One characteristic of Spain that sets it apart from other European countries is its late start on the night and its unique, small appetizer size meals called ‘Tapas’.
Typically, Spaniards have a light breakfast of bread, ham, cheese, and coffee. Lunch is the largest meal of the day which is always followed by an afternoon siesta. The Spaniards take this chunk of the day very seriously. When it is time for siesta, the town shuts down. The siesta time for shops and businesses is from approximately 2pm-5pm while bars and restaurants close from about 4pm-8pm or 9pm.
After returning to work and finishing at such a late hour, it’s no wonder the large meal of the day is at mid-day and not late at night.
Dinner is always smaller than lunch and is eaten between 9pm and midnight. Tapas are enjoyed at this time as well as a snack between breakfast and lunch. Going out usually consists of visiting one restaurant or bar to eat tapas and have a drink, then going to another restaurant to eat tapas and have a drink…and repeat. ‘Tapas Hopping’ can last well into the night, and even early hours of the morning. And, much to the surprise of many North Americans, these types of nights are even enjoyed on a weekday! I guess the siestas are starting to make sense?
So, what are tapas and what are some great ways to enjoy them? Tapas are little Spanish meals, usually accompanied by a glass (or bottle) of wine or sangria. Some popular tapas menu options are ‘tortilla espanola’, or Spanish omelet, ‘chorizo’, or Spanish sausage, ‘jamon Iberico’, or cured Iberian acorn ham, ‘gambas al ajillo’, or garlic prawns, and ‘montaditos tapas’, or a flavorful topping riding on a small slice of baguette.
When in Spain, do as the Spaniards do and try a tapa or two along with a drink and move right along to the next venue. Along the way, socialize, enjoy the flavors and take in the Spanish culture around you.