The best way to see Madrid is from above, sipping spring-fresh cocktails under the sun on one of its rooftop bars.

Madrid skyline as viewed from a rooftop terrace
Drink in unrivalled views of Madrid with the city's newest rooftop bar © ©Hotel Riu Plaza España

Madrid is one of Europe's most easygoing capitals. It's a city that knows how to live. As Ernest Hemingway said in the 1930s: "Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night." Ninety years on, that sentiment still rings true. Though Madrileños are just as adept at squeezing joy from the daylight hours as they are at night.

A great place to see the Spanish capital come to life is on one of its rooftop bars. Bellas Artes is probably one of the city's most well-known venues. Just before sundown you'll see people lining up outside, eager to get up top to witness Madrid's spectacular sunsets from its sky-high terraces. But sun-seeking patrons now have a new downtown alternative, an elegant rooftop terrace that's raising the bar on Gran Vía.

A waiter carries a tray of drinks across a glass, walkway in the sky
Madrid's changing colours  ©Hotel Riu Plaza España

The five-star Hotel Riu Plaza España opened in September in the former Edificio España building, which was Spain's tallest building when it opened in 1953. According to The Local Spain, the historic building was considered a "symbol of prosperity" of the Franco-era. But after standing empty for more than a decade with the last recession, it was sold to the RIU Hotel group and they transformed it into a hotel, with the aim of becoming an icon of the city once again.

Hotel Riu Plaza Espana
The building was once the tallest in Madrid ©Hotel Riu Plaza España

The icing on the cake of this five-star hotel is the glittering Sky Bar and 360º bar, offering guests beautiful views of the city. On one side are the terracotta and ochre rooftops of Malasaña and Chueca, while ahead are the Royal Palace and lush greenery of Casa de Campo. Guests can drink in the whole city, its big avenues, famous monuments, and even the city's skyscrapers, the Cuatro Torres, in the financial district.

Madrid Rooftop Bar at Hotel Riu Plaza
Guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner with a view ©Hotel Riu Plaza España

Entry is free to hotel guests and outside patrons can pay €5 to access it before 6pm and €10 after that. There are two choices: the bar/nightclub 'De Madrid al cielo’ on the 26th floor and the al-fresco terrace '360º' on the 27th floor.

Hotel Riu Plaza España features 585 bedrooms, a gym, a heated outdoor pool, a restaurant, a lobby bar and is located on the Plaza de España, a 20-minute walk from Madrid's 'golden mile' of museums.

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