Thanks to these bullfight tips you will make the most out of your experience of attending a such a colorful and lively event.
If you decide to go to a bullfight while on a trip to Spain, you should take into account that this a complex event in which many people participate and lots of things happen in the span of 1.5 and 2.5 hours.
So in order to have a great time and enjoy the spectacle, please consider these bullfight tips.
Buy your tickets ahead of time
As you can imagine, the sooner you buy your tickets, the greater the possibility for getting tickets for the bullfight you are interested in and choosing the best seats.
So get your tickets as soon as you know your travel dates and your itinerary.
Most cities and towns in Spain have a very short season and you may end up missing the opportunity.
Here is a complete guide on bullfight tickets to help you out.
There, you will learn where you can purchase them and how to decide where you sit at the bullring.
Learn how to read a cartel
The cartel or poster is bullfight’s program. It contains all the details referring to the bullfight. In other words, all the practical information you need to know before getting your bullfight tickets.
- Location. Plaza de toros (bullring name) and city where the bullfight takes place.
- Month and year.
- Time. Usually, if the bullfight is part of a large event (e.g. Feria de San Isidro in Madrid, Feria de Abril in Seville) all the fights of this event will start at the same time every day.
- Type of fight. It can be a corrida de toros (professional bullfight), a novillada (amateur bullfight) or a corrida de rejones (horseback bullfight).
- Breeder. Number of bulls and the name of the breeding farm (e.g. 6 toros de Núñez del Cuvillo).
- Names of the matadores. Three names are generally displayed unless it’s a special event (e.g. a mano a mano or face to face involving only two matadores). The first name is that of the matador with the most experience.
- Box office opening times.
Don’t underestimate a novillada
Even though you may be thinking that mixing an inexperienced matador with a gentle bull may end up being a disaster, it can in fact prove to be the exact opposite.
This is particularly true if the novillero is allowed to perform in a first class bullring (plaza de toros de primera categoría). He will be eager to demonstrate his skills, grace and courage in front of the audience.
If he succeeds, he will make sure that his transition from novillero to matador (professional) is faster.
But be careful!
Not all novilladas have the full complement of picadores and banderilleros. So, when planning to attend a bullfight and before getting your bullfight tickets, make sure that the poster states “novillada CON picadores“.
Don’t forget to bring your aficionado kit
Going to a bullfight differs from going to a concert.
You’re going to be seating outside, and the weather could be hot and sunny or it could be cold and wet. So, you need to wear clothing appropriate for any eventuality, and a couple of life saving things.
Remember that it’s a very popular event so you can also take with you a few perks that will make the experience much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Here is the only bullfight aficionado kit you will need:
- Cushion, or something soft to sit on. The seats at the bullring are extremely narrow and very uncomfortable. So it will be nice to spend a couple of hours seated on something softer than the hard seat of a grandstand.
- Sandwiches (bocadillos) just in case you get hungry and you want to have a snack. You can eat freely at the bullring. Alternatively, food and drinks are available in between fights. You can buy it from the salesmen that walk around the grandstands. Or you can always go to one the bars located in the bullring corridors, but make sure you are back at your seat in time.
- White handkerchief to wave at the president. This way you are showing your appreciation of the matador‘s good job if you like what you saw. And if you are not sure of his performance, follow the mood of the crowd.
- Hat and sunscreen, especially if you are seated in the Sun section of the bullring (sol).
- Fan (abanico) to get some breeze of fresh air!
- Small binoculars to observe the matador and his team more closely.
- Umbrella, just in case the weather looks rainy or stormy. It’s extremely rare that a bullfight is cancelled because of the weather conditions. Alternatively, you can bring a waterproof jacket.
Arrive well in advance
The atmosphere around a bullring before a bullfight is electric, and you should consider it part of the experience of attending one. So my recommendation is that you get to the bullring about an hour before it starts.
First of all, it gives you the chance to soak up the ambience and await the arrival of the toreros. They usually do so about 20 minutes before the bullfight starts. Look for the crowds of autograph-seekers, they will be waiting at the gate the toreros use to enter the bullring.
Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to take pictures of the outside of the bullring and the atmosphere.
Most bullrings are surrounded by bars called “bullfighting bars”. Here local aficionados and journalists gather beforehand to discuss the upcoming event. It may be a cool place to grab a pre-bullfight drink!
Don’t wait until the last minute to enter the bullring
A bullring is a maze – it’s full of gates, corridors, stairs and the seats grandstands are divided into several sections.
It’s very easy to get lost and it will take you some time to get to your seat.
Obviously, the bigger the bullring, the harder to find your seat… And remember that if you get late, you won’t be allowed to enter the tendido (seating section) once the 1st bull has entered the arena.
So here are two pieces of advice:
- Half an hour before the bullfight begins locate your entrance gate (this information is on your tickets). There should not be a lot of people in line yet, but if you see a long line to enter, wait with the others until it’s your turn.
- Once you get to the turnstile, show the bullring staff member your tickets and ask him for some directions to get to your seat. They will prove priceless.
Read your ticket
If you don’t speak Spanish, or don’t feel confident of understanding the bullring staff member, find your seat on your own.
Don’t worry, it takes a few minutes but it’s not hard.
The 3 main data on your ticket are:
- Tendido: the bullring sectors where your seat is.
- Fila: row of seating.
- Número: seat number.
Now, look for the information signs. The numbers of the tendidos bajos and tendidos altos are written above the gateways in the passageway:
- Gradas, andanadas and palcos are located high above so look for a staircase.
- Palcos are always near the main entrance.
Don’t waste time and go to your seat
If you don’t find your way, ask for help. There will always be someone ready to guide you. Don’t wander around aimlessly!
Again, don’t underestimate the time it will take you to get to your seat.
Most aficionados wait until the last minutes and long lines are formed at the gates. Then, once you are at the tendido, the seats’ labeling is usually hard to find, the corridors are very narrow, and you are likely going to disturb other aficionados to get to your seat. They will need to stand up to give you some space, so try to disturb them as soon as possible and not when the action is about to start.
As you wait for the bull, observe what’s going on
Obviously, the main action takes place at the arena. However, while you are waiting between one bull’s exit and the entrance of the next one, pay attention to some little details that are also part of experiencing a bullfight.
Keep an eye at the callejón
The callejón is the circular low wooden-walled alley surrounding the arena where the toreros enter and exit the sand circle.
There you can see all the bullfight participants – the matadores and their teams, the monosabios, the alguacilillos… And other people such as the press (mostly photographers), the police, the doctors and the veterinary surgeons. All are carefully watching the action at the arena.
Listen to the banda (orchestra)
The later is awarded as a prize to the matador and it’s the president who takes this decision.
As a curiosity, you won’t listen to music at Las Ventas in Madrid) while the matador is on the final stage of his stage against the bull. Since it’s considered the climax of the fight, the music may be distracting for the matador.
Pay attention to the drummer and buglers
The are located opposite to the president’s box. Their job is to interpret the signals the president makes using different handkerchiefs and announce the changes between one stage and the other.
This article is part of a complete tutorial about bullfighting in Spain where you can read all the information you need to make the most out of your experience.
Here is a complete summary of all the guide:
1. What is bullfighting?
2. How to watch a bullfight
3. Bullfighting festivals in Spain
4. How to buy your bullfight tickets
5. 7 Bullfight tips to make the most out of the experience
6. FAQ about bullfighting, Spain’s oldest tradition
7. Understanding Spanish bullfight rules
8. Who are the bullfight participants?
9. Spanish bull fight preliminaries
10. First Spanish bullfighting stage: tercio de varas
11. Second Spain bullfight stage: tercio de banderillas
12. Third Spain bullfighting stage: tercio de muerte
13. The bullfight awards
14. 27 Interesting and curious bullfighting facts
15. A brief history of bull fighting in Spain
16. Glossary of bullfighting terms