The heart of Pamplona is the Plaza del Castillo, formerly the bullring, built in 1847. Today it is the seat of the autonomous provincial government. This elegant tree-lined paseo becomes a virtual communal bedroom during the Festival of San Fermín.

The narrow streets of the Old Quarter extend from three sides of the square. The present bullring, the Plaza de Toros, is just east and south of this square alongside Paseo Hemingway. Running parallel to the east of the square is Calle Estafeta, a narrow street that is the site of the running of the bulls. With its bars and tascas, it attracts university students and is lively year-round. During the festival it is the most frequented place in town next to the Plaza del Castillo. The bulls also run through the barricaded streets of Santo Domingo and Mercaderes.

The Running of the Bulls

Beginning at noon on July 6 and continuing nonstop to July 14, the Fiesta de San Fermín is one of the most popular events in Europe, drawing thousands of tourists who severely overtax Pamplona's limited facilities.

Get up early (or don't go to bed at all) since the bulls run every day at 8am sharp. To watch, be in position behind the barricades along Calle Estafeta no later than 6am. Only the able-bodied and sober should plan to run.

There simply aren't enough beds or bullfight tickets to go around, and scalpers have a field day. Technically, tickets for a good seat in the ring go on sale at 8pm the night before the corrida (bullfight), and tickets for standing room go on sale at 4pm the day of the bullfight. But all the tickets are sold out, and since it is impossible to get them through travel agents beforehand, tourists have to use scalpers.

The fiesta draws half a million visitors, many of whom camp in the city parks. Temporary facilities are set up, but there are never enough beds. Hotel reservations should be confirmed at least 6 months beforehand -- the tourist office will not make any recommendations during the festival. If you look respectable, some Pamplónicos may rent you a room. Be aware, however, that they may gouge you for the highest price they think you'll pay, and your room might turn out to be a dirty floor shared with others in a slumlike part of the city. Many young visitors sleep on the grounds of the Ciudadela and Plaza Fueros traffic ring, but muggings can occur. Longtime visitors to Pamplona advise that it's better to sleep in a group, on top of your belongings, and during the day. If you can't find a room, check your valuables at the bus station on Calle Conde Oliveto (where there are showers -- free, but cold).

As for bars and restaurants, ignore all the times given in the listings below. Most establishments operate round-the-clock during the festival.

Warning: Some people go to the festival not to watch the bulls but to pick pockets. Also, don't take needless risks, such as leaping from a building in the hope friends below will catch you. Many people do this, and not all are caught.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.