Temps de dîner moyen en 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.
European 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.
And most importantly the European 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.
Breakdown of European dinner times by country
Dinner time Austria
The Austrians enjoy their schnitzels and strudels at the reasonable hour of 7pm in the evening.
Dinner time in Belgium
The Belgians dine on chocolate and fries at an average European time of between 7-8pm in the evening.
Dinner time in Croatia
Croatians enjoy a meal at the more Mediterranean time of 9pm, to take advantage of those gorgeous Adriatic Sea sunsets.
Dinner time in the Czech Republic
Dinner time in the Czech Republic comes in at the very reasonable time of 8pm.
Dinner time in Denmark
The Danes like to dine in Denmark at 6:30pm, which may seem early in summer, but in the winter months it would feel like midnight.
Dinner time in Finland
While not really Scandinavian, the Finns like to have dinner at a similar hour to their Nordic neighbours, sitting down to dine at a very early 5pm.
Dinner time in France
In France they like to dine somewhere between Mediterranean and Northern European times, sitting down to a doubtlessly delicious meal at around 8:30pm. Beware, they are rather rigid with their meal times.
Dinner time in Germany
Ever practical, the Germans sit down to dinner between 6-7pm, but don’t worry if you miss a meal – there’s an abundance of after hour food options in Germany, including the ubiquitous and satisfying kebab stores.
Dinner time in Greece
Enjoying a privileged position on the eastern Mediterranean, the Greeks are some of the latest diners in Europe, sitting down between 9-10pm to take advantage of the cooler parts of the day.
Dinner time in Hungary
The Central European nation of Hungary enjoys its evening meal at a central time, sitting down for dinner around 8pm.
Dinner time in Iceland
It’s the land of the midnight sun – or midday moon depending on the time of year – but the Icelandic people like to dine at the average time of 8pm.
Dinner time in Ireland
In Ireland you’ll be sitting down to a hearty meal of potatoes and whisky at 7pm, a little earlier than the European average.
Dinner time in Italy
Enjoying probably the best food in Europe, the Italians sit down to an evening meal at the very Mediterranean time of 9pm and swiftly devour pasta and antipasti and all kinds of assorted treats.
Dinner time in the Netherlands
Considered by many to be the beginning of Northern Europe, the Dutch like to have dinner at 7pm, a time that’s neither too early, nor too late.
Dinner time in Norway
Basically choosing to have dinner at lunchtime, the Norwegians like to have their evening meal in the afternoon, sitting down at 4pm.
Dinner time in Poland
The Poles like to have dinner at 8pm, on par with the European average.
Dinner time in Portugal
Not actually on the Mediterranean, but far enough south to enjoy the long, hot afternoons experienced in the sunny half of Europe, in Portugal dinner time is at a rather late 9pm.
Dinner time in Romania
While their language is latin, the Romanians take their dinner cues from their Central and Eastern European neighbours, sitting down to dine at 8pm.
Dinner time in Spain
Dinner time in Spain is the one that throws travellers, for while you can get a meal at any hour in the tourist hubs, in authentic Spain you’d be hard pressed to eat before 9pm, with the main influx of diners coming through the door for a 10pm dinner.
Dinner time in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom they like to hedge their dinner-time bets and spread the main meal of the day between the hours of 6:30-8pm.
“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