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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Pamplona

The ancient city of Pamplona, the most important town in the Spanish Pyrenees, lies on a hill above the left bank of the Río Arga, at the western end of the Pyrenees.

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Running of the Bulls

Running of the BullsRunning of the Bulls
Pamplona is famed for the Fiesta de San Fermín, celebrated every year from July sixth to 14th, with impressive parades of Gigantes (Giants) and Cabezudos (Bigheads) and a procession in honor of San Fermín (St Firmianus) on July seventh. Throughout the week there are bullfights, and every morning the fighting bulls are driven through the streets, which have been closed off for the purpose, to the Plaza de Toros, while large numbers of daring young men (and in recent years also women) confront them and race ahead of them through the streets, cheered on by the bystanders. This "running of the bulls" (encierro) is vividly described by Ernest Hemingway in his novel "Fiesta" ("The Sun also Rises").

Old Town

Plaza del CastilloPlaza del Castillo

Plaza del Castillo

The central feature of the town, which is still partly surrounded by its old walls, is the spacious Plaza del Castillo. At the southwest corner of the square stands the Diputación Foral or Palacio de Navarra (built 1847, enlarged 1932), the seat of the provincial assembly. In the magnificent Throne Room is a portrait of Ferdinand VII by Goya.

Archivo General

On the south side of the Diputación Foral is the interesting Archivo General, with a valuable collection of medieval manuscripts.

San Ignacio

Adjoining the Archivo General is the church of San Ignacio (1694), which is said to be built on the spot where Ignacio de Loyola, the future founder of the Jesuits, was wounded while serving as a captain in the Castilian army during a siege of Pamplona by the Navarrese.

Paseo de Sarasate

From the Plaza del Castillo the Paseo de Sarasate, the town's principal promenade, runs southwest. At its near end is the Monumento de los Fueros, an allegorical representation of the rights and privileges (fueros) granted to the town.

San Nicolás

San Nicolas 4139
Half way along the Paseo de Sarasate, on the right, is the church of San Nicolás, originally Romanesque. This fortress-like building served as a stronghold for the San Nicolás quarter, but was largely destroyed when the Castilians entered the town.

Parque Taconera

Parque Taconera 4138
The Paseo de Sarasate leads to the romantic Parque Taconera, with an old town gate, the Puerta de San Nicolás, moved here from its original position. To the south is the Ciudadela (Citadel), now also an attractive park.

Town Hall

Town Hall 4136
Northwest of the Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona, in the little Plaza Consistorial, stands the 17th century Ayuntamiento (Town Hall; restored 1953), with a beautiful Baroque facade in dark-colored stone which is crowned by lions bearing coats of arms and a trumpet-blowing angel. The Town Hall was built at the point where the three separate parts of the town met.

San Saturnino

Just to the west of the Plaza Consistorial is the town's oldest church, San Saturnino (13th-14th C.), with two Romanesque towers. Notable features of the church are the north doorway and a retablo in the baptistery.

Museo de Navarra

Museo de Navarra 4125
Northwest of the Town Hall is the interesting Museo de Navarra, housed in the old pilgrim hospice of Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia, of which the Plateresque facade (1556) survives. The museum's collection, displayed in 34 rooms, includes Roman sculpture and pavement mosaics, Romanesque capitals from the cathedral cloister, Gothic wall paintings, pictures by and Becerra, and Morales.
A particular treasure is a Moorish ivory casket from Córdoba (1004-05) found in the monastery of Leyre.
Address: Calle Santa Domingo, E-31001 Pamplona, Spain

Goya Portrait

Goya's fine portrait of the Marquese de San Adrián.

Cathedral

CathedralCathedral View slideshow
Northeast of the Plaza del Castillo, just inside the town walls, rises the massive cathedral, mostly dating from the 15th century, with a Neo-Classical facade and towers of 1780. In the nave, in front of the choir, is the alabaster tomb of Charles III, the Noble, and his wife Leonora de Trastamara (c. 1420), by the Flemish master Jean de Lomme. The choir has magnificent stalls by Miguel de Ancheta (1530), and in the Capilla Mayor is a retablo of 1507.

Cathedral - Cloister

Cathedral - Cloister 4132
A richly gilded doorway in the south aisle, with a beautiful 14th century tympanum ("Death of the Virgin"), gives access to the 14th century cloister, with its tall arches one of the finest in Spain. On the east side is the Capilla Barbazana, with the tomb of its founder, Cardinal Arnaldo de Barbazán (1318-55). On the south side is the 14th century Puerta Preciosa, which leads into the Sala Preciosa, once the meeting-place of the Cortes of Navarre.

Diocesan Museum

The Diocesan Museum is housed in rooms opening off the cloister. Particularly impressive are the richly decorated refectory, with a carving of the ''Maiden and the Unicorn'' on the lector's pulpit, and the huge kitchen with a chimney 27m/89ft high. The other rooms contain the rich Cathedral Treasury, which includes a 13th century Gospel book, a French reliquary of the Holy Sepulchre, the Lignum Crucis (believed to be a fragment of the True Cross), pictures and sculpture.

Eastern and Southern Districts

Plaza de TorosPlaza de Toros Carthesian

Plaza de Toros

Plaza de Toros 4140
East of the Plaza del Castillo, in Calle de Amaya, is the Plaza de Toros (Bullring). In front of it can be seen a monument to Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), a great lover of Spain and aficionado of bullfighting.

Plaza del Conde de Rodezno

From the south side of the Plaza del Castillo the Avenida de Carlos III, lined by modern buildings, runs southeast, crosses the wide Avenida de la Baja Navarra and comes to the spacious Plaza del Conde de Rodezno, with the temple-like Monumento de los Caídos (Monument to the Fallen), commemorating the Nationalist dead of the Civil War.

Surroundings

From Pamplona to the Monasterio de Leyre

Puerto de Velate

N 121 leads north from Pamplona, passing through Villava and then up the valley of the Río Ulzama to the Puerto de Matacola (662m/2,172ft). Thereafter it continues climbing to the Puerto de Velate (847m/2,779ft), from which there are extensive views, before descending, with many bends and fine views, into the valley of the little Río Bidasoa and continuing to Mugaire.

Baztan Valley

From Mugaire N 121 runs northeast up the picturesque Valle de Baztán. This isolated valley in the Basque Pyrenees comprises fourteen communes which from the medieval period on enjoyed self-government and their own system of justice. Something of the old traditions of the valley still survives in the local dialect, costume, music and dances. On the green slopes of the valley livestock are reared and maize is grown in terraced fields.

Elizondo

An old church in Elizondo.
The chief place in the Baztan Valley is the old-world little town of Elizondo (alt. 196m/643ft), with many old houses and palaces decked with coats of arms, notably the Baroque Palacio de Arizcunenea and the 18th century Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). From Elizondo N 121 winds its way up the valley, crosses the Puerto de Otsondo (602m/1,975ft) and continues to the Spanish-French frontier at the Puente de Dancharinea.

Royal Collegiate Church of Orreaga-Roncasvalles

Now a major halt on the Pilgrim's Way, Roncasvalles was the site of a major battle in 778 between the Basques of Navarra and Charlemagnes rearguard.
The Royal Collegiate now located here serves as a resting point for travelers and has done so for centuries.

Zugarramurdi Caves

The large caverns of Zugarramurdi is reputed to have been the site of the ancient Witches' Sabbath.

Mirador de Baztan

A wonderful view can be obtained from the Mirador.

Roncesvalles, Spain

Roncesvalles 4150
From Pamplona C 135 goes northeast up the valley of the Río Arga, passes through Zubiri and climbs to the Puerto de Erro (801m/2,628ft). It then continues up the valley to Burguete (alt. 910m/2,986ft) and Roncesvalles (981m/3,219ft), just below the pass which was the most important way through the Pyrenees in the early Middle Ages and which was made famous by the "Chanson de Roland". The monastery and hospice which was established here to care for pilgrims following the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela developed into one of the largest and most famous establishments of the kind on the pilgrim route.

Real Colegiata de Roncesvalles

Real Colegiata de Roncesvalles 4157
The Augustinian abbey was founded in 1130. The 13th century church has sumptuous gilded retablos, and on the high altar is a carved wooden figure of the Virgin of Roncesvalles, richly clad in silver and gold. In the chapterhouse, which opens off the cloister, is the tomb of Sancho VII, the Strong, during whose reign, in 1219, the church was consecrated. The recumbent figure of the king is 2.25m/7ft 4-1.5in. long, which is said to have been his actual height.

Pass of Roncesvalles

Pass of Roncesvalles 4156
The road continues up to the Pass of Roncesvalles (1,057m/3,468ft), by which the various invaders from Northern Europe entered Spain in the early Middle Ages. This, according to legend, was the scene of the battle in 778 in which the rearguard of Charlemagne's army returning from Zaragoza was destroyed. The rearguard was commanded by Roland, one of Charlemagne's paladins, who was killed in the battle together with eleven other paladins. There was in fact a battle in the year 778 between the Franks and an army of Basques, Asturians and Navarrese seeking revenge for Charlemagne's destruction of Pamplona; the Moors were probably not involved. This relatively minor engagement, however, provided the subject matter of the 12th century "Chanson de Roland", which lauded the heroism of Roland and presented Charlemagne as the savior of Christendom from Antichrist. From the top of the pass there are fine views. A modern chapel has replaced an earlier one which provided shelter for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela, and there is a stone commemorating Roland (Roldán in Spanish).

Museum

Among the exhibits in the Museum housed in the conventual buildings are a Gospel book which belonged to the kings of Navarre, several reliquaries in precious materials, a collection of outsize weapons said to have been the property of Sancho VII, a precious stone from the turban of the Arab leader at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, in which the Arabs were decisively defeated, and valuable paintings, including a triptych ascribed to Hieronymus Bosch.

Capilla Sancti Spiritus

Near the monastery is the much visited Gothic pilgrimage church of the Holy Spirit, traditionally believed to have been built by Charlemagne to house Roland's tomb.

Jardin del Senorio de Bertiz

Jardin del Senorio de Bertiz is an extensive park with holm oaks, Italian cypresses and Spanish chestnuts. There are many conifers interspersed with flowering shrubs. The River Bibasoa flows through the garden and the romantic bridge leads across and ornamental lake to an island with pergola.

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