Tickets for the most anticipated bullfights during the San Isidro festival can sell out almost immediately, so be prepared to queue at the stadium! Prices vary widely according to the prestige of the matador, and whether you're sat in sun (sol) or shade (sombra).
Bullfighting is an integral part of Spanish culture. Around 100 years ago during the 'Golden Age' of 1913 to 1920, its popularity reached fever pitch: the Carretera de Aragón, Madrid's former main stadium for the spectacle, could no longer hold enough spectators. The star matador Joselito declared the need for a new monumental bullring, and construction began in 1922 on the site of the old Carretera. The first bullfight was held here in 1931, before a hiatus in the sport that lasted the duration of the Civil War.
Sharing many design features with an amphitheatre, the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas was built in Neo-Mudéjar style, decorated with the ceramic crests of different Spanish provinces. Its ten tendidos - groups of rowed seating, priced according to their distance from the action and whether they're in sun or shade - surround an arena 60 metres in diameter, one of the world's widest. The bullring seats just under 24,000 people.
The corrida's president sits in a royal box in the tenth tendido, which is outstanding in its Mudéjar design, and fitted out with a lift and bathroom. There are five gates to the arena, including one for the horses and one for dragging a defeated bull to the skinning room, plus three toriles from where the bulls emerge. The famous Puerta Grande is the entrance through which every matador aspires to walk, especially during the San Isidro Fiesta in May, when bullfights are held for 24 consecutive afternoons among a range of traditional Madrilenian entertainments. During the rest of the March to October season, fights are held every Sunday or public holiday.
In its time Las Ventas has also hosted concerts and theatrical performances, and acted as a clay tennis court for the Davis Cup team in 2008. If you're not here for a bullfight or any of the above, tours operate of the workings of this magnificent stadium: you can walk like a matador through the Puerta Grande, tread the sands of the arena and admire the architecture of the tendidos.
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