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Our weekend series, “Favorite Places,” features the beloved travel destinations, attractions, restaurants, hotels and more of members of the TPG team. TPG International Contributor Lori Zaino explains why the rooftop of the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Spain is one of her favorite hangouts. (All photos by author, except where noted).
Set near Madrid’s central Plaza de las Cibeles and designed to house an organization dedicated to celebrating Spanish art and culture, the elegant seven-floor Círculo de Bellas Artes building is a national historic monument and a Madrid landmark. One of the Círculo’s exhibition halls is named after Pablo Picasso, who attended painting classes here many moons ago. These days, the center’s permanent collection of artwork (and archive of art-related documents) includes works by Picasso, as well as other famous Spanish artists like Minerva, Goya and Juana Mordó.
The center also hosts temporary exhibitions (several photography exhibits will be on display until early 2016), as well as a library and a ground-floor cafe with outdoor and indoor seating. Back in the early 1900s, this cafe was a bohemian meeting spot for painters, writers, bullfighters, dancers and actors, and you might still spot a crowd of artsy Madrileños enjoying the cafe today.
But aside from its amazing art and buzzing cafe scene, the Círculo de Bellas Artes is home to the city’s most spectacular rooftop bar. With stunning 360-degree views of Madrid, The Azotea (loosely translated from Spanish as “rooftop terrace”) provides the perfect place to savor both a cocktail and the surrounding scenery.
Laid-back during the daytime, sunsets here generally draw a crowd, and evening is a sexy nighttime scene where you can chill to the beats of lounge music and sip a drink or two (a glass of wine goes for 4€/$4.50) amongst a crowd of well-dressed tourists and locals. The space is large, with plenty of room to move around and lots of seating and tables, as well as bed-like loungers that are ideal for leaning back and taking in the views.
The views from every angle are truly spectacular. To the east, you have a clear angle of the beautiful Cibeles palace (formerly the post office headquarters and now Madrid’s city hall), with the Parque de Buen Retiro not far behind. Keep your eyes peeled for the Torrespaña antennae in the clouds, nicknamed the pirulí by locals due to it’s lollipop-like shape.
Looking north, you’ll see the Sierra de Madrid (Madrid’s mountain range) at a distance. Just across the street, check out the lavish Metropolis building, an iconic Madrid landmark and the start of Calle de Gran Vía, one of the most famous streets in Spain.
To the south, spot the well-known Atocha train station and some of the newer districts of Madrid. If you squint toward the southwest, you may be able to see the loops of the roller coaster in Madrid’s amusement park, the Parque de Atraciones, which is set in the city’s largest green space, the Casa de Campo.
Finally, enjoy the sunset to the west, where you can see more of the Casa de Campo park and the huge horse-and-chariot monument on the rooftop of the Banco di Bilbao headquarters.
In the middle of the rooftop, you can’t miss the giant decorative statue of Atenea, the daughter of Zeus and Metis. The Greek-inspired statue fits right in here, towering high above the city.
A visit to the Circulo de Bellas Artes can be a leisurely afternoon or evening activity or a quick 20-minute photo opportunity. Either way, make sure to stop in on your next stop to Madrid!
Azotea at the Círculo de Bellas Artes*
Calle Alcalá, 42
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9am-2am; Fridays, 9am-2:30am; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-2:30am
*Check the website before visiting in case the rooftop is closed for a special event.
Entrance Fees: adults, 4€ ($4.50); students (with ID), 3€ ($3.40)
These entrance fees are cash-only, but when traveling in Madrid, you should still bring along a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi Prestige. For more card suggestions, see Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees.