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Pamplona (Basque: Iruñea or Iruña) is the capital city of Navarremarker, Spainmarker and of the former kingdom of Navarre.

The city is famous worldwide for the San Fermín festival, from July 7 to 14, in which the running of the bulls or encierro is one of the main attractions. This fiesta, known as Sanfermines to the local population, was first brought to widespread attention by Ernest Hemingway in his first novel, The Sun Also Rises.

As of 2007, there were 27 councillors in Pamplona Municipality: 13 of UPN, 8 of NaBai, 4 of PSOE and 2 of ANV.


Pamplona is located in the middle of Navarre, in a rounded valley known as the Cuenca de Pamplona, that links the mountainous North with the Ebro valley. The climate and landscape of the Cuenca is a transition between those two main Navarrese geographical regions. Its central position at crossroads has served as a commercial link between those very different natural parts of Navarre.

The historical center of Pamplona is on the right bank of the Arga, a tributary of the Ebro. The city has developed on both sides of the river. Its climate is Oceanic with influences of Continental Mediterranean.


The city walls of Pamplona

Foundation and Roman times

In the winter of 74–75 BC, the area served as a camp for the Roman general Pompey in the war against Sertorius. He is considered to be the founder of Pompaelo, which became Pamplona, in modern Spanish language. It is thought that it was the chief town of the Vascones, and they called it Iruña, 'the city'. Roman Pompaelo was located in the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, on the Ab Asturica Burdigalam, the road from Burdigala (modern Bordeauxmarker) to Asturica (modern Astorgamarker); it was a civitas stipendiaria in the jurisdiction of the conventus of Caesaraugusta (modern Zaragozamarker). Although it can not be considered one of the outstanding cities of Roman Hispania, recent archaeological excavations have revealed a quite high degree of development.

Early Middle Ages

Side view of the Monumento a los Caídos de Sanfermines

After the fall of the Roman Empire and during the Visigothic period (fourth to eighth centuries), the Vascones lived independently, although it is likely that Visigoths controlled, maybe only intermittently, the fortified city of Pamplona. It is known also that several Pamplonese bishops attended the Councils of Toledo. During the eighth century, Moors and Franks intermittently controlled the city. The best-known episode of that obscure period was the destruction of the city walls by Charlemagne after his failed expedition to Zaragoza in 778. He was subsequently defeated in the famous battle of Roncevauxmarker. During the late eighth century, Pamplona and its area of influence oscillated between two powerful states but proved unable to permanently secure its rule over the Basque region. This alternation could reflect also the internal struggles of the Basque warrior nobility. Finally, in 824 Íñigo Arista was crowned as king of Pamplona. This kingdom strengthened its independence from the weakened Frankish empire and Cordoban emirate. Nevertheless, during this period Pamplona was not properly a city but just a kind of fortress.

Three burgos and one city

From the 11th century, reviving economic development allowed Pamplona to recover its urban life. The bishops of Pamplona recovered their ecclesiastical leading role; during the previous centuries isolated monasteries, especially Leyremarker, had actually held the religious authority. The pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostelamarker contributed a lot to revive the commercial and cultural exchanges with Christian Europe beyond the Pyreneesmarker. In the 12th century, the city enlarged with two new separate burgos (independent municipalities): San Cernin and San Nicolás, in which the population of local Navarrese was swelled by Frenchmarker merchants and artisans. Old Pamplona and the new burgos were almost always engaged in quarrels among themselves. The most dramatic episode was the destruction of the Navarrería by the other two boroughs and the massacre of its population in 1276. Its site was abandoned for nearly fifty years. King Charles III decreed the unification of the boroughs in a single city in 1423.

A fortress-city

After the annexation of Navarre to Spain (1512), Pamplona remained as capital of the autonomous kingdom of Navarre, which preserved its own institutions and laws. Pamplona acquired a key role in the military defence of the Pyrenees. The southern side of the city was the weaker and the Navarrese king Louis I built a castle in the early 14th century in the site that is known today as Plaza del Castillo (Castle Square). After the Castilian conquest, king Ferdinand V ordered in 1513 the demolition of the mediaeval castle and the building of a new one in a very close place. But the progress of artillery demanded a complete renewal of the fortified system. King Philip II ordered the building of a star fort in the southern side of the city and the modernization of all the walls. The walls that exist today date from the late sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.
Estafeta Street

During the eighteenth century, Pamplona was considerably beautified and its urban services improved. A continuous water supply was established and the streets were paved, among many other enhancements. Rich aristocrats and businessmen also built their mansions. In the nineteenth century this fortress-city played a key role in several wars in which Spain was involved. During the Napoleonic Wars French troops occupied the city in 1808 and remained in it until 1813. During the Carlist Wars (1833–1839 and 1872–1876) Pamplona was each time controlled by the liberals, not just because the few liberals that lived in Navarre were mainly Pamplonese, but because of the governmental control over the fortified city. Although Carlist rebels easily ruled the countryside, the government army had no problem in dominating the walled capital of Navarre. Nevertheless, during the last Carlist war, modern artillery operated by Carlists from surrounding mountains showed that the old walls would not be enough in the face of a stronger enemy. Thus, the Government decided to build a fort on the top of mount San Cristóbal, just three kilometers north of Pamplona.

Due to its military role, the city could not grow outside its walled belt. Furthermore, building in the closest area to the walls was banned to avoid any advantage for a besieger; thus the city could only grow by increasing its housing density. Higher and narrower houses were built and courtyards gradually disappeared. During the nineteenth century road transportation improved, and the railway came in 1860. Nevertheless, industry in Pamplona as well as in Navarre as a whole was weak during century of the Industrial Revolution. Anyway, no industrial development was feasible in such a constrained fortress-city.

After a slight modification of the star fort allowed an expansion of just six blocks in 1888, the First World War demonstrated that the fortified system of Pamplona was already obsolete. In 1915, the Army allowed the destruction of the walls and abolished the building ban in the city's surroundings. The southern side of the walls was destroyed and the other three remained as they did not hinder urban growth. The star fort continued to serve as a military facility until 1964, but just as a garrison.

Industrialization and modernization

Demographic evolution (1900-2005)

Freed from its military function, Pamplona could lead the process of industrialization and modernization in which Navarre was involved during the 20th century, especially during its second half. The urban growth has been accompanied by the development of industry and services. Population growth has been the effect of an intense immigration process during the 1960s and 1970s: from the Navarrese countryside and from other less developed regions of Spain, mainly Castile and Leónmarker and Andalusiamarker. Since the 1990s the immigration is coming mainly from abroad.

Pamplona is listed as a city with one of the highest standards of living and quality of life in Spain. Its industry rate is higher than the national average , although it is threatened by delocalization. Crime statistics are lower than the national average but cost of living, especially housing, is considerably higher. Thanks to its small size and an acceptable public transport service, there are no major transport problems. Political life is seriously affected by the Basque Nationalist conflict.


Like many other European cities, it is very easy to distinguish what is so called the "old city" (Casco Viejo) and the new neighborhoods. The oldest part of the old city is Navarrería, which corresponds with the Roman city. During the 12th century, the boroughs of Saint Sernin (San Saturnino or San Cernin) and Saint Nicholas (San Nicolás) were established. Charles III decreed the unification of the three places under a single municipality in 1423.
Old city of Pamplona

The city did not expand until the late 19th century. In 1888, a modest modification of the star fort was allowed, but it just permitted the building of six blocks. It was called the I Ensanche (literally, "first widening"). The southern walls were destroyed in 1915 and the II Ensanche ("second widening") was planned. Its plan followed the grid pattern model designed by Ildefons Cerdà for Barcelonamarker. Its blocks were built between the 20s and the 50s. The prevailing housing model is apartment buildings of five to eight floors.

After the Civil War, three new zones of Pamplona began to grow: Rochapea, Milagrosa, and Chantrea. Only the last one was a planned neighborhood, the other two being disorderly growths. In 1957, the municipality designed the first general ordination plan for the city, which established the guidelines for further urban development. According to this, during the 60s and 70s saw the creation of new neighborhoods like San Juan, Iturrama, San Jorge, Echavacoiz, and Orvina.

Old streets in Pamplona

The urban growth of Pamplona outgrew the administrative limits of the city and involved municipalities like Barañáinmarker, Burladamarker, Villavamarker, Ansoainmarker, Berriozarmarker, Noainmarker or Huartemarker in a larger metropolitan area. During the 1980s and 1990s, new neighborhoods were born: Azpilagaña, Mendebaldea, and Mendillorri. Rochapea was profoundly renewed. The urban development of those new neighborhoods is very similar to other Spanish provincial capitals that experienced a similar intense economic development during the sixties and seventies. Although the grid plan is not applied anymore, the urbanization in Pamplona is previously designed and the apartment buildings are taller: never less than five floors and many taller than that. Industry, which previously coexisted with housing, was moved to industrial parks (the oldest and the only one within municipal limits of Pamplona is Landaben).

In recent years, single-family house neighborhoods have grown in the metropolitan area: Zizur Mayormarker, Cizur Menormarker, Mutilva Altamarker, Mutilva Bajamarker, Olazmarker, Esquírozmarker, Articamarker and Alzuzamarker. New neighborhoods are being building in Buztintxuri, Lezkairu, and Sarrigurenmarker. The apartment buildings in those zones tend to be quite shorter, usually not more than six floors and with more room for green areas.


Burués building, actual Chamber of Commerce of Navarra.

Pamplona has shifted in a few decades from a little administrative and even rural town to a medium-size city of industry and services. The industry sector is diversified although the most important activity is related to automobile industry. Volkswagen manufactures Polo model in its factory of Landaben and there are many auxiliary industries that work for Volkswagen and other companies. Other remarkable industries are building materials, metalworking and food processing. Renewable energy technologies are also an increasing economic sector (wind turbines manufacturing and generation) and neighboring Sarrigurenmarker is the seat of the National Centre for Renewable Energies and of Acciona Energía.

Pamplona is the main commercial and services center of Navarre. Its area of influence is not beyond the province, except for the University of Navarre and its teaching hospital, which provide private educational and health services nationwide and even internationally.

Education and culture

Casall Palace.
The city is home to two universities: the above mentioned University of Navarre, a corporate work of Opus Dei founded in 1952, which is ranked as the best private university in Spain, and the Public University of Navarre, established by the Government of Navarre in 1987. There is also a local branch of the UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia).

The two most important museums in Pamplona are the Museo de Navarra, devoted to the archaeological and artistic heritage of Navarre, and the Museo Diocesano of religious art, located in the cathedral. Pamplona is the first Spanish city in the French way of the Way of Saint Jamesmarker. Since 2004, Pamplona venues Punto de Vista International Documentary Film Festival, the most important Spanish documentary film festival.


Pamplona is linked by motorways with neighbouring Zaragoza (1978), San Sebastián, Vitoria (1995) and Logroño (2006). Since 2007 buses use a new bus station in the city centre that replaces the old one (1934). The airportmarker (1972), operated by Aena and located in Noainmarker, schedules several flights daily to Madridmarker and Barcelonamarker. There are railway (1861) links with Madridmarker, Zaragozamarker and northern Spain, operated by Renfe. High speed train link with Saragossa, Madrid and Barcelona is not expected before 2014. A new railway station will be built in the southern part of the city. There are 23 daytime lines and 10 night lines of public buses, operated by La Montañesa Veolia, the chartered company of the Mancomunidad de la Comarca de Pamplona.

Architecture and places of interest

Several notable churches, most of its sixteenth to eighteenth century fortified system and other civil architecture buildings belong to the historic-artistic heritage of Pamplona.

Religious architecture

Pamplona Cathedral

The most important religious building is the fourteenth century Gothic Cathedralmarker, with an outstanding cloister and a Neoclassical façade. There are another two main Gothic churches in the old city: Saint Sernin and Saint Nicholas, both built during the thirteenth century. Two other Gothic churches were built during the sixteenth century: Saint Dominic and Saint Augustine. During the seventeenth and eighteenth century were built the Baroque chapels of Saint Fermin, in the church of Saint Lawrence, and of the Virgin of the Road (Virgen del Camino), in the church of Saint Sernin, the convents of the Augustinian Recolect nuns and the Carmelite friars, and the Saint Ignatius of Loyola basilica in the place where he was injured in the battle and during the subsequent convalescence he decided to be a priest. The most remarkable twentieth century religious buildings are probably the new diocesan seminary (1931) and the classical-revival style memorial church (1942) to the Navarrese dead in the Nationalist side of the Civil War and that is used today as temporary exhibitions room.

San Lorenzo Church

Military and civil architecture

From the prominent military past of Pamplona remain three of the four sides of the city walls and, with little modifications, the citadel or star fort. All the mediaeval structures were replaced in order to resist artillery sieges. Completely obsolete for modern war, they are used today as parks.

The oldest civil building today existing is a fourteenth century house that was used as Cámara de Comptos (the court of auditors of the early modern autonomous kingdom of Navarre) from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. There are also several medieval bridges on the Arga: Santa Engracia, Miluce, Magdalena, and San Pedro. The medieval palace of Saint Peter, which was alternatively used by Navarrese kings and Pamplonese bishops, was used during the early modern age as the Viceroy's palace and later was the seat of the military governor of Navarre; since the Civil War it was ruinous and it was recently rebuilt to be used as the General Archive of Navarre.

Plaza del Castillo
San Saturnino Church
San Nicolás Church
The most outstanding Baroque civil architecture is from the eighteenth century: town hall, episcopal palace, Saint John the Baptist seminary, and the Rozalejo's, Ezpeleta's (today music school), Navarro-Tafalla's (local office of PNV), and Guenduláin's (projected hotel) mansions. The provincial government built its own Neoclassical palace, the so-called Palace of Navarre, during the nineteenth century.

Late nineteenth and early twentieth century Pamplonese architecture shows the tendencies that are fully developed in other more important Spanish cities: La Agrícola building (1912), several apartment buildings with some timid modernist ornamentation, etc. The most notable architect in twentieth century Pamplona was Víctor Eusa (1894-1979), whose designs were influenced by the European expressionism and other avant-garde movements.


Pamplona has many parks and green areas. The oldest is the Taconera park, whose early designs are from the seventeenth century. Taconera is today a romantic park, with wide pedestrian paths, parterres, and sculptures.

The Media Luna park was built as part of the II Ensanche and is intended to allow relaxing strolling and sightseeing over the northern part of the town. After its demilitarization, the citadel (Ciudadela) and its surrounding area (Vuelta del Castillo) shifted into a park area with large lawns and modern sculptures.

The most remarkable parks of the new neighborhoods include the Yamaguchi park, between Iturrama and Ermitagaña, which includes a little Japanese garden; the campus of the University of Navarre; the Parque del Mundo in Chantrea; and the Arga park.


CA Osasuna is the local football team. Their home stadium is called Estadio Reyno de Navarramarker, known as El Sadar until January, 2006.

Parque Fluvial Arga
Pamplona's bull ring was rebuilt in 1923. It seats 19,529, and is the third largest in the world, after the bull ring of Mexico and Madrid.

Other sports with some of the top clubs in Pamplona include handball (Portland San Antonio, Europe's championship winner 2001), futsal (MRA Xota) and water polo (Larraina).

Pamplona's favourite son may well be Miguel Indurain, five time Tour de France winner.

The Caisse d'Epargne Cycling Team, the direct descendent of Indurain's Banesto team, is based in Egüésmarker, a municipality in the metropolitan area of Pamplona.

Pamplona is also home to the headquarters of The International Federation of Basque Pelota (FIPV). Basque pelota is principally practiced in France, Spain, and South America.

Sister cities

Pamplona townhall façade


  1. Iruñea is the Basque name proposed by the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, but the Basque name recognized by the Government of Navarre is Iruña, "the city"
  2. Ptolemy ii. 6. § 67; Strabo iii. § 161
  3. Antonine Itinerary p. 455
  4. Pliny the Elder iii. 3. s. 4.
  6. CENER web page
  7. See University of Navarre, Notable rankings
  8. History of the Airport of Pamplona, by Aena

External links

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