San Fermin Festival 101

Famous for its Running of the Bulls, the San Fermin Festival is a week-long stretch of sangria-fueled parties, colorful parades, folk dancing, fireworks, and adrenaline-pumping bullfights. The fiesta takes place in Pamplona, Spain from July 6 to July 14 every year. People travel from the world over to see Spain’s most noble fighting bulls run the narrow, cobbled streets with hundreds of brave souls. The deeply religious festival dates back to the Middle Ages and honors Pamplona’s patron saint San Fermin. Over the years, the fiesta has incorporated tournaments, musical performances, bullfighting and hair-raising bull runs, focusing less on religious elements and more on entertainment and unbridled fun.

The Fiestas de San Fermin are much more than raucous parties and chaotic bull runs. It is a traditional celebration that unites the entire region of Navarra, promoting a sense of camaraderie and intense national pride among the young and young-at-heart.

Pamplona bull runs – Los Encierros

Without question, the Pamplona bull runs are the highlight of the festivities. Known locally as “el encierro,” the bull run take place at precisely 8 o’clock each morning July 7-14th. A series of rockets are fired, and six 1,200 beasts begin their charge down the half mile course that begins at Santo Domingo Street and wends its way through the Old Quarter before finishing at the Plaza del Toros where the bulls will fight later that day. The runners, called ‘mozos,’ are clad in white with red bandanas and sashes – the official costume that pays homage to San Fermin. Massive crowds gather to cheer the runners as they embark on the one of the most dangerous and thrilling three minutes of their lives.

Some spectators watch the bull runs behind the barriers and fences at street level. However, the best (and safest) vantage point for taking in the action is from the balconies, perched two stories above.  Many local residents who have apartments along the bull run route rent out their balconies during the festival.

Other festival activities and events

Visitors who attend the San Fermin Festival have literally hundreds of events to look forward to besides the morning bull runs. The activities take place in various parts of Pamplona and many are geared to family and children.  If you plan to visit Pamplona, Spain for this world-famous festival, be sure to include these in your itinerary:

  • Parade of Giants and Big Heads
  • Fireworks displays – held each night of the festival
  • Live music concerts – held outdoors throughout the fiesta
  • Marching bands
  • Navarra folkloric festivals
  • Equine fair
  • Marionette shows
  • Toro de Fuego – a papier mache “fire bull” that chases kids and adults