The city of Pamplona is located within the region of Navarra in northern Spain and has become synonymous with the San Fermin Festival, or “The Running of the Bulls” – one of the country’s most well-known events. If you’re not visiting the city during these crazy days in July, however, there is still lots to see. Here are 20 of Pamplona’s must-visit attractions.
Pamplona’s Old Quarter is one of its most picturesque and simply can’t be missed. Located right in the heart of the city, the majority of it was built in medieval times and is characterized by long narrow streets and tall mismatched buildings. It is here where many of the city’s top sights are located.
The old city citadel was ordered to be built by King Philip II in 1571 to protect against invasions from the French; it was originally a pentagon-shaped fortification with five bastions. The Citadel and the Vuelta del Castillo are considered to be the best example of military architecture from the Spanish Renaissance period.
Pamplona City Walls
Surrounding the Citadel are the Pamplona City Walls, one of the best-preserved military structures in Spain, and thus a national monument. Take a walk around the walls from the Media Luna to Taconera parks to see its many bastions and defense structures.
Pamplona’s cathedral is quite a sight to behold with its impressive neoclassical façade and grand Gothic interior. Located in the Old Town, it dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and was one of Spain’s most important cathedrals, where many kings were crowned.
At the center of the Casco Viejo sits the Castillo Square, covering 150,700 square feet (14,000 square meters) and surrounded by colorful 18th-century buildings and balconies. In the past the square was used for everything from bullfights to markets, but today it’s more for meeting friends and drinking or eating in one of its many surrounding bars and cafés.
The best museum in the city, the Museo de Navarra is located in the Old Quarter and is housed in the former hospital of Our Lady of Mercy. It details the history of Navarra and also showcases many works of art; one of its highlights is the Roman mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus.
A gateway into the city fortifications, Portal de Francia is an impressive entrance into the Old Quarter. It was named the “entranceway of France” because the city’s enemies came from across the border to the north. At the top of the gateway you can see the shield of Carlos I of Castile (IV of Navarre).
The oldest and most beautiful park in the city, Taconera Park is located next to the old city walls. An elegant space, it features a lake, moat, flower gardens and many animals such as deer, ducks, peacocks, pheasants and swans roaming free, as well as the Viennese Café.
Housing Pamplona’s Ayuntamiento or City Hall, the Casa Consistorial was built by King Carlos III in 1423 to unite three separate areas of the city. It combines Baroque and Neoclassical styles and is where the famous bull runs begin.
If you’re here during festival season in July, you won’t be able to miss the Fiesta de San Fermin, better known as “The Running of the Bulls.” During this heart-pumping event, locals run through the city streets alongside fighting bulls and aim to get as close as possible. The festival also features music, dancing, fireworks and feasting.
Built in the 12th century both as a church and military stronghold in one, the Iglesia de San Nicolás is an important city building. The original Romanesque fortress of the church was destroyed during a fire in 1222, however a new one was consecrated in 1231.
The Navarra Palace is the seat of the government of the autonomous region of Navarra. It was designed in 1840 by Jose de Nagusia and is Neoclassical in style. Visitors can look around the building on an organised tour to see attractions such as a portrait of Ferdinand VII by Goya, and a large tapestry of the great battle of the Navas de Tolosa.
The Museo Universidad de Navarra was designed by Rafael Moneo and houses two collections – one of contemporary art and the other of photography. The art side of the museum showcases 50 pieces by artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Tàpies, and Chillida.
Also known as the Capilla de San Fermin (the chapel of San Fermin), the parish church of San Lorenzo is one of the main players during the San Fermin Festival. It is here where people pray to the saint and carry out the religious parts of the event.
Inaugurated in 1993, the Pamplona Planetarium is an educational space for both kids and adults. As well as teaching visitors about space and the science of our solar system, it holds exhibitions, events, workshops, and concerts.
Sitting on the Plaza del Castillo, Café Iruña is a city institution and one of the most historic cafés in Pamplona. Established in 1888, it was the first place in the city to enjoy electric lighting and today still gives customers and old world feel with its period lamps, fancy mirrors and ornate archways. The author Ernest Hemingway spent much of his time here when he lived in the city, and there is a sculpture of him at the bar.
Running through the Casco Viejo, Zapateria Street is one of the most atmospheric streets in the area, lined with many souvenir shops and stores selling traditional products, as well as a few pintxos bars.