Breakfast Traditions in Southern Europe

Breakfast Traditions in Southern Europe

A typical southern European breakfast is a simple but tasty meal featuring bread or toast, pastries and coffee in several guises.

Savoury cooked breakfasts involving eggs and meat are not generally popular in southern Europe, where the first meal of the day is eaten for a quick burst of energy, and lunch or supper are regarded as more important and leisurely affairs to be lingered over with family and friends. Many southern European don’t eat breakfast at home during the week either, but head for cafés or bars, which begin to fill up as early as 7am as people drop in on their way to work.

A southern French breakfast

A simple breakfast at home in southern France consists of a milky coffee and a baguette spread with butter and jam, which many people dunk into their coffee. Heavier foods like eggs and bacon are reserved for brunch at the weekend.

French people often kick-start their weekdays in that most French of institutions, the local café, as they head off to work. Their quick petit déjeuner may simply consist of café au lait (espresso served with steamed milk, which gives it a foamy topping) or hot chocolate along with a pain au chocolat or a warm flaky croissant – they can be filled with raisins, crushed almonds or chocolate.

Tasting breakfast Spanish-style

The Spanish often eat breakfast on the run between 7am and 10am. It's usually a café con leche (milky coffee) or cortado (half and half espresso with warm milk) plus a pastry from the neighbourhood bar, bought on the way to work. Other popular breakfast treats include tostada (toasted bread topped with olive oil and grated tomatoes) or bocadillo sandwiches with the filling of your choice.

In Madrid, a mug of thick hot chocolate is sometimes accompanied by churros (a fried dough strip dipped into sugar), a popular speciality for desayuno, and in the Balearic Islands, you can tuck into a fluffy pastry called an ensaïmada, a light spiral-shaped pastry.

Eat breakfast standing up in Italy

Homemade breakfasts in Italy are usually a straightforward affair: bread with butter and jam accompanied by inky black coffee. However, many Italians often stand at the counter of their local bar for colazione on their journey to work, at any time between 7am and 10am.

A caffè (a minute shot of intensely strong espresso) or a frothy cappuccino (often served lukewarm and never drunk after 11am by locals) is accompanied by something sweet for a quick burst of energy. That might either be a brioche filled with chocolate, jam or custard, a slice of cake or a pastry. When in Rome, try a maritozzo, a sweet bun filled with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

(*) Average meal price calculated on the basis of starter and main course or main course and dessert, excluding drinks, menu and promotional offers. The average price is an estimate only, calculated according to the prices provided by the restaurant. Depending on the country, the average price may or may not include all taxes.