Pamplona \ Iruña

Pamplona \ Iruña

Miles to Santiago: 710km \ 441mi


Pamplona - or as the local Basque people call it Iruña - is the capital of the Province of Navarre. It is situated in a kind of basin formed by the Ebro river valley. All of Spain is kind of like an upside-down soup bowl with a high plateau in the middle and series of valleys just in from the coast and then a few more mountains on the coast line. So Iruña is in that dip just away from the coast.

Pamplona is known outside of Basque Country for the Running of the Bulls during the festival of San Fermín. But the city is actually of huge importance for the Basque culture and is home to several major universities and other institutes.


Way back in the winter of 75–74 BC, the area served as a camp for the Roman general Pompey who is considered to be the founder of Pompelo which became Pamplona. Before that, it was the chief town of the Vascones. They called it Iruña, translating to 'the city'. During the Germanic invasions of 409 and later as a result of ravaging, Pamplona started a cycle of general decline along with other towns across the Basque territory... The people managed to keep some sort of urban life with ups and downs based on which army was marching around it at the moment.

Pamplona was far enough north to have avoided most of the worst parts of the Moorish Invasion and the Reconquesta. It was in Pamplona that a young soldier from Loyola named Ignatius was in the hospital for several months with a single copy of the Lives of the Saints. While convalescing in Pamplona, St. Ignatius conceived of the Jesuits and started making plans to change the world.

During the 18th century century, Pamplona was beautified and its urban services improved. A continuous water supply was established and the streets were paved, among many other enhancements. Rich aristocrats and businessmen also built started to build mansions inside the city walls. In the nineteenth century, Pamplona played a key role in several wars. Doing the Franco-era, the Basque people were brutally oppressed and Pamplona became a center of cultural resistance. Together with San Sebastian in the north, the Basque people fought to maintain their language (which was outlawed) and their cultural traditions. Since the end of the Franco era, Pamplona has become a vibrant center of Basque life, music and cuisine.

Points of Interest

A Wealth of Churches The most important religious building is the fourteenth century Gothic Cathedral, with its cloister and Neoclassical façade. There are another two main Gothic churches in the old city: Saint Sernin and Saint Nicholas, both built during the thirteenth century. Two other Gothic churches were built during the sixteenth century: Saint Dominic and Saint Augustine. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Baroque chapels of Saint Fermín, in the church of Saint Lawrence, and of the Virgin of the Road (Virgen del Camino), in the church of Saint Sernin, the convents of the Augustinian Recollect nuns and the Carmelite friars, and the Saint Ignatius of Loyola basilica in the place where he was injured in the battle and during the subsequent convalescence he decided to be a priest were all built.

City Walls Three of the four sides of the city walls remain intact with little modifications and citadel or "star fort" are also worth seeing. All the mediaeval structures were replaced and improved during 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in order to resist artillery sieges.

The Running of the Bulls The first thing most people think when they hear the name Pamplona is the Running of the Bulls. That is the beginning of the festival of Pamplona's patron saint San Fermín in July. Everything you could want to know about that is here.