If you’ve seen or heard anything about Pamplona, it probably has to do with the famous Sanfermines festival—but the Navarrese capital has much more going for it.
We’re talking a lively restaurant and bar scene, a stunning medieval old town, breathtaking natural landscapes and more—all just an hour south of San Sebastian.
A day trip to Pamplona from San Sebastian is a must if you have room in your itinerary (and if you don’t, make some!). Here’s everything you need to know before you hit the road.
Getting to Pamplona from San Sebastian
If you have access to a car, you’re in luck—Pamplona is just a quick hour-long drive south from San Sebastian on the A-15 highway.
Relying on public transportation? No problem. The train takes about an hour and 45 minutes to reach Pamplona from San Sebastian, and the first one of the day will get you into town just after 9 a.m., giving you plenty of time to explore. And while this isn’t always the case in Spain, the bus might even be your best option—they run several times a day, and most are cheaper and faster than the trains.
Itinerary for a day trip to Pamplona from San Sebastian
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast, start exploring the city at the Interpretation Center of the Fortifications of Pamplona. A small but fascinating interactive museum, this is a great spot to start gaining some insight as to why Pamplona has been such a strategic military site throughout its history, and how the lives of its residents have been affected as a result.
When you’re done, head by the nearby bullring and say hello to the bust of Ernest Hemingway out front. The American novelist may not have been from Pamplona, but he certainly was the one who put it on the map in the English-speaking world.
Swing up to Plaza del Castillo to check out the ambiance (we wouldn’t blame you if you want to grab another coffee while here) before making your way into the old town. Let yourself get lost in the winding streets, or if a great view is more your speed, make your way a few blocks east to enjoy a stroll along Ronda del Obispo Barbazán, with views looking out over the old city walls. No matter which route you decide to take, your experience isn’t complete until you enjoy a moment looking out over the mountains at the breathtaking Mirador del Caballo Blanco.
Finish off your morning with a visit to the historic Santa María Cathedral. If you think this is just another European church, think again—in addition to housing one of the most beautiful Gothic cloisters in the world, it’s also home to the award-winning Occidens exhibition, which takes you on a journey from ancient times to modern days.
Grab lunch at a laid-back local restaurant, such as Iruñeako Herriko Taberna (Calle Carmen, 34), where you’ll find Basque-style home cooking and even a respectable selection of vegan and vegetarian options. When you’re done, spend some time wandering around the Museo de Navarra, a fascinating local art and history museum housed in an old hospital.
Just down the street from the museum is the Instagram-worthy square you may have seen multiple photos of when planning your day trip to Pamplona from San Sebastian. Plaza Consistorial is home of the Ayuntamiento de Pamplona (City Hall), and it’s also where the Sanfermines festival officially kicks off every July 6 with the ceremonial firing of a rocket.
If you get tired while exploring the city, you’re in luck—there are plenty of serene parks and gardens in Pamplona where you can kick back and relax for a bit. The Taconera Gardens form the city’s oldest park, while romantic Parque Media Luna makes for an ideal spot to visit with your special someone and Parque Yamaguchi will whisk you away to Japan.
Your day trip to Pamplona from San Sebastian will probably be winding down right around now. If you have time to stick around to enjoy the city’s vibrant evening ambiance, do so—Pamplona truly comes alive as the sun goes down.
The best way to experience local cuisine here in the Navarrese capital is by eating your way along Calle San Nicolás in a pintxos crawl. Yes, the same pintxos that are so famous in San Sebastian are also plentiful in Navarra! And with the other side of the region being sandwiched by La Rioja, it’s no wonder that amazing wine is easy to come by here as well.
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Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.