A vibrant Basque city on the Camino de Santiago, home to Spain’s most famous festival (San Fermin), a gorgeous cathedral and a lively bar and tapas scene.
Travel bucket list idea:
Festival of San Fermin
Pamplona, Nevarra, Spain|
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.
Getting there & doing it
Everything is free (except the bullfights) but arrive early for any event. It’s more than crowded – a million people on average descend on Pamplona every year, making it not suitable for children. People rent out their balconies in key positions, but book these well in advance through your accommodation or a tour operator.
Running of the Bulls Tours, a Pamplona-based operator, publishes a schedule of events and essential do’s and don’ts; they can arrange hotels, good viewing spots, gastro tours of the festival and fireworks dinners.
Wear a white tee-shirt, trousers and a red neckerchief to blend in with the locals, or risk being doused in red wine!
When to do it
The fiesta runs from 6th-13th July each year.
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