Pamplona – Best Known for its Fiesta of San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls:
Pamplona is a city that’s best known for its Fiesta de San Fermín and the Running of the Bulls. For those not familiar with the significance of Pamplona’s running of the bulls event, a stroll through the main streets of town will quickly enlighten you. Monuments, sculptures, the bullring and a clock counting down to the next San Fermín festival, all point to the importance of the Encierro in this town. There are also the scores of souvenir shops selling t-shirts, red handkerchiefs, caps and all kinds of bullfighting paraphrenalia.
Pamplona is a city in the province of Navarra and in the city you’ll see references to Iruña, which is its Basque name. This old fortress city is believed to have been founded by the Roman general Pompey and the city wall, Roman buildings and mosaics bear witness to its Roman heritage. Pamplona became the capital of Navarra in the 9th century.
The Sun Also Rises for Pamplona
Pamplona’s Encierro was made famous internationally by Hemingway through his novel “The Sun Also Rises”. Hemingway loved the atmosphere of the Festa of San Fermin and enjoyed it on nine occasions. In the city are many sculptures and tributes to Hemingway. This annual nine-day July Sanfemines brings hoards of visitors to Pamplona, some to participate in the daring feat of running of the bulls while others come to watch and join in the festivities and parties.
Pamplona’s Other Attractions
But if you are not a fan of the running of the bulls or the rowdy and alcohol-fueled chaotic atmosphere of the Sanfemines, there are many other reasons to visit Pamplona. It is one of the main cities on the Camino de Santiago and many pilgrims stop here. The city itself is beautiful, with parks and a river running through it, and for most of the year Pamplona is like any other provincial town with religious and agricultural festivals.We stopped here in August and from the southern-end of the Old Town we walk in the opposite direction of the bull run route. From the Plaza de Toros, we cross into Estafeta and walk up this street to the Plaza Consistorial. With images of the bull run in mind, what surprises me is the narrowness of this street which is lined with nice shops on both sides. And when we get to the Plaza Consistorial where the bull run starts of, I am again amazed at how so many people manage to squeeze into the square for the start of the run.
Many of the sights in the Old Town can be reached on foot and these include:
- the Gothic Pamplona Cathedral – this is one of the more important religious buildings in Spain
- the Town Hall from where the running of the bulls rocket is fired
- the Plaza de Toros – the end point for the Running of the Bulls
- old palaces
- the Museo de Navarra – has rich collections of Roman artifacts, a Goya portrait and Gothic and Renaissance paintings
In Plaza del Castillo are a number of establishments which Hemingway frequented during his Pamplona visits, such as the Hotel La Perla, Café Iruña and Bar Txoko. At Café Iruña, we manage to catch up with Hemingway in his favourite corner of the bar.
Hotels in Pamplona
If you are toying with the idea of visiting Pamplona for the Fiesta de San Fermin, you should book your hotel early as the town is packed for this week-long fiesta.
- Gran Hotel La Perla – This is the classiest hotel in Pamplona and one where visiting celebrites stay when visiting Pamplona. It’s situated in one corner of Plaza de Castillo. Hemingway stayed here and his favourite corner at the Café Iruña is only a few steps away. The hotels other famous guests include Chaplin, Orson Welles and the Aga Khan.
- Palacio Guendulain – This is another hotel where you can enjoy some pampering. This 18th century palace was beautifully transformed into a grand hotel. Amongst its exhibits are a collection of vintage cars that used to belong to the counts of Guendulain.
- Puerta del Camino – This is yet another hotel with character. It was previously a medieval convent and you can now dine in luxury in the restaurant that’s set in the former convent chapel.
- Maisonnave, Hotel Europa and Hostel Arriazu are other central hotels that are easier on the budget.
How to Get to Pamplona
By Plane – Pamplona Airport is about 6 km south of the city centre.
By Train – Daily trains from Madrid, Barcelona, Vitoria, Galicia, Asturias and a host of other cities arrive at the railway station in San Jorge Station and urban buses link the station to Pamplona city centre. For train schedules and fares see www.renfe.es.
By Bus – The very modern Pamplona bus station is in the south of the city on Avenida de Yanguas and Miranda. There are daily coaches connecting Pamplona to Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastián, Bilbao, Vitoria, Zaragoza and many other towns.
Map of Pamplona: