Frequently Asked Questions for the San Fermín Festival
The Daily Bull Run (9)
The Bulls run every day from July 7th through July 14th at 8 a.m in the morning.
The course has a length of 826meters (0.5 miles) and the bulls take between 2.5 and 6 minutes to run it depending on whether they are separated or not. In the case that the pack gets separated a bull will have to be guided by expert runners into the bullfight arena.
The Bull Run (encierro) start is on Santo Domingo street and finish is in the Bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros) at the end of Estafeta street.
In total you will see 12 animals. There are 6 bulls which can be recognized immediately by their darker coloring, either black or brown. At a closer look you can also tell them apart because they are not castrated. The other 6 bulls are actually steers, recognizable by their lighter coloring, usually white and brown spots. The purpose of the steers is to keep the whole pack together and to calm down the bulls. The steers run every day and know the course well. Steers are harmless which means, they will not try to gore you. If you stand in their way however, they may bump into you.
Anyone 18 years and older is entitled to run with the bulls in Pamplona. However, the police is very vigilant and will immediately pull out anyone who breaks the rules, either before or during the Bull Run (encierro). The most important rules include:
- No drunks
- No electronics (photo or video cameras, phones, mp3 players etc.)
- No high heels
- No touching of the bulls (even though some people do this it is seen as disrespectful to the animal and will be punished by aficionados and the police alike)
- Anyone who stands in front of the start line will be removed from the Bull Run (encierro) course at 7 a.m.. The line is on Mercaderes street so that anyone between Santo Domingo and the beginning of Mercaderes will be eligible to run. There will be many people lining up in Estafeta street but they will all be disqualified. Runners are given time to spread out in the whole course before the the Run starts. Before 7 a.m. however, you must wait behind the start line. The purpose of this is to limit the total number of runners.
The chances of being hit or gored by a bull in the Pamplona Bull Run (encierro) is relatively small. However, being hit results in injuries ranging from bruises to goring (the bull’s horn piercing the body) and death. Death usually occurs when the horn digs into a runners lungs. There is no guarantee for avoiding collusion with a bull. Sometimes people get hit even when they are pressed into a doorway. You never know what catches the bulls attention and makes him turn, suddenly. The death toll since 1910 is 15 men, including a man who suffocated to death in a pile-up of runners.
Besides the bull there is a likelihood of being trampled on by other runners. This is quite frequent and can result in serious injuries if runners pile up high. The worst bottleneck is the entrance to the Bullfight Arena (Plaza de Toros) which should be avoided, especially because there is no escaping from the bulls either. Dead Man’s Corner is also a dangerous spot that should be avoided by first time runners.
During the Bull Run (encierro) the bulls usually do not get hurt. They may bruise themselves if they slip and fall. In the evening then at 6 p.m., the bulls are killed during the bullfights in the bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros). Particularly brave bulls may be pardoned by the audience and let to die a natural death but this rarely ever happens.
- Get in line behind the cut-off/start line on Mercaderes street. The curve at Plaza Consistorial where the Txupinazo Opening Ceremonies take place, is a good location. Try to be there by 7 a.m. the latest or you risk not finding a spot.
- Around 8 a.m. you will have a chance to move around the course and get into position. First time runners usually fare well with Estafeta street because it is comparatively “easy” with its straight, even ground. The end gets more densely packed than the beginning.
- Wait for the gun shots. The first shot tells you that the gates have been opened and the bulls are running. The second one, that the last bull has left the corrals. Many people will start running at this point even though the bulls are not in sight. If you get to the bullfight arena way before the bulls be prepared to face a laughing audience.
- When you see the bulls run ahead or alongside them. Get out of their way when you are tired. Do not try to touch the bulls and avoid holding on to other people. It is regarded as disrespectful and unprofessional to distract the bulls by touching them. Avoid running with your head turned backwards because that is how pile ups happen.
- If you want to run into the arena you have to be fast because the gates close behind the last bull. The gates are located at Dead Man’s Corner and at Telefonica.
Yes, it is possible to watch the runners and bulls enter the arena from the Bull Run. Just walk to the bullfight arena early in the morning to gather a seat before the Bull Run (encierro) at 8 a.m.. After a balcony spot, this is the second best option for watching running of the bulls.
Immediately after the Bull Run (encierro) heifers (vaquillas) are released in the bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros). They will chase all the runners who made it into the arena. It is less dangerous to be hit by a heifer, especially because their horns are taped. However, they can cause damage and one man has been paralyzed from being hit.
Viewing from a Balcony (9)
If you don’t have a balcony there is a good chance that you will see very little, to nothing of the Run (unless you’re in it of course 😉 ). Most of the Run is through Estafeta Street which does not have any space open to spectators and so there are only few places where you can watch from the street level (Telefonica, Plaza Consistorial and Mercaderes, to be precise). These areas start to crowd 2 hours before the Run.
Early during the San Fermin Fiesta the chance of getting a good view is extremely low. Later in the week, the crowds thin out and you can defend a spot in the second row behind the medical staff who are protected by a barrier both from spectators and the Bull Run (encierro). You would have to arrive by 6 a.m. to defend a spot and then possibly loose it again when the police opens the gate to let out surplus runners who then will fight for the spot that you had been holding.
Watch a full length Run from 2009 that will give you an idea of the setting: (the 2nd movie at the bottom of the page).
This depends entirely on when you plan to visit the Running of the Bulls. Balconies for July 7th – the first Run – usually sell out in spring. The case is similar for the weekend (8th, 9th and 10th for 2011) when many Spanish and French come to visit. From the 11th onwards we recommend buying Dead Man’s Corner tickets far in advance but a spot on Estafeta can usually be found closer to July.
Online is the easiest way to purchase a balcony spot and also the safest if you want to guarantee your spot. In addition, the best balconies (e.g. the Dead Man’s Corner building) are sold via a network of Internet vendors and travel agencies; the only other way to obtain a spot on them is through relationships.
PamplonaBalconies.com automated the sale of balconies. You can read about them on our website and then check out through our safe terminal. Upon payment you will be sent an eVoucher which includes directions on how to find your balcony. Since we believe in information visibility we let you know the exact location of your balcony before purchase. Most other vendors will only let you know approximately where the balcony is located.
Some people purchase their balcony in Pamplona, on the day of the Bull Run (encierro). This is possible for inferior balconies (i.e. high up and not in the interesting corners) and often only later in the week because the first days sell out. These balcony spots tend to be a little cheaper than the ones you buy online. We caution first time visitors to only pursue this method if you know where you are going, speak a little of Spanish and understand that you may not find a spot and therefore miss the Bull Run (encierro).
From what we know, balcony spots on the web are sold between EUR 90 and EUR 160 per spot, i.e. per person. Some people purchase their balcony in Pamplona, on the day of the Bull Run (encierro). This is possible for inferior balconies (i.e. high up and not in the interesting corners) and often only later in the week because the first days sell out. These balcony spots tend to be a little cheaper than the ones you buy online. We caution first time visitors to only pursue this method if you know where you are going, speak a little of Spanish and understand that you may not find a spot and therefore miss the Bull Run (encierro).
PamplonaBalconies.com will provide you with an eVoucher that contains your purchase information and instructions on how to find the balcony. The address of the balcony is the product name, for example “Estafeta No 2, Level 1”. On the day you purchased the balcony spot for, go to Estafeta Street in Pamplona and locate house number 2 (or whichever address your bought your balcony on). Make certain you know where the entrance is. We recommend, visiting the door the day before the Run when you are not surrounded by a lot of nervous runners, shoving you around.
One of our representatives will wait outside the building with a list that has your name and purchase information on it. Please bring an I.D. so we can verify that it is you. The representative will lead you upstairs at 7 a.m. together with all other spectators for that day. Please do not ring the doorbell before 7 a.m.
Please note that we make commitments to people in Pamplona, based on your purchase. Our ability to refund your money depends on the chance of us reselling your reservation to someone else. Our suppliers are very firm about cancellations, so we must be as well. If you purchase from us, you acknowledge that you have read and understand the following terms:
Before April 1, 2013: Refund of 75% of payment
From April 1 to May 1, 2013: Refund of 50% of payment
From May 2 to June 1, 2013: Refund of 25% of payment
Between May 2 and June 1, 2013: Refund of 25% of payment
After June 2: Please understand that at this point we are unable to refund your payment. You might want to consider travel insurance to cover eventual losses.
Balconies vary in size but generally 4 – 5 people, but we have balconies for over 10 people, have space next to each other. Balconies are attached to apartments and usually there are at least 2 balconies per apartment so that a group larger than 5 will be able to stay together. Generally, you can move freely within the apartments and change spots amongst each other or with other guests. Also, balconies in Pamplona are so close next to each other that you can often hold hands.
Some owners serve coffee, hot chocolate and pastries on some of the days; others cook a full breakfast and again some do not serve anything at all. We try to indicate whether some sort of breakfast is served but we cannot guarantee this. Usually, you are welcome to bring Churros (Spanish friend dough) or a baguette but no alcoholic beverages, cups or glass bottles. This is to protect the runners from spectators dropping things onto them.
There are lots of strategies for finding the right balcony. Some people want to be high up so they can see as far as possible, others want to be so close they can smell the bulls run by. Some people prefer Estafeta street where you can see the farthest (it is a long, straight road) or Santo Domingo because you can see the runners praying to San Fermin’s statue, asking for luck with the Run. We prefer Dead Man’s Corner because this is where the bulls often collide with runners and generally, everything slows down a bit as man and bull turn the sharp angle from Mercaderes onto Estafeta street. People with a balcony on Mercaderes can also see the runners line up and warm up for the Bull Run (encierro). It is the most interesting part while you wait on your balcony for the Run to start. Since the streets close at 7 a.m. you must be there early for the Bull Run (encierro) that starts at 8 a.m.
Lodging in Pamplona (4)
Pamplona hotels sell out during the Running of the Bulls when over one million people crowd into the city of 250,000 inhabitants. The best alternative is to rent an apartment room or a whole apartment in the old part of the city (casco viejo) where the fiesta takes place. Cheaper and more modern apartments can be found outside the inner city but you will be dependent on busses and taxis or have to walk.
Lodging is the largest cost factor during a visit to the San Fermin Fiesta. You can mitigate the cost by arriving at the tale end of the Fiesta when the crowds thin out a little. Other people also choose to sleep in the city parks – Pamplona is the only Spanish city to have legalized washing in the public fountains.
Yesterday would have been best. Hotels and apartments fill up fast and far in advance of the Pamplona Fiesta. Pick a date and book something close to the city center.
Standard hotel rooms range between EUR 200 and EUR 2000 for the San Fermin Fiesta, depending on the time and standard. Later in the week is usually more affordable.
Apartment rooms can be as expensive as hotel rooms and do not provide more comfort. Often, the bathrooms are even shared. Private apartments usually require a 3 – 4 night commitment and can cost a few hundred Euro per night. It really depends on the location and standard.
We do not sell individual hotel rooms or rental apartments. Our VIP Packages include 4 and 5 star hotel accommodation. Learn more about VIP Packages for the Running of the Bulls 2013.
The San Fermin Festival (4)
The festival of San Fermín (or Sanfermines) in the city of Pamplona (Navarre, Spain), is a deeply rooted celebration held annually from 12:00, 6 July, when the opening of the fiesta is marked by setting off the pyrotechnic chupinazo, to midnight 14 July, with the singing of the Pobre de Mí. While its most famous event is the encierro, or the running of the bulls, the week-long celebration involves many other traditional and folkloric events. It is known locally as Sanfermines and is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre.
The celebration of the festival has its origin in the combination of two different medieval events. Commercial secular fairs were held at the beginning of the summer. As cattle merchants came into town with their animals, eventually bullfighting came to be organized as a part of the tradition. Specifically, they were first documented in the 14th century. On the other hand religious ceremonies honoring the saint were held on October 10. However in 1591 they were transferred to the 7th of July to take place at the same time than the fair; when Pamplona’s weather is better. This is considered to be the beginning of the Sanfermines. At that time they lasted two days but they were extended until the 10th and nowadays endure until the 14th. During medieval times acts included an opening speech, musicians, tournaments, theater, bullfights, dances or even fireworks. Bullrunning appears in 17th and 18th century chronicles together with the presence of foreigners and the first concerns on the excessive drinking and dissolute behavior during the event.
The worldwide fame of the modern festival, and the great number of foreign visitors it receives every year, are closely related to the description by Ernest Hemingway’s book The Sun Also Rises and his job as a journalist. He was greatly intrigued in his first visit in 1923 coming back many times until 1959. Hemingway was also deeply fond of bullrunnings and bullfights. Different city locations are famous in part due to the fact that the writer used to visit them, such as the La perla hotel, or the Iruña café.
The fastest way for many is to fly into Pamplona airport. You can also drive from nearby airports by either bus, train or rental. Visit www.renfe.com for train schedules.
San Sebastian – about 45 minute drive
Bayonne/Biarritz (check Ryanair for low-cost tickets) – about 1.5 hour drive
Bilbao (check Air Berlin for low-cost tickets) – about 1.5 – 2 hour drive
Barcelona – about 3-4 hours drive
Madrid – about 4 hours drive
Depending on the time of day you arrive, parking is surprisingly available; the best hours are early in the morning and mid-day. We highly recommend, parking in one of the garages for safety reasons. These are quite secure and you can leave some personal belongings in your car. The Plaza Castillo Parking Garage and Plaza de Toros Parking Garage in the city center are fantastic. Expect to pay about EUR 30 per day for parking in these garages.
The San Fermin Festival is a family event as you can tell by all the strollers and child-friendly events which are found into the late hours. Spanish take out the whole clan so that elderly and young mix in the streets even past midnight. Outgoing aficionados and youngsters are generally respectful of anyone who doesn’t want to be bathed in sangria. Clean clothing and a serious expression keep them at bay unless you dive into the street with all the night clubs.
Giants Parade. The Giant’s Parade was created by the end in the mid of the 19th century and involves four big giant pairs of kings and queens dancing through the streets. They represent the world’s continents as they were seen in the 19th century. The Giant Parade takes place daily.
On children’s day there are lots of shows and playgrounds for the young
Fairgrounds just outside the old city offer lots of rides and other amusements
The Fire Bull that runs through the streets each nights, sparkling with firecrackers is a sight for anyone
The bullfights are very bloody and the audience on the Sun side is quite rambunctious so you may want to take only adolescents or find a babysitter to keep them while you go.