So what time do people eat in Portugal, and what they eat in these specific times? Ordinary meals are scheduled for the working day’s strict tempo but things might loosen up in the weekend. Breakfast turns to brunch, lunch prolongs until late afternoon, and dinner gets delayed so you can enjoy that last bit of sunshine.
There’s always an excuse to eat in Portugal. Even in between the big meals, like lunch and dinner, locals love to have a quick snack.
1Portuguese Breakfast (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.)
At home or at your neighborhood café, a typical Portuguese breakfast usually starts with coffee. Some locals like to have a quick espresso. Others prefer to order a bigger drink like a galão (milk with coffee) and catch up with the news.
Most cafés or pastelarias open around 8 a.m., sometimes even earlier than that since people go to work at 9.
In Portugal, it’s common to have both sweet and savory treats for breakfast. One custard tart might not be enough to fill you up, so most people will also order a torrada (butter toast) or a tosta mista (ham & cheese toast).
2Morning Snack (10 a.m. to 11 a.m.)
If you’re hungry and can’t wait for lunch, then it’s time for a morning snack. Portuguese call this their lanche da manhã. The word lanche sounds very similar to lunch which can be a bit confusing at first! Basically, this meal is a coffee break, usually paired with a sweet like a pastel de nata or a bolo de arroz (rice cake). Of course, there’s always a healthy coworker that will pack some sliced fruit too.
3Typical Lunch in Portugal (12 p.m. to 2 p.m.)
Lunchtime is generally between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m in Portugal, although some restaurants will keep serving until 3 p.m. Portuguese usually have an hour break to eat lunch, so they either carry their food from home to save time and money, or go out with colleagues to enjoy a standardized menu at a nearby restaurant. These menus usually begin with a soup, Prato do dia (dish of the day) follows it as the main course, then conclude with a dessert and a coffee. If they’re really in a rush, they’ll order something quick at the counter like a soup and a bifana (pork sandwich).
4Afternoon Snack (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
You can get through the day without an afternoon snack, but why would you? Around 4 p.m., cafes are starting to fill with Portuguese people who are seeking quick meals to accommodate them until dinner time. Sweet or savory? It’s really up to you. We’re not going to tell you off for having another pastel de nata. If you want something savory, however, we recommend trying the pastéis de bacalhau (codfish cakes) or the rissóis de camarão (shrimp turnovers).
5Dinner Time in Portugal (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
Between 8-9 p.m. it is recommended to have dinner in Portugal. While some restaurants will open at 7 p.m., most of them will still be empty at that time.
There are a few exceptions of course, especially if it’s a famous restaurant like Cervejaria Ramiro. If that’s the case, it’s always best to book a table in advance!
Depending on the restaurant, you can show up until 12 p.m. and still get served. However, keep in mind that most kitchens will close before that. On Fridays and Saturdays, it’s common to have dinner a bit later, around 10 p.m.