The bulls run and the sangria flows
San Fermin Festival was created by residents to celebrate the martyred first Bishop of Pamplona – Saint Fermin. Dating back to the 14th century, today the celebration has evolved into nine days of music, dancing, markets and, of course, bull runs that capture the hearts of locals and visitors from all over the world. At midday on July 6 each year, the festival begins with an official opening ceremony in the centre of town, where, if you're in attendance, the traditional dress is all white with red scarfs tied around the waist and wrist. When the clock strikes midday, the crowd erupts with singing, dancing, sangria throwing (and drinking) and all-round partying, waving the red scarves in the air before tying them ceremoniously on their necks for the remainder of the festival.
The Running of the Bulls, locally known as Encierro, is the most famous aspect of the festival. It originated from necessity to get the bulls from outside of the city and into the bullring. As the clock strikes 8am, two rockets are launched and six bulls charge behind runners from the corral in Calle Santo Domingo along the 825-metre route to the bullring. Usually lasting just four minutes, it’s a dangerous run and travellers are urged (not forbade, if you obey the local rules and customs) from participating in the event.
When is it?
Tips and tricks
The town of Pamplona is hugely popular during the San Fermin Festival and Running of the Bulls, so it’s best to book your accommodation and ticket in advance – or a tour that will cover this plus some meals and other activities.
Follow traditional custom and wear all white to the opening ceremony, but nothing you’re not afraid of throwing away as all of that sangria throwing will leave you and your clothes rather purple. Red scarfs can be purchased throughout Pamplona in the leadup to the event.
The first bull run takes place begins at 8am on the dot on July 7, the second day of the festival. Allow plenty of time to navigate the crowds and secure your spot (Telefonica, Plaza Consistorial and Mercaderes are the best vantage points).
While the mornings can be chilly, the days can be hot and dry so remember your water and sunscreen.
Mix with friendly locals; learn some local lingo like "Vamonos de juerga" (let’s go party) and try kalimotxo (a wine and coke drink).
San Fermin is more than a bull run and sangria fight, enjoy other highlights including the nightly fireworks at 11pm, the morning Parade of Giants festival that features, well, giant dancing papier-mache figures, the fire bull (think a man in a metal drum attached to many firecrackers, and the candlelight process at the closing ceremony.
Other things to do
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