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IN PICS: Madrid’s newest rooftop terrace bar has the best views of the capital

Madrid has its fair share of swanky rooftop terraces offering views across the skyline of the capital.

IN PICS: Madrid's newest rooftop terrace bar has the best views of the capital
All Photos: Riu Plaza Hotel.

It’s where the young hip crowds go to drink cocktails at sundown, where professionals meet for an “afterwork” and where parents take their 18-year-olds to celebrate a graduation.

It started with Bellas Artes and Palacio de Cibeles with their unrivalled views up the Gran Via and soon every hotel worth its salt was converting their unloved space once full of air conditioning units and TV aerials into a Scandi-vibed lounger-filled rooftop terrace.

Some offer swimming pools, others tempt with late night DJs, and now anyone who has spent a summer in Madrid knows that there is no better place to catch the evening breeze.

READ ALSO:  Madrid's best rooftop bars

So who would have guessed that yet another lofty spot could create such a buzz?

If you’ve been at the bottom end of the Gran Via recently you’ll have seen the crowds of people lining up to gain entrance to the Riu Plaza Hotel, the newest 5-Star establishment in the city.

The hotel opened its doors in September after a massive renovation within the Edificio España, a polemic building that epitomises Francoist architecture.

When the Edificio España was opened in 1953 it was Spain’s tallest building at 25 floors and with a height of 117 m (384 ft). Designed by General Francisco Franco’s favourite architect Julián Otamendi and his brother in the Neo-baroque style it took five years to build and was considered a “symbol of prosperity” of the Franco-era.

It then became a symbol of the Spanish real estate market’s collapse in 2008. After being sold off to an investment fund just before the bubble burst and standing empty for more than decade, it was then bought by Chinese investor Dalian Wanda for a third of the price, who after wrangling with the city authorities over planning permission, sold it on to the RIU Hotel group.

The hotel has been fully restored to accommodate 583 rooms, some suites with private terraces overlooking the Gran Via, and a swimming pool for guests on the 21st floor. But the cherry on top is the Sky Bar and 360º bar.

Free for hotel guests but open to everyone with an entrance fee of €5 before 6pm rising to €10 after, a lift will take punters up to the top floors where there’s a choice of swanky bar/nightclub ‘De Madrid al cielo’ on the 26th floor below and the open air 360º on the 27th floor.

The views are the best you’ll find in Madrid from every angle. Take in the impressive fortress that is Conde Duque and gaze over the jumble of Malasaña rooftops on one side, while the other gives unrivalled views of the Royal Palace and Casa de Campo stretching beyond to the distant mountain horizon.

Plus there’s views up the Gran Via and stretching all the way to Madrid’s Four Towers up in the business district.

But what has people extra excited is the glass walkway stretching between two wings of the building that gives the sensation of walking in the air – and provides the ultimate location for an instagram snap.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by Riu Plaza España (@hotelriuplazaespana) on Nov 1, 2019 at 7:07am PDT

Check out these pictures of the view from the top: 


Conde Duque on the left of the image and the towers in the distance.

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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