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  • © Jim Hollander

    © Jim Hollander

  • Distribucion de las peñas en la Plaza de Toros

    Distribucion de las peñas en la Plaza de Toros

The layout of the bullring

The Pamplona bullring is the third largest in the world and it is packed out for each day of the Sanfermines.

Its management is run by the Casa Misericordia de Pamplona - a charitable institution and this organization regulates and controls all aspects of the bullfights and shows held there.

While there are a total of 19,721 seats in the bullring only 1,950 of these are put up for sale to the general public the day before the bullfight takes place. The ticket offices at the bullring usually open at 20.30 pm on the eve of the bullfight. These tickets are exclusively for the highest tier of the bullring known as the ANDANADA - the grandstand section of the bullring and, as such, they are the cheapest tickets available. Entries for the regoneo - the bullfights on horseback and for the novillada young bulls events are handled in a different way. (These take place on the two days before the classic bullfights open on the 7th of July).

The vast majority of the tickets for the bullfights are season-tickets which are renewed each year by the season ticket -holders during the final days of June. The season-ticket holder is then able to do as he pleases with his ticket and so these tickets can be sold in the street on those days that the owner decides that he will not go to the bullfight.


While there are designated entrance gates, it is not particularly important to use any special one, as inside, the whole ring has circular passageways which connect the whole ring. Gates are indicated by letters from A to G and there is no Gate F as it was eliminated with the last piece of rehabilitation work carried out on the bullring in 2005. There also exists a main gate to the bullring as well as a "patio de caballos" gate which is used by the ringside employees and the back-up team of each of the bullfighters for their different functions. In any case, if we follow the indications written on the entry ticket we will get more immediate access to our seat. Gate A is found nearest to the side where the "patio de caballos" lies and Gate G is at the opposite side facing towards the Media Luna Park and near to the side of the bullpens.

From the outside the different seating areas can be distinguished and we need to recognize these if we want to find our correct place. The tendido or front rows of seats are found at ground level and closest to the arena. Behind them there is the grada or stand area and above that, the andanada or grandstand area. This section was added when Rafael Moneo, the famous architect from Tudela, renovated the bullring some years ago. The original design of the bullring is from the architect Francisco Urkola, who used the same outline as he had earlier used for the Monumental Bullring in Seville. Reinforced concrete was used along with an iron structure and as, at that time people still distrusted the strength of the concrete, the amount of iron used is higher than that of cement. For this reason the later amplification of the bullring was easily supported by the original structure. Safety is guaranteed for all the public who attend shows held inside the ring.


To know where you can find your seat to enjoy the bullfight, a detailed description of the seating arrangements is outlined as follows. The bullring is divided into three different layers of seating: tendido - the front row seating, grada - the stand seating and andanada, the grandstand seating. Each section of seating is respectively further away from the arena and with less comfortable seating. However, the arena can be adequately viewed from all three sections.


From the ringside fencing the front rows reach back to the tabloncillo which is the end row of the tendido section. This the best way of seeing the bullfights as you are very close to the action. It is important to bear in mind that in Pamplona there are nine rows of seating and the number of each row can be easily read from the ring as it is painted on the ringside barriers.

The best places in the Pamplona bullring are in the reserved seating area and rows, 1, 2, 3. The reserved seating area is included in these front rows but it is the area facing the bullpens and access is gained from the main gate and gates D and C. This area includes the reserved seats which are made of wicker instead of cement and these have cushions and stretch from the ringside up ten rows. This area is even more comfortable than the president's box and it is obviously one of the most expensive locations in the bullring.

This area also include the preference barrier which is the first of the rows with seating. You can lean your arms on the barrier which divides the narrow passageway which circles round the ring behind the main barrier which separates the arena from the seated public. Thus, you get a close view of the bullfighters and their back-up personnel as they wait to enter or leave the arena. Only those directly opposite the bullpen belong to preference, the rest of the row encircling the ring is simply the first row behind the circular barrier.


The row behind this front row is known as the contrabarrera or the second row of front seats. And the next row behind that is also known as the second contrabarrera. Then comes a transit passageway to facilitate access to seating. So, this first visible section of three front rows, are respectively known as the barrera, the contrabarrera and the second contrabarrera. The front row on the other side of the transit passageway is known as the delantera as this is the front row of a new section of seating. The tabloncillo -the last row of seats, usually has a place to rest one's back. But in the rehabilitation work carried out in 1952 this was taken out to make room for two new rows of seating. Now, only in this second section of front row seats do you find seating with this qualification. They are particularly comfortable seats and located in the shade. In addition, in the tendero we can find other seating known as sobrepuerta and sobrepreferencia; the former look over the ringside entrance gate and the latter overlook the front row of the tendido seating. In the first level there are various places to rent cushions at a cost of one euro and which is refunded at the end of the afternoon - although in fact, nearly everyone throws the cushions into the bullring irrespectively of whether the last bullfight of the day has been a good one or a bad one.


This second layer of seating includes the presidential box seating and the stands. Entrance is gained through the same gates but, unlike the front row areas which are separated by rows, this area is divided into eight sections. Access is gained by going up one floor when you enter the bullring and then pass through one of the gateways which give access to the stand area. At each gateway there is a ticket-collector who checks the ticket. There are also some ushers in attendance to indicate the exact place that you seat can be found. There are less rows than in either the front row area or the grandstand area. The first row is at the railings. All the perimeter of the bullring has seating between the railings and the columns, in groups of eight or nine and this is known as barrandilla en grada -the stand railing area. This is a good spot to watch the bullfights and if it rains, you won't get wet here. Behind there are five more rows in the stand secion.

Bear in mind that you must go up two floors to get to the grandstand area and one floor to get to the stand area using the same stairway. To exit there are additional special areas created in order to facilitate rapid exit at the zone of the Peñas and the patio de caballos gateway. At this level there is a preference area which includes the presidential box area and some entrance tickets can be purchased for this area. The entrance gate can be found between the box office and the main entrance to the bullring.


The grandstand is the highest part of the bullring. And it holds the largest number of seats and here is where the majority of tickets on sale are located. The slope is steeper than in the stand or front row area and there are fifteen rows of seats. Just as in the stand area, there are also grandstand railings -barandillas en la andanada and these are the same shape and size as those of the stand area as they are of the very same type. In the renovation of the ring, the columns were taken out in this area because the roof was extended and this allows for a better view of the arena.

Behind the railings lies the first row of seating. Rows 1 and 2 are separated by a transit passageway. Row 1 is below and touching the railings. Row 2 is behind the transit passageway. One of the steps here is not for seating and where those seated in row 2 can rest their feet. Many people confuse this step area with Row 1 but in fact, it is kept clear to facilitate transit.

The biggest problem with this area is to find the row number and the seat number. The grandstand is divided into sections and these are painted on the rear wall and which can be easily read. Once the section has been located, it should be kept in mind that the section is divided by flights of steps and these have a railing painted in red which is reasonably visible and the stairway is painted in yellow. It should also be remembered that due to the greater length of the shape of the bullring, the higher you go, the more seating there is.


In the Pamplona bullring the division between the sunny side and the shaded side does not make that much sense. A more pertinent division is that between the area of the Peñas and the rest of the public. And it must be said that the atmosphere among the Peñas is quite singular and unique. Anyone who has not seen a bullfight from the area of the Peñas cannot say that they have lived the Sanfermines totally. If someone wants to be in the area of the Peñas, then that area is to be found above the bullpens and belongs to part of the section 5 of the front rows area, all of section 6 and a part of 7. The Peñas are also in part of the andanada grandstand, concretely in sections 11, 12 and 13. They also have sections 5 and 7 of the grada or stand area.

These divisions are not necessarily strictly observed by the Peñas but they do exist.
Even among the Peñas there are a series of red lines to indicate the different parts. This of course is easy to see when the bullring is empty but in Sanfermin, the friendly ambience will also help us find the seats without much problem. In any case, there are many anecdotes and stories about good times which started for people who got their seating wrong and still had a great time.





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