Although the San Fermín festival takes place between the 6th and 14th July, its magic can be relived simply by touring the streets of Pamplona at any time of year. From the 12th century onwards, there are documentary records of religious celebrations in honour of St Fermín of Amiens, who was the first bishop of Pamplona. On the other hand, the first bull fights and events date back to the 14th century, showing that this festival is deep rooted in history. It has now become a fun-packed, cultural fiesta in which everyone takes part, an event symbolised by white garments and the distinctive red kerchief.
The Running of the Bulls is the most well-known event of the San Fermín festival. It starts at the Santo Domingo Slope, the steep slope forming part of the first section of the route. This is where the bulls spend the night in the pens, after having been moved from the nearby general bull enclosures known as the “Corrales del Gas”. Very close by is a wall niche with the image of St Fermín, in front of which the runners gather and sing to ask for protection during the bull running.
The statue that immortalizes this world-famous event is the Monument to the Running of the Bulls, located on Avenida Roncesvalles, parallel to Avenida Carlos III. This sculptural ensemble comprises nineteen figures -six bulls inspired in the Victorino Martín brand of bulls, three steers and ten runners- which immortalize, in patinated bronze, a moment in the bull running in the section along the street of Estafeta.
Continuing along the bull running route, you'll reach the Town Hall Square, where you can see the only section of the fencing that is permanently in place throughout the year. This square is also the setting for the Chupinazo, the act during which the rocket is fired marking the start of the festival. On the 6th July each year, some 12,500 people are gathered in this square.
At the end of the Mercaderes street, you'll come to the famous bend where the bulls often slip and fall over, causing dangerous situations. The final section of the route takes you along the famous Estafeta Street to the Plaza de Toros (Bull Ring), which offers guided tours of the facilities throughout the year. Opposite the ring stands the monument to the running of the bulls, the work of Rafael Huerta, representing all the adrenalin of a moment during the run.
A not-to-be-missed visit for San Fermín enthusiasts is the San Lorenzo church, standing at the end of the calle Mayor Street. This church, the façade of which was designed by Florencio Ansoleaga in 1901, houses the chapel of St Fermín, with a shrine containing a 15th C carved bust of the saint.
Such as references to the Procession of the Giants and Bigheads, or to the social clubs, known as Peñas, and which mainly come out onto the streets during the fiestas, based in club houses located in different areas of the city.
Finally, mention should be made of Ernest Hemingway, who is intrinsically linked with San Fermín. This Nobel Prize winner in Literature made the fiestas popular throughout the world and also left his mark on the city, particularly in those places that he regularly frequented and mentioned in his books and newspaper articles, such as the Gran Hotel La Perla or the Café Iruña, dating back to 1888. He also visited many different places in Navarre, expressing his enthusiasm for our culture, heritage and cuisine. A stone bust in honour of Hemingway stands next to the Bull Ring, as a sign of the city's appreciation of this author.