A guide to the San Fermin (Running with the Bulls) Festival in Pamplona, Spain.
Where is the San Fermin Festival?
The San Fermin festival is held in the city of Pamplona, which is in the Navarre region of Spain. Pamplona is located in north Spain, and is 92 kilometers from the city of San Sebastián, 117 kilometers from Bilbao, 735 kilometers from Paris and 407 kilometers from Madrid.
When is the San Fermin Festival?
The festival starts every year at 12 noon on 6 July, the opening ceremony is called Chupinazo. The festival runs until the closing ceremony at midnight on 14 July, which is called Pobre de mí.
In a nutshell, what is the San Fermin Festival?
The San Fermin festival is a massive 9 day drunken street party, the likes of which you will not experience anywhere else in the world. The festival is famous for running with the bulls, which takes place every morning at 8am. But there is a load more to do, including parades, processions, live bands, firework displays and of course 24 hour drinking and parties. Most people try and attend the festival at 12 noon on the 6th July for the opening ceremony called Chupinazo.
What is the opening ceremony Chupinazo all about?
Basically from early morning on 6 July people start gathering in the plaza outside Pamplona town hall from early morning. The crowds continue to grow until 12 noon, when a rocket is let off and everybody goes crazy and throws red wine and sangria in the air. The crowds all hold their red scarf above their heads and chant “San Fermin, San Fermin, San Fermin”. Be warned, there are literally thousands of people crammed into a small space. You will be pushed around and its can get very scary. If you’re claustrophobic or don’t like the idea of not being in control we strongly suggest you give this one a miss! Injuries are very common during Chupinazo, but in 2011 the police banned glass bottles and that reduced the number of cuts needing stitches etc! We still recommend you wear strong shoes and obviously don’t wear anything you want to keep!
I want to know more about the Bull Runs?
Please read our guide to running with the bulls in Pamplona by clicking here. However the main thing to remember is that running with the bulls is very dangerous and you should take it seriously. People die and get seriously injured while running, so don’t think Spanish health and safety laws will keep you from harm!
Is it all about the Bulls?
No, many of our visitors have the time of their lives and never even see a bull. It’s difficult to get across this is a major party, with drinking, singing and dancing in the streets all night every night!
So what else is there to do apart from bull running and drinking?
If you need anything else, you are obviously a complex sole but luckily the San Fermin festival has much more for you to do! Each day there is a Giants and Big Heads parade where oversized paper-mache models are marched through the streets.There are exhibitions and competitions of Basque rural sports every morning in the “Plaza de los Fueros”, including stone lifting, wood cutting, or hay bale lifting, these sports get very competitive and betting large sums of money is common.Each night there is an international fireworks display above the citadel; companies come from around the world to participate and try to win the best display prize. There are also numerous traditional, historical religious evens honoring St Fermin. Ohh and did we mention the all night drunken street parties and the morning bulls runs?
Who was this Saint Fermin fella?
Saint Fermin was born near Pamplona during the time of the Roman Empire. He was converted to Christianity at an early age and moved to Toulouse in France to study religion in more detail. He returned to Pamplona as a Bishop and lived in the area for some years spreading the Christian way of life. He then travelled to the Amiens area of France on a voyage preaching the gospel, but he obviously upset some of the locals because he was murdered (tortured and beheaded) in Amiens on 25 September AD 303. His body is still in Amiens Cathedral, but some parts of his body (relics) were bought back to Pamplona in the 12th century, and since this date an annual festival has been held to commemorate the martyrdom of St Fermin in the city of Amiens.
What does everybody wear and where can I buy it?
Everybody wears white with a red neckerchief and scarf around their waist. Bring white clothes with you but trust us, almost every corner in Pamplona has a stand selling the neckerchiefs and scarfs. The can cost as little as EUR5 but if you want good quality embroidered kit, you can pay up to EUR60 but they do make great souvenirs.
How big is this festival?
Its massive, the population of Pamplona swells from 200,000 to over a million during the San Fermin period.
Is San Fermin safe?
Your main concern should be pickpockets; it seems almost every petty thief in Spain comes to work in Pamplona during the San Fermin period. On average, almost 15% of our clients will have something stolen from there person during the San Fermin period, this is why we will urge you to leave all expensive jewellery, watches, expensive cameras, mobile phones etc at home or at the campsite with us during your stay. FYI not everything gets stolen, one of our clients got so drunk during San Fermin 2009 he traded his passport for a lift back to our campsite in a taxi! Obviously you also are exposed to large crowd scenes, and running with the bulls is very dangerous so it’s not just the pickpockets to watch out for!
What’s the closing ceremony “Pobre de mí” like?
It’s a great cultural event, but not like the rest of the festival. This is not a party night, most people will be sober and they light candles and sing hymns. A great cultural experience, but if you’re coming just for the beer give this one a miss!
To return to our main Pamplona Bull Run Tour page, please click here!