Seizing Life By the Bull Horns


The “matador de toros” (Spanish for “killer of bulls”) is elegantly poised with his “muleta” (a small red cape). He stares down the bull, sensitive to every quick step or quirk of the shoulder. They are both like coiled springs ready to pounce. It is the bull or him, and the matador must be victorious. This is “Corridas de Toros,” or Bullfighting, at its most thrilling—and we’re inviting you to a front-row seat! The entire performance is hailed more as a cultural event than a national sport. The Spanish Fighting Bull is a special breed raised and tested for the fight of its life in the ring. The torero (bullfighter) puts himself in the line of danger by provoking the half-ton animal. Each match is like a dance as the bullfighter wields various capes and weapons. Bulls are technically colorblind, so it isn’t the blood-red hue that provokes him, but the torero’s waving movements. Watch all the bullfights and even dive in to run with the bulls. Soon enough, you’ll be yelling “olé!” just like a true Spanish local!

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Updated 5 years ago

Plaza de Toros de Ronda

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Marbella, Spain • Recommendation • 

Come to the home of Corridas de Toros at Plaza de Toros de Ronda! Step back through time during the Pedro Romero Fair when the town’s traditions come to life. Festivities start late August and culminate in early September with food, flamenco, and bullfights! The rest of the year, the ring is mainly used as the equestrian center for the Royal School of Cavalry and the Museo Taurino. Rent an audio tour and explore the grounds with history right at your fingertips. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the torero would be on horseback during bouts with a bull. Francisco Romero, is credited to have first faced his bovine opponent on foot. The Romero family birthed a dynasty of bullfighters and introduced other iconic practices, like the use of a muleta and the fatal strike by estoque (sword). Their entire clan moulded the corridas into an artform. Francisco’s grandson, Pedro Romero, became the greatest of their lineage with a career spanning 28 years and thousands of victorious matches.

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Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza

Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla

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Sevilla, Spain • Recommendation • 

The Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza in Seville is Spain’s oldest bullring, and easily one of its most prestigious venues. The bullring was designed in the Baroque style and can hold a massive audience of 12,000 people in its rafters. You’ll be in good company with locals and seasoned fans. The bullfighting season stretches from April to October, with Feria de Abril (Seville April Fair) coveting the most anticipated corridas. Follow along like a pro at every stage of the match: the Tercio de Varas, Tercio de Banderillas, and Tercio de Muerte. The first act is when the matador and the bull first meet. A golden capote (“cape”) is swung around, testing the bull’s ferocity as he charges forward. The second act weakens and agitates the bull as barbed sticks are thrust into its shoulders. Finally, the matador lures the bull in with his muleta. He strikes quickly with his sword and the bull falls after a valiant performance.

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Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

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Salamanca, Spain • Recommendation • 

A long way north from Seville, Madrid also celebrates bullfighting season from March to October at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. Its distinct face welcomes avid supporters with its brick-colored arches and elegant tile work. Inside, 23,798 seats hum with the excitement of anticipating spectators. Join the crowd and find your spot! Plop down near the sand pit to feel the full heat of the performance, or slink up to the steep seats under the shaded colonnades. Ticket prices vary depending on whether you’re under the sun (cheaper) or in the shadows (pricier). Either way, you’ll be in full view of the action! Aficionados favor Las Ventas since the ring sees many emerging talents. Las Ventas is rooted firmly in tradition, but keeps its eye toward the future, by housing a Bullfighting School that trains on the grounds.

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Corrales de Santo Domingo

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Pamplona, Spain • Recommendation • 

The “Running of the Bulls” (Encierro), another Spanish trademark, actually began because competing animals had to be transported to the arena. Sprint with the bulls from Corrales de Santo Domingo to the Pamplona Bullring in Spain’s biggest encierro! During the San Fermin Festival (every year from July 6 to 14) in Pamplona, narrow streets are fenced off. Show up at the corrales before 7:30AM because as soon as 8:00AM hits, the bulls are let loose and the run is on! Anyone, even tourists, over 18 years old is allowed to join. It gets dangerous, and accidents are prone to happen, so proceed with caution! Participants rarely go the whole 875-meter stretch since each section of the course presents its own challenges. The bulls charge out of the pens at full energy, making the corrales one of the riskiest points to start from. Safety buffs should stay behind the fence. It’s still close to all the excitement, without all the risk.

  • Calle de Santo Domingo, 1-341, Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

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Plaza de Toros de Pamplona

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Pamplona, Spain • Recommendation • 

The bull run route starts at the corrales then winds through Ayuntamiento de Pamplona, Mercaderes Street, Estafeta Street, and Telefónica (Telephone Exchange). Duck through the Callejon (corridor) to finally end at the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona (Pamplona Bullring). During San Fermin, mornings are spent at Running of the Bulls while evenings are reserved for Corridas de Toros (starting at 6:00PM). On July 5, catch budding bullfighters face young bulls in the “Novilladas.” On July 6, watch the bullfighter mounted on a horse square off against the bull in the “Rejones.” The rest of the festival, from July 7 to 14, is dedicated to the traditional corridas. Reserve tickets online and from authorized sellers for a sure seat. Prices are steep, but they go to an unforgettable experience and a worthy cause—a local old-folks home!

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Plaza de Toros Monumental de Barcelona (La Monumental)

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Barcelona, Spain • Recommendation • 

Locally, bullfighting is a controversial topic. Animal rights advocates have been campaigning against the tradition and bull-related activities have been successfully banned in Catalonia. As a result, Plaza de Toros Monumental (also known as La Monumental) in Barcelona no longer hosts any bullfighting events. However, La Monumental’s legacy persists to this day. Visitors may still roam the museum and facilities. Get up-close to the stalls where bulls were once kept. Live out any dreams you may have had as a famous matador; enter the ring for a moment and join the long list of brave bullfighters that have put their lives on the line!

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Plaza de Toros de Valencia

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Valencia, Spain • Recommendation • 

The Plaza de Toros de Valencia looks very much like the Roman Coliseum. It is just as monumental inside, with a vast sandy ring and thousands of seats. Las Fallas (every March) brings the entire city to life. The seats fill up and the first of the year’s fights kick off! Add a whimsical twist to your bullfighting experience and visit during Las Fallas. It’s Valencia’s biggest fiesta with a charming parade of giant puppet-torches as its main event. Whatever month you decide to drop by, a visit to the Bullfighting Museum is a must. It is unrivaled in its scope, boasting a comprehensive collection of artifacts. Trace exhibits that span hundreds of years in Spain’s bullfighting history!

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Plaza de Toros de Denia at the Port

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Alicante, Spain • Recommendation • 

The seaside city of Dénia has a unique way of running and fighting with the bulls: Bous a la Mar (or Toros en el Mar) which means “Bulls in the Sea!” Locals build a special bullring on Puerto Dénia (Dénia Port) where one side opens up to the sea. Once the bull is released, it lunges around chasing participants until it is lured to jump in the water. Everyone dives in, no blood is spilled, and it’s just all-around good times! Festa Major, which Bous a la Mar is part of, takes place from July 7 to 15. It coincides with Pamplona’s San Fermin, so head down to Dénia by the Balearic Sea for a quirkier take on the bull-ish traditions!

  • Puerto Denia, Dénia, Alicante, Spain

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About Spain

Every day is a fiesta in Spain—tap your feet to Flamenco music and immerse yourself in its beautiful diversity

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