Pamplona is situated in the northeast of Spain, and is capital of the Navarra region. Most people know the city because of the 'Running of the Bulls', as immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in his novel, The Sun Also Rises, but it was also an important town on the pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostela. Pamplona has retained its historic quarter, with the Plaza del Castillo at its heart, and there are plenty of bars (tascas) which remain lively through the year. The city is also well placed for the Pyrenees Mountains to the north.
Pamplona became capital of the independent kingdom of Navarre in the 10th century. The city enjoyed its golden age during the reign of Charles III who is buried in the cathedral. In the early 15th century Navarre formed a union with neighbouring Castile. Around this time a young nobleman, Ignatius Loyola, was wounded while defending the city from the French. He later formed the Order of Jesuits and went on to become a saint.
The Fiesta de San Fermin, which runs from the 6th to the 14th of July, is one of Europe's most exciting annual events. Held in honour of the city's patron saint, the festival is world-famous for the Running of the Bulls (el encierro), which takes place each morning. The afternoons are devoted to bullfights, while the nights are celebrated with lots of eating and some serious partying. You can also expect plenty of noisy fireworks and traditional music throughout the festival. Usually around half a million visitors descend on Pamplona during San Fermin, so accommodation will be booked up months in advance.
The former bullring, now the Plaza del Castillo, lies at the heart of Pamplona. Running parallel to this square is the narrow street of calle Estafeta where the running of the bulls takes place. There are also many lively bars and restaurants along this thoroughfare.
Pamplona cathedral is one of the most important sights in the city. Dating from the 14th century, the cathedral is notable for its Gothic vaulting in the Barbazan Chapel. In the centre of the building is the tomb of Charles III and his wife, Queen Leonor, while the cathedral's Museo Diocesano contains a collection of medieval religious relics.
The Royal Palace of Olite was the official residence of the Navarran kings until the early 16th century. At the time it was one of Europe's most luxurious castles. Other historic attractions in Pamplona include the 13th century church of San Saturnino with its tall twin towers.
A 16th century hospital houses the excellent Museum of Navarre. Highlights include Goya's painting of the Marquis de San Adrian, a collection of Iron Age and Roman artifacts, and a couple of Flemish paintings on copper. The 13th century murals are also worth seeing.
Pamplona's tourist office is situated in Calle Estava and is open daily. The city has a small airport situated just 4 miles (6.5km) from the centre. There are regular flights to Pamplona from Madrid and Barcelona.