SAN FERMIN ROUTE
The Festival of San Fermin is celebrated from July 6th to 14th, but the magic of this event can be felt on Pamplona’s streets any time of the year. Religious festivities are known to have been celebrated since the 12th century in honour of San Fermin of Amiens, the first bishop of Pamplona. The first running of the bulls and festivals date back to the 14th century, making it a celebration with deeply historical roots. These events have made their way to our times going through a conversion into a joyous cultural and participatory festival, whose symbols are white attire and the unmistakeable red scarf.
The running of the bulls is the most well-known event in the Festival of San Fermin. It starts on the Santo Domingo hill where, after their transfer from the nearby Gas corral in an event known as Encierrillo (the ‘little bull run’), the bulls lay to rest in a corral the night before the big day. A niche is also located very close by containing an image of Saint Fermin to which people sing, asking for his protection.
Further on this route leads to Plaza Consistorial, where the only partition of the bull fence that stands all year long is located. This is also the place where the Chupinazo (ceremonial rocket) takes place to inaugurate the festival. About 12,500 people congregate in this square every 6th of July.
At the end of Mercaderes street is the famous curve in which the bulls often slip and fall, causing dangerous accidents. The last stretch of the route heads down the famous Estafeta street to the Plaza de Toros (‘Bull Square’), where guided tours of the premises are offered all year round. In front of the square is a monument to the bull run, a piece by Rafael Hurta that represents the adrenaline of a moment's participation in the event.
Lovers of the Festival of San Fermin cannot miss visiting the Church of San Lorenzo at the end of calle Mayor (‘Main Street’). This church, whose façade was designed by Florencio Ansoleaga in 1901, is home to the chapel of San Fermin, where his image lay in the form of a 15th-century reliquary bust.
The Festival of San Fermin predominantly takes place in the streets, owing to which visitors can appreciate signs of the festival's importance to locals everywhere they look. Examples are references to the Group of Giants and Big-Heads or to ‘peñas, which are social clubs that carry out activities mostly during the festival and have gathering areas spread throughout the city.
Finally, one cannot talk about the Festival of San Fermin without mentioning Ernest Hemingway. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature made the festival popular throughout the world and left his mark on the city, especially in the places he regularly frequented and those he wrote about in his books and journalistic writings, such as the La Perla Hotel or Café Iruña, which dates to 1888. Furthermore, he visited several places throughout Navarra and was a self-declared lover of our culture, heritage and gastronomy. In honour of Hemingway, a stone bust of the writer was placed in the Plaza de Toros as a showing of the city’s appreciation to him.
THE CITY WALLS ROUTE
Pamplona has five kilometres of city walls with several charming sites that can be visited along the way.
The visit starts in the Information Centre of the Fortifications, located in the San Bartolomé stronghold, next to the Media Luna park. This garden of Arab inspiration offers enviable views of the Arga River and the city’s northern districts.
After visiting the stronghold, you can walk to the Labrit rampart and travel down the oldest part of the wall, the Ronda Barbazana. This is precisely where some of the scarce remains of the medieval walls can be seen, which were part of the cathedral. This walk will lead you to such emblematic monuments as the Archbishop’s Palace, an 18th century construction that constitutes one of Pamplona’s best showings of the Baroque style, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real, which dates to the 14th-15th centuries.
From the top of the Bastion of Redin, the picturesque Caballo Blanco square and its belvedere with views of Mount San Cristobal - Ezkaba will easily transport you back to the past and have you wondering what life was like in the medieval city. Very close by is the Gateway of France, the only original gate of the six that used to exist in the city wall, which has been preserved in its original place with the same appearance as when it was built in 1553. A second gate was added to it in the 18th century which still has its drawbridge and chain lifting system.
Further on is the old Palace of the Kings of Navarre, a 12th-century building that was restored in 2003 by architect Rafael Moneo and is currently the location of the General Archive. Inside it there is a conserved Romanesque vaulted room, an arcaded courtyard and a scale model of Pamplona in 1900.
The route continues by heading to the Museum of Navarre, located at the old Our Lady of Mercy hospital. Its collection includes archaeological and artistic pieces from pre-historic to modern times. The route proceeds along the Paseo de Ronda with its old guard posts, leading to the tranquil square of the Virgen de la O.
The imposing Portal Nuevo (‘New Gateway’, 16th century), which was totally rebuilt by Victor Eusa in 1950 with an enormous ashlar arch and two large towers, leads into the inviting Taconera Gardens. Dating back to 1830, this is the city’s oldest park. It has several beautiful flower beds, fountains and statues. The Ravelin of San Roque and the Bastion of Taconera are also part of the gardens. Moreover, deer, ducks and peacocks living in semi-freedom can be seen around its moats. Two other old gateways—the Taconera and the San Nicolás—were transported stone by stone from their original location on San Ignacio Avenue to these gardens.
Finally, the route leads to the Citadel, one of Europe’s largest defensive fortifications that is considered the finest example of Spanish Renaissance military architecture. A common pastime of Pamplona’s residents is to go on walks or play sports in the gardens surrounding the Vuelta del Castillo, in addition to visiting art exhibitions and events hosted in the Hiriartea Contemporary Cultural Centre, located inside the Citadel.
You can discover all of these places on the mobile application Pamplona Iruña, which displays a route along the city walls with detailed, user-friendly information on each of the points of interest along the way.
Route of the gardens
The watercourse of the Arga, the largest of the three rivers that flow through Pamplona, creates the biggest natural area in the city. Its almost 12 kilometres flow past mills, allotments and parks in various neighbourhoods. It enters Pamplona at the Magdalena Bridge, the Arantzadi park, the San Pedro bridge, the Park of Runa and Trinitarians, and continues on under the Santa Engracia bridge. Some of its stretches join other routes such as the Santiago Way.
THE GARDENS OF THE BELLE EPOQUE. Next to the Fortifications Information Centre is the Romanesque-style Media Luna park, offering excellent views over the river Arga. A pleasant walk along the walls takes us through the New Gateway to the Taconera Gardens – the oldest and for many the most beautiful in the city – outstanding for its impressive biodiversity. Nestled within the city walls, it is a French-style garden, dotted with fountains and statues. Created in 1850, it holds the bulwarks of Gonzaga and Taconera, and the ravelin of San Roque. Deer, ducks, peacocks and other farmyard birds can be seen in its moats, living in semi-freedom. Nearby is the Antoniutti park, where visitors can enjoy inline and roller-skating.
CITADEL AND THE VUELTA DEL CASTILLO. Together with the defensive construction, the Vuelta del Castillo park was created in the 16th-17th century, providing a lawned plain in the heart of Pamplona. The ensemble has 280,000 square metres of lawns, and is the perfect setting for enjoying sport or taking a stroll. The Citadel’s fortified structures give this immense garden its unique character, and set the scene for the fireworks display celebrated during the San Fermín festivities. The Hiriartea Contemporary Culture Centre is located here.
THE SANTIAGO WAY OR THE WAY OF THE STARS. The Santiago Way takes us through the University of Navarre Campus gardens, which are home to a fabulous museum. Very near to the hospitals is the Japanese-style Yamaguchi Park, also home to the Pamplona Planetarium and the Galaxy Garden.
ROUTE OF THE WAY OF ST JAMES
The Way of St. James enters Pamplona from the city of Burlada by the banks of the Arga River, passing through orchards and gardens Pilgrims who wish to arrive in the city have to cross the Magdalena bridge, a 12th-century construction declared an ‘Asset of Cultural Interest’ and an ‘Historic-Artistic Site’. Access to Pamplona’s historical centre is achieved by passing through the Renaissance-era city walls, one the most majestic entrances along the entire Way of St. James.
After passing through the walls through the Gateway of France with its 18th century drawbridge, the historical centre awaits to show pilgrims a calm, inviting welcome. The Way of St. James travels up Carmen Street, crossing through Plaza Navarrería , where one can stop to gaze at the towers of the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real. This cathedral has a neoclassical façade and inside it holds a mausoleum of King Charles III of Navarre, an impressive Gothic cloister and the award-winning religious art exhibition Occidens, among other treasures.
The Way of St. James continues along the lively Mercaderes Street until reaching Plaza Consistorial. The crown-piece of this plaza is Pamplona’s City Hall, where one must stop to admire its magnificent Baroque façade and flower-studded balcony, where the Chupinazo (ceremonial rocket) is fired to inaugurate the Festival of San Fermin every 6th of July.
Pilgrims must proceed onward via calle Mayor, which used to be the city’s main street precisely because of the influence of those transiting through the Way of St. James. Several Baroque and Renaissance-era palaces are located on either side of this street. Highlights among these include the Palacio del Condestable, a 16th-century building declared an ‘Asset of Cultural Interest’’, which houses a museum dedicated to violinist Pablo Sarasate. There is also the Palacio de Ezpeleta, which constitutes the finest work of Baroque lordly architecture in Pamplona. Two important churches are located at either end of the street: the church of San Saturnino (or San Cernin), a medieval church built in honour of the city’s patron saint; and the church of San Lorenzo, which contains the chapel of San Fermin.
Finally, the Way of St. James leaves the Historical Centre passing by the Taconera Gardens, which date to 1888, and traversing the Vuelta del Castillo. The Vuelta del Castillo is an immense park surrounding the Citadel, a pentagonal fortification whose construction dates back to the 16th-17th centuries. Subsequently, the Way continues by crossing through the Iturrama district and leaving the city through the gardens of the University of Navarre Campus, which are of an extraordinary beauty and biodiversity.