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FAQ about bullfighting, Spain’s oldest tradition

 

When referring to bullfighting, Spain is the mecca. In fact, bullfights are considered a quintessential element of the country’s culture. As a visitor, it’s a unique experience in which you’ll get caught up in the spectacle, color and crowd noise as soon as the spectacle begins.

Here are a few questions that may arise while you consider attending a bullfight. The answers provide all the practical information you need to know before going to the bullring.

But before we start…

If you are interested in the current season, check the official dates of Madrid and Seville.

Are you planning to attend one? Make sure to get your tickets well in advance!

 

When does the bullfighting season begin in Spain?

The season begins in February and ends in mid-October.

 

What time do the bullfights begin?

The start of a bullfight is determined by the hours of sunlight, and is confirmed by the bullring management a few weeks before each fight.

Usually, they start between 17:00 and 19:00.

It really depends on the sunlight and the time of the year. So they start early in spring and fall, and late in summer.

Check your bullfight tickets if you aren’t sure!

 

Can you enter after the bullfight has already started?

Yes, you can enter the bullring.

However, you cannot enter the tendido (section) while the bull is in the arena. You can only enter during the breaks between bulls.

A staff member will request seeing your ticket before granting you access to the tendido. So you won’t have any chance of sneaking in.

Therefore, try to arrive early (at least 30 minutes before the start of the fight) otherwise you might be barred from entering.

A few minutes before the fight start, when other spectators notice a free seat with better visibility than theirs, they may decide to sit there instead. So your seat might be filled with other people, and it will be a pain in the back to ask them to return to their seat…

 

How long does a bullfight last?

A bullfight can last between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours 30 minutes.

 

How can you find your seat?

Have a look at your bullfighting ticket:

  • Puerta‘ is the door gate that you need to enter,
  • Tendido‘ is the bullring section,
  • Fila‘ is the row,
  • and ‘Número‘ is the seat number.

Just like you would do when you to a stadium, try to arrive early (at least 30 minutes before the start of the fight). That way, you can locate your bullring gate.

In a bullring you can’t go from a section (called tendido) to another. So the staff won’t let you access through a gate other than the one stated on your ticket.

Once you are inside, look for your tendido.

And then, pay attention to the row sections until you find the one where your row is. If you can’t find it, ask for help – a bullring can be a difficult place to navigate through.

Have a look at my bullfight tickets article to know what seats are best.

 

Seriously, how narrow are seats in a bullring?

Actually, if the bullring is very crowded you will be literally squeezed against people on all sides. So don’t bring a backpack or any shopping bags, there is no legroom or any other place to put them!

 

Is there a way to feel more comfortable?

Unfortunately, seats are extremely narrow and stark – just a concrete step, there is no back. But you can rent cushions in most bullrings for a small amount of money.

You should definitely get one of these if you plan to last the whole bullfight. Your butt will appreciate it.

 

What should you wear?

One of the rules of bullfighting Spain is that the dressing code should be respected.

Bullfights, like royal weddings, are day ceremonies.

You don’t go in a party dress or in a mourning suit, no matter how sad the bull is. In theory, it’s a colorful show. Try to do your bit: you are an extra.

 

Women’s dress code

Never ever wear high heels and avoid short skirts, especially if you have short legs like me… The bullring’s grandstands have pretty high steps!

The garish colors and the glitters (this is not the Met gala) are not the uniform.

Accessories:

  • Some sunglasses and an abanico (fan) will do you good.
  • Yes to huge earrings.
  • And even though you’ve seen pictures of Ava Gardner wearing a hat at a bullfight, you’re not Ava Gardner. So, forget the pamela and the headdress: this is not a royal wedding.

Now that you know the ‘no’, let’s go with the ‘yes’…

  • A woman’s pantsuit works very well as long as you don’t look like Sigourney Weaver in ‘Working Girl’.
  • A long flared dress or a midi skirt is comfortable and showy.
  • A safe option is to wear dark jeans and a good (good, huh) white shirt.

 

Men’s dress code

Never ever wear shorts, Hawaiian shirts or any other flower shirt. You shouldn’t distract the matador.

Accessories:

  • A pair of sunglasses.
  • You can use an abanico (fan) without fear of being confused by Karl Lagerfeld.
  • Don’t forget a pocket square in case you have to ask for the bull’s ear.
  • If you dare, you can wear a carnation on your lapel.

Wear a nice jacket or a casual suit. A tie is not necessary (actually, it’s best if you don’t wear it) and you can even go without socks.

And, in a surprising plot twist, you can attend with sneakers, jeans and a jacket.

 

Do you have to be quiet during the bullfight?

No. In fact, you can talk (or even better, whisper) as much as you like.

However, don’t stand up and out/talk loudly.

This is particularly true during the third act (faena) as the matador is trying to kill the bull. You will notice everyone is very quiet out of respect as this is a very tense and dangerous part. Remain quiet as everybody else.

 

Can you take photos and/or film?

Yes, you can take as many pictures as you like, and film everything you want.

If you want to take good pictures of the corrida, you should definitely have a look at these gear and photography tips.

 

Can you eat and/or drink during the bullfight?

Yes, you can.

All bullrings have bars at the ground floor. Additionally, vendors selling water, soft drinks and beer will walk around the grandstands during the breaks.

Beverages are not included in your bullfight tickets; you’ll have to pay for these separately.

But my suggestion is that you should bring a bottle of water and a small handy snack (e.g. fruit, candy bar, chips). On a sunny day it can get very hot and you might not be able to get up if a bullfight is going on.

Remember that you can only leave your seat during the break between fights.

This break is not more than five minutes, so if you have to leave do it after the matador has attempted to kill the bull and before the bull falls.

However, the break between the third and fourth bull is slightly longer, allowing the circular lines to be repainted. So this might be your best chance to grab a bite.

 

What happens if you need to go to the toilet?

You are free to go, of course.

But, remember that you can only leave your seat during the break between fights.

This break is not more than five minutes, so if you have to leave do it after the matador has attempted to kill the bull and before the bull falls.

However, the break between the third and fourth bull is slightly longer, allowing the circular lines to be repainted. So this might be your best chance to go to the toilet.

 

What happens if it rains?

A bullfight can still take place if it rains. It will be cancelled only if it rains cat and dogs for a long period of time.

If the weather forecast predicts that it will rain and you want to continue watching the bullfight, bring a raincoat with you to the bullring.

Forget about carrying an umbrella. No one will let you open it, as you will obstruct everyone’s view.

 

Can children attend the bullfight?

Yes, as long as an adult accompanies them.

Unfortunately, there are no special bullfight tickets or prices for children. They need a full fare ticket to get a seat.

If you are thinking about seating the child on your lap, I suggest you reconsider this option. In a bullring the seats are extremely narrow and have no back. Actually, your back will be touching your neighbor’s legs.

 

This article is part of a complete tutorial about bullfighting in Spain where you can read all the information you need to organize your road trip around the country.

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