Las Ventas arena in Madrid
Many tourists associate the word “Spain” with bullfighting. One of the main traditions of the Spaniards amazes with the courage of bullfighters and the steadfastness of bulls, although some Russians are shocked. Even if you love animals, and watching their murder is unacceptable to you, then, as a guest of the country, to see the beauty of the “temple of valor” (so call the Las Ventas arena) in Madrid is a must.
The Las Ventas arena is a famous landmark in Spain with almost a century of history. Plaza del Toros Monumental de Las Ventas is its full name. It is located in Salamanca, one of Madrid’s bustling neighborhoods.
We advise to visit this bloody place in summer when spectacular bullfights take place every Sunday. In winter (November-April) bullfighting does not take place, but you can visit the Museum of bullfighting, admire the building Las Ventas (pictured right), monuments to bullfighters. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a festival or concert, which are often held at the arena.
Plan your trip so you can be in Madrid for the feast of St. Isidore, held on May 15. For three weeks each day you can enjoy bullfighting, an adrenaline-inducing spectacle with an unforgettable emotional outburst.
The way to the spectacular spectacle (how to get there)
Finding Las Ventas is not difficult. Madrid’s public transportation is at your complete disposal.
Prefer the Metro Madrid – choose lines L2 and L5. Your stop is Plaza del Toros. An abundance of bus routes numbered 12, 21, 38, 53, 106, 110, 146 will quickly get you to your destination.
By car, use the map and signs on the road. The question to locals, “How do I get to Las Ventas?” will not stump them. Be polite and you will be shown a shortcut to the arena.
If you can spare the money, it’s better to use a Spanish cab. Just tell the driver the phrase “Las Ventas”, he will understand the destination.
Bullfighting price policy (how much does it cost to get in)
The price of bullfighting varies depending on the place in the arena. All seats are divided into sectors. The ten sectors are divided into three categories. “Sol” – seats in the sun, “sombra” – comfortable expensive seats in the shade, especially the presidential and royal boxes, shining with luxury, carpets. A ticket with a seat closer to the arena and in the shade costs from 5 to 165 euros.
The nature of the fight is also taken into account: a ticket for a bullfight with bulls over 4 years old is more expensive. To see a “serious” confrontation between a man and an animal you have to pay up to 165 euros. The maximum cost of the ticket for a fight with a novice (young bull) is 95 euros.
Tour service will come out in the range of 10 euros for adults, 7 euros – for children from 5 to 12 years.
Time to visit Las Ventas (opening hours)
The bullfighting action itself starts from 17:30-19:00 hours. Its duration is 2-3 hours. The box office closes 4 hours before the start of the show.
Tours of the bullfighting museum begin at 10-00 in the morning and last until 19-00 in the evening, from September to June until 18-00.
A short trip to the memories of a lifetime (how much time to plan)
In general, a tour of Las Ventas takes no more than 5-6 hours. With a visit to the bullfight, add a couple more hours.
Count on a full day, as some time will be spent buying souvenirs, lunch, and walking the streets of Madrid. And you will definitely want to wander the local beauties.
Spain’s calling card (a little history)
Now it is difficult to say where, how and when the tradition of bullfighting was born. It is assumed that the origins are in the Iberian culture of the most ancient era in the history of Spain. Bullfighting is known in many ancient cultures, remember the famous fresco “bullfighting” from the palace of Knossos on Crete.
Until the XVIII century bullfighting was held in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. The presence of the monarch was compulsory. The bullfights were held only on horseback.
Since 1874 the townspeople and visiting travelers have admired the modern foot bullfighting in the center of Madrid, near the Alcalá Gate, where the bullring was moved. The real boom of this spectacle is experiencing from 1913 to 1920. Those wishing to see the bloody theatrical massacre was so much that all did not fit into this arena. The famous matador Joselito had long dreamed of a new arena for his death marches with unbridled animals.
Architect Jose Espelius, who was also Joselito’s friend, created a project for the grandiose structure in order to make his friend’s dream a reality. On March 19, 1922, the stone laid in the foundation of the arena marked the beginning of construction. Seven years later, the arena was built at a cost of 22 million pesetas. The budget was over four and a half million, but it was worth it.
The diameter of the arena is 61.5 meters and the width of the avenue is 2.2 meters. Auditorium capacity is 23,798 people. The auditorium rows are arranged in ten circles. On June 17, 1931 the first charity fight was held, which caused a full house. The official opening of Las Ventas took place on October 21, 1934. The first bull, nicknamed “Serojito,” was brought into the arena.
The Civil War (1936) suspended the fighting, but already in May 1939 the Spaniards were delighted with bullfighting. In 1947 a significant event for the arena took place, the Feñera de San Isidro, after which it was recognized as the most important place for this tradition.
Symbolically at the entrance are monuments to matadors Antonio Bienvenida and Jose Cubero (pictured left) who died during the fight, as well as to A. Fleming, the Nobel Prize winner who discovered penicillin in 1929. This drug saved more than one bullfighter from death.
In front of Las Ventas is a sculptural composition in the form of a scene of the tragic death of Jose Cubero in 1985, a bullfighter, the only graduate of the Madrid school who died here. Not far from the arena an infirmary has been built to help victims of ferocious bulls. A visit to the chapel near Las Ventas is a must for matadors before a fight.
Performances are clearly divided into fights by experienced bullfighters and beginners. For young matadors there are performances called novilladi. You can see the magic of power over the bulls of famous matadors at the closing of the season, which is called “Autumn Extravaganza”.
By the way, the bull, which is not killed during the bullfight, never comes back to it again.
To attract tourists, the arena alone is not enough, so in 1951 opened the Museum of Bullfighting, located next to the Las Ventas arena. The museum’s exhibits: portraits, posters, sculptures of famous matadors, their equipment, and stuffed heads of slaughtered bulls colorfully narrate the important stages in the development of this fascinating tradition.
The jewel of the museum is the blood-soaked ceremonial costume of the torero Manolete, in which he accepted death by a bull. Also kept here are the clothes of the first female matador, Juanita Cruz. The museum is open all year round, and the number of visitors is not deprived. Why are people so attracted to the smell of blood and death?
Let’s dedicate a few lines to Manoleta, believe me, he deserves it
The great matador nicknamed Manolete (real name Manuel Sanchez) lived only thirty years (1917-1947), his first fight with a bull was at the age of fourteen. With two friends he created a bullfighting team “The Caliphs of Cordoba”. Manolete was a pupil of the famous Jose Camar. He surpassed his teacher in bullfighting skills and was recognized as Spain’s best matador of all time.
His popularity was used by many famous brands, advertising agencies. Songs are dedicated to him, one of the varieties of liquor is named after him, and figurines with his image are sold out en masse. Sometimes a year Manolete had more than a hundred fights, giving his skills both in Spain and in Mexico. More than 10 times he was seriously injured by bulls. Manolete is credited with the creation of many bullfighting techniques, one of them named after him: the use of muleta (red cloth).
Impassive and cold-blooded in the arena (pictured right), he allowed the bull to get close to him and only then struck. Manolete lived in the arena, where he died in 1947 during the fight. On August 29, he entered the fight for the fifth time. The fifth bull was killed, but fatally wounded Manolete. Spain mourned the matador for three days, declaring national mourning. The place of the best bullfighter was taken by Domingin.
Monuments to the toreador rise in many cities across the country. In 1951 the Mausoleum of Manolete was erected in Spain. The story of his life, memories of him are stored in the books published about him, filmed movies.
Returning to the grandiose construction, we should note the architectural style of the arena: Neo-Mauritanian Neomuhedar style with hand-painted ceramic tile decorations, with semicircular arches in the form of a horseshoe around the outer galleries.
The walls of the arena depict coats of arms of all the provinces of Spain and decorative motifs. The structure of the architecture was copied from the monastery of Manuel Muñoz. In the arena decoration you can also observe the elements of Gothic and Renaissance trends.
The arena (pictured left) is also a place of advertising business. Many farms fight for the right to provide their bulls for the fights, because advertising does not hurt anyone. The souvenir shop in the arena is full of all kinds of things related to bullfighting, customs and history of Spain.
In 2013 there was an attempt to build a roof over the arena, but it collapsed. There were no casualties, but city officials prohibited the installation of any shelter over the arena.
When the building is free of fighting, it hosts festivals and celebrations. The Beatles, AC/DC, Shakira, Kylie Minogue and others have held concerts here. In 2008, Las Ventas hosted the semifinals of the Davis Cup.
Artists, writers, and composers have turned to the bullfighting theme in their work. The most famous is the pasadoble “Plaza de Las Ventas” by Manuel Lilo, which shows the atmosphere of Las Ventas, the spirit of bullfighting and the danger and stress of the encounter between a bullfighter and a bull.
See the main thing
Try to make it to the show. A visit to the bullfighting museum alone, a tour of the arena building itself and a visit to the thematic monuments will be interesting, but the impression of Las Ventas will remain incomplete, like a poem without the last line.
If you don’t have the good fortune to have a bullfighting trip to Spain, we suggest, apart from the museum in Las Ventas, to visit the Crew Court, the Bullring Court and the Great Gate. Don’t forget the souvenir store, which sells toreador garb (“costumes of light”), capes, accessories, and all sorts of souvenirs.
Get ready for a world-class spectacle (travel tips)
– When planning a trip to Spain, keep in mind that the bullfighting season runs from April to October. For the population of Madrid it is a real holiday, so you should buy tickets well in advance, so as not to “enjoy” a kilometer-long queue for a few hours. Keep in mind that 4 hours before the bullfight, ticket offices close;
– At the show be prepared to listen to foul language. However, if you do not know Spanish, this vocabulary will not hurt your ears;
– Prepare to inhale the “aromas” of smoke, because there will be a lot of smoking around. In terms of smoking laws, the arena has an uncertain status, since the seating is in the open air. It is likely that at the time of your visit to the arena, smoking will be banned. Read our article “Cigarettes and Smoking in Spain” about smoking regulations and prices;
– The weepy and the hard-hearted should definitely bring handkerchiefs. If you are afraid of blood you risk to spend a part of the show with your eyes closed;
– The arena is big, so look for your seats in advance;
– If you have bought tickets with seats in the sun, then take water and a hat and choose your clothes correctly. Read about the composition of your closet in the article “What to take to Spain;
– Don’t forget to capture the highlights on camera;
– Las Ventas is always full of people. Beware of pickpocketing, read our article “Dangers for tourists in Spain”.
Whatever you do not want to spoil your trip, remember, bullfighting will be in your memory as a vivid episode for life!
Have a great time in Madrid, and read our interesting articles about Spain (links below).
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
Built in the beginning of the twentieth century, this is the largest bullring in Spain and in the world and one of the most beautiful monuments of neo-mudejar architecture. In addition to the bullfights, national holidays, farmers’ fairs, superstar concerts and international sports competitions are held here. During the year, outside of shows, the arena is open for guided tours, photo sessions and educational lectures about history and Spanish culture.
The Las Ventas arena has a diameter of 60 meters and a seating capacity of 23,798 spectators. In recent years the popularity of the bloody spectacle has declined as fewer Spanish youths are interested in the senseless killing of animals for entertainment. According to the latest news, the fights could be banned at any time, leaving the building for humane performances, sales and big sports.
Las Ventas Arena prices and hours of operation
A guided tour of the stadium with access to the stands costs 3€ , regardless of the age of the tourist. With the cost of tickets directly to the bullfights the situation is a little more complicated. It is all about the specific planning – classic bullfighting arena is divided into sunny (Sol) and shady (Sombre) sides. Accordingly, the seats under the canopy are more expensive, because it is not easy to sit for two hours in the sun, and the grandstands on this side are often half-empty.
For 2022, the minimum ticket price for a bullfight is:
- last rows of balconies – 3.30 € (Sol), 5.80 € (Sombre);
- Upper balcony: 6,90 € (Sol), 20,20 € (Sombre);
- Lower balcony – 15,40 € (Sol), 41,60 € (Sombre);
- Front row – 21 € (Sol), 50,80 € (Sombre);
- Barrier seats: 39,30 € (Sol), 87,90 € (Sombre).
Performances with star bullfighters fighting adult bulls cost more – from 10 € for the sunny balcony to 150 € for a comfortable VIP seat under the canopy at the edge of the barrier. The most expensive tickets are sold for the so-called farewell performances, where the venerable maestros end their long career to the applause of the fans. Places for them are booked months in advance, and the price goes up to 2000 € and higher.
The cost of other Las Ventas arena fees in 2022:
- Comprehensive ticket (entrance to the grandstands, audio guide, visit to the bullfighting museum) – 14.90 € (adults), 11, 90 € (students and pensioners over 65 years), 5.90 € (schoolchildren under 12 years); children under 5 years old are free to enter ;
- Guided tours (in Russian) – 20 € per person;
- matador class (90 minutes) – 45 €;
- dinner with flamenco concert in the arena – 65 €.
For the convenience of tourists there is an international site with menus in 10 languages including Russian, where all the latest information with prices and news is published.
The arena Las Ventas is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm, with a three-hour siesta break from 2 pm to 5 pm. The bullfighting museum is open until 17:30 on weekdays and until 14:30 on weekends.
The main bullring appeared in Madrid in 1929, when the authorities signed a decree on improvement of the Salamanca area. Until then, all the performances were held in the square near the Alcalá Gate also in the open air, and were rather ceremonial and parade. The king and his retinue would come to the bullfight, while the commoners would settle for a place “in the distance” and the slaughtered animal would be honourably cut up in the palace’s kitchen.
The project was initiated by the legendary matador Jose Ortega, who wished to make the bloody performances a world heritage. Construction began a year later, but was constantly delayed – first tragically Joselito himself died, then the illness ends the life of the chief architect of the arena. Construction was delayed for almost 7 years, and the cost of the work reached a record amount of 26 million pesetas.
Grand opening was held only in 1934, although three years before the first battle took place, where everyone was allowed without restrictions, strictly on tickets, regardless of social status. The civil conflict in Spain has changed the plans – for security purposes the stadium was closed until 1939, and after that even the beginning of World War II could not reduce the popularity of the show. Until the end of the forties the stands were never empty – so great was the demand.
Torero performance at the fall extravaganza in front of full Las Ventas grandstands, 1968, © Los Angeles County Arboretum
To bring tourists back already in the post-war period, Spanish authorities took an unusual step. The entrepreneur and industrialist Livino Stuca had conceived a season ticket for Las Ventas. This reduced the cost of tickets, and on the holidays of Madrid’s heavenly patron, San Isidoro, in May and September increased the number of performances to 28 fights per month. The tradition is still held today, accompanied by street concerts and sales.
Beginning in the late 1970s, the arena began to have serious problems. Environmentalists, animal rights activists and other activists literally flooded the international courts with demands to ban the killing of bulls by law. They have achieved their goal, but not in Madrid, but in Barcelona, where bullfighting has been illegal since September 2011. The metropolitan stadium keeps the support of the tradition with charity shows and donations to funds to help sick children.
Today, the Las Ventas arena is considered the last stronghold of mass bullfighting in the Spanish-speaking world. Larger stadiums are only in Mexico and Venezuela, but they do not have the same architectural value. A museum has been at the venue since the 1950s, housing relics and ceremonial costumes of prominent bullfighters, rare archival photographs and portraits, including the personal effects of Juanita Cruz, the first female matador to receive international recognition.
Las Ventas Arena Events
The bullfighting season in Spain in general and Madrid in particular officially starts in March and ends by October. Performances may be postponed due to weather conditions or emergencies, but on average there are 2-3 fights per day. The exceptions are the holiday weeks, when the arena hosts up to six fights each day:
- Comunidad de Madrid mini-feerie – April 30 to May 1-2;
- San Isidoro extravaganza, all of May and early June;
- Otoño Autumn Art Festival from the end of September to the beginning of November.
The bouting seasons conclude with grand farmer’s fairs, which take place practically until mid-December. Market pavilions are mounted right on the sand of the arena, and among them you can see vintage wines and tomatoes from Andalusia, oranges from Valencia and other agro-industrial products. Prices, as they should be at such sales, are as low as possible, so Spaniards themselves try to shop “in advance” so they don’t have to look for a working store on Christmas Day.
Another humane response to the bloody performances – sports competitions in Las Ventas. Tennis players especially loved the court, and since the mid-2000s Davis Cup matches have been held here – the sand surface of the arena does not need to be replaced and is ideal for serving the ball. September is the time of stadium concerts. The arena has hosted such Spanish heavyweights as Julio Iglesias, Rafael, the metal band Mago de Oz, and in 1996 the stands were packed to capacity with AC/DC fans.
Every year in Spain 30 thousand animals are killed in arena arenas, and every fourth bull drops dead in Las Ventas. The carcasses are immediately hauled away to be cut up and processed in a separate room. The beef is not sold, as many people think, but is distributed to canteens in hospitals, kindergartens and schools. The bulls’ heads are given to taxidermists to be stuffed and then sold at auction, with all the proceeds going to charity.
According to the tradition of the fights, the public has the right to spare the bull, which showed particular courage in the fight with the matador. So it happened with the favorite of the Spanish public Murcielago in 1897 – he stood firm on his hooves after 24 sword blows to the heart. The animal was taken back to the farm, treated and used for breeding. In 2001, the legendary “gladiator” was remembered by the Italian automobile concern Lamborghini, naming its most famous supercar after him.
The sound of the Madrid clock, to which the bullfighter dies in the song of the same name by Aria, is a direct reference to the Las Ventas arena. The lyrics refer to the Cibeles Palace, whose central facade is indeed adorned by a massive clock tower. The only irony is that the sights are half an hour apart. Beautiful and romantic metaphor turned out to be impossible in fact – it is physically impossible to hear the sound of the mechanism from such a distance.
The folk dance pasodoble, whose movements play on the fight between the bull and the matador, originally had nothing to do with choreography. The rhythmic pattern of the original melody is taken from the marching song of Castilian infantry, to which it still marches on parades. The Spaniards themselves have a controversial attitude toward the dance – according to some critics, it not only popularizes a violent show, but also develops a stereotype of windy women and aggressive men.
Not all musicians romanticize bullfighting. In 2016 rock vocalist Leo Jimenez released the song “Quién le pregunta a él” (“Has anyone asked them”), which became a manifesto against bullfighting. The lyrics recount in verse form an open letter from a Madrid student to the Spanish Supreme Tribunal. The content is nothing new, but the final line, “I don’t see any art here, Your Honor!” has become the motto of the animal rights activists.
In front of the arena’s center gate, as a reminder of the fragility of human life, stands an emotional monument to the young bullfighter Jose Sanchez, who was killed by horns in the final seconds of his performance at age 21. A bull running up to him from behind in agony pierced the brave young man’s heart, a moment depicted in bronze from archival photographs. The memorial inscription on the pedestal reads, “When a torero dies, an angel is born.”
How to get to the Las Ventas arena in Madrid
The attraction is located in the northeastern district of the Spanish capital at the intersection of Alcalá Avenue and Lateral Highway. The nearest subway station is Ventas, the exit from the lobby is located directly opposite the arena’s central gate, you do not need to turn or walk anywhere. There is also a ground transportation stop and the pavilion is a little to the side, closer to the ticket booths.
Taking a cab to the performances or the tour is a moot point. Madrid has its own municipal taxi company – white cars with a crested red stripe on the side – their fare is fixed, but you can not call it cheap. For example, a trip here from the main station in 2022 will cost about 25-30 €. Calling a car through the application Uber is cheaper, but the service in the country is semi-legal because of strikes by local carriers.
The arena has taken care of motorists – it is not just forbidden to drive right up to the building, it is also convenient. The only disadvantage is that the parking fee is paid, as throughout Madrid, the cost per hour is around 1.5 €, but you can stop on both sides of the stadium. It is best to go by the coordinates of the navigator (40.433054, -3.662422) not forgetting that entering the parking lot is allowed only from the intersection of Roberto Domingo Street and Avenida Toreros.