Heading down to Spain?
You’ve got a lot to see.
Palm trees, beaches, and tapas await you. But Spain is more than these things. It’s a hub of important venues and has customs dating back hundreds of years.
The country boasts a history rich in performance, costume, and culture. One of the best ways to see it is in the plaza de toros — the bullring.
Over the years, Spain has become almost synonymous with bullfighting. This national pastime has not ceased to be a proud tradition for centuries.
And the best ring in Spain for viewing the fights?
That would be Las Ventas.
Don’t miss your chance to take in this pinnacle of Spanish pride.
Read on to discover the history of the bullring, and how you can get the most out of your visit.
Las Ventas Bullring Displays the Art of the Spanish Bullfight
Bullfighting in Spain is not considered a sport but an art form with an extensive history in the nation.
The early practice was most likely developed from the gladiatorial arenas of Rome. Bullfighting as we know it dates back to rejoneando, a Moorish performance in which a man on horseback faced off with a bull.
This practice eventually led to the modern style of fighting practiced at Las Ventas Bullring. These fights are made up of three tercios, or stylized parts in which different events may take place:
- First stage: The bull and the fighter (torero) enter the ring. During this time the fighter waves a brightly colored cape to incite his opponent, and fends off the following attack with a lance to weaken him. The bull eventually tires and drops his head.
- Second Stage: The banderilleros enter the ring, placing sharpened sticks on each side of the bull. These serve to incite the bull into anger and a more spirited performance.
- Third Stage: The fighter holds a bright red cloth called a muleta in one hand and a sword in the other. He uses it to infuriate his opponent, causing the bull to charge and become confused and further enraged. As the bull fights, he becomes thoroughly exhausted. He stands with his head lowered. This allows the fighter to plunge the sword in between his shoulder blades, killing him and winning the match.
Fascinating History of las Ventas Bullring
Las Ventas was constructed in the early 1920s to accommodate the growing demand for seating at bullfighting events.
The architect José Espeliú designed the ring to accommodate 25,000 people in the style and class demonstrative of the events which would be held there.
The arena itself if a stunning display of Neo-Mudéjar architecture, incorporating Arabic mosaic tiling into the vast arches of this imposing masterpiece.
It has sections for the public, as well as special shaded sections for royalty and the upper-class.
In 1931, the first fight open to the general public was held as a charity event, and a tradition began. It was briefly put on hold during the Spanish Civil War but began again quickly in 1939.
Ever since then, it has been drawing both Spaniards and visitors from all over the world, who come together to witness the fighters in action.
How You Can Explore las Ventas Bullring
Many people believe that Ventas provides a window through which the modern spectator can view centuries of beautifully crafted art.
However, the practice has come under fire during modern times. Opponents of the fights claim they are inhumane, involving cruel treatment of bulls and animal abuse.
Luckily, you can see the Las Ventas Bullring no matter which view you hold on the subject. You don’t have to witness a bullfight to visit the arena, though you can see one if you wish.
Take a Tour
Want to stand in the shadow of the famous toreros?
Take a tour of the ring with your very own guide. You’ll get to visit the arena floor as you learn about its storied past and discover the proud history behind this structure as you walk.
The tour is generally a bit less than an hour and is available in English and Spanish.
See a Bullfight
If you have the desire to do so, consider seeing a bullfight.
The season runs from April through September, and there is generally a fight each Sunday at Las Ventas Bullring.
Madrid in May is abuzz with the excitement of the famous San Isidro Festival. Visit during this time and experience two weeks of daily bullfights in the arena.
Las Ventas Bullring in Madrid Offers a Taste of Spanish Past
If you want to experience Spain from a Spaniard’s point of view, it’s imperative you visit Las Ventas Bullring.
The structure stands today as an emblem of Madrid’s proud history and can give you a feel for the real Spain — the one beyond tapas and sangria — that many tourists never get to experience.
So, don’t be afraid to book a tour or witness the arena in action.
Madrid is waiting for you.