What countries take siestas and how long does it normally last?

Learn when to take a siesta or a Power Nap

The tradition of siesta, which involves taking a nap or a snooze after lunch, is prevalent in several countries, particularly those with warmer climates. Spain, Greece, Italy, and some Latin American countries are well-known for their observance of the siesta. In these nations, the siesta typically lasts for about 30 minutes to two hours, depending on regional customs and individual preferences. During this time, shops and businesses often close down, allowing people to retreat to the comfort of their homes or take a break from work to recharge. In these countries when they take a siesta sometimes it'll count as their lunch break.

The tradition of the siesta, a short nap taken in the early afternoon, is deeply ingrained in Spanish culture, where it is commonly practiced during the day's hottest hours. The word "siesta" comes from the Latin word "hora sexta," meaning the sixth hour of the day, around noon. While Spain's siesta culture has waned in modern times, it is still observed by many Spaniards, who often take a two-hour break to recharge and spend time with family. This tradition extends to many Latin American countries and other Mediterranean and subtropical regions around the world, where temperatures soar during the middle of the day. In Spain, shops and businesses may shut down during siesta time, usually between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., allowing people to rest and avoid the heat of midday. Despite changes in working hours and lifestyles, the siesta remains a common tradition in some countries, offering a brief respite from the day's hustle and bustle.

The siesta, a cultural tradition observed in several countries, particularly in Southern Europe and Latin America, involves taking a midday break or nap to rest and recharge during the hottest hours of the day. This custom is notably associated with Spain, where the Spanish siesta has become emblematic of the country's relaxed lifestyle. However, other nations also partake in variations of this practice, each with its own duration and cultural significance.

In Spain, the siesta traditionally occurs during the early afternoon, typically between 2 pm and 5 pm. This break allows people to escape the sweltering heat of the day and enjoy a leisurely midday meal followed by a brief nap. The term "siesta" itself comes from the Latin word "hora sexta," meaning "the sixth hour," which reflects the timing of this rest period.

Across the Mediterranean region, countries like Italy also embrace the concept of the midday nap, known as "riposo." Similar to the Spanish siesta, the riposo usually takes place after lunch, providing individuals with an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate before returning to work or other activities in the late afternoon.

In Greece, the tradition of the afternoon nap, or "hora," remains prevalent, particularly in smaller towns and villages where the pace of life is more relaxed. While the duration of the siesta may vary from person to person, it commonly involves a short nap or "power nap" to combat fatigue and enhance productivity for the remainder of the day.

Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Ecuador, also embrace the midday break as part of their cultural heritage. Known as the "siesta," this afternoon nap serves as a way to escape the scorching temperatures and replenish energy levels before continuing with daily tasks or responsibilities.

Country  Siesta Times*    Common Shop Hours* Common Bank Hours*
Spain         1:30-4:30pm 9am-2pm and 4:30pm-7:30 (5-8pm) M-F 8:30am-2pm and Sat 9am-1pm
France 12/1pm-2/3pm 9/10am-12/1pm and 2/3pm-7pm M-F 8/9am-11:30/1pm and 1:30/2-4:30/5pm
Italy 1:30-4:30pm 9am-1pm (1:30) and 3:30pm-7:30pm (4pm-8pm) M-F 8:30am-1:30pm and 3:30-4:30pm
Greece 2:00-5:00pm 8am-1:30pm/2:30pm and 5:30-8:30pm M-F 8:30am-2:30pm *3:30-6:30pm and *Sat 9-1pm

*means optional (times may vary slightly, some may open afternoons and/or Saturdays)

While many of the hotter Mediterranean countries do actually observe the siesta, they all do so at slightly varying times. It also can be a little baffling sometimes depending on whether you're out in the countryside or within the city. Some international trends are slowly beginning to influence many stores to stay open longer to lure tourists, but most places within Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and Greece will close up their shops during the afternoon for a few hours at least. If you’re not accustomed to this tradition, you may be left wondering how anybody makes any money or how business ever seems to get done here. Trust me, they still manage to get their errands done, do their shopping, and make time for a long lunch with friends or family. Contrary to popular belief, nobody really does go to sleep during the siesta.

The reasons for its origins date back to the ancient Romans. They were very superstitious and would stop working in the sixth (sexta) hour of sunshine and rest indoors for fear of what they believed were dangerous ghosts and spirits present during those hours of day. Thus la sexta gradually became more popularly known as la siesta, and dovetails almost perfectly with the human body clock according to science. Apparently, our natural brain rhythms slow down considerably from around 2 to 4 pm daily.

You will find that almost all banks and post offices will be closed Sunday, although a few stores may remain open. As a rule of thumb, it can be a good idea to stock up on food Saturday afternoon for the following day if you have cooking facilities. Postal hours are generally better than banks and often don’t close during the day or will just take an hour for lunch (except Spain-same as banks). Also, many shopkeepers will often go on their annual vacation for a month sometime between July and August, thus adding even more to the perception that nothing’s open (especially when you need it). Most towns will operate at least one 24 hour pharmacy in case of emergencies.

In summary, while the duration and timing of the siesta may vary from country to country, the underlying purpose remains consistent: to take a break from the demands of the day, especially during the hottest hours, and indulge in a brief nap or period of relaxation. Whether it's the Spanish siesta, the Italian riposo, or the Greek hora, this midday tradition reflects the importance of balancing work and rest to maintain overall well-being and productivity.