Running of the Bulls festival | A guide for tourists

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(Last updated on: 23/01/2022)

The Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona is a popular part of Spanish culture. It takes place yearly as part of the San Fermin Festival in July, and tourists are welcome to spectate and participate. If you are planning on visiting, here’s everything you need to know!

What is the Running of the Bulls Festival?

running of the bulls

Put simply, bull-running is pretty self-explanatory. It is a Spanish tradition (also found in Mexico, Portugal and the south of France) that involves people being ‘chased’ by bulls through the streets. The biggest and most famous example of a Running of the Bulls festival, and the one this blog post pertains to, is that which takes place in Pamplona in July of each year. It is part of the annual San Fermin Festival.

DID YOU KNOW: The San Fermin Festival starts on July 6th each year and lasts until July 14th. The celebrations honour Saint Fermin. He is the patron saint of Pamplona – a martyr and legendary holy man.

Can tourists attend the Running of the Bulls Festivals?

Tourists are more than welcome to attend. The streets of Pamplona are filled each morning as people watch the bull-running, and there is always plenty of sangria. Tourists are also allowed to participate in the Running of the Bulls Festival. Many people choose to do this on their trip to Pamplona as it is such an adrenaline rush. If you’re a thrill-seeker then this is the perfect holiday activity for you.

What really happens at the Running of the Bulls

Find out what to wear to the running of the bulls in this blog post – there are guidelines but as long as you bear in mind the colour scheme of red and white, you’ll be good to go!

Attending the Running of the Bulls: practical information 

The bull-running takes place each morning of the festival week. It starts at approximately 8.00 am and lasts around 2-3 minutes. The Running of the Bulls is free to attend. The festival is popular with (and suitable for) people of all ages.

If you want to take part, you don’t need to sign up in advance. Just make sure you’re of age (18+) and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs! The run starts from the slope of Santo Domingo Street and extends 875 metres (approx. 2870 ft). Be there between 6.30 and 7.30 am if you do want to take part.

The running of the bulls festival can be dangerous.

You will hear four rockets. The first rocket is to let you know that the Running of the Bulls has commenced, and the second is to tell you that all of the bulls have left their pens and are now on the streets. Rocket number three tells you that the bulls are now inside the bullring itself, and the fourth and final rocket is to inform you that the streets can now be used again by the public. Party on!

DID YOU KNOW: since records began in 1911, 16 people have died during the Running of the Bulls Festival. In over 100 years, this number isn’t as big as it could be.

Many people question whether the Running of the Bulls is ethical. There is no straightforward answer to this – it has been part of Spanish culture for many years. It entirely depends on your views around bullfighting, as that is what the bulls are running towards.

Where to stay in Pamplona

There are plenty of places to stay in Pamplona when attending the Running of the Bulls Festival as a tourist. Here are some of the best…

Aloha Hostel is one of the various hostels in the centre. Pamplona Bus Station is just 450 yards away, and Ciudadela Park is 5 minutes away on foot. There are dormitory and double rooms available. The hostel offers free WiFi in all areas, a shared kitchen and lockers. There is a designated smoking area and a terrace. Previous guests praise the friendly staff and comfortable beds.

history of the running of the bulls

If you’re looking for a modern and luxurious hotel, check out Hotel Tres Reyes. With twin, double and triple rooms as well as family rooms and suites, this is the ideal hotel for anyone travelling to the Running of the Bulls Festival in Pamplona. Parking and free WiFi are available. There is an on-site restaurant, a pool & spa area, live music and much more on offer at the hotel. They also accept pets if you’re a semi-local visitor! Previous guests have praised the owners’ passion for local food and the fantastic views.

Travelling in a larger group? There are plenty of apartments in Pamplona such as Navas I. With two units – one sleeping five and one sleeping eight – they are ideal for bigger families or friends travelling together. There is plenty of space to really enjoy your trip. Pets are allowed, WiFi is free and parking is available too! Previous visitors have praised the location and the decor.

The weather at the Running of the Bulls Festival

In July, the weather in Pamplona is hot without being too hot. On average it gets to a high of 27°C with lows of around 15°C. There is only around 4 days of rain across the whole month so you’re guaranteed to have mostly dry days during the San Fermin Festival week.

Pack your SPF, a good hat and some sunglasses. And remember to stay hydrated during the Running of the Bulls Festival – and that means water, not just sangria!

Other things to do in Pamplona

Pamplona is a major stop on the famous Camino de Santiago. You can step onto the trail and get a feel for what it’s all about, and you’ll likely meet plenty of people who are walking the whole trail. Most of them will have an incredible story! Definitely take the time to stop and talk to any hikers if they are open to chatting with you.

There are plenty of other things to do in Pamplona!

  • Jardines de la Taconera is a beautiful park full of colourful flowers, lush green spaces and access to the old city walls. It is regarded as one of the best places to watch the sunset in Pamplona!
  • The Museum of Navarra, Navarre’s art museum which is full of ancient art and artefacts, is located in an old hospital.
  • Pamplona Cathedral is a beautiful historic church with a stunning gothic interior – home to the bodies of medieval kings.
  • The Church of San Lorenzo is a must-see. It is a stunning historic chapel on the edge of the old center of town, and perfect for travel photographers.

So there’s your tourist-friendly guide to the Running of the Bulls Festival. It is an iconic way to spend time in Pamplona if you’re visiting at the right time, and a great activity for the thrill-seekers in your party if anyone is brave enough…

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