The cafeteria at Circulo de Bellas Artes

Its not often that one location can shock your body into a calorific chocolate overload and at the same time offer you a variety of art exhibitions, theatre shows and films.

Madrid’s Circulo de Bellas Artes does exactly that. This imposing building is in the city centre and the best way to explore its artistic delights is by starting with a drink in its splendid cafeteria!!

This large room mixes wooden tables and chairs with sink-into sofas in cosy corners. The vaulted ceilings are covered in epic paintings depicting Greecian mythology. A chandelier shimmers in the centre of the room above a white sculpture of a naked woman lying on a bed of rocks. This is the first sight that greets you on entering the cafe.

Now the hardest part begins. The place has a reputation of making some of the best chocolate drinks in the whole of Madrid. In total there are over 38 different varieties. Choosing between a Cioccolata bianca al pistacchio ( Sicilian pistaccios drowned in a creamy white chocolate drink) and a Crema alla vaniglia ( a hot chocolate cream infused with vanilla) proved to be the toughest decision I had to make all day. In the end I opted for the latter.

Post calorie attack, the next task was to go through the wealth of events and activities the centre provides. My interest was taken up by a photographic exhibition of graffitti by the artist Brassai.

Gyula Halasz was born in Brasso in Romania in 1899, but went by his pseudonym of Brassai which simply means someone from Brasso. He lived virtually all of his life in Paris which he photographed extensively until his death in 1984. He was also a writer, film maker and sculptor. From the 1930s to the 1950s he developed a passion for photgraphing graffitti which he did throughout Paris and found connections with ancient graffitti all over the world. Much of that work is now being displayed at the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

The exhibition is divided into eight themes, the most notable being love, war, death, and magic. The photos are allowed to speak for themselves as only selected notes,  and more often quotes from Brassai, are given before each section.

My only disappointment was that although this is that an international exhibition, there are no translations into English or any other language.  As a result, non-Spanish speakers  miss out on Brassai’s thoughts on the importance of graffitti as an art form.

Other highlights at the Circulo include a short season of films by Bunel and a theatrical production of Luces de Bohemia ( The Lights of Bohemia)

With an entrance price of just one euro which allows access into all the exhibitions rooms (Prices vary for the theatre and the cinema), the Circulo de Bellas Artes is a must for for anyone keen to see art events off the beaten track and for those with a great love of chocolate!

For my part, I felt convinced that I had burnt off the added calories just walking around the exhibition. But just in case…I decided to walk the thirty minutes home instead of taking the bus.

Circulo de Bella Artes
Alcalà 42, Madrid