For members


Abendbrot: What time do Germans eat dinner?

The traditional German dinner time is much earlier than in other European countries. But that, along with what people eat in the evening, is changing.

A family have dinner at a beer garden in the Upper Palatine Forest in Bavaria.
A family have dinner at a beer garden in the Upper Palatine Forest in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Tourismuszentrum Oberpfälzer Wal | Thomas Kujat

In other European countries, such as France and Spain, the natives generally don’t sit down at the dinner table until at least 8 pm. In Italy, it’s not uncommon to have a cena (dinner) at 10 pm.

But in Germany, the traditional dinner time is much earlier: you’ll find many German households having their evening meal between 5 and 7 pm. 

Not only do Germans like to eat early, but they also eat cold. One of the most widely used names for dinner alongside Abendessen (evening meal) is Abendbrot: literally “evening bread”. That’s because – traditionally – the evening meal is more of a snack than a hot, sit-down dish and consists of slices of bread with cheese, sausage and pickled vegetables. 

Though that may sound a tad boring at first, when you remember that Germany has over 300 types of bread and a pretty wide range of sausage cuts, Abendbrot starts to look a lot more mouthwatering.

READ ALSO: Five delicious breads you have to try in Germany

The northern Germans also like to add a pickled Bismarck herring, while in the south you’re more likely to get sausage salad served alongside your Brotscheibe (slice of bread).

Where does the Abendbrot tradition come from?

Cultural researchers generally believe that the German custom of eating cold food in the early evening dates back to the 1920s. At that time, industry increasingly dominated everyday life – in contrast to the more agricultural structures in countries like Italy and France.

A table set for a traditional German dinner.

A table set for a traditional German dinner. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Lots of German factories had canteens where workers got a hot, filling meal at lunchtime and no longer needed such a big meal in the evening. The practice of eating only a bread-based snack in the evening became even more widespread after the war when the number of working women also rapidly increased.

Do people really still eat so early in Germany?

While an early Abendbrot and a big, warm, Mittagstisch (lunch) are still popular in Germany, being part of a globalised world full of new eating trends and working patterns has, of course, had an impact on the love of an early dinner of bread and cheese. 

In most major German cities, you’ll find restaurants open until midnight, with food still being served after 10 pm. 

The content of the traditional German Abendbrot is being called into question now too, as many nutrition experts recommend eating a low-carbohydrate meal in the evening.

READ ALSO: Five things that are changing about Germany – and five that never will 

The classic sausage topping is also declining in popularity as more and more people opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet. That said, there is a growing range of vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes available now in German supermarkets.

What about other meals?

As reported in the Berliner Morgenpost, a recent YouGov poll found that the most popular meal of the day in Germany is, in fact, breakfast. 

According to the survey, one-third of the 2050 respondents think that breakfast is the “most important meal” of the day and only one in fourteen adults said they never eat breakfast.

Most people between 18 and 24 eat breakfast in the morning and only two percent say they never do. By contrast, among older people aged 45 and over, eight percent say they don’t eat anything in the morning.

READ ALSO: Is Germany falling out of love with Abendbrot?

What people like to eat for breakfast also varied greatly across the generations. Older people prefer a hearty breakfast with bread, cheese and sausage, while the popularity of fruit and muesli is twice as high among those aged 24 and under than among all adults overall. 

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For members


EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany’s youth culture pass

Young people turning 18 in Germany this year are getting a voucher 'birthday gift' to enjoy culture. Here's why and how they can use it.

EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany's youth culture pass

What’s Germany’s culture pass?

The KulturPass – or culture pass – is a bit like a voucher that young people in Germany can use to buy tickets to cultural events, or even products like books or sheet music.

Those turning 18 in 2023 – estimated to be about 750,000 people – can get their hands on the pass. They will have €200 credit that they can spend on a special culture pass platform over two years for event tickets and other cultural offers. 

It’s worth noting that the digital pass, which launches in mid-June, is available to all young people living in Germany, even if they don’t hold German citizenship.

How is it given out?

The pass won’t be handed out automatically – those who are eligible have to sign up and prove their identity and age.

Cultural venues can also sign up to sell their tickets or entrance cards via the Kulturpass app and website, so they can get a boost to their sales by promoting it on this central platform.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in June 2023 in Germany

Why is Germany doing this?

The move follows similar youth culture projects by other countries, including France, Italy and Spain. 

The German government initiative has two major aims: the first is to give young people an opportunity to get out and experience live culture in a way they weren’t able to during the pandemic.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth said last year that she hoped the KulturPass would get “young people go out and experience culture, see how diverse and inspiring it is”.

The second aim is to help give a boost to cultural institutions like theatres, galleries, live music venues and similar businesses. 

The culture industry was one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, due to the Covid shutdowns put in place by the German government to combat the spread of the virus. 

Venues have struggled to encourage people to break out of their pandemic habits and get out to live events again.

What kind of events can young people go to?

The emphasis is on live events to get people away from their home and to give the arts scene a boost. Theatres and concert venues will likely be a popular choice, but also independent bookshops, art galleries, and small business cinemas.

Amazon, Spotify, big chain movie theatres – those kinds of vendors are excluded. So think local, think independent, think higher culture like opera, theatre, and concerts.

Are there plans to roll it out to other age groups?

At the moment, this is a pilot project for people turning 18 this year. Depending on how it goes, the government may be looking at plans to roll such a pass out for 16 and 17 year-olds as well.

To hear more on this story, tune into our Germany in Focus podcast episode released on Friday, March 26th.