A small town nestled against the Pyrenees mountains, known for bullfighting and Ernest Hemingway. It might seem insignificant to those traveling to Spain and wanting a big city feel, however, I absolutely fell in love with this little town. It is beautiful, full of people who know what it means to relax and soak up every ounce of life. I truly have never been in one place where so many generations interact at once. It was common to see grandparents walking with their grandchildren in the park, and entire families strolling the streets or going to get tapas.
Known for the bullfighting fiesta of San Fermin that occurs every summer, Pamplona is charming even in the off season. There are a few spots you shouldn’t miss, but honestly, the best way to experience the town is to go to a bar or cafe, sit in the park, and experience the vibrant culture. If you’re busy trying to see tourist attractions in this town, you will miss the unique atmosphere that Pamplona has to offer.
That being said, if you visit Pamplona, here are SIX things you should make time for during your visit!
Cafe Iruna (Ernest Hemingway’s spot)
Located in the Plaza de Castillo, this beautiful little cafe was one of the highlights of my trip. Ernest Hemingway loved spending time writing in Pamplona, and he used to visit the cafe during his stay. Please stop here! The coffee is great, but the atmosphere is unforgettable. The Plaza de Castillo also boasts plenty of great eateries and is full of locals on a sunny day.
Cathedral de Pamplona
Built in the 15th century, this cathedral is beautiful. It houses the Diocesan Museum and is well worth the 4 euros it costs to go inside! We spent a long time here touring the grounds and soaking in the beautiful architecture.
Bullfighting Stadium (Plaza de Toros)
This stadium is massive and holds a plethora of bullfights every year in Pamplona. I never toured the ring, but it was still cool to photograph and check it off my bucket list. I don’t feel as though I missed out for never going inside the ring, but if you go during bullfighting season, definitely consider going here for a show!
Gelato at Elizalde
I have been to Italy, and honestly this gelato was the best I have EVER had. I still think about it. I am craving it RIGHT NOW. Please eat here!
See the remains of the fortress built in the 16th century, and spend time relaxing amongst the grounds that has been converted into a public park! These ruins are beautiful, and an important part of Pamplona’s history.
Pinxos and Bar Hopping in Old Town
This is an ESSENTIAL part of the Spanish culture! To order pinxos (pronounced like “pincho” and also called “tapas”) go to the bar and you will see various foods displayed under a case. The bartender will then grab you a plate, pour you a drink (if you wish) and then it’s up to you to come back to the bar and pay after you are done. This seems very backward to American culture, but it is extremely typical! The Spanish people love to hang out at bars, drinking and eating pinches for hours. You MUST experience this way of life if you’re spending a significant part of your trip in a traditional town like Pamplona.
PRO TIP: If you’re headed to Pamplona and don’t speak much Spanish, it might be difficult to communicate because meeting someone who speaks English is few and far between. Definitely brush up on basic conversational/ordering skills before coming to visit!