

In the UK and USA, lunchtime is fairly early around midday to one pm. In Spain, they’ve just had breakfast number two, so midday is an eating dead zone. 

If you get Spanish mealtimes wrong, then your experience is going to be of tourist traps and fast food – not what Spain’s gastronomy is about.

Here’s a guide to Spanish mealtimes and what food you can enjoy on your holiday.


Breakfast #1

It’s not going to be a problem missing the first breakfast (desayuno) if you like a lie-in on your hols. Eaten between 7 and 9, it’s often just a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. If you do fancy a nibble, it’s usually carb-rich offerings such as croissants or cereal.

churros spanish breakfast

Breakfast #2

Somewhere between 10 and 11, Spain sits down for breakfast number two. This is a heartier meal washed down with more coffee, a juice or water.

Offices empty as workers head to cafes or somewhere other than their desk to eat the meal that will see them through to the late lunch. Typical dishes are toasted bread with olive oil, crushed tomato, and/or cured ham (pitufos), a slice of tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) and magdelanas (fairy cakes essentially). Churros, long thin doughnuts, served with thick, rich hot chocolate is another popular breakfast – particularly at the weekend.

Spanish lunch

spain food peasy
chiringuito spanish fish

This is the meal that matters! From 2pm, the restaurants will be buzzing. Indulge in a menu del dia (set course menu) which will have three or four options per course, plus drink, at a reasonable price. 

Alternatively, go a la carte and partake of stews like cocido madrileño or rabo de toro (oxtail stew). Rice dishes are popular – paella or arroz caldoso, or chicken pollo al chilindrón (chicken and pepper stew) and pollo en pepitoria (chicken in almond sauce). In coastal towns and cities, you’ll find an abundance of fresh fish and seafood accompanied by salad or potatoes.

At weekends, families will linger over lunch sometimes until 4.30. This is known as sobremesa and takes them up to siesta time.

Merienda or tapas time

If lunch is late, then dinner is too. This means you’ll need a little snack to tide you over until then. 

From 5 to 6:30 p.m. the cafes, bakeries and bars once again fill up as you meet with friends and family for coffee and a chat. Children will not be deterred from taking this meal, perhaps it’s the sweetness that has them hooked.

Snacking cakes, known as bizcochos, are baked with olive oil and often yogurt as well. A piece of cake to accompany the coffee is smiled upon. Fruit is a staple for this meal, too.

If you’re going for tapas, this can be a quick drink and nibble, or spending the whole evening going from bar to bar. Tapas are often eaten at the bar.

spanish tapas


spanish lunch dish
spanish dinner-peasy

Dinner in Spain may be late (9-11pm), but it’s worth waiting for. Known as cena, it is lighter than lunch. At home, many Spaniards will dine on a salad or plate of cured meats and sausages, cheese or fruit.

It’s a different story in restaurants, where just about everything is on offer. 

And to make sure you get your order in, there is the Peasy WebApp so you need never go hungry.