Every July the historic and lovely town of Pamplona, in the far North of Spain, becomes a sea of colour and throbs to the sound of music, dancing and merriment. It is fiesta time! The 8 day long festival is to honour San Fermin (Sanfermines), the patron saint of Navarre Province. The fiesta for most, is the occasion of the famous Bull Run in Spain but is actually a combination of three ancient events – honouring the saint, a market fair and a bullfighting festival.
The San Fermin Festival is a time of mayhem, huge adrenaline rushes, vast wine consumption, dancing and non-stop fun. It is a heck of a crazy adventure. Here are some tips and information if you want to get the most out of your festival experience.
- The festival is officially opened by the mayor, at 12:00pm on the 6th of July with the launching of a pyrotechnic Txupinazo rocket (chupinazo) from the city hall balcony. Thousands gather in the square to witness the event.
- The most famous event of the fiesta is the running of the bulls, properly called “encierro.” The first running takes place the day after the opening ceremony.
- The main festival is on 7th July. The statue of San Fermin is paraded through the streets of old Pamplona accompanied by dancers and entertainers performing the Jota (an ancient dance).
- The Giant’s Parade takes place every day of the festival. Huge papier-mâché puppets manipulated by people dancing inside them are part of the procession.
- Encierro takes place every day at 8am. A firecracker signals the release of the bulls from their corral.
- Just before the Pamplona Bull Run starts, runners (wearing red bandanas around their necks) gather around the statue of San Fermin and sing a traditional chant three times. This is a prayer for protection.
- The run involves six fighting bulls and six steers down the narrow streets of old Pamplona. The route is 825 metres long and ends in Pamplona’s Bullring.
- The bulls are killed later in the afternoon at the bullfights.
- At 11:59pm on a random night crowds gather at the Town Hall to make as much noise as possible with drums, horns, whistles or anything they can lay their hands on. The din or El Struendo (The Roar) goes on for several hours.
- There are spectacular fireworks every night at the Citadel Park.
- The San Fermin festival also has traditional Basque sports every morning in the Plaza de los Fueros, near the Citadel. They are stone lifting, wood cutting and hay baling.
- On the last night people gather once again at the Town Hall Square at midnight, 14th July. The sad Pobre de Mi (Poor Me) is sung, candles are lit and the people remove the red bandanas from their necks.