What countries observe the siesta and how long does it normally last?

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.


Country Siesta Times (Closed)* Common Shop Hours* Common Bank Hours*

(la Siesta)

1:30-4:30pm 9am-2pm and 4:30pm-7:30 (5-8pm) M-F 8:30am-2pm and Sat 9am-1pm

(le Sieste)

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

(la Sesta)

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

mesimerianós ýpnos)

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)