Pamplona: What to know before you go to the San Fermin Festival
Stars and Stripes June 19, 2003
You don’t have to run with the bulls to enjoy Pamplona’s San Fermín Festival.
In fact, most people choose not to take the risk. They come to enjoy the fiesta’s all-night parties, the discos, fireworks and, of course, watch the courageous — or stupid, depending on how look at it — try to outrun the bulls down the 900-yard route in the middle of the streets.
Don’t feel obligated to run. Even author Ernest Hemingway, whose novel “The Sun Also Rises” made the sprint famous, never ran with the bulls in his many visits to the Basque city.
¶ Hotels: If you do go, it is advised that you reserve a hotel room 12 months in advance. But even if you didn’t plan a trip to the fiesta that far in advance, it is still possible to get a room.
If you’re willing to stay outside of Pamplona, tourists can find some decent deals. Revelers might also be able to find a room through the Internet. Just don’t expect one overlooking the route.
And if all else fails, there’s a city park. Thousands of people crash on street benches or in grassy areas. However, camping out of the park is not one of the safest choices.
¶ Getting there: By car from Madrid, it takes about four to five hours to make it to Pamplona. However, once you get in the city, you’ll find driving almost as dangerous as running with the bulls. Plus, there are few places to park in town.
There are daily flights to Pamplona from both Madrid and Barcelona. The airport is about five miles from the city center. Be aware that snagging a taxi can sometimes be difficult because rides are in such demand. Taxi drivers also increase their rates because of the fiesta.
Several trains run to Pamplona from Madrid and Barcelona. From Madrid, it’s about a five-hour journey. Tickets should be booked well in advance in order to ensure you can get a seat. They fill up quickly.
For more information, go to www.sanfermin.com. The site is available in English. Or call the Pamplona Tourist Office at (+34) (0) 948-20-65-40.
The bull run
The running of the bulls, or encierros, is the central event of the San Fermín fiesta.
¶ Time: 8 a.m. each day.
¶ Date: from July 7-14.
¶ Route: 849 meters, from Santo Domingo to the bull ring.
¶ Average duration: 3 minutes, 55 seconds.
¶ Average speed of the bulls: 24 kilometers per hour.
¶ Number of runners: 2,000 on a weekday, 3,000 on weekend.
¶ Injured runners per year: Between 200 and 300. Three percent are seriously injured.
¶ Deaths: 13.
¶ In the street: It is free to stand along the fence. But you should get there at least two hours early.
¶ In the bull ring: It costs 4 euros for general admission. The price goes up on weekends.
¶ On a balcony: You can rent a balcony for 15 to 30 euros.
¶ On TV: The running is broadcast live on local television.
Bullfights and peñas
The bullfight is where the six bulls that ran in the morning meet their fate. Peñas are clubs whose members meet at local bars before heading to the bullfight. They leave the bullring and parade at 8:30 p.m.
¶ Time: Every afternoon at 6:30 p.m.
¶ Tickets: Sitting in the shade is the most expensive, sitting in the sun is the cheapest.
¶ Buying tickets: It is almost impossible to buy a ticket because 90 percent are reserved for season ticket holders. Tickets for the upper tier can be bought the day before. It is possible to buy tickets from scalpers, but the practice is illegal.