The Palacio de Cibeles, Madrid’s “new” City Hall, recently opened their 8th floor observation deck, the deck which encircles the iconic clock tower and offers spectacular views of the Plaza de Cibeles and the Calle de Alcalá-Gran Vía split.
UPDATE: Since approximately the beginning of 2013, the price went up from being FREE for 15-minutes to 2 Euros for 30-minutes. The below is my experience as it was then. Check http://www.centrocentro.org/ for current hours and other details for your visit.
Oh, and did I mention…. IT’S FREE?!?! Yup. You read that right. FREE! I, too, was surprised. Maybe that’s why they only allow visitors 15-minutes to feverishly snap photos before letting the next batch “on-deck”.
First things, first; the observation deck is only open from 11am to 7pm and closes from 2pm-4pm for lunch. (Yeah, this is Spain, folks. Siesta or not, everyone needs a break) These hours may well change with the change of seasons, too. Not sure if they would let people up-top at 6pm in the dark of winter, but I’ll investigate and, if at all possible, go back for a nighttime visit.
History: The formerly named “Palacio de Comunicaciones” was completed in 1919 and was Madrid’s Main Post Office for about 80-years. Even I remember buying stamps there in the 1990s. The interior was/IS not only enormous but has such beautiful detail and coloring, stained-glass skylights and all!
Main Floor: Upon walking in the old, converted post office’s front door, you’ll be directed to a small room to the right where you’ll have your bags X-rayed. Next, up the stairs to the main floor (listed on the building’s guide as the 2nd floor) of the “CentroCentro“, the “Área Cultural” where you’ll find countless sofas, armchairs, newspapers, and other reading material.
There’s also a couple dozen iPads-under-glass which the visitor can use. (more than half of them didn’t work as far as I could tell) This is also a free Wi-Fi area, but I couldn’t connect using my Smartphone. Maybe I should’ve asked for instructions at the main desk. In the surrounding spaces you’ll see oversized black-and-white photos of the building’s construction as well as video documentaries. There are also super-modern and spacious public restrooms – an important detail for travelers seeking a pit-stop while sight-seeing.
Upper Floors: The upper floors have other visual exposition spaces with large, hung black-and-white photos of the building’s history, construction, all the while appreciating the surrounding architecture.
How To Reach The Observation Deck: Don’t do what I did and go directly up to the entry-point for the observation deck, only to be turned away when asked for my numbered ticket. “No, I’m sorry, you’ll have to get your ticket on the ground floor.” Great.
Step 1) On the main floor of the “CentroCentro” cultural space, acquire your FREE TICKET at the desk with the graphical sign of a hanger hanging above the counter. I know, this looks like a coat-check desk, but it seems it doubles as a ticket-counter. The word “Ticket” isn’t found anywhere. Maybe that’s in the works, I don’t know. I suspect the other desk, the one with the “i” (for “information”) hanging above it, also provides tickets. There, they’ll explain the visitation process, where to go and how long you’ll have on the observation deck. I’m not sure if they speak English, however, but the process is written and framed in English at the desks as well. (see white document photo above)
Step 2) Take the elevator (or walk up) to Floor 6e (I believe the “e” stands for “entreplanta“, which is a “middle floor”). I took the elevator up to the 5th floor and walked up the last way on a beautiful spiral staircase with colorful “azulejos” – painted tiles – on the walls.
Step 3) Wait with the group on Floor 6e until your ticket’s scheduled time. Groups go up every 15-minutes, thus you’ll only have 15-minutes on the observation deck. That’s not a lot of time!
Step 4) After they take your ticket, if you’re able bodied, walk up two flights of glass stairs (88 steps, to be exact) to the 8th floor, the floor with the entrance to the observation deck. If not, you can take the elevator. I walked up the stairs because the small elevator was full of elderly people and I wasn’t willing to waste my 15-minutes waiting in line for it.
Step 5) Now you’re outside on the 8th floor observation deck surrounding the building’s clock tower. What a sight! Just incredible! The observation deck itself is only about 1-meter wide at its narrowest and 2-meters wide at its widest. Here, you truly get 360º views of Madrid – although you have to walk around the clock-tower to see them. I recommend a morning visit so the western horizon is illuminated better. (see photo at right)
Step 6) The attendant will warn you a couple minutes before your “15-minutes of fun” come to an end. As you go down one set of stairs you’ll see the next group coming up another set. From here, Floor 6e, you can either walk down the staircase or take the elevator. I chose the elevator. There are elevators on each side, but they’re so small that only 4 or 5 people can fit comfortably in each one so there may be a line to go down.
Did you enjoy your trip up to the Observation Deck of the Palacio de Cibeles? I sincerely hope so. It’s truly the best 15-minute FREEBIE in Madrid – although it’s the city’s residents who are paying for it, only 1.5 Euros per year for the 126 Million Euros spent for the renovation, maintenance and security of the building. Pocket change!Share THIS on Facebook!