Pamplona city guide Pamplona city guide

Pamplona City Guide



The best travel guide to Spain: all-inclusive hotels, tours, day trips and tips

The history of this region dates back to the first century B.C. when the Romans founded Pompaelo on an old Vascon settlement. 

The city was founded by Roman general in 75 B.C. The romans established the settlement in the same place where the Cathedral now stands, and where the ancient Vascons had also settled in the past. 

Gran Hotel La Perla - Our favorite hotel in Pamplona

Hotel La Perla in Pamplona

Gran Hotel La Perla is a historic hotel in the heart of Pamplona that has been operating since 1881. The hotel is right in the middle of the historic city center and has hosted important figures like Ernest Hemingway (his favorite destination when he visited the city), Charly Chaplin, Orson Welles, and the Aga Khan.

You can look at the old reservations books displaying these famous names, and more. The running of the bulls occurs every year just a few meters from the hotel and the Plaza del Castillo and bullring is just a short walk away. The hotel also features an amazing restaurant that specializes in local Pamplonan cuisine. The comfortable rooms are designed according to different themes, reflecting this hotel’s amazing history.


This magnificent hotel opened its doors for the first time all the way back in 1881. It was run by Miguel Erro and Teresa Graz, both linked to the hotel and restaurant business – he was a cook, she came from an afluent family that ran an inn. The establishment was officially recognized as a hotel, however, in 1888. 

The hotel very quickly became well known for the quality of the food they served. The owners were able to get their hands on very high-quality French products. The hotel’s restaurant actually catered to the famous Gayarre Theater and the Betelu spa, frequented by the local aristocracy. The hotel also made frequent appearances in the press because of the numerous fashion shows they held where they showcased the latest fashion from Paris.

In the summer of 1885, Pamplona suffered a breakout of cholera. La Perla was the only establishment that remained open and supplied food to the cities lazaretto (infectious disease hospital).

The founder, Miguel Erro, actually died of the disease a few days after leaving for Betelu, as he used to do in the summer season. His death made King Alfonso XII suspend his trip to Betelu where he customarily spent a few days. Unfortunately, however, the king would also die less than two months later.

The business continued under the direction of the widow, Teresa Graz, with the support of her sister-in-law Micaela Erro. At the time, it was inconceivable that a woman would hold such a position.

Famously, the American writer Ernest Hemingway was supposed to have been a faithful guest of the Hotel La Perla, The hotel is mentioned in two of his novels “The Sun Also Rises” or “Fiesta”, from 1926, renamed the “Hotel Montoya”. The supposed favorite room of the writer, the old number 217 and current 201, is preserved as it was when it would be used by him.

However, this story does not seem to be 100% true and was actually denied in several writings by Hemingway himself and by other people who accompanied him on his trips to Pamplona. There is evidence of the places where he actually stayed in his nine visits to Sanfermines; a pension on Calle Eslava 5 in 1923, the Hotel Quintana (owned by his friend Juanito Quintana) between 1924 and 1931, the Hotel Ayestarán de Lecumberri (Navarra) in 1953, a house on Calle San Fermín 7 in his last visit in 195


Rooms at the hotel blend the refined opulence of the historic building with all the modern amenities you might want or need. The rooms are decorated in light tones and elegant details. 

All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, free WIFI, laundry service, a minibar, Living Room Space, and Smoking Rooms are available. The hotel offers several different types of rooms to cater to all types of travelers. 


The hotel’s restaurant is run by chefs Iñaki Andradas and Luken Vigo of the famous Baserriberri restaurant. The restaurant offers a creative and modern take on traditional northern Spainish cuisine. The menu consists of 8 courses and it is available at lunch and dinner. A unique opportunity to enjoy the best Navarre gastronomy in a historical setting in the heart of Pamplona. 

Pamplona travel guide - Contents

5 Top Reasons To Visit Pamplona

Pamplona is the site of the running of the bulls

The San Fermines or the running of the bulls as it is commonly known is a festival that has been celebrated in the city for centuries, made famous by Ernest Hemingway

Crowds flock to the city every July to test their metal as they are angrily chased through the winding cobbled streets of Pamplona by stampeding, furious bulls. 

The festivities take a full week (from July 6th to July 14th) and they are capped off with the running. The San Fermines is one of the craziest events, booze-fueled festivities in all of Spain with all sorts of feasts, dances, concerts, market stalls, and traditional music.

Monumental Pamplona

Pamplona stands out among other historic cities in Spain because of its amazing mediaeval city walls, considered to be one of the most interesting and well-preserved defense systems in Spain. There are over 3 miles of walls, bastions, ravelins and forts. 

Cathedral of Santa María, built in the 12th century is the city’s main cathedral. This monument stands out because the interior presents a Gothic style cloyster (one of the most beautiful in all of Europe), but the façade is neo-classical.

Apart from the Cathedral there are two other noteworthy religious building within the historic city center of Pamplona: San Saturnino and San Nicolás, both of which are simultaneously churches and fortresses, built with dual purposes. 

Also worth a visit is the Royal and General Archives of Navarra. This building was built in the 13th century and was once Palace of the Kings of Navarra.

The Citadel

There are several parks in Pamplona that are worth a visit: Taconera, Media Luna, Yamaguchi and the Arga River Park, however, is there is one you cant miss out on, that would be the Citadel park 

280,000 square metres of green spaces dotted with which pavilions, moats, bastions, ravelins, fortifications, other military buildings. The Citadel, was the the main architectural focal point in the city, and is considered to be the best example of military architecture from the Spanish Renaissance and one of the most outstanding defensive fortifications to have been designed in Europe.

Because of the constant French incursions and attacks King Philip II ordered the construction of the Citacel in 1571, to protect the citizens of Pamplona. The original structure was shaped like a pentagon, with five bastions, one on each corner. As time went on, different extensions and modifications were added and shaped teh current version of the citadel.  

Museums of Pamplona 

Pamplona is relitivley small but it is home to a good number of interesting museums that are well worth a visit.

The Museo de Navarra, tells the history of Navarra though its display of  archaeological and artistic collections with  pieces from prehistoric times up until the 20th century. Other museums in include the

The Museum of the University of Navarra is located in the pretigious University of Navarra, as the name would indicate and is home to rotating expositions of modern art and different cinematic and theattical offerings.  

Amazing gastronomy

Navarra in general is one of the most underrated regions of Spain when it comes to gastronomy. Navarra and Pamplona take everything that makes Basque gastronomy great and add the amazing produce that is so characteristic of this corner of the country.

There is also no shortage of pintxos bars, but you will also find excellent restaurants that serve up a range of traditional and modern fusion dishes.

Also, Navarra is a criminally underrated wine producer, so don’t forget to taste some of the amazing wine from the region.

Best Time To Visit Pamplona

The best time to visit Pamplona depends greatly on what you want to experience. The city explodes with life during the summer months with the San Fermín celebration and the arrival of the good weather.

During the winter months it can get quite cold, but Pamplona is cozy and inviting so if you can stand the chill it is a good option. 

April, May and June are probably your best bet if you want to have good weather and you want to enjoy the city peacefully.

Weather In Pamplona

Pamplona presents a continental climate, characterized by big contrasts with hot summers and cold winters.

Pamplona Cathedral. Santa María la Real

Main façade Pamplona cathedral

The cathedral of Pamplona is a splendid gothic cathedral with an impressive interior and Spain´s largest bell

A Roman capitol is supposed to have originally occupied the site where the Cathedral of Pamplona stands today. The cathedral was originally a Romanesque church built in the 11th century, but that initial church  (consecrated in 1124) was replaced by another Romanesque building at the start of the 14C.

It was in 1390 that the construction of the Gothic cathedral started. Its construction was probably completed by 1527.

The cathedral of Pamplona has a Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles. Its design has a strong French influence. The church has numerous side chapels beneath the buttresses, as well as an apse with further chapels. It is roofed by a groin vault. The classical façade and the two 170 ft. tower date from 1783 and are the work of Ventura Rodríguez, a very famous architect of that time. One of the interesting facts about the Cathedral of Pamplona is that it has the largest bell in Spain. It is located in the right tower. The bell of the cathedral of Pamplona was cast at the end of the 16C and weighs 12 tons.

The Car Mayor has choir stalls of 1540 by Kan de Obray. A statue of the Virgen, also called Santa María la Real(the patroness of the church), was added to a Renaissance statue of the Infant Christ.

In the nave, in front of the splendid wrought-iron Renaissance grille, stands the sarcophagi of King Charles III and his wife Leonor of Castile. This alabaster tomb (1416) is the work of the Flemish sculptor Janin de Lomme and has the recumbent figures of the couple and relief with hooded men and lamenting women. The altarpieces in the chapels are of various dates. The altars of the chapels dedicated to San Blas, Santa Catalina, Christ and San Fermin, as well as the altars of St.Joseph and San Jerónimo in the transept, are all baroque.

The chapels of San Juan Bautista, Santa Cristina and the Caparroso Chapel all have 15C altarpieces. A beautiful crucifix in the Capilla del Santo Cristo also dates from the 15C. From the Southern transept, you can get to the cloister via an interesting portal, which dates from the 14C and has a bas-relief of a scene from the life of the Virgin.

The Gothic cloister has beautifully decorated capitals. It is divided into four parts, the oldest of which are the North and East walks. These date from the time of Bishop Barbazán. The South and West sides were presumably built under Charles III. In the North east of the cloister there is an Adoration of the Magi by Jacques Perut (early 14C). A 15th Century Madonna and Child is preserved in the chapel of Bishop Barbazán. The cloister has another beautiful portal, the Puerta Preciosa (14C). The tympanum of this door has carved scenes from the life of the Virgin. Sarcophagi of Prince Leonel of Navarre and his wife Elfa (15C). The tomb is adorned with a Calvary carved in stone. Tomb of the Conde de Gages by Robert Michel (late 18C). The Diocesan Museum is housed in the former refectory.  In the tympanum is the Last

supper and the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Apart from a large number of 13th &14th C sculptures, the Diocesan Museum also houses Gothic and Renaissance paintings, sacred objects, as well as a splinter of the Cross, which is preserved in a finely-wrought reliquary of 1401.

Brief History of Pamplona

The city was founded by Roman general in 75 B.C. The romans established the settlement in the same place where the Cathedral now stands, and where the ancient Vascons had also settled in the past. 

During the Middle Ages the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Navarra. The city was divided into 3 walled neighborhoods: Navarrería, San Cernin and San Nicolás and the inhabitants of each borough held fierce animosity to inhabitants of the others.  In 1423 after continuous battles between the cities residents King Carlos III ‘el Noble’ signed the ‘Privilege of Union’ making Pamplona a single city and a new City Hall was built, a coat of arms was created and the building of more internal fortifications was prohibited. 

Navarra has long been a strategic point of defense against France and its status as a city-fortress was strengthened with the building of the Citadel in the 16th century.

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