Pamplona’s Bulls, Festival & Food

Each July millions flock to Pamplona to celebrate the San Fermin Festival and the Running of the Bulls. Some are lured by the romance of Spain as written by Ernest Hemmingway, some for adrenaline of running with bulls, while others visit for the storied history of Pamplona. Whatever the reason they all experience a quaint medieval town turned into Spain’s biggest international party. Recently I was thrilled to craft a fabulous trip to this exciting event for a client like you, and given it’s such an incredible experience, am sharing what I learned here.

This nine-day celebration offers much more than the daily “Encierro” or Running of the Bulls. In fact, the entire celebration is honors the co-patron saint of Pamplona, Saint Fermin, and has been practiced annually since the 14th century.

The Opening Ceremonies or Txupinazo (pronounced “choo-pin-ah-zoh”) kick off the Festival on July 6th. As early as 10:00am crowds begin filling into the Plaza Contistorial where, at 12 noon, the official start of the Fiesta is marked by a local dignitary shouting “People of Pamplona, Long live San Fermin”. Rockets are then launched as thousands of bottles of champagne are uncorked and sprayed on the crowd. The white attire on each member of the crowd is shortly covered in champagne, sangria, and mustard as tradition goes. Being in that crowd can be dangerous, so I encourage my clients enjoy his unbelievable event from a balcony above (where you can also enjoy champagne and tapas without wearing them).

As the sun rises on July 7th, runners assemble for the inaugural run and are ready at 8:00am. Traditional attire for the San Fermin Festival is white pants and a white shirt with the customary red scarf (Pañuelico) and red waistband. As a rocket fires the bulls are released from their corral and the thunderous sound of bull hooves on cobblestone streets blends with the roar of the crows. Runners take off along the route and excitement ensues. The run lasts only three to six minutes, culminating in the Plaza de Toros. Whether you decide to run with the bulls or watch the excitement from a balcony you will witness a tradition like no other in the world.

Can you believe this is only day 2? What an adventure and you’re just getting started. Each day the Running of the Bulls is followed by the Gigantes (Giants) y Cabezudos (Big Heads) parade. The giants are over 150 years old, some taller than 13.5 feet. They are carried by a dancer who is hidden under the wooden platform that supports their giant. It is amazing to watch them twirl to the traditional music.

Now you must really consider a nap in the afternoon so you are recharged to partake in the nightly activities.

The nightly bullfights begin at 6pm and are not for the faint of heart. This is the real thing; they can be graphic and bloody. After the bullfights each evening, you want to see Toro De Fuego, a re-enactment of a famous traditional fiesta that included tying flaming material to the horns of a real bull and letting it run loose. In this re-enactment, fake bulls tout innocent sparklers. Speaking of sparklers, your evening finale is the nightly fireworks display.

Cuisine is always key to your cultural experience as well. Now let’s finish with the wonderful food and dining experiences you can expect during your visit. Foodies will love to learn that the Spanish have 5 meal times each day. In fact, if you don’t plan, you may find eating establishments closed right at the moment you are most hungry.

  • Desayuno is around 8 or 9 AM and will be a light croissant or churos.
  • Almurezo is from 10 AM to 1 PM.   It is morning tapas or Pintxos and it is customary to order wine.
  • Comida is officially from 1-3 PM, and it is the biggest meal of the day so eat up!
  • Merienda runs from 6-7 PM, and is once again light tapas or bocadillo (sandwiches).
  • Cena or “dinner” starts around 9PM!  So you can see why planning is so important!

Pamplona has fantastic restaurants that serve traditional cuisine. Reservations are a must at any of the nicer restaurants. Remember how many people have descended on Pamplona. And they are all hungry, just like you.

Wow! I hope you enjoyed a visit to Pamplona in July for San Fermin Fiesta.

And with that, you have earned a Spain stamp in your AFA passport!

Have you been to Spain or Pamplona? What was your favorite experience and what made your trip the most memorable? Comment here if you have been!

I look forward to seeing you earn your stamps!  Remember there is no better way to learn about and understand the world we live in than to travel it, experience it, and love it.  Let me take the hassle out of planning your next vacation. Request your no-obligation consultation by visiting our website


Thanks to our trusted partners in Pamplona – Running of the Bulls Travel.