The Best Bars in Pamplona, Spain

The orange facade of Café Iruña, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, dominates Pamplonas Plaza del Castillo
The orange facade of Café Iruña, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, dominates Pamplona's Plaza del Castillo | © Photo42 / Alamy Stock Photo
Culture Trip Travel Team

The region of Navarra, to which Pamplona serves as the capital, is one of Spain’s more overlooked wine producing areas (known as DOs) – perhaps because La Rioja is a neighbour. The good news is you’ll find excellent wines from both regions throughout the city. The highest concentration of bars is around the Plaza del Castillo. Fair warning, though: you might want to hold off on running with the bulls after visiting any of these great Pamplona bars.

1. Café Iruña

Cafe, Restaurant, Bar, Spanish

The Cafe Iruna in the old town (casco antiguo), haunt of Ernest Hemingway, Plaza del Castillo, Pamplona, Navarra, Spain
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

When exploring the bars of Pamplona, start with Café Iruña, which opened in 1888 and is imbued with history and embedded in cultural folklore. With its commanding position on the Plaza del Castillo, a beautiful pseudo-Baroque façade and a gilt-edged interior with high ceilings, chandeliers, wood finishing and a chequered floor, it’s easy to see how Ernest Hemingway was drawn here. The writer spent a lot of time in this bar during his stints in Pamplona during the 1920s. A statue and special room dedicated to the writer can be found at one end of the bar.

2. Bodegón Sarría

Restaurant, Bar, Spanish

A bit more upmarket is Bodegón Sarría, a delightful pintxos bar right on the Plaza del Castillo that has been included in the Michelin Guide for the quality of its food. The pintxos include greasy chorizo on crusty bread and a bizarre but effective combination of prawn, gulas (baby eels) and jamón serrano, which are all tantalisingly presented along the bar front. Being a bodega, expect a variety of reds from the Navarra region, along with some good crianza options from neighbouring La Rioja.

3. Cervecería Baztán

Restaurant, Bar, Spanish

Beer lovers, worry not – there are plenty of great purveyors of the amber nectar in Pamplona, too. The red-and-green exterior of Baztán is designed to showcase the vibe here: half Spanish, half Irish and all Basque. There’s Guinness and Kilkenny on tap, dozens of bottled beers from around the world, sport on the TV and decent pintxos, including tortilla de patatas, to help soak up that beer. But it’s the atmosphere that makes this place special, a tone set by the friendly owners and their lively music choices.

4. Bar Casa Jesús Mari

Bar, Restaurant, Spanish

Closeup of a spanish bocadillos of cured ham or ham serrano sandwich
© Juan Aunion / Alamy Stock Photo

One of central Pamplona’s most popular bars, with its church-like windows and rustic, almost-Celtic, interior is Bar Casa Jesús Mari. This lively spot is well known for its bocadillos (sandwiches) and patatas asadas (roast potatoes) topped with various items, including a mushroom and cheese sauce. There are plenty of good vegetarian and vegan options here. Casa Jesús Mari’s house specialty, which people visit especially to try, is the Akelarre. It’s famous in these parts, contains alcohol, looks like some sort of coffee shot and has ingredients that are steeped in mystery.

5. Chester Gastro Bar

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Spanish

The colour-coded spirits bottles behind the bar at Chester will placate the most persistent need for order and organisation. The site is split into two sections: a restaurant and a bar, the latter specialising in classic cocktails such as martinis, old fashioneds and simple-yet-effective pairings such as gin and tonic. There is an outdoor terrace in view of the Plaza de Toros, and the bar opens until very late on the weekends.

6. Rockollection

Restaurant, Bar, Spanish

As this delightful portmanteau suggests, you can expect live music at Rockollection, although it isn’t only restricted to rock. While the playlist explores the heavier sounds of the ’60s and onwards, you will hear the occasional reggaeton or hip-hop track squeezed onto the list, particularly on the weekends when the student crowd is larger. Live music hits the stage here on Fridays and Saturdays, with blues, folk and rock all covered. At the bar, you will find classic cocktails, such as mojitos, along with good beer and sangria.

7. Iruña Prost

Restaurant, Bar, Spanish

Courtesy of Iruña Prost

San Juan, the area of Pamplona to the west of the beautiful Taconera Gardens, is known for its youthful nightlife and has one of Pamplona’s best vermouth bars, Iruña Prost. While using the Basque words for Pamplona (Iruña) and vermouth (vermú), the food has more of an American fast-food slant to it, serving burgers, hot dogs and fries. But it’s the 10 types of vermouth that are the main reason to visit. Start with the house vermú, a lovely homemade vermouth.

8. Canalla

Restaurant, Bar, Spanish

Looking to go dancing? Also situated in the San Juan area of the city is one of Pamplona’s best discotecas. Flirting with garish overexertion is Canalla, a modern club decked out in black and gold, open Thursday to Saturday from midnight until daybreak. Live DJs spin reggaeton and Latin beats throughout the night, and the crowd is mostly student-age; there are also occasional live performances from Spanish stars. This spot usually has a paid cover charge for entry.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Pamplona, or opt instead for a top family-friendly stay. For inspiration for your itinerary, we’ve listed the top reasons why you should visit this Navarrese city; don’t miss out on the best restaurants in Pamplona while you’re here.

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