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For eight days every July Pamplona is awash with the scent of exertion and possibly a hint of blood. The annual festival of Sanfermeines, or “The Running of the Bulls’, is a legendary experience full of bravado, danger and celebration where six bulls pummel down cobbled streets chasing those brave or foolish enough to race them. And if you’re visiting outside of that time there’s a chance you might feel like you’re missing out - which you might for a moment, but this is a green and fascinating place with a beautiful medieval centre, several impressive museums and some seriously good restaurants. Some the places listed in our Guru’s recommendations for the best places to stay in Pamplona have very good restaurants on site, but there’s plenty of choice.
Blame Ernest Hemingway for Pamplona’s popularity. He first stayed here in 1923, in one of our Guru’s recommendations for the best places to stay in Pamplona, the Gran Hotel La Perla and returned many times. He’s said to have loved the music and the colour of this city, especially during Sanfermeines when it feels like the whole town is in party mode.
Even if you’re not here for the festival you might still be interested in seeing the bullring, which is the second largest in Spain. The cathedral, Catedral de Santa María la Real y Museo Diocesano, has a Neoclassical facade and a Gothic interior, plus some wonderful paintings and an amazing cloister. The Museo de Navarra is another sight you’ll probably not want to miss, it’s in a converted 16th century hospital and has some wonderful Roman artefacts and a great art collection including an important portrait by Goya. Then there’s the citadel, Ciudaela, a Renaissance fort built in the shape of a pentagon and surrounded by a huge park.
Pamplona lived within its medieval walls until into the 20th century, and while some of the walls have been demolished to expand the city, there’s been an effort to preserve them. If you’re interested in Hemingway’s experiences in Pamplona you’ll not want to miss visit the main square, Plaza del Castillo, where you’ll find many small bars and restaurants, but there’s one in particular he favoured, the Cafe Iruna, where you’ll now find a statue of him.
You’ll also want to enjoy the food and wine. Expect amazing vegetable dishes and some wonderful local wines, along with plenty of seafood and a great pintxos scene.
Obviously if you want to visit during the festival then you have to book a long way in advance, but this is a pretty popular destination, it’s also the first main city on the Camino de Santiago, so to secure a room in one of the best places to stay in Pamplona it pays to book ahead.
For the city centre
- Overlooking the Plaza de Castillo, the Gran Hotel La Perla was once Hemingway’s favourite place to stay in town. There are 44 traditional rooms with historical artefacts and deep-soak tubs, plus there’s an excellent restaurant run by an award-winning chef.
- The Palacio Guendulain is a stunning 18th century palace in downtown Pamplona, which has been carefully converted into a traditional, 25 room hotel with plenty of luxury and some nice antique furniture. There’s a chic restaurant, serving local specialities, and some grand living spaces.
For modern chic
- If you like your accommodation modern, then Muga de Beloso is for you. Its 59 rooms are sleek and minimalist with metallic colour schemes and huge glass windows. You’re on the edge of the city centre just as short walk from everything, plus there’s an excellent restaurant serving the best of Navarre’s cuisine.
The Best Value Places to Stay in Pamplona
- El Secreto del Ollo is just outside Pamplona, in the hills surrounding the city and has just eight spacious rooms with stone walls and plenty of charm. Expect features like four-poster beds, wooden floors and a fun collection of knick knacks. Elegant, rustic and peaceful. Plus there’s a self contained self-catering apartment perfect for families.
Still not sure which is the best place to stay in Pamplona for you?
Best Hotels in Pamplona
Palacio Guendulain 25 rooms from $133Pamplona
A stunning 18th-century palace artfully converted into a luxury hotel in central Pamplona. Traditionally styled rooms with sash windows and antique furniture. Grand living rooms feature traditional art. A chic restaurant offers cuisine from Navarra and the Basque Country. Ideal for city exploring.Local exploring - Located in the heart of Pamplona and within walking distance of many of the cities' sights.Sights nearby - Don't miss Pamplona's cathedral featuring a Neoclassical facade and Gothic interior.Romantic - Good for couples.
Muga de Beloso 59 rooms from $136Pamplona
An ultra modern hotel on the edge of Pamplona's city centre. Sleek minimalist rooms are designed with metallic colour schemes and huge glass window fittings. With all of Pamplona's major sites within reach, its a great option for lovers of contemporary design.Foodies - La Ribera serves excellent Navarre cuisine with tonnes of fresh seafood, in a spectacular setting overlooking the mountains.City Style - A cool modern choice on the fringes of the historical city of Pamplona, with hardwood floors and chic contemporary flair.Local markets - Explore the bustling markets of Pamplona and pick up some souvenirs to bring home with you.Sights nearby - Visit Pamplona Cathedral less than a mile away.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Tablet
Gran Hotel La Perla 44 rooms from $178Pamplona
This classic 1880's hotel, overlooking the Plaza de Castillo, was once a favoured haunt of Ernest Hemingway. Traditional rooms with antique furniture, historical artefacts and open bathrooms with deep-soaking tubs. The excellent in-house restaurant is run by an award winning chef.City Style - A Pamplonaian institution, with tasteful suites and antique chandeliers, right in the heart of the city.Families - The spacious suites can accommodate families, and babysitting services are provided.Local exploring - All important sights and tourist attractions are within easy reach of the hotel.Sights nearby - Right next door to the Pamplona Cathedral, The Town Hall and the Bull Ring.