Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid
Plaza de las Cibeles, between Alcalá and
Gran Vía, the Circulo de Bellas Artes is the cultural centre of one of Europe's foremost private arts organisations.
It was founded in 1888 by a group of artists, and over the years some illustrious names have passed through its doors, such as the Nobel Prize-winning dramatist Jacinto Benavente and the dramatist, poet and novelist Ramón José Simón Valle Peña.
Picasso also attended painting classes there, and one of the exhibition rooms is named after him. In 1921 the Círculo de Bellas Artes was declared a centre for the Protection of Fine Arts and is a venue for conferences, workshops, and multi-disciplinary programmes of study.
Exhibitions of drawings, paintings, sculpture, etchings, photography, ceramics and digital art take place in its four exhibition halls: Picasso, Minerva, Goya and Juana Mordó.
Its collection boasts over 1,200 paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics, as well as a comprehensive archive of art-related documents and periodicals, including the collection left by Juana Mordó, a gallery owner who died in 1984 and whose collection contains more than 3,000 books.
During the Carnival, Madrid's most famous fancy dress party (Baile de Máscaras de Carnaval)
takes place here, with live music, DJ's and a masked ball.
The Círculo de Bellas Artes also organises concerts and theatre and dance productions, and even has its own radio station (Radio Círculo) which transmits its own programmes discussing the current affairs of the art world.
The building which houses the collections is also of considerable architectural interest. Designed by Antonio Palacios, it was declared a national historic artistic monument in 1981. It stands out on the skyline and amongst its neighbouring buildings with its unusual, multi-layered facade.
The café of the Círculo de Bellas Artes is a fairly exclusive venue for lunch, with chandeliers, statues, and impressive ceilings. It used to be a members-only club, but is now open to the general public. In the evening, though, the atmosphere is more informal, and a variety of tapas is served in a relaxing, artistic atmosphere.
Close by is the Cine Estudio Círculo de Bellas Artes, a tastefully renovated art cinema which provides a quiet and welcome change from the busy main screens of Madrid. It offers evening programmes, starting at 5.30pm.
Both the cinema and the Círculo de Bellas Artes are centrally located, and can be reached by Metro, the nearest stops being Sevilla or
Banco de España. Bus numbers 1, 2, 5, 9, 14, 15, 20, 27, 45, 46, 51, 52, 53, 74, 146, 147 and 150 will all take you there.
It is possible to go up to the roof-top terrace, or azotea, of the Bellas Artes building. After paying a small price, you can walk around on the roof of this emblematic building and enjoy some truly spectacular views of Madrid as the video below shows: