Walking Tour in Pamplona, Spain
Our pintxos making and wine tasting workshop at Pamplona Food was just the first part of our tour in the festive city of Pamplona. After having an informative and very satisfying culinary tour, our tour guide Bea directed us to our walking tour of the city for a more hands-on (or should I say feet-on?) cultural immersion.
We started the walking tour by visiting the Catedral de Santa Maria la Real, or simply called the Pamplona Cathedral. The Gothic church has had a long history of reconstructions. On the outside, the church has a simple Gothic exterior, but inside, remnants of the church’s series of reconstructions can be seen in its chapels, which have a mix of Baroque, Romanesque, and Renaissance-type of architecture. The church stands as one of the icons of the city, with its high ceilings and intricate interior designs.
After marveling at the historic cathedral, we stopped by the Pamplona City Walls. Before the present times, the city enclosed itself in 5-kilometer walls to protect its territory from potential invaders. Today, three-quarters of the walls are still visible, making it the most well-preserved military defenses. In fact, it is considered a National Monument. Standing close to the centuries-old allowed me to see all those tiny bits of details that silently showed the age and the historical significance of the walls.
A short stroll from the Cathedral and the City Walls is the picturesque Rincón del Caballo Blanco or the “White Horse Corner”. Its proximity from one of the bastions of the city walls makes it a hot tourist spot in the city, and I understood why because aside from the fact that it is historical, the view deck on the nearby bastion gave us an amazing view of the city within and outside the walls.
From the White Horse Corner, we headed to Portal de Francia or France’s Gate. This landmark is often included in the routes of pilgrims from the Pamplona Cathedral. The gate is a part of the city’s fortress walls, and it is known for retaining most of its appearance. The old, heavy chains that connected the gate to a drawbridge of sorts looked like the things one would see in a medieval-themed movie.
The next place in our itinerary was the Archivo Real y General de Navarra (Royal and General Archive of Navarra), a building with a simple exterior that houses and preserves some of the most important historical and cultural documents in Pamplona. Aside from its antique ambiance, walking around the area where the archives is located has a very quaint feel. Nearby is the Museum of Navarre, a cultural hotspot, and visible from afar is the 17th-century Basilica of San Fermin.
The city of Pamplona is mostly known for its San Fermin Festival, an annual, week-long festival that is held in the month of July. The events in the San Fermin Festival include pyrotechnic displays, music, and the like, but the highlight of the week is usually the Encierro or the traditional bull-running activity. The Corrales de Santo Domingo, which is the next place we went to, is a pen where the bulls that are released to run in selected streets in the city are made to wait. We were told by our guide that the locals use rockets that are specifically timed to signal the release of the bulls for the encierro.
Since we were a bit too early for the San Fermin festival for this year, our tour guide decided to give us a simulation of the traditional encierro. We walked along the several narrow, sloped streets of Santo Domingo Street (sometimes called Santo Domingo Hill for its sloped paths) where the bulls are made to run. Since the encierro covers 875 meters, we did not completely follow through with the path. Instead, Bea pointed us the direction of the end point of the Bull Run, which was in the bullring beyond the city plaza, which we were set to visit afterwards.
In the middle of the Old Quarter of Pamplona is the City Hall, a prominent building with a very attractive façade. Several statues stand atop the roof of the building, while a large clock rests not far below. The building, which has been around since as early as the 15th century, was constructed in the heart of the city to settle the disputes between the three boroughs Navarreria, San Saturnino, and San Nicolas.
Near the heart of the city is the Plaza del Castillo, or the Castle Square. We were told by our guide that the locals often referred to the Plaza as their “living room” because it is a favorite hangout place of nearly everyone. The centerpiece of the gazebo is just one of the attractions in the plaza. Nearby are several cafes and restaurants where locals get their pintxos, among other things!
A short walk from the Plaza del Castillo is the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, or the city’s famous bullring, which serves as the end point of the encierro. The bullring was built in 1922 and has been the venue of bullfights. It felt really nice seeing how stadiums look identical across countries, yet each holds a different cultural significance.
Near the bullring is the Running of the Bulls Statue, alternatively called the Monument to the Encierro. Just as the name suggests, the bronze monument is dedicated to the city’s long-running (get it?) tradition of the encierro.
We headed next to Estafeta Street, a curved street that leads to the bullring. It is renowned for its significant part in the encierro, but aside from that, it is also known for its food establishments.
The last place in our itinerary is Café Iruña, a coffee shop located conveniently along the street that directly surrounds the Plaza del Castillo. Established in 1888, the café is one of the oldest ones in the city. Aside from its appealing, old-fashioned design, Café Iruña is best known for its Café con Leche (Spanish white coffee). It was the perfect place to end our long walking tour.
At a surface level, most people would associate the city of Pamplona with its traditional encierro and the San Fermin Festival, but having toured the city, I want to say that there is definitely more to the city than its festival. The streets were narrow, the buildings were parallel and rose high to the sky, and I feel that the walls that enclosed the city protected not just its territory, but also its culture and traditions.
Our walking tour was organized by Pamplona Food, which is dedicated to giving tours on Pamplona and Navarre’s food, wine, and culture. You may visit their website pamplonafood.com for more information, or contact Bea at +34 634 452 743 or at [email protected].
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This Spain Street Photography and Food Tour was made possible by Spain Tourism Board, Turkish Airlines, Madrid Tourism, Visit Barcelona, La Rioja Tourism, Donostia San Sebastian Tourism, and Convention Bureau and Turismo Bilbao.
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