Opening hours and 'Siesta' time
Geographically, Spain is on the same time zone as Great Britain, Ireland, and Portugal. Yet, Spain adopted the Central European time - or rather, the time of Berlin chosen by General Franco, in deference to Hitler's Nazi Germany, as a symbolic gesture of his support for the European Fascist movement. As a consequence, even today, Spaniards have their lunches when the sun has long passed its zenith: the 'midday' meal is taken at around 2pm.
Dinners are usually eaten after 9 pm as a consequence of the cultural and historic institution of the 'siesta'. Working in the fields under a torrid sun was unbearable. During the hottest hours, the workers would have lunch, with a liberal consumption of wine. This promoted the usual drowsiness that led to a long nap: the ‘siesta’. Work was retaken when the heat had subsided, and went on until sunset. Even city workers (in the past, lacking air-conditioning) followed the same practice.
Nowadays, the “siesta” is more of a myth. Life in the big cities is too hectic to allow the luxury of a nap after lunch. Those who still take it, may not doze off for more than 20 minutes.
Nevertheless habits die hard and as a result offices start at around 9 am, have a mid-morning break for a coffee and a bite to eat, then, return until 1 pm, before taking up to 3 hours for lunch and ‘siesta’. The work resumes around 4 pm and goes on until 8 pm, or later. A lot of working people do not arrive home after work much before 9 pm.
However, many modern air-conditioned businesses, especially in the large urban centres of Madrid and Barcelona, have adopted the European system of a 9am to 5 pm working day, with a shorter break for lunch. As traditional ways of life are difficult to put aside, you will find a mixture of systems. Small shops, in particular, tend to keep to their ‘siesta’ time scheme, to avoid having to employ extra staff, and preferring to be open at the end of the day when there is more demand.
Opening hours are usually from 9 am to 1 or 2 pm, then from 4,30 to a time between 7 and 8,30 pm.
Department stores like El Corte Ingles open non-stop from 9,30 am until 9,30 pm, including some holidays. They are closed, however, on Sundays.
In tourist areas, most shops do not close at midday and the ones that do will be open usually until 8,30 pm.
Try the elegant shopping avenue Passeig de Gracia for upscale shops and well-known international brands. Elsewhere in central Barcelona, don't miss the shopping at Carrer de Portaferrisa, Portal de l’Angel, and Carrer Pelai (Carrer, often written as "c/", means street in Catalan; in Spanish it is “Calle de Pelayo”). The Shopping Centre Maremagnum in the Old Port (Port Vell) is open on Sundays. It has everything from clothing to electronics, to cafes and restaurants for all tastes. The ultra-modern building jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea is an attraction on its own, ideal to go on a Sunday when most stores are closed.
"Obert" means "Open" in Catalan. "Tancat" is "Closed".
Monday - Friday, 08,30-14,30
This is the opening times of Banco Santander in Barcelona. Other banks may have slightly different times, with differences of 15 or 30 minutes. BBVA closes at 14,15. La Caixa and Sabadell Atlantico open at 8,15 and close at 14,00 but on Thursdays, from October to March, the first reopens from 16,30 to 19,45, while the second stays open until 18,30.
There is great variety of opening hours for business offices. They could go from 10am to about 1,30pm, and then from about 5,30pm to 8 pm, observing the 'siesta' culture. Others, will start as early as 6,45am and finish at around 2,45pm, with a 15 minute morning coffee break.
The 9am to 5pm is also starting to get implemented in the large cities of Spain, although it is still in its embryonic stages, as it is difficult to break the local habit of having lunch sometime between 2pm and 4pm.
If you are visiting a local company, ask in advance what their opening hours are to avoid finding closed doors.
Monday - Friday 08,00-15,00
As a norm, they open from about 10am to 1,30pm and then from about 5pm to 8,30 pm (maybe later in the summer).
Travel agencies in big shopping centres probably don't close for 'siesta'. They may stay open for the full shopping centre hours, usually from 10 am to 10 pm.