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There were moves to have the corrida de toros (bullfighting) banned throughout the whole country at the beginning of 2010, but feisty Madrid Community President Esperanza Aguirre thwarted them and had the event declared "Of Touristic Interest," thus preserving it for some time to come. Madrid is a traditional stronghold of the "fiesta brava," and many Madrileños would rather have red hot banderillas thrust in their eyes than give up one of the strongest and most colorful symbols of Spanish courage and good old-fashioned machismo. (In contrast, rival Barcelona -- which has long looked toward the rest of Europe for its cultural influence and in recent decades ignored or even scorned la corrida -- may well soon ban it.)

The capital itself has long drawn the finest matadors in Spain. If a matador hasn't proven his worth in the Plaza de Toros Monumental de las Ventas, Alcalá 237 (tel. 91-356-22-00; www.las-ventas.com; Metro: Ventas), then he hasn't been recognized as a top-flight artist. The major season begins during the Fiestas de San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid, on May 15. This is the occasion for a series of fights, during which talent scouts are in the audience. Matadors who distinguish themselves in the ring are signed up for Majorca, Málaga, and other places. The bullfight season ends during the last 2 weekends in October (Feria del Otoño).

The best way to get tickets to the bullfights is to go to the stadium's box office (Fri-Sun 10am-2pm and 5-8pm). Concierges for virtually every upper-bracket hotel can also acquire tickets. Alternatively, you can contact one of Madrid's best ticket agents, Localidades Galicia, Plaza del Carmen 1 (tel. 91-531-27-32; Metro: Sol), open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30am to 1:30pm and 4:30 to 7pm, Sunday from 9:30am to 1:30pm. Tickets to bullfights are 18€ to 160€ depending on the event and the position of your seat. (See also www.bullfightticketsmadrid.com.) Front-row seats are barreras. Delanteras -- third-row seats -- are available in the alta (high) and the baja (low) sections. The cheapest seats, filas, have the worst view and are in the sun (sol) the entire time. The best and most expensive seats are in the shade (sombra). Bullfights are held on Sunday and holidays throughout most of the year, and every day during certain festivals, which tend to last around 3 weeks, usually in the late spring. Starting times are adjusted according to the anticipated hour of sundown on the day of a performance, usually 7pm from March to October, and 5pm during late autumn and early spring. Late-night fights by neophyte matadors are sometimes staged under spotlights on Saturday around 11pm. During the winter months of November to February, bullfights are replaced by a short circus season. 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.