Travel Guides Spain | Guide to Pamplona

Guide to Pamplona

What to do and see in Pamplona?

is the capital of Navarra. It has a population of around 200,000 inhabitants. Pamplona is one of the greenest European cities with 11 million square metres of green areas in the city centre. Needless to say it has many parks: la Taconera, Larraina, Biurdana, Del Mundo, Mendillorri, Vuelta del Castillo, la Ciudadela park, Aranzadi and Yamuguchi. One of the most important recent developments has been the recovery of 11 kms of green areas on the banks of the river Arga which runs through the city. This area now consists of parks and leisure areas. Pamplona's history and monuments make it a very attractive city to visit not to mention its excellent gastronomy and of course its world famous San Fermin fiestas held every year in July.





Pamplona is also an industrial city. It has a very well thought out urban development programme similar to Barcelona. There are various conference centres and the city has three internationally recognised universities, the Public University, the University of Navarra and the Distance Learning University which are famous not only for their undergraduate courses but also for their contibution to research and development in various fields.

Pamplona is situated 449 metres above sea level. It has 3 rivers Arga, Alorz and Sader. It is situated in the 'Cuenca dePamplona' and surrounded by a chain of mountains. It has a mild, but wet climate which is not too rainy and not too cold. You could describe it as a mixture between a Mediterranean and an Atlantic climate.

It is located near other northern Spanish cities and is very well connected by road. France is just 1 hour away by car; San Sebastian 87 kms away; Logroño i97 kms away; Victoria 94 kms away. Its airport only has has domestic flights to Barcelona and Madrid. For direct international flights you need to go to Vitoria, Bilbao or Biarritz.



IN 1 B.C. the general called Pompeyo occupied the area creating the city of Pompeyo which was a political and religious centre for the Roman empire (hence its present day name). In 714 A.D. the Moors tried to take control of the city without success (instead they made a base in Tudela). Carlomagno occupied the city and destroyed part of the city wall, but following the battle of Roncesvalles in 778 he abandoned the place. In the 6th and 7th centuries the Visigothics also tried but failed to take over the city. In the 9th century the city became Christian once again. In 1164 the kingdom of Pamplona was created by the Jimena dynasty. In 1423 the kingdom was taken over by the French dynasty called the Capetos, la Casa d'Evreux, with king Carlos III and Leonor de Castilla at the head unifying and consolidating the kingdom. The cathedral was built during this period. In the 15th century the kingdom of Navarra was conquered by the kingdom of Castilla and Aragon. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries the monarchs and the bishops fortified the city against further French attempts to conquer it. In 1828 the Navarran court was created.

In 1905 part of the city wall was taken down in order to expand the city southwards, creating green areas as part of the expansion. From 1964 industrial development converted Pamplona into a more active and enterprising city.

Things to see in Pamplona

  • The city walls: Built in 1512 in order to defend the city from the French, following the annexation of the city bythe kingdon of Castilla and Aragon. Three quarters of the wall still remain, the part that is missing was pulled down in 1905 to allow the city to expand southwards. The city wall became a national monument in 1937. Today it is well preserved and surrounded by gardens which you can stroll around. Within the walls you can visit: La Ciudadela (the fortress), el Portal de Francia (the French entrance), el baluarte Redín, San Bartolomé Fort, the bull ring, the San Nicolás entrance (Portal de San Nicolás), the Taconera gardens, the Antoniutti gardens and the new entrance (Portal Nuevo).
  • Ciudadela: This is a fortress built in 1571 by the architect Verbon under the orders of Felipe II. Three out of the five forts remain. There are a number of interesting things to see within the Ciudadela such as where the arms were made and kept as well as cultural exhibitions.

  • Squares:

    • Plaza del Castillo: This is the main square in the city. It is surrounded by arches and 17th and 18th century buildings. It is located between the old part of Pamplona and the modern part.
    • Plaza de Rodeznos: (Avenida Carlos III): built in the middle of the last century in a Baroque style.
      Plaza de los Fueros de Navarra: This is an oval shaped area with gardens, designed by Rafael Moneo and Estanislao de la Quadra Salcedo in 1970.

  • Bridges:

    • Puente de la Magdalena: This forms part of the Camino de Santiago.
    • Puente de San Pedro: Roman, remodelled in the middle ages.
    • Puente Rochapea/Curtidores: Both pedestrians and vehicles can use the bridge.
    • Puente de Santa Engracia: Gothic - it joins the Rochapea and Curtidores neighbourhoods.
    • Puente de Miluce: Roman - rebuilt in the 19th century.

  • Churches:

    • Cathedral Basílica Santa María la Real: Built in the 13th century upon the remains of an ancient Roman cathedral. It was finished in 1525. It consists of several different styles inside: It has a Gothic vestibule and the main altar where the kings of Navarra were crowned has a statue of the Virgen del Sagrario. It has a European Gothic cloister dating back to 1277 and 1472; the altarpiece in the 16th century Santa Cristina chapel; the choir stalls were carved by por Esteban de Obray; the facade is Neoclassic dating back to 1800; one of its bells "La María" from 1584 weighs 12,000 Kg and is the second biggest in the whole of Spain.
    • Iglesia de San Nicolás: This is a fortified church dating back to 1231. It is a Norman church with some Gothic features. It used to serve as a defence for the inhabitants of the city. Located in the old part of the city.
    • Iglesia de San Cernin o San Saturnino: Built in the 13th century by the kings of Navarra. (in that period they were French hence the French names). This was also a fortified church. It has an interesting Baroque chapel dedicated to the Virgen del Camino (13th century); the clock tower with a weathercock on top is now a symbol of the city. There is a plaque on the floor opposite the church to conmemorate the baptisms carried out by San Saturnino (Pocico de San Cernin).
    • Iglesia de San Lorenzo (Calle Mayor, 74): Built in 1901, by Florencio Ansoleaga, upon the remains of a Baroque church. Neoclassic in style, inside you can visit the San Fermín chapel, which is very important during the fiestas in Pamplona which carry the same name.

  • Museums:

    • Museo de Navarra: (Cuesta de Sto. Domingo, s/n). Located within the former hospital - Hospital de Nuestra Señora De la Misericordia - it has 7,700 m2 of exhibitions and conference rooms. Some of its furniture from Navarra dates back to 1910. It also has an art gallery consisting of paintings, sculptures etc...which are chronologically presented over 4 floors dating from the Palaeolític period to the 20th century.
    • Capilla Museo: A religious art museum (Renaissance and Baroque) It has a Baroque entrance, the building is by Remiro de Goñi.
    • Municipal Archive and the former San Juan Seminary: (c/ Mercado, 11). This Baroque building dates back to 1734. Since 1984 is has housed the town hall archives. It has an interesting Neogothic chapel which since 1991 has housed a museum dedicated to Pablo Sarasate.
    • Museo Pablo Sarasate: See above - it tells the story of Pamplona's musical history since 1983.
    • Museo Diocesano: 14th century, located in one of the cathedral's outbuildings. It holds sacred objects such as sculptures, pictures and gold and silver objects from Navarra.

  • Important buildings:

    • The Town Hall: This emblematic Baroque building dates back to 1752, built by José Zay and Lorda. The San Fermines fiestas begin here with the famous 'chupinazo' (loud firework) which is set off here in front of crowds of people who fill the square in front of the town hall.
    • Palacio de Navarra or Diputación (government buildings): (Av. Carlos III, 1 /Plaza del Castillo). Neoclassic dating back to the middle of the 19th century. Built by José de Naguria. It is now the headquarters for the Navarran government. The altarpiece in the chapel and the gardens are interesting. It also has a painting of Fernando VII by Goya.
    • Cámara de Comptos: This is a 13th century medieval palace which between 1525 and 1836 was used as an auditor's office for the Navarran kingdom. Since 1980 it has been used as an Autonomous National auditor's office. It houses a collection of Navarran coins covering all periods.
    • Statue dedicated to 'Los Fueros': (Paseo de Sarasate). This dates back to 1903 and was erected thanks to public subscription in protest against the government of the day in order to protect 'los fueros de Navarra' (special Navarran laws). It was made by Manuel Martinez Ubago and is now used as a meeting point in the city. Located opposite the 'Palacio de Navarra'.
    • Palacio de los Navarros Tafalla: (c/ Zapatería, 50). Baroque, 18th century.
    • The former Palacio de Justicia: 1892. During the 20th century it was used as the Law Courts. Now it is used by the Navarran parliament.
    • Palacio Real and Archivo General de Navarra: (c/ Dos de Mayo). Located in the old part, it dates back to 1190. Built by Sancho VI el Sabio. During the middle ages it was used as a residence by kings and bishops...(Carlos II, Felipe III, José Bonaparte...). Until 1972 it was used as a military headquarters. It has recently been remodelled by Rafael Moneo.
    • Palacio Redín and Cruxat: (c/ Dos de Mayo 31). 17th century. This is a Renaissance mansion which has been restored. It houses the Joaquín Maya Elementary Music School.
    • Palacio del Condestable: (c/ Mayor, 2). At the end of the 18th century it came into the hands of the Duke of Alba. Previously it had been used as a headquarters by archbishops and the townhall. It has now been restored and given special cultural recognition and is currently used as a civic centre.
    • Palacio Arzobispal (Plaza Santa María la Real, 1) 1736. Baroque with a Churrigueresque facade. It is now the residence to the Archbishop and holds the Diocesan archives.


Sanfermines: These are the most important fiestas in Pamplona and are internationally famous. They take place every year between the 6th - 14th July. They celebrate the patron saint of the city, San Fermín. The city is packed during the fiestas which are most famous for the bull runs which take place at 8am every morning. The whole city turns out for these fiestas dressed in white shirts with red scarfs tied distinctively around their necks.
Privilegio de la Unión: 8th September These fiestas celebrate the signing of the union between the three towns within Pamplona which Carlos III unified on 8th September 1423.
San Saturnino: 29th November, these fiestas celebrate the co-parton saint of the city San Saturnino.

Travelling to Pamplona? The following links may also be useful
Guides provinces bordering with Pamplona and beautiful places in Spain nearby
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Guide to Alicante Guide to Almeria
Guide to Avila Guide to Barcelona
Guide to Caceres Guide to Castellon
Guide to Cuenca Guide to Girona
Guide to Guipuzcoa Guide to Lerida
Guide to Murcia Guide to Tarragona
Guide to Valencia Guide to Zamora
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