Pamplona is renowned for its
bull-running festival, San Fermín, which attracts visitors from all over
the globe. Visit this city outside of July though and you’ll encounter a
much quieter atmosphere, with plenty of room to explore its medieval
streets and sample the delicious food and wine. This is also the capital
of the Navarra region and was once a bastion of the Roman empire.
the year, visitors can enjoy Pamplona’s lush parks and historical
buildings such as the cathedral and the city’s 16th-century
fortifications. Read our itinerary below to discover the best things to
do in Pamplona.
tour of Pamplona at the Plaza de Toros. This is where you’ll find the
Centro Temático del Encierro y los Sanfermines, a space dedicated to the
city’s bull-running traditions. If you can’t make it to the San Fermín
festival, this is a great place to learn more about it through
installations that bring together the sights and sounds of the event.
The Bull Ring itself is also open to visitors. Another attraction on the
square is the bust of the writer Ernest Hemingway, who helped put
Pamplona on the tourist map.
walking towards the Palacio de Navarra, the seat of Pamplona’s regional
government. Designed in 1840 by José de Nagusia, this three-storey
building stands out with its Neoclassical façade. It’s worth coming here
around noon to hear the palace’s clock play the Hymn of Navarre.
a few steps from the palace is the Plaza del Castillo. Locals often
refer to this square as their living room (cuarto de estar), since it’s
the social heart of the city. Through the years it has welcomed a
variety of events including political demonstrations, military parades
and bullfights (up until 1843). Today, people come here to enjoy a
coffee at one of the cafés under the arcades. Among these, is the Café
Iruña, where Hemingway supposedly wrote part of his novel The Sun Also
Rises, most of which is set around Pamplona. There’s a bandstand in the
middle of the square which is often used for concerts, especially during
Continue exploring the city’s old
town, passing through the picturesque Plaza de la Compañía. Also known
as Casco Viejo, this area is lined with narrow cobbled streets and
striking tall buildings. Surrounding the district are the city walls
established between the 16th and 18th centuries. It’s around here you’ll
find the old Citadel built as a military fortress to protect the city
against invaders. These days it’s the stage of battle reenactments and
concerts. You can learn more about these structures at the Pamplona City
Walls Interpretation Center housed inside the Fortín de San Bartolomé.
head to Calle Estafeta for some souvenir shopping. At the end of the
street, you’ll find the town hall and the imposing Catedral de Santa
María. Established between the 14th and 15th century, this church
combines a variety of architectural styles. It features a Gothic
cloister, Renaissance interior motifs and a Neoclassical façade. The
church also houses the Diocesan Museum, which showcases religious
artefacts collected from churches across the Navarra region.
the cathedral, take a walk along the Ronda del Obispo Barbazán until
you reach the Mirador del Caballo Blanco. Here you can enjoy some of the
most incredible views in the city, overlooking the Arga river and the
mountains. There’s an outdoor bar, where you can stop for a drink and
relish the views.
Close to the viewpoint is the Puente de la
Magdalena, a bridge of Romanesque origin and the second oldest structure
over the Arga River. It’s also the main entry point to the city for
pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago.
To learn more about Pamplona and the Navarra region in general,
you should visit this museum. Set inside a former hospital, the Museum
of Navarra showcases fragments from Pamplona’s earliest Romanesque
cathedral. These include elaborately carved capitals that stood atop the
church’s cloister. Other highlights are the mosaic of the Triumph of
Bacchus, dating back to the 1st century and a Moorish ivory chest from
Just a few steps from the museum is the Plaza
Consistorial. Every year, during the San Fermín festival, this square
comes alive with the ceremonial fireworks. The square is also home to
many historical buildings, including the City Hall, which dates back to
the 15th century. The building was renovated later on and the façade
today features a combination of late Baroque and Neoclassical styles.
Before becoming a city, Pamplona was made up of three neighbouring
“burgos”, aka boroughs. They didn’t really get along with each other and
this church is proof of that. Built around the 13th century as part of
the San Cernín parish, the Iglesia de San Saturnino resembles a fort
because it had a defensive role during the conflicts between
neighbourhoods. Those days are long gone and today the church and its
towers are one of the city’s most photographed sites. Its clock tower is
especially famous for counting down the start of the San Fermín
Another square worth passing through is the Plaza San Francisco. This
square was created at the start of the 20th century, after the
destruction of a few buildings that were located here, including the
Royal Council, the Royal Prisons and the San Francisco Convent. Today,
visitors are drawn to the large red mansion, which houses the General
Library of Navarra. You’ll also find a bronze sculpture of San Francisco
de Asís and remains of the city’s medieval wall.
From the square, it’s only a few minutes down to the Iglesia San
Nicolás. Built in the 13th century, this medieval church stands out with
its defensive watchtower and turrets. There were originally three
towers here, but there’s only one remaining today. It’s worth checking
the Baroque organ inside, considered one of the best in the city.
Our tour continues at the Ciudadela. Located on the outskirts of the
city, this stronghold was built between the 16th and 17th century to
protect Pamplona against French invasions. It has a distinctive
star-shaped design which has been mostly preserved. The bastions
are currently used for art exhibitions and concerts. After visiting the
fort, you can wander around the surrounding Parque de la Vuelta del
Castillo, a famous lookout for the San Fermín fireworks.
Pamplona is one of the greenest cities in Spain and as result, there’s no shortage of parks and gardens to explore. After a busy day of sightseeing, you can relax at one of these incredible green spaces. We already mentioned the park around the citadel, but there are many more worth seeing. The Taconera Gardens are part of the city’s oldest park, the Parque Media Luna is ideal for a romantic stroll and Parque Yamaguchi will take you on a trip to Japan. There’s also Pamplona’s Riverside Park which stretches for nearly a million square metres.
Jorge Oteiza Museum
Foundation: You’ll find this art foundation in the town of Alzuza, about
10 kilometres north of Pamplona. It houses the work of the famous
Basque sculptor Jorge Oteiza, including the pieces that earned him the
Grand Prix for Sculpture at the São Paulo’s Biennial. The museum’s
hilltop location also makes it the perfect spot to capture Pamplona in
Urbasa Andía Natural Park: Head west from Pamplona and you’ll soon reach the Urbasa Andía Natural
Park. The park gets its name from the two mountain ranges that meet
here: Urbasa and Andía. It features lush walking paths as well as
stunning natural sites such as gorges, crystal clear pools and
Museo Universidad de Navarra: On the outskirts
of the city, near the Yamaguchi park is the Museo Universidad de
Navarra. This contemporary art museum houses a series of paintings by
renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Wassili Kandinsky
and Eduardo Chillida. There are also rare photos from the 19th century,
donated by the University of Navarra.
Navarran Pyrenees: As part of Navarra, Pamplona is very close to the
Navarran Pyrenees. These are the western section of the large mountain
range that separates the Iberian Peninsula from France. It’s a great
place for hiking, passing through lush forests in Bertiz and Irati and
gorges at Lumbier or Arbaiun. There are also historical monuments worth
capturing such as the Sanctuary of Saint Michael of Aralar or the
Collegiate of Roncesvalles.
Zugarramurdi: Inside the
Navarran Pyrenees lies Zugarramurdi. This small town is famous for its
caves. The Cuevas de Las Brujas (Caves of the Witches) were supposedly
the site where witches were tortured back in the 17th century, and also
of pagan rituals. Today, visitors are welcome to explore this majestic
site, located a 400m-walk away from the town centre.
About 100km southwest of Pamplona, you’ll find the vineyards of La
Rioja. Wine has been produced here since the Phoenicians settled in the
region more than 2,000 years ago. It’s worth exploring the capital
Logroño and visiting its local cellars, known as bodegas. There are also
many wineries in the surrounding countryside.
Logroño: Logroño is the perfect base to explore the Rioja wine region. You can spend a day here exploring picturesque squares and visiting churches like the Concatedral de Santa María de la Redonda. The city is also famous for its cuisine, with pintxo bars lining the Calle Laurel.
Vitoria-Gasteiz: From Pamplona, head west towards Vitoria-Gasteiz. The city is the capital of the Basque Country, home to a stunning medieval quarter where you’ll find the Gothic Catedral de Santa María. Other highlights include the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca and the Church of San Miguel.
Drive one hour north from Pamplona and you’ll soon reach San Sebastián.
Once a summer getaway for Spanish royalty, this coastal city still
attracts visitors with its golden beaches and crystal clear waters. The
city is also a world-renowned culinary spot home to almost a dozen
are several things to do with kids in Pamplona. Start by exploring the
city centre and then climb up the cathedral for incredible views over
the city. From there you can continue on to the Plaza del Castillo for
some chocolate and churros or try the artisanal caramels at Garrarte in
Calle de la Estafeta. Spend the rest of the day exploring one of
the city’s parks. The Yamaguchi park is home to a Planetarium, while
the Taconera gardens have a small zoo with deers and peacocks, as well
as an area with swings.
Families can also walk or cycle along the river
at the Arga River Park or hire a canoe. Other attractions nearby include
the Rocópolis climbing centre in Berrioplano, the trampolines at
Salting Iruña and the ice rink in Huarte.
cuisine shares a few similarities with Basque food, but it also has its
own local dishes. Asparagus grow here and are often featured on the
menu either grilled or added in salads and stews. When it comes to
pintxos, one of the staple dishes is the txistorra, a spice sausage from
the Basque region. If you fancy doing a pintxos crawl, Calle San
Nicolás is your best bet. On Thursdays, many bars offer the Juevintxo,
which means that when you order a beer you’ll get a pintxo for a
discounted price. Don’t leave without trying the local liqueur Pacharán,
a red digestif flavoured with sloe fruits. Discover the best places to
eat in Pamplona below:
Bar Gaucho: Close to Plaza del
Castillo, Bar Gaucho serves a variety of delicious and creative pintxos.
The menu includes dishes that you don’t usually find in other tapas
bars such as sea urchins and the huevo trufado (truffled egg).
Rodero: What started as a family business more than 40 years ago has
now become one of the city’s Michelin-star restaurants. Chef Koldo
Rodero runs the show here, presenting tasting menus that include dishes
such as potato and truffle omelette and the lobster lasagna.
Restaurante Europa: This Pamplona restaurant has had a Michelin star
since 1993. The contemporary dining rooms are the setting for the
culinary delicacies created by the Idoates family. Highlights include
the roasted pigeon and the artichokes confit with roasted Norway
Herriko Taberna: This traditional tavern is located
only a few steps away from the cathedral. Here you can enjoy delicious
Basque-style homemade dishes. There are several menus on offer,
including a vegetarian version.
Hotel La Perla (5 stars): If you’re looking for a luxurious stay in
Pamplona, this five-star hotel is your best bet. Through the years, La
Perla has welcomed many famous personalities including Ernest Hemingway,
Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles. The 44 rooms are inspired by these
esteemed visitors and most of them overlook the Plaza del Castillo.
Facilities include a restaurant and a lounge with a piano.
Pamplona Catedral Hotel (4 stars): As the name suggests, this hotel is
only a few steps away from the cathedral. Its privileged location makes
it the ideal base to explore the city’s main attractions. The hotel
occupies a former convent now converted into a modern facility. Guests
have access to a bar and a restaurant and can also rent bikes at the
Hotel Tres Reyes (4 stars): You’ll find this
four-star hotel on the edge of the Taconera Gardens. It features 160
rooms, including options for families. The restaurant on-site serves a
mix of dishes from Navarra and the Basque Country. Other facilities
include a seasonal outdoor pool, a jacuzzi and a fitness room.
it comes to weather, the best time to visit Pamplona would be spring or
autumn. The temperatures are mild at this time of year and the city is
often less crowded. It’s also an ideal time to enjoy the city’s parks
with the flowers blooming or the leaves falling, depending on the
season. Summer is a popular time for tourists, especially around
July during the San Fermín festival. If you want to experience the city
at its liveliest, you can’t miss this event.
Festival of San Fermín: Between the 6th and the 14th of July, Pamplona
draws visitors with this thrilling annual festival. San Fermín is
synonymous with the running of the bulls, which has been taking place
here for more than 200 years. Visitors rent out flats along the Calle de
la Estafeta for the best views over the run and some even participate
in it. The festivities start at the City Hall with a firework launch and
then take over the streets with parades and music performances.