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Pamplona: City of Bulls and Fortifications

Pamplona is the capital of Navarre, a province in northern Spain just 82 km from San Sebastian, and the city where Sanfermines is held each year. The eight day festival  celebrates some of Spain’s most popular traditions, most notably el encierro, or the running of the bulls. More than a million people visit Pamplona during Sanfermines making it the biggest festival in Spain! We arrived at Pamplona via bus on Saturday and spent the day exploring this historic city. Some of the points of interest included the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square), the gothic Pamplona Cathedral, the citadel, and the fortifications. 


During our visit I also learned Ernest Hemingway frequented Pamplona, starting in 1923 with a visit accompanied by his wife. He became fascinated with bullfighting and centered his eight novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926) on the Sanfermines festival. Everyone knows Hemingway in Pamplona – there are cafes and hotels with his name, a monument, and there are even pictures of the man himself for sale in several shops. How interesting?

A fortress city, Phillip II of Spain built the citadel in 1571 and Pamplona became the strongest fortification of the north. The views of the valley are absolutely stunning; we arrived at the lookout just in time for the for the last minutes of sunlight. Is there anything more beautiful than watching sunsets?


We had dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant (hey, we could all use a break from pintxos) called La Tagliatella located in the Plaza del Castillo (Castle Square). I had the most exquisite goat cheese and bacon mezzaluna with cream of mascarpone cheese, Iberian ham, pine nuts and spinach. We ordered delicious wine from the Navarre region. This was seriously one of the tastiest foods ever – and God, the decor was so cozy and charming!


Another landmark in Pamplona is El Monumento al Encierro (Monument to the Running of the Bulls) consists of statues of bulls and riders and plays homage to SanFermines. The monument has realistic measurements and the size of the bulls honestly frightens me! The night was cold and we ought to make our way back to San Sebastian; despite being a quick, day trip, Pamplona managed to charm me with its fortifications, history, colorful houses, the Sanfermines tradition, and the spectacular scenery surrounding it. Many people asked me if I will go back for Sanfermines; while the answer remains unknown, I definitely have left my heart in the north of Spain…


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