Average Dinner Time In Europe
It may not be the most important meal of the day, but it can be the tastiest, and very important if you plan on running wild in the nighttime. Problem is, dinnertime can vary wildly across Europe, and if you don’t know the hour to dine you may be left empty stomached.
It doesn’t matter what they say about the importance of breakfast, etc, dinnertime for backpackers is the most important moment for socialising and getting a classy start on those pre-drinks. Now, if you’re cooking at home you can do the dinner thing whenever you please, but if you’re heading out to sample the local cuisine you’re going to have to know the hour of the meal as it may vary from country to country. And the emphasis here is on the local thing, as tourist restaurants will happily sell you bland appropriations of local delicacies at any hour, while the best spots will have very strict, often counterintuitive dining hours.
There are many places where lunch is a more elaborate meal, particularly on weekends, hours long and filled with fresh food, wine and even heavier liquor afterwards. If you’re getting into the big lunch way of life, you’d want to learn the after-lunch, afternoon napping tradition too. A big meal and a belly full of vino can really knock you out well before you’re due to spend your Saturday night deep in the belly of a discoteque.
As a general rule of thumb, southern, Mediterranean nations eat dinner later, while the northern lot get it done early. Down south there’s more time to be spent of an evening outdoors, after the oppressive midday heat has subsided. In countries like Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, where dinner is served somewhat ridiculously late, the time between lunch and the evening meal can be filled with aperitivos of snacks, tapas and, of course and always, alcoholic treats that vary from region to region.
Here’s a little guide to European evening meal times that we’ve collated across our travels. Just remember that most places will be open an hour or two either side of the busiest times and that could be your opportunity to strike and score a table at some hot, authentic local spots.
Countries where the locals eat super early
Want to feel like a small child again? Well, come to these places and eat dinner before the nightly news. These are the countries where you will sit down to dine between 5-7 in the evening.
Norway: 4pm, Finland: 5pm, Germany: 6-7pm, Switzerland: 6-7pm, Denmark: 6:30pm, UK: 6:30-8pm, Ireland: 7pm, The Netherlands: 7pm, Austria: 7pm, Sweden: 7pm
Countries where they eat at a regular hour for Europe
But one that’s pretty damn late for people from Australia, America, etc. Just note that if you’re accustomed to eating late, late make sure you’re well and truly in a restaurant and ordered before 10pm in the following countries, because as a rule of thumb, nobody’s going to want to keep the kitchen open to make a kids’ meal for a late backpacker with a traveller’s budget.
Belgium: 7-8pm, Poland: 8pm, Czech Republic: 8pm, Iceland: 8pm, Hungary: 8pm, Romania: 8pm, France: 8:30pm.
Countries where they eat dinner super late
To be honest, these also seem to be the countries where people live the most. A late dinner in Spain is preceded, as we mentioned earlier, by an aperitivo of beer or wine on a terrace, with cheese and olives, some ham, and it is sometimes completely free with the purchase of a drink, depending on where you are in the country.
Croatia: 9pm, Portugal: 9pm, Italy: 9pm, Greece: 9-10pm, Spain: 10pm.
“Getting stung by the dinnertime change from Spain to France is the worst, and a lesson that I can’t ever seem to learn. In Spain it’s ok in most places to arrive before midnight, 11, 11:30, 11:59, it’s usually sweet. Try that in France and they’ll give you a shot of Ricard and a cigarette and that’ll have to do you until the morning’s croissant and cigarette. Dinnertime there, despite the drive from, say, San Sebastian to Biarritz being about an hour, wraps up at 9pm, 10pm at the latest! Turn up later than that and you’re getting drunk on an empty stomach. Sacre bleu!” – Tommy, 29, surf instructor