Pamplona

PAMPLONA

Overview of Pamplona, Spain

Pamplona, the capital of Navarra, is by far the largest and most noteworthy city of the area. It hosts one of the world’s biggest parties, the festival of San Fermín, where the exhilarating “Running of the Bulls” takes place. But Pamplona has more to offer, such as its beautiful Old Town and the citadel park.

Pamplona certainly owes some of its fame to its adopted son, Ernest Hemingway, who spent a considerable amount of time in Navarra during the Spanish Civil War and was a big fan of the San Fermín Festival. Hemingway wrote about the festival and the “Running of the Bulls” (“Encierro” in Spanish) in his book, “The Sun Also Rises.”

The San Fermín Festival starts on July 6th and lasts for a week. During this time the city is flooded by more than 1,000,000 visitors and turns into one of the world’s largest fiestas. There is of course, the daily “Running of the Bulls,” where hundreds of people run in front of the bulls down a narrow stretch of the old town. The bulls run lasts for just a few minutes before ending in the bullring. But the festival of San Fermín includes many more events and sights besides the bull related ones, such as parades, traditional Basque sports exhibitions and a nightly fireworks competition.

During the rest of the year, Pamplona or Iruña as it is known in Basque, is a pretty laid back city. There is a constant, steady flow of visitors, many of whom are pilgrims or hikers doing the Camino de Santiago (Route of St. James). The city is very easy to navigate and almost every place of interest can be found within the well-preserved medieval city center and is within walking distance from the Plaza del Castillo (Castle Square).

 

San Fermin (Sanfermines)

San Fermin (Sanfermines)
San Fermín is one of the most famous festivals in the world and is celebrated every year between the 6th and the 14th of July in Pamplona in honor of, as its name indicates, San Fermín.
San Fermin
Running of the bulls during San Fermin
Running of the bulls
Giants in front of Pamplona's city hall

The legend states that San Fermín was the first bishop of Pamplona and baptized 40,000 pagans in three days. Celebrations in his honor have been taking place since before the 12th century, but these were originally done the 10th of October. It was only in 1591 when, due to the weather inconveniences, the government of Pamplona and its bishop agreed to move the celebration to the 7th of July. On that date, fairs and running of bulls were already celebrated in Pamplona. By moving the date, the two separate celebrations were joined.

The San Fermín festival starts the 6th of July at 12 pm with the “txupinazo” (a rocket fired from the City Hall balcony), which marks the official start of the festivity. During that week, Pamplona is flooded with party-goers of all over the world and becomes incredibly packed with everyone wearing a white t-shirt and a red handkerchief.

The most famous activity of the San Fermín is the running of the bulls (“encierro” in Spanish) which takes place every morning at 8 o’clock between the 7th and the 14th of July. The runners are chased by six bulls for approximately 800 meters until reaching the bullring (“plaza de toros” in Spanish). This is a very dangerous activity and while some people train all year around preparing for it, others decide to join at the last moment, convinced by the amount of alcohol drank during the night (don’t be one of these!). This makes the running even more dangerous and unfortunately 15 people have died doing it since 1924. Nevertheless, the running of the bulls is an extremely popular activity and something unique that is worth seeing at least once.

During San Fermín there is also a bullfight every evening in Pamplona’s bullring which is the second biggest of Spain and fourth biggest in the world. There are as well many more activities going on during that week such as concerts, rural sport competitions, Basque dance and music, nightly firework shows, etc.

Pamplona's Top Things to Do & See

Pamplona's Things to Do & See
We have put together a hand selected list of the most important things to do and see in Pamplona. Everything from the Old Town to visiting the Santa Maria Cathedral – if it deals with Pamplona tourism, we’ve got you covered.
1  

Casco Viejo – Old Town

Pamplona Tourism
Pamplona's Old Town
Things to Do in Pamplona
Art nouveau pharmacy in the old town

Pamplona is proud to have a beautiful Old Town, which is definitely the nicest part of the city and also where visitors spend most of their time. The Old Town was once surrounded by a defensive wall and some sections of it can still be seen today.

The stone-paved streets of the Old Town are mainly for pedestrians and wind their way through the historical heart of the city, between medieval churches, palaces and, of course, plenty of bars and restaurants.

The Castle Square (Plaza del Castillo) is the center of life in the Old Town and is lined with restaurants, cafes and hotels. Here, Ernest Hemingway would sit and drink coffee while working on his book, “The Sun Also Rises.”

But if there is a famous street within the Old Town, it is the Estafeta street. The street is best known for being the main path the bulls run down for the “Running of the Bulls” that takes place during San Fermin.

Other highlights of Pamplona’s Old Town are the cathedral, the city hall and the Navarre Museum. Apart from the cathedral, there are three more important churches in the Old Town: Saint Nicolas Church, Saint Saturnino Church and Saint Lawrence Church.

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2  

Castle Square

Plaza del Castillo - Pamplona, Spain
Plaza del Castillo

The Castle Square (Plaza del Castillo) is Pamplona’s main square and is frequented by both locals and tourists alike. It is a place full of bars and restaurants with terraces. The Plaza del Castillo is just the perfect place to start or end a walk through the Old Town.

Throughout the centuries, the Castle Square has been witness of all types of events such as markets, concerts, celebrations, etc. For example, from the end of the 14th century until 1844, it was used as the bullring of the city.

When Ernest Hemingway was in Pamplona, he of course spent a lot time in the Plaza del Castillo. Some of his favorites at the square were the bar Txoko, the Hotel La Perla and the Café Iruña. A statue of Hemingway can be found at the Café Iruña.

HOTEL LA PERLA
4  

Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real

Interior of the Santa Maria Cathedral - Pamplona, Spain
Interior of the Santa Maria Cathedral
Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real - Pamplona, Spain
Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real
Cathedral Museum - Pamplona, Spain
Cathedral Museum

Located in Pamplona’s Old Town, the Santa Maria Cathedral is probably the most important monument of the city and is definitely the one that contains the largest amount of artistic and historical treasures. The cathedral is actually part of the Cathedral Museum. Inside, not only do visitors have access to the more common sections of any cathedral such as church, cloister and sacristy, but also to the cillería, refectory, chapter house, kitchen and bedrooms.

While the spaces that can be seen today in the museum were built in different periods of time, the majority of them were erected during the 14th and 15th centuries in the same place where originally a Roman temple and the Roman city of Pompaelo were located. The building’s neoclassical western façade was completed more recently in the 18th century. It is contrasted by the interior which was built in gothic style.

In front of the cathedral’s presbytery, stands the mausoleum of King Charles III and his wife. King Charles III is very important in Pamplona’s history because he was responsible for the city’s unification in 1423. Underneath the mausoleum, there is a crypt with the remains of all the kings of the Kingdom of Navarre since 1134. Unfortunately, this crypt is not open to the public.

The cloister was built in gothic style between 1286 and 1472 and is considered to be the best preserved cloister of the 14th century. Another very interesting room in the museum is the kitchen which was completely built of stone and has one huge chimney in each corner of the room. It is one of the only three existing gothic kitchens in Europe.

Even if you are not into churches, if you are going to visit a museum in Pamplona, this should be the one.

OPENING TIMES – CATHEDRAL
Monday to Saturday: 9 am to 10:30 am & 7 pm to 8:30 pm
Sundays & holidays: 10 am to 2 pm
OPENING TIMES – CATHEDRAL MUSEUM
Monday to Saturday & holidays: 10:30 am to 6 pm
Sundays: closed
ADMISSION – CATHEDRAL MUSEUM
Adults: 5 €
Pilgrims: 2 €
Children: 2.5 €
5  

Casa Consistorial (City Hall)

Pamplona's City Hall - Spain
Pamplona's City Hall

King Charles III ordered the construction of the city hall in 1423. It was built in the center of the town where the three neighborhoods of the three ethnic groups met so that it could act as a symbol of peace. Since then, the seat of municipal government has been located at that same place.

By the middle of the 18th century, the city hall building was a mere ruin and, in 1752, it was completely demolished to be rebuilt from scratch. The new construction became one of the most outstanding examples of baroque civil architecture in the city. However, in 1951, the building was torn down again, but this time the façade was preserved. While the lower part of the façade that we see today and all other decoration have a baroque style, the figures that adorn the top of the building are neoclassical.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Guided visits to the City Hall are offered for groups of at least 12 people. It is necessary to book at least one month in advance here.
Admission: free
Language: Spanish
Duration: 30 minutes
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Navarre Museum

Interior of the Navarre Museum - Pamplona, Spain
Interior of the Navarre Museum
Navarre Museum - Pamplona, Spain
Navarre Museum
Specimen at the Navarre Museum - Pamplona, Spain
Specimen at the Navarre Museum

The Navarre Museum is a public museum from the Government of Navarre that houses an archeological and artistic collection related to Navarre and its history. It is one of the main museums of the city.

Although it originally opened its doors in 1910, the Navarre Museum has been housed in the current location in Pamplona’s Old Town since 1956. The building where the museum is located dates back to the 16th century and it first functioned as a hospital (the hospital of Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia). Currently, however, only the façade and chapel are original.

The collection of the Navarre Museum is comprised of pieces from prehistoric times and continues until the 20th century. Apart from some Roman artifacts and mosaics, the other highlight of the collection is an impressive portrait of the Marquis of San Adrián made by Francisco Goya.

The Navarre Museum is a very interesting museum in a very interesting location that sadly seems to be undervalued. If you have the time, we recommend to check it out.

OPENING TIMES
Tuesday to Saturday: 9:30 am to 2 pm & 5 pm to 7 pm
Sundays & holidays: 11 am to 2 pm
Mondays: closed
ADMISSION
Adults: 2 €
Students: 1 €
Seniors, under 18 years, unemployed, pilgrims: free
* Free for everyone on Saturday afternoon and Sundays
WEBSITE
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Medieval City Wall & Interpretation Center

Medieval City Wall - Pamplona, Spain
Medieval City Wall

In its early days, Pamplona was a fortified town encompassed by a wall. Although much of that wall was demolished when the city expanded in 1915, some of its sections still remain today.

For those interested in learning more about Pamplona and its wall, it is possible to visit the Center of Interpretation of the Fortifications. It is located in the "Fortín de San Bartolomé,” where the streets Arrieta and Aralar meet, next to the bullring.

Another way to discover and enjoy Pamplona’s wall is to walk along it. The longest and probably most beautiful walk by the wall is the one that goes from the Center of Interpretation to the New Gate (Portal Nuevo) passing next to the Santa Maria Cathedral and the Navarre Museum.

Center of Interpretation of the Fortifications
OPENING TIMES
Summer: 10 am to 2 pm & 5 pm to 7 pm
Winter: 10 am to 2 pm & 4 pm to 6 pm
Mondays: closed
* The seasons are defined by the official dates on which the time change happens
ADMISSION
Adults: 3 € (1.5 € on Thursdays)
Seniors, students: 1.5 €
Children under 12 years: free
8  

Citadel & Vuelta del Castillo Park

Citadel & Vuelta del Castillo Park - Pamplona, Spain
Citadel & Vuelta del Castillo Park

The citadel and the Vuelta del Castillo Park that surround it, form the biggest and most important green area of Pamplona.

The citadel was built by order of Philip II of Spain in 1571 as part of the general strengthening of the city’s fortifications. It was designed in pentagonal shape to be able to combat every angle of attack. The citadel is now considered the best example of military architecture in Spanish renaissance style.

The citadel was used by the military until 1964, and afterwards was turned into a park. Today, the citadel as well as the green area that surrounds it, is frequented by locals of all ages. Apart from people walking and practicing sports, the buildings that were left from the military are now used as art and cultural exhibition centers. Among those buildings are the Magazine (Polvorín) which is the oldest building of the complex, the Oven (horno) where bread was baked and the Weapons Building (Sala de Armas) which was originally the artillery warehouse. There are also several sculptures spread throughout the park from artists such as Jorge Oteiza and Faustino Aizkorbe.

OPENING TIMES – MAIN GATE
Monday to Friday: 7:30 am to 9:30 pm
Saturdays: 8 am to 9:30 pm
Sundays & holidays: 9 am to 9:30 pm
Closed: 4th - 16th of July, 25th December, 1st & 6th January
OPENING TIMES – EXHIBITION ROOMS
November to April
Tuesday to Friday: 6 pm to 8:30 pm
Saturdays: 12 pm to 2 pm & 6 pm to 8:30 pm
Sundays & holidays: 12 pm to 2 pm

May to October
Tuesday to Friday: 6:30 pm to 9 pm
Saturdays: 12 pm to 2 pm & 6:30 pm to 9 pm
Sundays & holidays: 12 pm to 2 pm
9  

Taconera Park

Taconera Park - Pamplona, Spain
Taconera Park

Dating back to 1830, the Taconera Park is the oldest and finest park of Pamplona. Its gardens are nicely taken care of and feature colorful floral arrangements.

The perfect entry point to the Taconera Park is the Saint Nicolas Gate, which is a beautiful baroque recreation of a triumphal arch. Originally, it was one of the six entry gates into the walled city. Some parts of that original wall can also be found within the park.

There is also a small zoological park in the lower part of Taconera Park, next to the moats. The zoological area is home to deer, ducks, rabbits, etc.

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10  

Saint Lawrence Church

Saint Lawrence Church - Pamplona, Spain
Saint Lawrence Church

The Saint Lawrence Church is located in the western corner of the Old Town, right next to the Taconera Park. It was originally built in the 14th century as a church-fortress, since it was part of the defensive system of the city. However, what we see today is actually a building that was erected during the 17th and 18th centuries in neoclassical style.

The main highlight of the church is the Saint Fermin chapel, a neoclassical style chapel where the Saint Fermin figure is located. The figure dates back to the 15th century and is made of wood and silver. Saint Fermin is also locally known as the “morenico” (the “little tanned one”) because his face has a dark complexion.

The figure of Saint Fermin is kept at the Saint Lawrence Church for the entire year and only leaves the building the 7th of July, the day of the Saint Fermin festivity, when it is taken in procession through the streets of Pamplona’s Old Town.

MASS TIMES
Monday to Friday: 8:30 am, 11 am & 7:30 pm
Saturdays & days before a holiday: 6 pm
Sundays & holidays: 9 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 6 pm & 7 pm
OPENING TIMES
Monday to Saturday: 8 am to 12 pm & 5:30 pm to 8 pm
Sundays & holidays: 8:30 am to 1:45 pm & 5:30 pm to 8 pm

Hotels in Pamplona

Hotels in Pamplona

Get In & Around

Get In & Around

In Pamplona, all touristic attractions are within walking distance and concentrated in the Old Town, so you will probably not need any type of transportation.

However, it may be of interest to know that, while there isn’t a metro or tram in Pamplona, there are 25 bus lines circulating around the city during the day (10 buses at night).

LOCAL BUSES
TCC Pamplona

Pamplona is also trying to become more bike friendly and during the past few years, more and more bike paths have been built. The government offers a bike rental service known as nbici.

BIKE RENTAL SERVICE
nbici

If you want to rent a bike for longer periods of time or want to take it out of the city, such as for use on the Camino de Santiago (Route of St. James), another bike rental option is offered by Mundoraintxe.

LONG TERM BIKE RENTAL
Mundoraintxe

Arriving to Pamplona

PLANE – Pamplona has its own airport, located 6km outside of the city. It only offers flights to Madrid and Barcelona (operated by Air Nostrum).

The airport of Biarritz is 90 minutes away. There is one daily bus operated by the company ALSA and the trip takes 1 hour and 50 minutes. The airport of Bilbao is about two hours away but there aren’t any direct buses.

CAR – Pamplona is connected by the highway A-15 to San Sebastián (83 km) and by a combination of the highways A-1 and A-10 to Vitoria (97 km).

From Pamplona, it takes about 4 hours to drive to Madrid or Barcelona.

PARKING IN PAMPLONA
policiamunicipal.pamplona.es
Click on “Lugares” & then on “Aparcamiento gratuito” (free parking) or “Aparcamiento de pago” (paid parking)

BUS – The bus station of Pamplona is located at the street Yanguas y Miranda 2, a couple of minutes walk away from the Old Town. It is a modern underground station that offers connections to a lot of the villages and towns of the surroundings as well as to the main cities of the country. For example, there are multiple daily connections to Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Vitoria, etc.

During summer, the company EDSA also offers a bus that communicates Pamplona with Hendaye, Saint Jean de Luz, Bidart, Biarritz and Bayonne.

TRAIN – The train station of Pamplona is located about 1.5 km northwest from the city’s Old Town, at the Station Square. The local buses 7 and 9 stop at the train station.

There are several daily trains to Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Vitoria and many other Spanish cities.

Other Places of Interest in the Surroundings

In the Surroundings

Map – Things to Do in Pamplona

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