Personally … I will always recommend that you watch!
I have attended the San Fermin festival for 28 years and have not yet run. I don’t miss out on the fun by not running, that I would not enjoy it or that I’m a coward. Running with the Bulls is an dangerous adventure, and you should be excited but understand that you will be running with 6 large animals very nearby.
If you are not 100% sure what you do … do not run! If you have doubts, I advise that first you watch the run from a balony, the Plaza de Toros or from the sidelines, and then decide if you want to run the next day.
The three ways to view the bulls are the ones I named above:
Barrier: The cheapest and the worst way to see the bulls. To get a good seat, you have to arrive 3 hours early to be in the front row, and if you do not get there early you will not be able to see anything except a crowd of people.
The bulls are not alone, there are hundreds of onlookers and even if you do make it to the front row, you will be at least 4 feet away from the actual route, as some empty space is left between the crowd and the route to leave room for physicians and medics if those are needed during the race for the runners.
Plaza de Toros: Watching the run from Plaza de Toros is cheap, but you have to buy tickets early and arrive early to find a good spot. The downside to this site, is that onlookers miss the “encierro” or driving of the bulls into the starting area and normally you also don’t see the most exciting part of the run.
Balcony: In my opinion, the best way to enjoy the running of the bulls is from a balcony. Not only do you have the best view, but also you avoid the crowds, long waiting times and even (at some balconies) the ability to enjoy breakfast during the run.
Viewing the “encierro” on a balcony enclosure allows you to see the most exciting part of the race and also see the rest of the annual process, how the police clean the streets, how the runners to prepare to run, and watch the diverse crowd that gathers to watch the run.
Watching the run from a balcony makes this event an experience, a privilege that allows you to be part of the festival from a special spot.
In PamplonaBalconies.com we have balconies along the entire route, from many different viewpoints.
From a first floor balcony you’ll be so close to the action you can almost smell the fear of the runners, a third floor view will offer greater street visibility, and some balconies that include breakfast to make the wait more pleasant. If your balcony host does not serve breakfast, then you can enjoy a meal later at the famous Churrería la Mañueta (that only open twice a year, to make the best handmade traditional churros) or Beatriz Bakery (where you can feast on delicious long pastry sticks covered with chocolate).
Balcony spots are available all along the route so you only have to choose your favorite stretch make a reservation!
You have my advice, that watching from a balcony is the best way to enjoy the festival, but if you are convinced you want to run, don’t miss the tips for preparing to run on the blog, buy comfortable shoes, get plenty of rest the night before and stay aware during the race!
There’s plenty of time to party after the run!
See you in Pamplona!