Pamplona, Spain, situated near the Pyrenees, is a Basque City in the Navarra province. Pamplona is a particularly special place for us as our family is from here and still resides here. There are plenty more things to-do in the City of Pamplona than what we did on this trip. Most famously, of course, is San Fermin when the a million visitors arrive for the Running of the Bulls. As our family is from this town, we have avoided the tourist high season (July) despite our father's participation in the Running for several years before immigrating to the United States. The result is that our trip tips are centered more on day trips outside of the City but this in no way should be construed as a reason to skip our family's hometown. The City itself is rich with Basque culture, including food, dance and a truly impressive night life. Folks in Pamplona are lively, know how to have fun and are welcoming of all guests.
The City center has several points of interest all within walking distance of each other. The Plaza de Toros is where the annual Running of the Bulls ends. This nearly 20k person stadium was built in 1922. Pamplona's City Hall is the landmark building where the City marks the start of the Running. Plaza del Castillo is a central square that is often the location of festivals, markets, and even the occasional protest (even when we were there!). Pamplona is also surrounded by well-preserved medieval fortress walls.
The first photo below is my father showing us around central Pamplona. It was particularly special as this was the first time he was able to show his grandsons his hometown. Here, he was explaining to us the Ernest Hemmingway's infatuation with Pamplona and how it was his book, "The Sun Also Rises," that helped give the Running of the Bulls international fame.
Before immigrating to the United States, my father ran with the bulls every year like almost all young, Basque men from Pamplona. The Running of the Bulls is part of the Festival of San Fermín, a 9-day annual celebration dating back to medieval times that honors the City's first bishop and patron saint. The Running of the Bulls occurs each morning at 8:00 a.m. when 6 bulls (along with 6 steers) that will be used in bullfights during the festival are released to run from the edge of old town to the bullfighting arena. The festival also involves hundreds of thousands of tourists partying in the streets, all day and all night, which is why my Dad choses to visit in other months when he returns for his annual trip home. (photos below: my Dad explaining to us the history of the Running of the Bulls).
Pamplona holds a special place in our heart. While most famous for the Running of the Bulls, there's plenty of things to do in this fun City if you come in other months of the year.