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Home » Culture » Spain » Places » Cities » Pamplona



Pamplona, or Iruñea in the Basque language, is the capital of the Community of Navarre, located between the communities of La Rioja and the Basque country.

The city of Pamplona, or Iruñea in the Basque language, is the capital of the Community of Navarre, located between the autonomous communities of La Rioja and the Basque country to the west, and Aragon to the east. It has a population of about 200,000 and it is less than 100 kilometers away from the cities San Sebastian and Vitoria.

Three rivers flow through this northern city: the Arga, the Elorz and the Sadar. Stone tools dating back some 75,000 years were discovered near the Arga River, which indicate the earliest traces of human presence known in this area. There was a Basque settlement here in the first millennium A.D. from which Iruñea takes its name, which in Basque means “the city”. In the year 75 A.D., Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus founded the Roman City that he christened as Pompaelo, the origin of the city’s current name.

The city was controlled first by the Visigoths and then the Arabs until the 9th century until it was captured by King Alfonso I of Aragon in the 11th century. During the 11th century, Pamplona underwent a change that would later characterize the city: in the city’s current location, three different walled hamlets were established, formed mainly by the Franks and the Navarrese, two groups that maintained a conflictive relationship until 1423 when King Charles III unified the three hamlets into a single city. Around 1515, it was annexed by the kingdom of Castile, which placed the city on the front lines of a possible attack from France. Given the location of the city it was soon transformed into a defensive fortress. In the 18th century, Pamplona was modernized, a process that was interrupted by the Napoleonic invasion. Once the war of independence was over in 1813, Pamplona continued as a liberal center in opposition to the Carlist absolutism that dominated the rest of the region. The law of fiscal autonomy was established (the Fueros), which still exists today, and finally in the 19th century, Pamplona’s urban expansion began, which saw the construction of many modernist buildings and the destruction of part of the old city walls.

Pamplona today is a reflection of its long and complex history and has the distinction of being one of the cities with the most green areas in Spain. The city in fact has one tree for every two residents. It is a perfect city for going for exploring nature in, as it has at least six parks which include: los Jardines de la Taconera, which houses remains of the city wall, Ciudadela and the Parque de la Media Luna (Half Moon Park), Parque de Yamaguchi (a curious example of a Japanese garden created by Japanese landscapists from Pamplona’s sister city of Yamaguchi) where you can also find a planetarium, and the enormous Parque Fluvial, with a total of more than 11 kilometers of footpaths.

One of the city’s most noteworthy monuments is the town hall building, the balcony of which the famous chupinazo rocket is launched from each year to kick off the festival of San Fermin. Other attractions include the Palace of Navarre, which today is the government headquarters of Navarre, the Cámara de los Comptos Reales, a 14th century gothic building located on the highest point of the city, and the Paseo de Sarasate, named after the famous musician from Navarre, Pablo Sarasate. Here you can find the monument dedicated to the Fueros.

Religious buildings include the churches of St. Lawrence and St. Nicholas, the Cathedral of St. Mary, founded in the 9th century within one of the original hamlets of Pamplona and the Church of Saint Saturnin, which originally displayed a Roman style but which was rebuilt in Gothic style in the 13th century after the war between the hamlets.

The Camino de Santiago’s Way of St. James also passes through the city after it crosses the small village of Roncesvalles.

Pamplona’s famous Festival of San Fermin takes place from the 6th to the 14th of July in honor of the patron saint of Navarre. The festival’s fame has reached a global scale thanks to the writings of Ernest Hemingway and others. Thousands of visitors arrive here each year to experience the festivities which include the running of the bulls events that take place every day of the festival, and to enjoy the city’s parks and cooking, and of course the friendly, open, and direct character of its residents.