eat like a local in Barcelona

How to eat like a local in Barcelona.

As we explained to you in the blog post “Tapas, do you really know what tapas means?” we don’t eat tapas throughout the entire day. Tapas are just an informal way of enjoying some drinks and food with friends. The main meal of the day in Spain is lunch.

Let us first explain to you how our meal schedules work.

  • Lunch and dinner schedules:

Restaurants fill up with locals between 2 and 3 pm for lunch and are then empty until 9 pm when dinner is served.

So, why are these meals so late? The answer is simple; it is because of Spanish working hours. Most companies stay open until 8 pm, and workers have a long break for lunch; we call it a “split shift.” Many will work from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm, and from 4 pm to 8 pm, 8 hours a day with a 3-hour break. As you can imagine, this system is heavily criticized, especially by people with children and family responsibilities. But this is why in Spain lunch is the main meal and dinner is eaten so late.

Nowadays, few people actually have time to go home for lunch and then return to the office, and many workers therefore choose to go to a restaurant close to their work where they eat a set menu. In neighborhoods where there are many offices, it is usual to find lots of bars and restaurants offering the “Menú del día,” that’s the Menu of the day.

“Menu del día” or lunch menu.

A great option due to its price and quality; it usually costs around 10-12 euros per person and is the perfect choice if you want to try homemade dishes and local cuisine. It’s offered in almost all bars and restaurants at lunchtime, which starts around 1 pm.

The Menu includes a starter or “primero,” usually soup, salad or pasta, a main course or “segundo,” meat or fish options with garnish, slightly more elaborated dishes, and dessert. Drink and bread are also included. Note that you can always choose from a minimum of 3 different options for each dish and dessert, so you‘ll always have an option that you‘ll like. The only dilemma is which one to choose because they are all delicious!

The Menu changes every day, and we’ll tell you a secret: Thursdays is Paella day!

Dinner time:

If lunch is from 1 to 3 pm, dinner will then be quite late, you might think. Yes, you are right; we have dinner around 9 pm or even later.

Fridays and Saturdays give Spaniards the chance to enjoy a fantastic night out. We might just have some light tapas and a drink after work during the week, and on the weekend we get together with friends and family for a nice dinner.

Just remember that Paella is always eaten for lunch, not for dinner, especially if you’ll be eating late.

While it’s true that seeing how full a restaurant is gives visitors an idea of whether it has a good reputation or not, if you come on a tour with us, we will be happy to give you some tips on where to go to get great local cuisine at affordable prices.

Take a look at our GOURMET TOUR and TAPAS TOUR

Eat like a local in Barcelona !!!!!

Chef José Andrés gives you his best recommendations for a whole day of eating in Barcelona.