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.
Throughout 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.
Start your 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.
Continue 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.
Just 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 San Fermín.
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.
Next, 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.
From 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
Close to the museum you can find the Archivo Real y General de Navarra, an archival building set inside a former royal palace, and the charming basilica of San Fermín de Aldapa.
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 festival.
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.
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.
Pamplona’s 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:
When 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.
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