Made world-famous by Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, Pamplona, Spain is best known for its annual Running of the Bulls which takes place every year during Los Sanfermines, or the San Fermin Festival (July 6 – 14th).
Running of the Bulls: as seen from The Cloud!
Located a mere two-hour drive East of Bilbao in the Northwest Autonomous Community of Navarre, this regional capital is one of Europe’s greenest cities with nearly 20% of its area covered in green parks. Additionally, the Spanish culture, delicious food and historical landmarks are abundant giving the city plenty of character that will appeal to all!
If flying into Pamplona, Pamplona Airport (PNA) will be your arrival destination. The airport is quite close to the city centre, only about a 7-minute taxi or private transfer ride. Otherwise, the bus takes about 10 minutes longer, but is economical and efficient. The centrally located Pamplona Station is the main station in the city and where you are most likely to arrive if you took a train or bus. Biking, walking and public transportation are the easiest and most recommended ways to explore this green city. Taxis are available but if you need one it is best to call a company than to wave one down.
There are many things to see and do in Pamplona. Starting with Casco Viejo, Pamplona’s charming Old Town, take time to walk through the cobblestone streets and visit some of the city’s most incredibly historic attractions. Especially:
- Citadel of Pamplona – This star-shaped citadel was constructed between the 16th and 17th Walking the cobblestone pathways is like stepping back in time. Today, this beautifully preserved landmark hosts a plethora of cultural activities such as art displays and concerts during the summer.
- Pamplona Cathedral – This 14th century Gothic Cathedral is the fourth structure to stand in its location and where Mediaeval kings were crowned. Don’t forget to check out the Diocesan Museum inside for a closer look into its intriguing history!
- Plaza del Castillo – Located at the centre of the Old Town, this historic square is a popular social meeting place lined with plenty of cafés and bars.
The Cathedral’s walls are incredibly Goth-thick!
Here’s a Pro-Tip: Located in the buzzing Plaza del Castillo, Café Iruña was notably one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite hangouts during his time in Pamplona. Stop in for a coffee or glass of wine and embrace the ambiance that “Papa” loved so much!
Museo Universidad de Navarra – Situated in a former renaissance hospital, this artistic venture was designed by the Navarre native, Rafael Moneo. It exhibits famously donated works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Antoni Tápies and Eduardo Chillida.
Parks and Gardens – Who doesn’t love fresh air? Here are some of the best places to stroll through verdant parks and colourful landscapes in Pamplona:
A tranquil space to let it all soak in
- Parque de la Taconera – With monuments, fountains, and exotic trees and flowers this nostalgic 1830’s park offers a beautiful space to have a romantic stroll
- Parque Yamaguchi – This beautiful Japanese style garden was built as a symbol of peace between Pamplona and the city of Yamaguchi, Japan.
Here’s another Pro-Tip: If you are lucky, you might see the “Gigantes”, 10 meter (30 foot) high puppets that dance during festivals and represent the continents!
Similarly to Basque cuisine, the Navarre region celebrates with traditional Pintxos, the Basque Country version of tapas. Streets like Calle Estafeta and Calle San Nicolàs are perfect for hopping from pintxos bar to pintxos bar – a traditional way to spend an evening in Spain.
Get ready, foodies! This is a dream come true!
When sitting down for a meal, fish, Txistorra (Navarre sausage) and bean dishes are definitely worth a try. For those with a sweet tooth, torrijas, Pamplona’s version of French toast, is the way to go!
Here are some fabulous places to dine in the city:
- Restaurante Rodero – A Michelin-starred, family run restaurant. Chef Koldo Rodero uses Navarra ingredients to produce one-of-a-kind dishes.
- La Olla – Known for great pintxos, this is a great place with a fun atmosphere to enjoy traditional Navarre cuisine alongside a glass of local wine.
- Baserriberri – Located in the heart of Pamplona, this chic restaurant uses local ingredients to deliver worldly and creative flavours.
Even outside of the San Fermin Festival and the Navarre region’s renowned wineries, Pamplona’s nightlife is buzzing. Some of the best districts to start the party are in the Old Town, specifically Navarreía, San Cernin and San Nicholàs. Pamplona loves live music, so live performances are easily found. For larger scale events, be sure to check the schedules of the venues like Auditorio de Burlada and Arena Navarra. Here are some of my top-pick places to grab a drink:
Cheers! They ‘red’ my mind!
- Bar Gaucho – Great cocktails, multi-award winning pintxos, and a local vibe. The space is quite small and can become rather busy!
- Bodega Otazu – About 8km outside of Pamplona in a lovely valley, this winery is worth the journey. Here you can try some of the region’s top wines as well as visit the vineyards and cellar.
- Subsuelo – Located near the Plaza del Castillo, this is a fun place to enjoy a delicious cocktail and dance to live music under colourful lighting.
Here are some spectacular places to stay while in Pamplona. If traveling for the Running of the Bulls, be sure to book well in advance:
- Hotel Alma – This modern stay has a breezy minimalist interior and is in a fabulous location with beautiful mountain views.
- Grand Hotel La Perla – Located off the Plaza de Castillo, this was once Hemingway’s favourite place to stay. The historical décor, lovely restaurant and quality rooms make it one of my favourites, too!
- Hotel Tres Reyes – Looking over the Taconera Park gardens, this relaxing stay offers a lovely location, piano bar and excellent restaurant.
The history and charm of Pamplona have a way of leaving me feeling sore…for more!