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Bullfighting in Madrid. San Isidro & Las Ventas

Bullfights are among the most popular shows in Madrid. This is one of the oldest and most established customs in Spain. The origins of bullfighting go back to the 17th century. Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring (Plaza de Toros de las Ventas) has bullfights every Sunday from the beginning of March until October. The main holidays surrounding the custom are the Feria de San Isidro and the Feria de Otoño (autumn). The bullfights begin in the afternoon and can last up to three hours, depending on the type of bull and the performance of the bullfighter. The entrance fee for a bullfight can range from 10€ to 100€, according to the seat and the bullfighter’s popularity.

History of bullfighting. What is a bullfight?

The art of bullfighting has centuries of tradition, but the bullfight as we know it today goes back to the end of the 18th century. It is from this moment on that bullfighting gains popularity and its rules are defined.

In each bullfigh there are three bullfighters that face six bulls (two for each fighter). The bullfighters go in order of seniority, which is determined by the date of their “alternativa” (a bullfight in which the junior bullfighter is presented to the crowd as a bullfighter or matador). The first bullfighter fights the first bull, the second fighter the second bull and the third matador fights against the third bull, continuing to the first fighter with the fourth bull and so on.

Bullfighter fights the bull. Bullfighting plaza, Las Ventas. MadridBullfights are divided into three parts, or tercios. During the first tercio the matador fights with the cloak and the bull is provoked by the picador: a bullfighter helper who uses a lance while on horseback to test the bull and prepare him for the bullfighters final performance. In the second tercio the banderilleros place three pairs of banderillas (sticks adorned with colored sashes) on the bull. The third and last tercio is the most important. During this tercio, the matador returns to fighting the bull and finally kills it with a sword.

If the matador does a good job, the public rewards him. The trophies are the ears and tail of the bull. The public requests the trophies from the president symbolically by waving bandanas. The president of the plaza ultimately decides, agreeing or not with the public’s request. The highest honor the bullfighter can receive after a fight is being carried out on the shoulders of the crowd.

A good bullfight is characterized by the actions of the fighter, the ability to dominate the animal and face the bull with courage, and end the life of the bull with just one try. In Spain there have been great bullfighters that provoke praise and passions. Well-known fighters include El Juli, Enrique Ponce and Rivera Ordóñez. Equal in popularity and remembrance are the deceased Manolete, Paquirri and Dominguín. On the portaltaurino web site there is a long list of bullfighters and details about them.

Most of the bullfighting plazas have an area reserved for an orchestra that livens the bullfights with pasodoble music (a lively and happy type of music from Spain).

Las Ventas bullring and Feria de San Isidro

Las Ventas bullring. The biggest bullfighting arena in Madrid, SpainThe most well-known bullring arena in Madrid is the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (Calle Alcalá 237. Metro Ventas). With a capacity for 25,000 spectators, the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is the largest bullring in Spain. It was designed by the architect Jose Espeliú and inaugurated in 1931.

In Madrid’s Plaza de Las Ventas there are bullfights every Sunday from March until October. The most important bullfights with the most well-known fighters take place during the Feria de San Isidro. This holiday happens from mid-May until the beginning of June. The Feria de San Isidro is the most important event with regards to bullfighting. Following in importance is the Feria de Otoño, which marks the end of the bullfighting season toward the end of September and the beginning of October. Another bullfighting holiday worth mentioning is the Miniferia de la Comunidad, which takes place from April 30 to May 1.

The entrance fee depends on the seating and can range from 10€ to 100€. Tickets can be purchased at booths right at the plaza, at bullfighting box offices and by phone at 902 150 025. It is recommended to check the Las Ventas site for schedule changes.

Las Ventas bullring also has a bullfighting museum offering a complete collection of objects related to bullfighting and the history of the Plaza de Las Ventas. During the bullfighting season (March through October) the museum stays open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays and holidays. The rest of the year it is open Mondays through Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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