Pamplona isn’t probably the first Spanish city you’ll think off while planning a trip to Spain. I get that but it’s such a shame. Pamplona is located in the Navarra region in the north of Spain. Allthough the city isn’t really big the ambience is amazing and so is the city’s surrounding area. We traveled to Pamplona without high expectations and we were happily suprised by all the great thing to do in Pamplona. Thats why we would highly recommend Pamplona as your next Spaninsh citytrip destination.
Casco Viejo: Pamplona’s historic city centre
Pamplona’s historic city centre called Casco Viejo is the place where all social activities happen. It’s the place where locals meet. Which means it’s also the area where you would want to go once get to Pamplona. Casco Viejo consists of narrow alleys where you can get lost easily. And that’s a good thing! It’s also the area where wine and beer flows. Where kids come to play while parent are enjoying the sun and a cold drink.
Another reason to start your Pamplona citytrip in Casco Viejo is because of all the beautiful, colorful houses and shops, lively squares, monuments and churches. The center of Pamlona is compact and therefore easy to explore on foot. You will also find the Catholic Church Iglesia San Nicolás and the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real de Pamplona in the old center.
Plaza del Castillo
The center of Casco Viejo is Plaza del Castillo. Plaza del Castillo is packed with cozy Spanish restaurants and bars. As soon as the sun shows its first rays of sunshine, the terraces fill up. Are you a fan of craft beers? Then have a seat at Napargar Cerveceria’s terrace. They have twenty different beers on tap here – many of them from local breweries.
The citadel: Iruñeko Zitadela
Pamplona is a fortified city. You will see large sections of the old wall in every corner of the old town. Go to El Portal De Francia, one of the most beautiful city gates. An important structure from back when the city needed to be defended against intruders is the Iruñeko Citadel. It’s situated south-west of the old town and it is made up of multiple rings of rock walls to protect the city. At present day the citadel is mainly used by locals to relax in the sun, sheltered from the wind.
Plaza de Toros: The bullring
Pamplona is most known from the controversial “running of the bulls”. Although there are more places in Spain that still continue the tradition, in Pamplona it’s probably the liveliest. Las fiestas de San Fermín is opened on July 6 and continues for a week until July 14. During this week the area around Plaza del Castillo is converted into a 825 long trail on which bulls and people run. Sounds crazy, right? Well, it is!
Whether you like the tradition or not, it is a big part of Pamplona. It’s very impressive to go and see the Plaza de Toros in the city center. For €6 (students €4) an audio guide explains everything about the stadium, the stables and the festival. Standing in the middle of the arena is definitely a cool thing to do in Pamplona.
Things to do in Pamplona: Eat Pinchos
Even though pinchos originated in Basque Country, they can be found all over Spain, Pamplona included. In case you don’t know what pinchos are: think of them as tapas on a slice of baguette. Add a skewer and the pincho is complete. Try a few pinchos with a glass of wine and hop over to the next bar. Casco Viejo is the place to go to pinch a few pinchos. Dozens of pincho bars can be found in this area, making it a awesome place to go.
Every Thursday evening the locals roam the streets to go to their favorite bars to profit from juevintxo. Most bars have the awesome offer of one pincho and a class of wine for €2! Following the locals on Thursday evenings is all you have to do.
Craft beer pubs and shops
Craft beer is hot in Spain. Every city has at least a few craft beer bars and so does Pamplona. The House Beer which has five locations in and around the city. They also serve great food. Manneken Beer is a small pub and quite a walk from the center but well worth it. Napargar is on Plaza del Castillo and also offers great food. All of the mentioned pubs have multiple fresh, delicious craft beers on draft. Want to take some beers home? Birra Box is a small shop crammed with all kinds of beer.
How to get to Pamplona?
There are tickets to Pamplona, but only indirect flights unless you’re from southern Germany. A good alternative is to fly to Bilbao and combine your trip to Pamplona with a visit to Bilbao. Feeling adventurous? Why not make it a road trip through Navarra in the north of Spain?
Also read our article about what to do in Bilbao
Where to stay in Pamplona
Pamplona isn’t a very cheap destination when it comes to accommodation. A basic double room costs around €75. Want to be right in the center were everything happens? Pamplona Catedral Hotel is located inside the old city center. Don’t mind a bit of walking? Hotel Pamplona Plaza is a cheaper option, but it’s not in the center. We chose the second option which was fine. Looking for something else? You’ll definitely find something here.
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What’s your opinion about the bull running? Just a tradition or animal abuse?