The Spanish Siesta Etiquette Guide
6th November 2018
Have you ever set out for a nice afternoon saunter through your Spanish holiday destination, only to find that everything is shut? Spain’s afternoon closing hours can be frustrating for tourists in search of a helado (that’s ice cream in Español), but taking time out in the afternoon is part of the Spanish culture.
What is la siesta?
Rather than excuse for a little snooze in the afternoon, la siesta is a restorative nap taken after the midday meal. The high temperatures Spain enjoys can make working very uncomfortable during the early afternoon. A break followed by a longer working day (many Spanish businesses are open until 8pm) is therefore the most comfortable, productive option. This is why you could find very little happening at your Spanish holiday destination between 2-4pm.
It’s common for people to associate la siesta with Spain’s long lunch breaks. Although Spanish working hours accomodate a 2-3 hour lunch break, the reason for this long break isn’t the need for a nap. These long lunches came about because many people needed to work two jobs during Spain’s Civil War. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. A longer lunch break allowed for travel or a rest between each shift.
A dying custom?
A 2009 poll found that 58.6% of Spanish people do not take naps in the daytime. 16.2% of those polled observed the tradition every day, while 22% “sometimes” enjoyed a daytime 40 winks (source). These figures reflect a move away from la siesta in Spain.
Although not necessarily connected to la siesta, many in Spain are now looking to move away from the country’s long lunch and late hours. In 2016, the government sought to cut long lunch breaks and shorten the Spanish working day.
In some areas of Spain, however, siesta culture remains unshakable. In Ador (a little town near Valencia), the mayor recently made the right to a siesta a matter of law. Children are advised to stay quietly indoors from 2-5pm, and noise must be kept to a minimum during these hours.
Enjoy all the siestas you like in Torrevieja. Book a beautiful self-catered holiday apartment right by the beach today!