Pamplona is a vibrant city near Spain's northern border. As a crucial military outpost for centuries, it's seen several different battles, which is why you can fly to Pamplona and still see fortifications around town. Remnants of the city walls erected in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have been preserved.
The Plaza del Castillo is the main gathering spot, and the pedestrian square is home to cafes, restaurants and a bandstand that sets the stage for local performers. Several hotels are within walking distance of the plaza. Also nearby are many religious sites, including the Pamplona Cathedral, which was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the San Nicolas church, a gothic building built in the 12th century. Taconera Park is where you can take a relaxing stroll away from the crowds.
The city is famous for hosting the "running of the bulls" as part of the San Fermin festival each June. The festival's other highlights include a parade, a bullfight, fireworks and thousands of revelers filling the streets. If you take part in the action, be prepared for warm temperatures in the 80s. People traveling during the winter could see daytime highs in the upper 40s. The Pamplona Airport (PNA) receives flights from Madrid and Barcelona, which are 240 miles and 300 miles away.
The busiest time to visit Pamplona is during July, when masses of people try to outrun six bulls and six steers daily at 8 a.m. from July 7 to 14. This is far from the only event during the San Fermín festival, though—attendees are also treated to nightly fireworks shows, afternoon bullfights, morning parades of gigantes y cabezudos (that’s giants and bigheads, with the papier-mâché “giants” dating back to 1860), and sports competitions. It can get pretty hot in July, so stay hydrated and prepare for sun.
If it’s not July in Pamplona, then it’s essentially the off-season. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do in this walled city. Spring and fall serve up nice weather for sightseeing; start at the Cathedral in the center of town, considered one of the most important religious buildings in the country. Don’t be fooled by the neoclassical façade, this is actually a Gothic cathedral with a particularly impressive cloister. When you’re ready to relax, Plaza del Castillo is the hub of town, a place that over the years has seen markets, parades, battles, and bullfights, earning its designation as Pamplona’s living room. The mild weather is ideal for people-watching, sitting at an outdoor café, or shopping for souvenirs.
Winter can get cold in Pamplona—think lows in the 30s—but it’s not too bad, and you’ll avoid the crowds. Warm up in a bar with a drink and some pintxos, small snacks that are related to their southern cousin, the tapa. A pintxo starts with a base of bread and builds from there, keeping everything together with a toothpick.
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