San Fermin is one of the greatest festivals in Europe and is truly a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed! But what is it? And how do we ensure that we’ll survive the whole 9 days? Take our tips!
The Fiestas of San Fermin
The fiestas are celebrated every year from the 6th-14th of July in Irunea/Pamplona, in the northern region of Navarra, Spain. Not only is it known between the Spaniards, but it has also become internationally known because of the running of the bulls and all of the parties.
During the fiestas, the city is filled with people dressed in red and white. The fiestas are richly diverse with aspects of their local and national culture: music, bull running, sporting contests, and of course celebration – this festival is easily one of our favourites!
10. Go to the Opening Ceremony with Friends
The opening ceremony, also known as the “Chupinazo” takes place at noon on the first day of the fiestas. Thousands cram into the Town Hall Square and start sprinkling Champagne and Sangria everywhere. Our advice: If you’re slim and/or short, don’t enter the Chupinazo alone. Every year, there are dozens of people that pass-out also. For those travelling alone who really want to experience it, perhaps you can try to find a big group of tall people and ask them to let you stand in the middle.
Hang out until the the Mayor of Pamplona has given his blessing, during which time you should raise your red-handkerchief or “Pañuelo”. Right after the blessing, they light out a stick-rocket which signifies the beginning of the fiestas of San Fermin. Ready to party? Let’s go!
9. Eat and Drink in the Streets
Try to avoid eating in the Plaza del Castillo because it’s more expensive and not as good as other parts of the city. During the fiestas, you will bump into a lot of people drinking jugs of Sangria, beer or wine and eating sandwiches with local products.
The drink of choice during the fiestas is Kalimotxo – a national drink which is a mix of coke and the local red wine. You can purchase this in any store or make it yourself!
8. Pick Pockets
As it’s one of the world’s largest (and greatest) parties, it’s also famous for being filled with pickpockets. No expensive watches. No wallets. And maybe even invest in a money belt.
7. No Cameras or Videos
As much as you think you’ll have time to take pictures, we guarantee that you won’t. At least not while you’re in the city. And if you don’t get it wet (with Sangria, most probably) or run over, the local police may confiscate it during the bull running.
6. Don’t Run Drunk and Be Sure You’re Fit
Aside from the obvious reasons for not being drunk, Police will remove the visibly drunk from the bull-run course. They won’t allow people with costumes or hats. So please leave your giant banana outfit behind! The Bull run is not for the faint-hearted and you can’t really prepare for the combination of adrenalin and fear that comes over you once you start running. If you don’t feel too well before running, the answer is quite simply – Don’t do it!
6. Arrive Early to Run with the Bulls
Runs start at 8 a.m. but you’ll have to get there earlier!. Thousands and thousands will want to run and not everyone gets a chance to. It’s never too early to arrive at the start but be sure to be there by 6:30 a.m. to get a good spot.
5. Pick Your Section Wisely
The run is 825m long and is divided into two legs: the first section goes from the bull pen to Calle Estefeta and the second from Estefeta Street to the bull ring where bulls stay until the bull fight in the evening. The second leg is considered to be the best one but it’s also the most dangerous and where most of the accidents have occurred.
If you end up choosing the second section, remember to be extra careful at the entrance of the arena because it gets very crowded and narrow! Also, be careful with the baby bulls that are unleashed.
Important Tip: Try to avoid the corner of Calle Estefeta when the bulls enter the second part of the run because a lot of people fall here and it’s also where a lot of bulls slip and fall over.
4. Don’t Touch the Bulls & Stay Down If You Fall
The men in green shirts with “Pastores” written in the back are the shepherds of the bulls and carry thin, 5-foot-long willow canes and they will not hesitate to hit you with it if you disrespect their bulls.
And if you fall while you’ve got stampeding bulls behind you, remember to stay down with your hands on your head curled up in a ball. Only get up once the bulls and masses have passed through!
3. Stay Vigilant
Be cautious… even as a spectator! You won’t be immune from danger even if you’re protected by barriers because sometimes bulls can get dizzy and charge the spectators without warning.
2. Sol Party
In the evenings, they do bullfights with the bulls that ran during the day. There’s a section in the arena called Sol where you’ll find the cheapest seats and most fun. The Peñas (communal groups) hang around this area and they splash sangria, play drums and sing throughout the 2 hours of the fight.
But if you want to watch the bullfights in peace, sit in the Sombra section and you’ll be far from all the rowdiness of Sol.
1. Campsite Parties
Not only are there parties in the streets or in the bull fighting arenas, but also in different campsites! At El Molino’s Campsite, you’ll be able to relax by the pool and chill out to the sounds of DJ’s from London.
Have you been to Sant Fermin? How was your experience?
Let us know in the comments below!