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5 Best things to see & do in Pamplona

  • Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • Spain

Camino de Santiago trail

Bucket List Experience

Camino de Santiago trail

Every year since 814 AD, millions of pilgrims have tramped the Camino de Santiago or ‘Way of St. James’ to Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James, the Apostle of Spain. According to legend, his relics arrived here in a stone boat covered with scallops – now the symbol of the route.

UNESCO declared the 760km 33-stage Camino Frances, lined with Northern Spain’s most spectacular medieval churches and sites, ‘The Foremost Cultural Route in Europe.’ It’s the most famous and popular of the many possible routes.

The route officially starts in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, crosses the Pyrenees at Roncesvalles into Spain, then passes through the main cities and towns of Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, and Sarria, before ending at the magnificent cathedral in Santiago de Compostela (though some go slightly further to finish at Cape Fisterre).

See our ‘Recommendations’ section below for key highlights along the way, and the ‘Where to stay’ section for great hotels along the route.

Adult price: £50

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 30 days

  • Pamplona, Nevarra, Spain

Festival of San Fermin

Bucket List Experience

Festival of San Fermin

It’s Spain’s most famous festival, the one that makes international headlines. But the dare-devil encierro (running of the bulls) only forms a part of the week-long party, when Pamplona becomes the ‘world capital of happiness’.

The Chupinazo (noon, 6th July) is the emblematic opening of the fiesta. Tens of thousands gather in the main square before the town hall, holding up red handkerchiefs and singing praise to Saint Fermin. The atmosphere is electric, reaching a crescendo when a firework is launched from the town hall balcony signifying the fiesta has started.

The next morning (10am, 7th July), the Procession of St Fermin is another highlight, when the gilded effigy of the saint is borne through the streets of Pamplona accompanied by brotherhoods in 19th-century costumes, musicians, singers, and dancers. Costumed giants and paper-mache figures with huge heads dance in the streets to music supplied by roving penas (brass and drum bands). There’s an ear-splitting, midnight drum parade called El Estruendo.

There are jugs of sangria and patxaran (the local firewater) galore, and nightly fireworks from the citadel. It all ends with a mass candlelit singalong: ‘Poor me! San Fermin is over for another year!’ and the biggest firework show of all.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: One week

When: 6-13th July

Freq: annually

Pamplona Cathedral

  • Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

Pamplona Cathedral

Experience

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.

Good for age: 18+

Cafe Iruna

  • Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

Cafe Iruna

Experience

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.

Good for age: 18+

Navarra Museum

  • Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

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

Experience

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.

Adult price: £2

Good for age: 18+