What do you really know about the Spanish mid-morning snack and how does an almuerzo in Valencia look like? Whether you plan to be an expat in Spain or simply want to make the most of your travels across the country, learning more about Spanish mealtimes is a must. Let me share with you an insider look at the Spanish mid-morning snack or almuerzo in the region of Valencia.
Almuerzo in Valencia Region
Spanish Eating Habits
Nothing makes you look more like a tourist in Spain than when you don’t go in line with the local mealtimes and eating habits. Asking for paella at dinner immediately gives you away, as in Spain it is a lunch meal. My parents, when visiting me in Spain, usually stress out local waiters while ordering everywhere fresh-squeezed orange juice for dinner. Yes, Valencia is famous for its oranges and you will find fresh-squeezed orange juice in many local cafes. But dinner is meant to be accompanied by a glass of wine or water, while beer and soft drinks are taken before the meal or separately with snacks. Fresh-squeezed orange juice works for breakfast or snacks in a local cafe.
I could go on with these endless examples showing that Spanish eating habits are often not as obvious as they might seem.
Also read: Hidden Gems of the Valencia Region
An essential difference between a tourist and a traveler is that the last one comes to a new country with an open mind and an interest to blend in, simply to experience everything the same way locals do.
In order to keep sharing with you more insider details of the Spanish food culture, I have started a new Blog Series: Eating Locally in Spain. Foodie experiences are a must on all of my Spanish road trips, especially as the local cuisine varies so much depending on the region of the Iberian Peninsula.
So, let´s begin diving into the Spanish food arena with a tour of the traditional mid-morning snack – almuerzo in Valencia, called by the locals Esmorzaret.
What is almuerzo?
While almuerzo means a mid-morning snack, for many Spaniards it actually replaces breakfast. As late dinner is one of the most common Spanish habits, locals barely feel hungry as they wake up. So they often begin a day with a morning coffee and make almuerzo their first meal of the day.
Typically, it takes place from 10 a.m till 11. am, but in some bars they have it all set for almuerzo as early as around 9 a.m.
Valencia has lots of cool modern cafes to enjoy any kind of breakfast or almuerzo one might possibly look for. But the most authentic almuerzo experience is much more unique for an international visitor than any trendy city meal. Outside of the big Spanish cities, almuerzo is honestly more than a simple mid-morning snack – it is an important social ritual. So let´s find out how it looks and feels.
Breakfast in Spain vs Esmorzaret in Valencia
A traditional almuerzo in the Valencian Community is called Esmorzaret (in Valencian). The tradition itself goes back to the region´s rural past, back when locals used to work hard in the fields in the early morning. So after hours of hard work, a need for a substantial breakfast was quite logical.
Also read: Top Valencia Day Trips by train
Nowadays, the working routine has changed for most of the Valencians, but the tradition persists. I see how it is literally passed from father to son. So, if instead of going to one of Valencia’s popular cafes, you´d pick for breakfast one of the local bars with a focus on a traditional almuerzo in Valencia region, what would you see?
Traditional almuerzo in Valencia Region
Almuerzo as a Spanish social ritual
The first thing you will notice during almuerzo in most traditional Spanish bars is large groups of men sharing a meal. No women around, except for the waitresses. This might feel natural to the locals, but not for a stranger. It just baffles the eye at first glance. The very first time my husband (boyfriend back then) invited me to a traditional almuerzo near Valencia City, I honestly felt a bit uncomfortable. Seriously, how would you feel being the only woman in a bar completely full of men?
So, I secretly felt that I was breaking some kind of unspoken rule. As my husband explained to me back then, women mostly would have gone out for a coffee with pastries in a local cafeteria-pastelería. Which for me didn´t make sense at all. Going out and having a mid-morning snack with your partner seems more reasonable. But with every next expat year in Spain, I would deepen in my conclusion that the traditional almuerzo was not a simple meal. It was more of a social ritual to keep getting together with friends outside of the usual work/family routine.
If you´d like to experience the authentic almuerzo culture this local website LaCulturaDeAlmuerzo offers a wide list of traditional bars across the Valencian Community.
Well, for me, a traditional breakfast in Spain or almuerzo in Valencia are still both about food. Especially, as I usually do not eat past 6 p.m, except when we go out for a dinner. So, naturally, I do enjoy substantial breakfasts, as well as I´m in love with the Spanish home-made food and traditional cuisine.
Sometimes, me and my husband, we drop off the kids at school and meet up with his dad for an almuerzo in one of the local bars. My mother-in-law would never join us as she´s into light breakfasts.
Also read: Beautiful villages of Valencia – Bocairente
As you might have seen from my IG stories, this summer we have enjoyed a few family weekends in Benicassim, a small coastal town in the province of Castellon/ Valencian Community. So I thought, it would be a curious experience for you to see one of the local bars serving traditional almuerzos. If you love substantial breakfasts, I recommend you to find one of the traditional Spanish bars to get this almuerzo experience.
Almuerzo in one of the local bars of Benicassim
1. Already on the table
The best bars serving traditional almuerzos in Valencia always have la brasa – grill or barbecue to prepare meat (panceta, lomo, etc) and Spanish sausages (longaniza, morcilla, etc).
Most of the places serving traditional almuerzo have a few things on the table already prepared for the visitors even before you order: peanuts, olives, wine&soda (or vino con gaseosa in Spanish). I´m not into wine+soda or beer, so I usually order a bottle of water with my almuerzo. Some bars might even have a few types of olives on the table or even a salad, so that you can start with your mini-entrees right after being seated.
2. Ordering bocadillo vs el plato
For the food, you usually order at the bar by asking for either a sandwich or a plate (normally with 3 tapas, small portions of smth upon your preference). The trick is usually the size of a sandwich or el bocadillo in Spanish. The essence of a traditional almuerzo goes along with the word substantial. So, in some bars a complete portion might be huge. If that is the case – you should order a medio bocadillo (a half-sandwich) or a mini (a quarter of a sandwich).
The most typical types of sandwiches in the region of Valencia are blanco y negro, sepia, la brascada. At ordering you are almost always asked whether you´d like to add grated tomato or aioli (also called ajoaceite – cold sauce with garlic and olive oil). As I am personally not into pork meat – my top pics are usually sepia (cuttlefish), calamares a la romana (fried squid), torraeta de anchoas (anchovies), tortilla a la Francesa (omelet) with cheese, or simply tortilla de patata (Spanish omelet with potatoes). Of course, I always add aioli everywhere, as I love it.
3. Coffee or carajillo
After your meal, it’s time to enjoy a coffee. Although many locals in Valencia would prefer a carajillo every once in a while.
Carajillo is a hot coffee drink with added rum, brandy, or whiskey. Many claim its origins could be traced back to when Cuba was a Spanish colony. While not so many places follow the original recipe, carajillo is at its best when flamed and served with lemon wedges and cinnamon.
What about you – do you like a substantial breakfast? Have you ever tried a traditional almuerzo in Valencia?