Pamplona is best known for the running of the bulls, but there is much more to do in this Spanish city! These are the best things to do in Pamplona.
The city of Pamplona is located in northern Spain. The city is also known as Iruña, this is the Basque name of the city. Pamplona is not located in the Basque Country region, but in Navarre. However, much of the Basque culture can be found in the city.
Why do you want to visit Pamplona? The city is world-famous for the annual Festival of San Fermín, with the running of the bulls through the ancient streets. In addition, it is a beautiful historic city full of interesting sights.
San Firmín (Running of the Bulls)
The Festival of San Firmín takes place every year between July 6 and 14. During that week, Pamplona is completely packed with visitors. During the week, there are fun daily activities, including concerts, street theater, and fireworks.
The most famous activity of the Festival of San Firmín is the running of the bulls. For eight days (starting on July 7), six fighting bulls run through the streets and a group of (mostly) young men dressed in white clothes with a red handkerchief do their best to stay ahead of the bulls.
The course is 848 meters long and, as you can imagine, the crowds and the old streets full of uneven stones mean that injuries are common.
Plaza de los Toros
The endpoint of the bull run is Plaza de los Toros, a large arena that can accommodate nearly 20,000 spectators.
Monumento al Encierro
Not far from the arena is the large statue Monumento al Encierro. Here you see the bulls chasing some men.
Despite the large audience it attracts, bull running is quite controversial. The six bulls that run through the streets in the morning are killed in the afternoon, during the traditional bullfight in the arena. One wonders, should we still use animals for this purpose?
Personally, I am not very fond of these kinds of activities, animals should not be used for the entertainment of people. For this reason, I deliberately skipped San Firmín during my Pamplona city break.
The best things to do in Pamplona
The Festival of San Fermín is not the only reason to visit Pamplona. What to do in Pamplona? These are the best things to do in Pamplona.
Plaza del Castillo
Plaza del Castillo (Castle Square) is the central square in Pamplona. The square is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings. There are also many cafes and restaurants around the square. A lovely place for a bite and drink.
Pamplona City Hall
The City Hall of Pamplona (Ayuntamiento de Pamplona in Spanish) is one of Pamplona’s highlights not to be missed. It is located in Plaza Consistorial (this is also where the San Fermín celebrations start) and this is where the Pamplona City Council sits.
The building dates from the eighteenth century and has a beautiful rococo facade.
Walk the city walls
Did you know that Pamplona is surrounded by great old city walls? These Murallas de Pamplona are a perfect place to go for a walk. You can take beautiful walks around the city walls, but you can also walk on the walls. From the walls, you have a beautiful view of Pamplona and its surroundings.
Another must see in Pamplona is the cathedral (in full: Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona). This church from the fifteenth century has a Gothic interior and is also a picture to see from the outside.
Jardines de la Taconera
Do you need to relax for a bit while you’re exploring the city? Then you should definitely take a look at Jardines de la Taconera, the most beautiful park in town. Lots of greenery, lots of shade, and lots of sculptures. Lovely to stroll around or sit down on one of the many benches.
Hike a section of the Camino
Did you know that the Camino Francés, the most famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, passes right through Pamplona? Therefore, during your visit to Pamplona, you will regularly see hikers with a scallop on their backpacks.
It’s fun to walk a bit of the Camino while you’re in town. Just follow the yellow arrows and signs. For example, you can start at Religiosas Hijas de San José (a beautiful monastery) and then walk straight through the city to Jardines de la Taconera.
Eat pinchos in Pamplona
Yes, the food is delicious in Pamplona. As in the Basque Country, you’ll find an abundance of bars that serve pinchos (pintxos in Basque). You’ll find lots of great bars in Calle de la Estafeta, which is also the narrowest street through which the bulls run in July, and Plaza del Castillo.
One of the best places to eat pinchos in Pamplona is Bar Gaucho. Here the pinchos are a little different from everywhere else and incredibly delicious!
Museo de Navarra
Would you like to visit an interesting art museum during your Pamplona city break? Then Museo de Navarra is highly recommended. The building itself is already an interesting sight, as the museum is housed in a hospital from the sixteenth century.
The museum’s collection includes works of art dating from prehistoric times to the twentieth century. There is a special focus on artists who come from Navarre.
Iglesia de San Nicolás
A little hidden in the center of town you can find Iglesia de San Nicolás. This church has been here since the twelfth century and has enormously thick walls. It was originally intended to be a defensive bastion, as you can see from the tower.
On the inside, expect to see more Gothic-style elements and there is also a Baroque organ from 1769.
Ciudadela de Pamplona
Just outside the center, near the bus station, you will find the Ciudadela de Pamplona. This is a large park (called La Planta de la Ciudadela) with the remains of a huge fortress from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A great place to explore.
Beautiful bridges over the Arga
The river Arga runs right through the city and there are a number of special bridges that you can see here.
First of all, Las Pasarelas del Arga. This little pedestrian bridge has really crazy twists and turns. When it is very hot, this is where the locals go for a swim, as the water here is not that deep.
A little further on there’s the Puente de la Magdalena, a beautiful historic bridge from the Middle Ages. It’s a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists and it is part of the Camino.
Guided walking tour
Would you like to learn more about the history of Pamplona and discover the most beautiful places in a short amount of time? Then it is really recommended to book a walking tour led by a local guide.
The guide will tell you everything about the city and you will also find out about the best restaurants and bars.
Pamplona Day Trips
Pamplona is a good place to stay a little longer because from the city you can visit some great places on a day trip.
Located an hour’s drive north of Pamplona, San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful cities in the Spanish Basque Country. It is located on the coast in a bay and has some beautiful beaches. In addition, it’s amazing to explore the old town and make sure to eat some pinchos, since San Sebastian is famous for it.
Tip: You can also visit San Sebastian from Pamplona with an organized day trip including lunch. Book your day trip to San Sebastian.
Read more: 19 fun things to do in San Sebastian
Bardenas Reales is one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Spain. It is a desert landscape with surprising shapes created by erosion. Think canyons, plateaus, and unusual rock formations. It actually looks a bit like Southwest USA.
This extraordinary landscape is a little over an hour’s drive south of Pamplona.
Rioja wine tour (Logroño)
The city of Logroño is about an hour’s drive west of Pamplona and this is the center of the Rioja region. That name probably rings a bell because that’s a very well-known wine region. As a wine lover, a trip to Logroño is therefore highly recommended.
Would you like to see more of this region on a special tour? There are several options:
- Tour by car or van of three wineries led by a winemaker (includes tasting).
- Horseback riding through the vineyards.
- Bike & wine: bike tour through the beautiful countryside passing two wineries.
- Hot Air Balloon flight over the vineyards. Wow!
What do you think is the most fun to do?
Parque Natural Urbasa-Andía
A little closer to town, about a 40-minute drive away, is Parque Natural Urbasa-Andía. This too is a natural park, but completely different from the aforementioned Bardenas Reales. Here it is green, with blue lakes and waterfalls. A wonderful place to go hiking.
Where to stay in Pamplona
It is recommended to stay one or more nights in Pamplona, there is plenty to see! You can stay in one of the many hotels, guest houses, or apartments in the city center. Just outside the city, you will also find a few campgrounds.
What are the best hotels in Pamplona? These are some great places to stay in Pamplona:
- Sercotel Europa – Neat and affordable 3* hotel in a great location: right next to Plaza del Castillo.
- Pamplona Catedral Hotel –
- Pamplona Catedral Hotel – Beautifully renovated 4* boutique hotel in a former convent next to the cathedral.
- Gran Hotel La Perla – One of the most luxurious hotels in town. Since 1881 several famous guests have stayed here, including Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, and Orson Welles.
Check out Booking.com for more options, availability, and prices.
Would you like to go camping in Spain? There are no campgrounds in the city of Pamplona, but there are a few near the city.
- Camping Ezcaba – This campground with a pool is located closest to Pamplona. From this campground, it’s easy to reach Pamplona by bike or by car.
- Camping Izarpe – Beautiful terraced campsite about 20 minutes drive from Pamplona. You can also rent bungalows here.
Check EuroCampings for more options.
How to get to Pamplona?
How do you travel to Pamplona? You can travel to Pamplona by plane or by train.
Travel to Pamplona by train
Did you know that northern Spain is easily accessible by train and bus? Pamplona has a large train station with connections with high-speed trains to other large cities in Spain.
In addition, Pamplona also has a bus station with good connections to other cities in Spain.
Travel to Pamplona by plane
Pamplona has a small airport for domestic flights. To find the best deals and good international connections, it’s smart to fly to Bilbao, which is the closest international airport.
From Bilbao, you can travel to Pamplona by bus. Check out Busbud for schedules and prices.
Travel to (and around) Pamplona by car
The last option to travel to Pamplona is by car, with which you can of course easily discover more beautiful places in Northern Spain. Check Rental Cars and Discover Cars to find good deals on car rental. There are several options for (paid) parking in the city, such as on the street or in a parking garage. Check this page for all options.
Note that on Sundays, a lot of places are closed in Pamplona. So look carefully when you visit the city.
More tips for Pamplona & Spain
These were all my Pamplona tips! Would you like to visit Pamplona and discover more beautiful places in Spain? There are some fine travel guides. A few recommendations:
In addition, you can also find more tips for a vacation in Spain on this website. For example, also read these articles:
- What to do in Bilbao Spain? | 18 tips
- Hiking the Camino del Norte | The Ultimate Guide
- What are the best things to do in Seville?
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