It is better to travel well than to arrive


The morning after our first day in Ronda, we were sitting at an outdoor cafe leisurely eating a breakfast of churros and hot chocolate when Cory made a remark about how much less crowded it was in town. I looked around, noticing for the first time that the big groups of people we were following around all day yesterday were indeed missing. Puzzled, I looked at the time and realized it was only 10:30am – still too early for the tour buses to have arrived from the Costa del Sol. That’s when we looked at each other, both realizing the same thing at the same time, and gobbled down the rest of our breakfast in record time. We knew we’d be cutting it close, but if there was one place we wanted to see in Ronda without big crowds of people hanging around, it was the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, one of the oldest bullfighting arenas in Spain.

Not even fifteen minutes after we entered the bullring, the first tour bus pulled into town unloading fifty tourists right next to the bullring. By 11:30am, the place was crawling with people. {Keep that in mind if you’re visiting Ronda in the summer and want to see something before the crowds show up!} But for fifteen glorious minutes, we had the bullring almost entirely to ourselves. What a fun place to take photos! With seating for only 5,000 spectators, this is one of the smaller bullrings in Spain, but what it may lack in size, it certainly makes up for in character.

Built in 1785, the Plaza de Toros de Ronda is considered one of the oldest bullrings in Spain, and sometimes is the oldest depending on who you’re talking to – that claim seems to be up for debate. Regardless, it’s very old and doesn’t see a lot of bullfighting these days, save for a week in September for the Feria de Pedro Romero, a festival dedicated to one of the greatest bullfighters in the Spanish history. The infrequency of bullfights here is actually the reason I chose to visit this one as opposed to the one in Seville which does still hold a regular bullfighting season every year. Bullfighting may be an intrinsic part of Spanish culture, but it’s not something I’d want to witness myself or support.

The Plaza de Toros de Ronda may not be the number one oldest bullring in Spain, but Ronda is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Francisco Romero was the first torero to fight a bull on foot as entertainment, using a muleta, or cape, to provoke the bull, and it all happened right here in Ronda. {Previously, all bullfighting was done atop a horse.} Romero’s version of bullfighting evolved over time into the image we think of today surrounding bullfighting – the courageous matador in fancy dress, brandishing a sword and waving a red cape at an angry bull as they whip around the arena.

The Romero family is quite famous in Ronda, well, in all of Spain for that matter. Pedro Romero, grandson of Francisco, slayed over 5,600 bulls during his career without ever suffering from any major injuries. He fought his last fight at the age of 80 before retiring. The rest of Romero’s family – his dad and brothers – were also famous bullfighters, and the small museum on site at the Ronda bullring pays homage to all of them as well as sharing a detailed history of bullfighting as an art and sport.

After seeing the museum, we also went “behind the scenes” to look at the holding cells lining the long hallway leading into the ring where the bulls wait their turn to enter the arena. A few areas were closed when we visited for renovations, so I’m not sure what else is here – it looked like maybe a small horse-riding arena was behind the bullring, but it was hard to tell. We didn’t spend much time back in these parts before heading back into the bullring itself.

In an attempt to access the upper level of the ring, we made our rounds through the hallways behind the bullring looking for a way up for a good five minutes before finally coming across what appeared to be the only open staircase up to the top. If you like to take photos, make sure you go up there – the perspective on the bullring is totally different when you’re on the lower level.

Finally, after a few posed photos where instead of a matador hightailing it from the bull, I look like a superhero about to take flight {all taken with at least a hundred other tourists pointing at us and laughing}, we decided to leave. 40 minutes – that’s how long we spent at the bullring in total. Even though we weren’t there very long, I felt like that amount of time was completely adequate to see and do everything here {ie. not a whole lot}. Definitely glad we went, though. Kind of like seeing flamenco dancers in Seville, checking out the bullring in Ronda was something we could do to help us make a few cultural connections while we were in Spain. Besides, this also gave us the chance to rest our legs after two full days of walking and hiking – we were only halfway through our trip and already pretty exhausted!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *