Wondering what time do people eat in Portugal? While there’s no one watching the clock, it’s always good to know the best time to walk into your local restaurant or café.
So what time do people eat in Portugal? There might be strict meal schedules during the week, but when the weekend comes, it’s a whole different matter. 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.
Here’s everything you need to know about Portuguese meal times.
Portuguese 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).
Morning 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.
Typical Lunch in Portugal (12 p.m. to 2 p.m.)
A typical lunchtime in Portugal is between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m, although some restaurants will keep serving until 3 p.m. Portuguese usually have an hour to grab lunch, so they either bring food from home, or they go out and enjoy a fixed menu at a local restaurant. These menus usually include a soup, prato do dia (dish of the day), 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).
Afternoon 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., Portuguese will head to the café for another quick bite. 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).
Insider’s tip: If you don’t say lanche da manhã, lanche usually refers to this afternoon meal between lunch and dinner.
Dinner Time in Portugal (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
The best time to have dinner in Portugal is between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. 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.
Booking a Restaurant in Portugal
It’s easy to book a restaurant in Portugal. Many locals speak English, so you won’t have any trouble communicating with the staff. You can call in advance, leave your name at the restaurant or try booking a table online through platforms like Zomato or Fork.
Once you’ve got your table you’ll need to order your food, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this small guide on ordering in Portugal.
Insider’s tip: You can make a reservation on the day of your meal, but if you’re a big group, it’s better to call a few days in advance.
How to Say Time to Eat in Portuguese
Before digging in, you’ll often hear Portuguese saying Bom Apetite. This expression literally translates as Good Appetite, and signals that it’s time to eat.
Now that you know a little bit about what time people eat in Portugal, you’re well on your way to looking like a born-and-bred Lisboeta when out and about at restaurants. For even more insider tips on navigating the Portuguese dining scene, join us on our Tastes & Traditions of Lisbon Tour. By the end of the experience, you’ll be able to brave any cafe, tasca or restaurant like a pro!
Joana is a Portuguese travel writer based in Lisbon. On her blog City Odes, she writes about the hidden gems of Portugal, fun road trips and train rides worth taking. When she’s not typing away on her laptop, you can find her drinking an IPA on one of Lisbon’s latest craft beer bars.