Pamplona is the first major city along the Camino Francés. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Navarre and used to be the capital of the former Kingdom of Navarre.
The city is famous worldwide for the festival of San Fermín, held annually from the 6th to the 14th of July.
The Roman general Pompey is considered the founder of the city Pompaelo, named after himself, in 75 BC, which later, in modern Spanish, became Pamplona (Iruña means ‘the city’ in Basque). Between the 4th and 9th centuries, the town was occupied by the Visigoths and then the Moors. In 778, although the city had placed itself under the protection of Charlemagne, he destroyed the city walls. The Basques took revenge for this in the Battle of Roncesvalles.
The Kingdom of Pamplona (later Kingdom of Navarre) was established in 824, but after the southern part of it was conquered by Castile in 1513, Pamplona became one of the outposts on the French frontier. This is why the star-shaped fort occupies such an important place in the center of the town. For centuries, it hindered city growth, and it was only in 1915 that some of its walls were demolished to provide space for urban development.
Starting the Camino in Pamplona
You have the possibility to start your Camino in Pamplona. In fact, a lot of pilgrims choose to do so. It is very easy to get to Pamplona by regular trains from Madrid, Barcelona, León, Oviedo, etc. Once in Pamplona, do not forget to get your Pilgrim’s Pass at any Albergue or church.
Accommodation in Pamplona
|Albergue Plaza Catedral
|Shared lounge, Kitchen, WiFi, Facilities for disabled guests, Laundry service
|Hostel Casa Ibarrola
|Shared rooms, Capsule beds
|Shared lounge, Kitchen, Laundry service, WiFi
|Michelin-starred restaurant, WiFi, Non-smoking rooms
|Hotel Pamplona Plaza
|WiFi, Non-smoking rooms, Breakfast available
|Breakfast included, WiFi, Fitness center, Facilities for disabled guests, Bar & Restaurant
|Fitness center, WiFi, Non-smoking rooms
What to see in Pamplona
Catedral de Santa María la Real
The French Gothic cathedral was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, upon the ruins of an earlier Romanesque cathedral. In the 18th century, a neoclassical façade was added. The north tower holds the largest bell still in use in Spain, named María, and weighing over ten tons.
The kings of Navarre used to be crowned here, and some of them were also buried. The sepulcher of Charles III. ‘the Noble’ and his wife Eleanor of Castile, marked by alabaster sculptures, occupy a prominent position in the main nave.
Iglesia de San Cernin
The church of San Cernin (San Saturnino), built in the 13th century, possibly on the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Diana, played an important defensive role in the time when the borough of San Cernin, inhabited by French immigrants, was practically in a state of war against the two other neighborhoods. The ‘Gallico de San Cernin’, a rooster-shaped weather vane atop the main tower, is one of the most famous symbols of the city.
The festival, held between the 6th and 14th of July each year, celebrates San Fermín, Pamplona’s patron saint. It is also described by Ernest Hemingway in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. Perhaps the most famous part of it is the encierro, the bull running, which is an event repeated daily. Every morning (starting on the 7th) at 8 AM a rocket (the chupinazo or txupinazo) is shot off from the tower of the Iglesia de San Cernin. Bulls are run through a series of narrow streets in the old town leading to the bullring, an 849-meter dash (it doesn’t take longer than three minutes). Running before them are thousands of runners wearing white with red handkerchiefs, many of them carrying rolled-up newspapers to place an occasional hit on the bulls.
If you’re visiting Pamplona between 6 and 14 July, you can get more information from the official website of the fiestas.
Castle and citadel
Built between 1571 and 1645, after the Castilian conquest, the area is today the green lung of Pamplona.
Parque de la Taconera
Pamplona has many parks and green areas, the oldest and inarguably the most beautiful of which is Taconera Park, created around 1830. It is a romantic park with wide walkways, sculptures, and a small zoo enclosure.