- Peaks, pintxos and parapets
- City life
- Bull running, bar hopping
This mountain-flanked city in the Navarre region of northern Spain is known for its wine, cheese and annual bull run…
Ernest Hemingway set up camp in Pamplona in 1923 to cover the San Fermín festival, where men of the city run through the streets with some bulls hot on their heels each July, and liked it so much he came back time and time again. Known as Iruña in Basque, you can expect the best pintxos (tapas-like bar snacks) this side of San Sebastián. The old town is a beautifully preserved cobbled haven of churches and plazas, with the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route passing through the middle. The ancient city walls remain in place, though the population has long since extended beyond them. A river runs through it: the Arga, on its way from the border with France. The best bit? The sun-baked, sandy mountains that rise up all around you, the Navarran Pyrenées.
The city is famed for its annual bull run, the San Fermín festival. Every July the brave, bold and possibly stupid race through the old town dressed in white and red, with a load of fearsome bulls stampeding along behind them. A procession of ceremonial giants comes out to the sounds of bagpipes and txistularis (a type of flute) to mark the start of each day of this week-long party. The runs end with a bull fight back at Plaza de Toros each afternoon.
- There are ranks at Plaza del Vinculo, Plaza de las Merindades and close to the main square, Plaza del Castillo, or you can flag one in the street. To book, try Taxi Pamplona (+34 948 351 335; www.taxipamplona.com) or Logi Taxi (+34 606 833 522; www.logitaxi.com).
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops shut for a siesta at lunchtime, between 1pm and 4pm. Locals have dinner at around 9pm, and bars stay open well into the wee hours.
- Packing tips
- During San Fermín, pack white shirts and trousers and a red scarf to look the part. Bring a Basque and Spanish phrasebook; not only will it endear you to the locals, it will help you order the tastiest pintxos.
- Recommended reads
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the San Fermín festival’s biggest fan; The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky, an insight into Europe’s oldest people.
- Pamplona may be in Navarre, but it’s Basque in flavour, so expect lots of bacalao (salt cod), cider and txakoli (a slightly sparkling dry white wine). Pacharan is an anise-flavoured spirit made from sloe berries. Popular dishes include menestre de verduras (vegetable stew), pimientos de piquillo rellenos (stuffed red peppers) and ajoarriero (mashed garlic, potatoes, egg and olive oil). The local cheese is made with raw sheep’s milk from up in the mountains.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Spain: 34; Pamplona: 948.
- Do go/don't go
- If you don’t like crowds, don’t go between 7 and 14 July, when they come in their droves for the annual bull runs. Summer can get hot and busy, so May and June or September and October are best for clear, sunny days. It’s cold and often wet from late October until April.