“Refugees welcome” is the message you’d see written on the huge rectangular banner that hangs on the middle of the façade of Palacio de Cibeles. Also known as Palacio de Communicaciones, that gargantuan and majestic, former-post-office-turned-city hall must be the first thing you’d see whenever you’re at Plaza Cibeles. The sign alone is a clear indication of the willingness of Spain to help alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe. (As of yet, an effective solution to the problem seems nowhere in sight.) Surprisingly, the cloth has remained white and maintained its pristine appearance (that’s how it appears from the distance of a few hundred feet) despite its exposure to the common elements. Or has it been replaced a number of times already?
It must have been hanging there for eternity, or at least since I got here in Madrid. Perhaps, it will continue to be until the message is no longer relevant. Frankly, the constant sight of the banner had me thinking that the building has become a huge refugee center, a wild conjecture I must possibly share with others.
Well, at least today, the beloved Ayuntamiento will be my refuge as I say it’s time for me to take on its rooftop.
El Mirador – Rooftop or Observation Deck
You might ask,”Are people even allowed there?”
Yes, I’m pretty sure. Because of the banner, it had me venturing my gaze way above it, and in the process, spotted people populating the upper portion of the middle tower of Cibeles (I realized later it was the building’s observation deck on the 8th floor).
And since then, I would always throw a glance at that faraway spot at the Palacio’s middle tower, often from a seat of an autobus whenever I’m headed to Embajadores, Lavapies (27) or Puerta del Sol (5), both lines of which pass through the Plaza. The deck seems to never run out of people, all crowding near the ledge presumably to take the best pictures possible. Always, I look at such a scene with great envy, and this odious feeling is only made worse by the Palacio itself, with its mere sight almost like coaxing me in some dogged manner to be there myself, and just make it happen.
“Go to the roof of the Cibeles? But who wants to climb up a building rooftop, which is a precarious location as you can imagine?” Yes, I know. To begin with, it’s not even a roof top but an observation deck, for Pete’s sake.
But I do agree with everyone else who says that a rooftop is never a desired destination, as it is somewhat of a bore, a dull area of almost-nothingness, save for a few pieces of old furniture huddled at a corner or some rusty, jutted-out reinforcing iron bars meant for future building extension. A bit of correction: everybody agrees to these not-so-pleasant statements about the rooftop, except perhaps for some half-witted lovers who look to them as the perfect place to effect the consummation of their romantic tryst (presuming it is secluded).
Clearly, we’re not talking about that of Cibeles – it doesn’t fit such descriptions (especially the one with the amorous slant). To reiterate, it’s an observation deck, and not any ordinary roof. It was created for a more essential, a rather touristic purpose, among others, which is to offer great viewing experience of the stunning places in Madrid.
Inside Palacio de Cibeles
Actually, there are two things that you can do at Cibeles. One, check out the floors of the Centro Centro, that part of the building that acts as the city’s center of culture and arts; and two, go to the observation deck for some awesome viewing enjoyment. You can do both, but I would rather you engage in the rooftop activity later, which is what I did.
Since it was still early, I surveyed the area first. On the second floor (main floor), you are greeted by an information counter and a souvenir and gift shop. After loitering around, I can’t for the life of me feel that I’m actually inside the Madrid Ayuntamiento. The place was quiet, and hardly had the chaotic fuss and goings-on typical of any government office, let alone, a city hall.
So, I thought some chat with the information desk officer is in order.
“Yes, this is the city Hall.” Unable to respond quickly, I must have appeared dumbfounded to the lady at the desk, so she explained that everything is located at the back of the building.
“And the office of the mayor?”
“Also at the back.” Still sensing my confusion, she added, “Where we are now is the CentroCentro – the culture and arts center of Madrid.”
I had a bunch of questions that I’d like to bring up but lest I might sound stupid, I decided to let her be and continued to look around. At left of the main floor is a lounge, offering a number of sofas to rest on. Here, you can have some shut-eye for a few minutes if you want to, which I did, although only after hiding my face behind one of those tourism brochures that I grabbed from nearby. There was a lot of them, by the way – revistas, flyers, and booklets. All are colorful, attractive, and professionally printed with details on various exhibitions and similar activities at the CentroCentro. They are tucked neatly in their respective shelves, ready for any visitor who wants good introductory reading on Madrid culture.
It’s apparent that Centro Centro’s current expositions are more into the visual arts, as attested to by the exhibits, galleries, and film-showing dedicated to conventional and digital photography, sketches, illustrations, and paintings. Most are found in the third and fourth floor.
Anyway, the quick siesta gave me ample energy to be propped up and ready for what I really wanted to do – go up the observation deck.
The 2nd floor of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid used to be the Old Post Office’s operations courtyard. It now serves to receive guests and introduce them to the city’s cultural focal point – the Centro Centro. At the photo’s left is the info center, while opposite is a shop selling souvenirs and memorabilia. In the middle is a row of computer booths that offers online access on CentroCentro information
Depicted in this old photo is the postal operations during the heyday of the Palacio del Communicaciones. This and the other photos of the old post office and telegraph building are on display on the middle section of the main floor (second floor)
This picture of a lady with a detached prosthetic arm is part of an exhibit on digital photography with people with disabilities as theme. Las Personas Con Discapacidad Exhibit, 3rd Floor, March 18 to June 6, 2016
Cachetejack is the name of the duo Nuria Bellver and Raquel Fanjul, popular Spanish artists/illustrators. They have global brands like Elle Magazines and Hermes for clients. Their exhibit is at the 4th floor of the Cibeles. A must-see
El Mirador de Palacio de Cibeles
A few minutes after 6PM, I bought my ticket at the Taquilla outside the Palacio. The teller told me to go straight to 6E floor, where I will be given further instruction. Upon reaching the floor, I was greeted by another comely lady who directed me to the stairs that leads to the 8th floor.
“How long can I stay at the Mirador,” I asked her, even if I already knew I can only remain at the deck for 15 minutes.
“You have to leave at 6:25.”
And so I proceeded to climb up, along with two other guests.
What can I say about the experience? I wouldn’t say it’s mind-boggling because it’s not. That’s too much of an exaggeration to say. But still, I must admit I’m very much amazed by the experience. Breathtaking is the appropriate description to use. Every view from the observation deck is just beautiful. Everywhere I look is picture-worthy that I consumed much of my mobile phone’s memory, filling it with photos. (Sadly, I can only post so much because of website bandwidth issues) The 15 minutes allotted to each visitor is definitely not enough. I’ll return another time, and do less picture-taking and more soaking on the unique moment of being up there. Make the effort yourself. I promise it’s worth your while, to say the least.
Por fin! I see the Cybele goddess and her chariot and the fountain in a whole new, dizzying way. Wonder how great the angle of depression that my looking at the statue from the height of 70 meters has created. I must say that the statue is one of the most beautiful in all of Madrid. And its view from afar and from a place this high makes it even more spectacular
Useful Tips when visiting El Mirador de Cibeles:
1. Palacio de Cibeles is closed to the public on Mondays. Likewise, entry to the mirador is not allowed during rains/inclement weather.
2. Be ready with your 2 euros, the cost of an entrance ticket of an adult visitor. You have to pay 50 cents for every child you bring.
Two euros is a mere pittance yet it takes you through an exhilarating experience that involves all your senses as you feast on the unique views of many awesome places in Madrid.
3. You can take advantage of free entrada if you set your visit on the first Wednesday of every month.
4. Remember you are only given a scant 15 minutes to stay, so make the most of it; and by this, I mean take quality photographs. We tend to focus on the quantity, but who cares about so many pictures, if most would end up on your mobile phone’s trash bin anyway.
Work on finding the best angles and lighting before you click; this will help you come up with photos that you will be proud to post on your blog/website later.