The truth is that you do not have many such choices in Valencia unless you want to climb some few hundreds narrow steps to reach the top of El Miguelet (Cathedral Tower) or the tower of Santa Catalina. But let’s face it – after the exhausting climbing effort you will find yourself in the small crowdy place, obviously facing the beauty of the Plaza de la Virgin and Plaza de la Reina, but also the inevitability of the similar “trip” down the stairs!
Well, in the case of Ateneo, after taking the lift (3€ fees apply to make sure that the rooftop bar will not become a Free Observation Deck), you can comfortably sit in one of the armchairs on the terrace, treat yourself with let’s say a glass of Agua de Valencia, cup of café con leche, beer or even better (but more €) – one of the cocktails and take time to enjoy breathtaking views. This is the true reason to be there – to experience the panorama of the Old Town seen from the top.
Somewhere at the distance from busy life at the street level and closer to the sky. BTW, just to let you know – if you order drink(s), the company gives you 1€ back from the entrance fees you just paid. You can’t go wild with it because the Ateneo Sky Bar is “a little bit” more expensive than similar “closer to ground” locals (well, location! location! location!) but it may help to slightly “sweeten” your experience. And if it helps to “relax”, let me mention that you also have to pay entrance fees to climb to the top of both mentioned towers!
While the daylight views are truly spectacular, things quite change at the dusk, when the Old Town slowly immerses in the darkness of the night. The Ateneo Sky Bar appears to “levitate” above the less visible ground level, soothing flood lights seem to enhance the beauty of nearby architectural marvels and the elegance of the fountain just below, live tunes fill the air, atmosphere gets some romantic accents …
Note that the Ateneo Sky Bar offers only the drinks (water, juices, wine, beer, coffee, cocktails etc… ). The only available snacks are chips, mixed nuts and olives. But keep in mind – you are there to enjoy the views on the city under the umbrella of the sky. If you are only looking for “gastronomical” pleasures in Valencia, then for sure you will find plenty of great (but less expensive) venues to do so.
Theoretically, the entrance to the Ateneo Sky Bar (and restaurant) is from the street Carrer de Moratin 12 (just behind the building). However you have to keep in mind that in Spain “things” are a bit different, so sometimes the entrance is from the Plaza del Auyntamiento… Just have the patience to find it out and do not give up too quickly.
Ateneo Mercantile of Valencia
When you already considered climbing to the top of Olympus of Valencian rooftop restaurants (do not worry, there is a lift!), it may be worth to know something about the building itself and the Society located there. Indeed, the Ateneo Mercantile of Valencia (l’Ateneu Mercantil) deserves all the respect not only for the architectural beauty of its headquarter, but also for achievements of the institution that over more than hundred years of history left strong footprint on the social, cultural and urban landscape of Valencia.
The building was raised between 1935-41 following the main lines of the original project from 1927 by two prominent Valencian architects Juan de Zavala Lafora and Ribas Eunate. Facing one of the most important Valencian plazas – the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the “edifficio” is actually one of its architectural jewels matching such nearby “beauties” as the neoclassical Auyntamiento (Town Hall) and an eclectic Central Post Office (Correos). The building was built in classical style, with double façade underlined by a classical arcade with five arches spreading over few floors and crowned by sort of balustrade of pinnacles. It stands out among other mostly modernist structures surrounding the triangular plaza.
The building was designed as the headquarters of the Mercantille Athenaeum of Valencia – a cultural institution founded on March 23, 1879 by Estanislao García Monfort. Throughout the following years, the Ateneo Mercantile established itself as a leader of Valencian society initiating and supporting progressive changes in the area of culture, commerce and leisure. Among successful projects pioneered by the Ateneo Mercantile are School of Languages, School of Commerce, Stock Exchange, Chamber of Commerce, Valencian Radio Station, Regional Expo (1909) and numerous Trade Shows, water conservation and administration, Valencian Tram Society…. No wonder, that the Ateneo was banned from 1939 to 1950 under the reign of “Caudillo”.
The Ateneo Mercantile has large private collection of books, manuscripts and newspapers, some of them of great historical value (unfortunately they are not accessible for general public).
And few words about plaza’s name. Throughout the centuries the plaza changed its name nine times. From historical Plaza de San Francisco (related to the Middle Age convent that once stood there), through many others (to make it short) to Plaza del Caudillo (“Leader” – in clear reference to General Franco), followed by Plaza del Pais Valenciano to its present-day name Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Quite a history reflecting Valencia’s turbulent past. Well, it’s good to know what you are looking at from the roof!