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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 03 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Navarra’s hilltop capital offers much more than its San Fermin festival and memories of Ernest Hemingway, who made it world-famous in his novel, The Sun Also Rises.

Nicknamed the ‘Gateway to Spain’, it was famously destroyed by Charlemagne (the Basques got their revenge at Roncevalles); not long after it became the first Spanish city on the Camino.

Home to two universities, a beautiful Cathedral, an evocative Casco Viejo (historic centre), and Renaissance-era walls and a citadel, it’s a pleasingly buzzy place filled with hundreds of bars.

It’s also an ideal base for exploring the fascinating but little-known autonomous community and province of Navarra.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Camino de Santiago trail

Spain

A world-famous pilgrimage, crossing Northern Spain in 33 stages from Roncevalles, taking in the art cities of Pamplona, Burgos and Leon, and dozens of spectacular medieval churches along the way.

Best for ages: 18+ | £50 | 30 days

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Festival of San Fermin

Pamplona, Nevarra, Spain

Pamplona’s famous and exuberant week-long fiesta – Spain’s biggest party – which includes the infamous encierro (running of the bulls).

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | One week

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Cafe Iruna
Experience

Cafe Iruna

Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

For Hemingway fans, a drink in his beloved Cafe Iruna on main Plaza del Castillo is a must; he’s still there in spirit, with his statue jauntily holding up the bar. It’s a charismatic old bar (founded 1888), with lovely views over the square, but a magnet for tourists.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Museo de Navarra in Pamplona, Navarre. The facade has been preserved from the 16th century
Experience

Navarra Museum

Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

The four-storey museum, housed in an old, 16th-century hospital, is home to regional artworks from prehistoric times to the 20th century. It’s packed with gems, including Roman mosaics, Romanesque sculpture, Gothic murals, and a portrait by Goya.

Best for ages: 18+ | £2

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Pamplona Cathedral
Experience

Pamplona Cathedral

Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

A soaring Gothic cathedral famed for its elegant cloister and 15th-century alabaster tomb of Carlos III of Navarra, a former king of Navarra. Climb the bell tower and stop by the small museum housing religious treasures.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Private City Tour Pamplona

Private City Tour Pamplona

Pamplona

If you plan to visit Pamplona, this city tour is a must, because in aproximately 2 hours you will know all our hidden gems. Our main monumen...

€160 | Rating 5 / 5 [8 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Hotel Tres Reyes

Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

Large, modern and immaculate 4star hotel in Pamplona’s centrewith a good restaurant, pool and easy parking.

Official star rating:

Pamplona Catedral Hotel

Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

In a quiet spot on the edge of Pamplona’s historic centre, an urbane four-star boutique hotel in a former 19th-century convent.

Official star rating:

Grand Hotel La Perla

Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

Sleep where Hemingway and every other celebrity bunked in Pamplona’s historic, charming fivestar hotel. The city’s grand dame.

Official star rating:

When to go

Not surprisingly Pamplona is busiest in July during the San Fermin festival when hotel prices soar, but it also gets hundreds of pilgrims passing through from April into October.

Pamplona is far enough inland to have a continental climate with cold, rainy winters and warm, sunny summers. In winter, snow is not out of the question, but even then, with so many young people in residence, it’s full of life.

Getting there and away

Pamplona Airport is 6km from downtown, and is served mainly by domestic flights. Taxis are the only public transport to the city.

For international flights the nearest airport is Bilbao, an hour and 45 minutes by car, or just over three hours by bus to San Sebastian, then connecting train to Pamplona. There are at least five direct trains a day from Madrid, taking just over three hours.

Pamplona train station, 2km from the centre, is linked by frequent city bus or taxi; the new underground bus station is at Avenida de Yanguas y Miranda.

Getting around

Once in Pamplona, all the major sights are within easy walking distance, especially now that the city centre is now mostly pedestrian-only. If you’ve come in by car, there are convenient 24-hour parking garages at Plaza del Castillo, the Plaza de Toros  and Carlos III.

Where to stay

Staying in or near the Casco Viejo is the best place to enjoy Pamplona’s sights, restaurants and pintxo (Basque tapas) bars; though with 20,000 students in the city the streets can get noisy at night, especially on weekends.

For a quieter stay, look at the Segunda Ensanche neighbourhood south of the Casco Viejo. There’s a big cluster of modern budget hotels south of the Parque Yamaguchi near the university and hospital which are quiet but dull.

Where to eat or drink

Pamplona has some 700 bars, and they are rarely empty, especially around Plaza del Castillo. The surrounding Casco Viejo is full of restaurants, from cheap and cheerful to authentic Basque. There are elegant gourmet choices in the Segundo Ensanche; another good place to look, especially if you want some a bit different (Indian, Japanese etc) is the modern San Juan quarter west of the Ciudadela.