The Top 10 Things to Do in Pamplona During San Fermín, Spain
The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona | © Migel / Shutterstock
The famous San Fermín Festival or Running of the Bulls is the highlight of the year in Pamplona. It is held annually from July 6th to 14th in honour of Pamplona’s patron saint. It is attended by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year – some run, while others stand on the balconies and join in the festivities. Here are our top 10 things to do in Pamplona during San Fermín.
Plaza de Toros de Pamplona
Of course the centre of the San Fermín festivities
is the bullring. When the run has finished for the day, take the chance to take a closer look at this impressive building. Holding 19,720 spectators, it was built in 1922 and is the second biggest bullring in Spain, and third largest in the world.
Museo Universidad de Navarra
Escape the crowded centre during the festival and head to the Museo Universidad de Navarra, located on the University Campus. A must-visit for art lovers, it was designed by Rafael Moneo and houses two different collections. The first is a contemporary art collection and the other is of photography. The fine art side of the museum showcases 50 pieces by artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Tàpies, and Chillida.
Palacio de Navarra
After all that running around, falling over and crazy adrenalin rushes, why not do something a little more calming and sedate? A visit to the Navarra Palace could be just the place. This is the seat of the government of the autonomous region of Navarra
and was built in 1840 by Jose de Nagusia. Neoclassical in style, it’s open for visitors during certain times for an organised tour. Inside, you can see items such as the portrait of Ferdinand VII by Goya, and a large tapestry of the great battle of the Navas de Tolosa.
Centro de Interpretación de las Fortificaciones de Pamplona
The Pamplona city walls and citadel are one of the best-preserved military structures in the whole of Spain, and are definitely worth a visit while you’re here for the festival. Walk around the walls, then head to the Interpretation Centre of the Fortifications of Pamplona to discover all about them and their important history. The centre is located within the barracks of the walls themselves and displays a range of drawings, short films and interactive screens.
Museo de Navarra
History Museum, Art Museum
While you’re here for the festival, you should really discover more about the city of Pamplona and its history. One of the best places to do this is the Museo de Navarra. Located in an ancient hospital of Our Lady of Mercy, the museum traces the history of the region from prehistoric times to present day. It houses an array of historic and artistic objects. Look out for the first-century Roman mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, the Romanesque treasures of Pamplona’s ancient cathedral, and the portrait of the Marquis of San Adrián painted by Goya
. It also houses contemporary art exhibits which change on a regular basis.
Catedral de Santa María de Pamplona
Believe it or not, the Running of the Bulls is actually a kind of religious festival to honour the city’s patron saint of San Fermin. So, why not visit Pamplona’s cathedral to really get a taste of what religion means to its residents? The Catedral de Santa María is an impressive sight, with a 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 of Navarra were crowned. Construction of the cathedral began in the 13th century, although it wasn’t completed until 1525.
The Citadel, Pamplona
Besides the city walls, take the time visit the ancient citadel. It was ordered to be built by King Philip II in 1571 to protect against invasions from the French and was a pentagon-shaped fortification with five bastions. It’s one of the best examples of military architecture from the Spanish Renaissance period in the whole of the country.
Ayuntamiento de Pamplona
Pamplona’s Ayuntamiento or City Hall is where the famous bull runs begin, so when the runs are not on, go and take a closer look at this stunning piece of architecture. Also known as the Casa Consistorial, it was ordered to be built by King Carlos III in 1423 to unite three separate areas of the city. It combines both Baroque and Neoclassical styles and is the ideal spot for a photo.
Another of Pamplona’s great religious buildings to visit while you’re here for the festival is the Church of San Nicolás. It was built in the 12th century and unusually was both church and military stronghold. The original Romanesque fortress of the church was destroyed during a fire in 1222, however a replacement was consecrated in 1231. It is one of the most important buildings in the city.
Monumento al Encierro
The Monument of the Encierro is one of the most famous in the city, and you can’t miss it if you’re in Pamplona for the bull run. It was designed by a sculptor from Bilbao called Rafael Huerta, and the name ‘Encierro’ refers to the running of the bulls.
These recommendations were updated on June 21, 2018 to keep your travel plans fresh.