The Navarran capital of Pamplona makes for a great city break, whether you’re in town for the famous Running of the Bulls Festival or not. Read our guide on how to spend a perfect 24 hours in the historical capital city of Navarre, in northern Spain.
If you’ve arrived in the city just in time for lunch, you’ll find a wide array of great dining options, from Basque-inspired eateries to pintxos bars, and even vegetarian restaurants. Don’t forget, the Spanish eat lunch around 2 p.m., and it’s typically their main meal of the day. Looking to treat yourself? Head to El Mercao restaurant, serving stylish Spanish and international dishes.
After lunch, make your way into the Casco Viejo, or Old Town, filled with winding cobbled streets and tall, narrow buildings. Surrounding the Old Town, you’ll find the Pamplona City Walls. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, they are among the best-preserved city walls in the whole of Europe. Within the walls, visitors will also find the old Citadel, built by Felipe II in 1571 as a military fortress to protect the city from invasions. Visit the Pamplona City Walls Interpretation Center to discover more.
Make your way to the heart of the city and browse the shops along Calle Estafeta – one of the best places to buy souvenirs in Pamplona. At the end of the street, you’ll find city landmarks such as the magnificent Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) and the impressive Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona, built between 1394 and 1501. The cathedral also has its own museum, where you can discover all about its history.
Head into the heart of the Old Town – the atmospheric Plaza del Castillo, lined with many bars and cafés. Being located so close to the Basque Country, Pamplona is also known for its delicious pintxos bites. One of the best places on the square to try some is the historic Café Iruña. A favorite hang-out of the author Ernest Hemingway, the café takes you back in time to its heyday in the roaring ’20s. Visitors can even find a statue of Hemingway sitting at the bar.
After checking out the city’s bars and nightlife, head back to your hotel for bed. One of the most luxurious hotels in the city is the historic Hotel Palacio Guendulain, housed in an old 18th-century palace.
Check out our list of some of the best places for breakfast and brunch in Pamplona. A typical breakfast here may consist of a piece of toast with tomato and olive oil, or a flaky pastry paired with a coffee. You could, of course, always treat yourself to some chocolate con churros – fried donut-like fingers dipped in thick, dark hot chocolate.
After breakfast, make your way to the city’s best museum, the Universidad de Navarra. A contemporary art museum, it houses works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Wassili Kandinsky, Mark Rothko and Eduardo Chillida.
If you’re not here during San Fermín, Pamplona’s most famous festival, better known as “The Running of the Bulls,” then you should at least learn all about it. You can do this by visiting the Centro Temático del Encierro y los Sanfermines and the museum at the city’s Plaza del Toros (Bull Ring). At the Centro Temático, you’ll get the chance to experience what it’s like to run with the bulls, as it’s filled with installations mimicking the sights and sounds of the festival. At the Bull Ring, you’ll get the chance to look inside the monumental building, as well as learn all about the history and traditions surrounding San Fermín.