Pamplona Travel Guide

Pamplona is an ancient and mesmerizing city located in northern Spain, it is the capital of the beautiful Navarra region and dates back to around 75 BC when a Roman general known as Pompey set up a military base in the area.

The city boasts a laid-back atmosphere,  a perfect destination for those who want to savour the calm and cosmopolitan Spain.

Pamplona is a real joy to visit, with a charming old quarter, unique architecture and magnificent legacies of the past.

Pamplona is best known for its running of the bulls festival  ( San Fermines ) celebrated each year around mid-july.  This adrenaline-filled festival is what really distinguishes this city from the rest of Spain and, indeed, the world.

Pamplona was Ernest Hemingway's first obsession, the famous writer visited the city on several occasions during the San Fermines festival and where he penned his book " The Sun Also Rises" one of his finest works. It was Hemmingway which really put  Pamplona on the map and made the Bull Running festival known throughout the world.

San Fermines Festival
San Fermines Festival


5 interesting facts about Pamplona

  1. The local dish of Pamplona is Pisto, which is a variety of Spanish ratatouille and spicy sausage.
  2. The famous Running of the Bulls festival used to be held in the Autumn, this was changed in 1591 due to people fed up with the wet weather.
  3. The famous author Ernest Hemingway loved the San Fermin festival, which includes the bull run and was fascinated by bullfighting so spent much time in the city.
  4. The nearby Roncal Valley is surrounded by several mountains which are more than 2000m high and offer some fabulous photographic opportunities.
  5. Being so far north Pamplona benefits from a more fertile environment than much of Spain.

Exploring Pamplona

Pamplona Town Hall
Pamplona Town Hall

The Grand Cathedral

Work on this Grand cathedral began in the thirteenth century and took one hundred and fifty years to fully complete. Some new additions to the cathedral happened as recently as the early nineteenth century.

The cathedral is a cultural masterpiece showing several elements of architectural styles including Gothic, Neoclassical, and Renaissance. It also houses the second largest bell in Spain, several religious artefacts, and a crypt that holds the remains of several Spanish Kings and Queens.

The Palace of Navarra

This is the most visible piece of Pamplona’s heritage, designed by  José de Nagusia in 1840. It is now an administrative centre, although visits to the palace can be scheduled by appointment.

The exterior of the building is home to two great sculptures representing the King Sancho the Great and King Sancho VII the Strong.

There is also a sculpture of Navarre’s coat of arms flanked by one man from the north of Navarre and another man from Navarre’s mountain region.

The interior of the Palace of Navarra building is just as exquisite, here you will find the Throne Room, the Session Room, the Chapel, and the President’s office.

The Museum of Navarra

The Navarra Museum stands opposite the Royal Palace and is well worth visiting, it houses the greatest art collections and archaeological findings in Navarra. Some date back to pre-historical periods while most fall within the Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

The most prized works of art at this museum include the Mosaic of Theseus, Goya’s portrait of the Marqués de San Adrián, and the Chest from Leyre

Saint Nicholas Church

Built-in the twelfth century, Saint Nicholas church had both religious and military functions. Its purpose was to dissuade opposing forces from attacking Pamplona.

This is why the church has unusually thick walls, three watchtowers, and wrought iron nails.

The interior of the church is Gothic. It also has a Baroque organ considered to be the most important in Pamplona.

Take a Walk in Its Historic Parks

Another must-visit in the city are Pamplona’s exquisite gardens, some of which date as far back as Roman times when Pompey, the great general of Rome, built a base in the area to fight Sertorius, a great adversary of Rome. Taconera Park is one of the oldest parks in this city offering wide paths for pedestrians, sculptures at every corner and pretty ornamental flower beds.  Other picturesque parks include the Media Luna Park,  Yamaguchi and the Arga Park.

Visit the City Walls of Pamplona

The city walls where integral to Pamplona's past with the Spanish government designated them as a national monument in 1937.

The people of Pamplona built these walls during the Roman conquest, French invasions and war with invading Muslims.

Only three-quarters of the old city walls survived these various onslaughts even though they were repeatedly rebuilt. You can find “The French Entrance,” the Taconera Gardens, and “The Old Fortress” along these City Walls.

Eating Out in Pamplona

Chorizo & Green Pepper Tapas
Chorizo & Green Pepper Tapas

Pamplona offers enormous diversity for travellers to consider when they come to this city. Eating out in the smaller tapas bars in Pamplona is fun and fulfilling and maybe the best way to combine all of the elements of traditional local cooking in one place without breaking the bank.

Recommended Restaurants

Cafe Iruna: A favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway a great place to enjoy excellent coffee and a quick homemade tapa.

Restaurant Besseriberri:  Is a popular fine dining restaurant offering unique cuisine prepare by the amazing young chef Inaki Andradas.  This master chef offers a gastronomic infusion of food with its roots firmly in the Navarra region. You will need to make your reservation well advance to avoid disappointment.

Restaurant Jostexo:  Is a family-run eatery offering traditional recipes creatively served. Another one named after the famous patron saint of Pamplona is the Restaurant San Fermin which serves a variety of dishes from the Navarra region.

Tours & Excursions - Book Early

Tourism Board


Recommended Accommodation in Pamplona

Luxury Accommodation

The 5 star Gran Hotel La Perla is one of the best luxury hotels in the region.  Located just a short walk from the cathedral this elegant hotel has 44 traditional rooms and a fine in-house restaurant offering local-inspired meals. The hotel is within a minutes walk of mnay of the cities attractions, tapas bars, restaurants and charming pubs. Reviewer Rating: 9.8

Mid Range

An excellent choice of mid range accommodation is the 4 star Hotel Pompaelo Plaza del Ayuntamiento & Spa located in the heart of the city close to all the top attractions. The hotel has been recently refurbished and has 44 modern bright rooms as well a spa centre and modern lounge dining area. Reviewer Rating: 9.9

Budget Accommodation

The Aloha Hostel is an ideal choice for backpackers on a budget. This fine hostel offers 4 comfortable rooms, a sun deck, free wifi, shared bathroom and is located just a short walk from the historic old quarter of the city. Reviewer Rating:  9.0