The Procession of San Fermín


July 7th is an official religious holiday and the most important day of the Fiesta.  At 10:30 on the morning of the 7th, thousands of Pamplonicas, dressed in the traditional costume of white and red, take to the streets to accompany the 15th-century, polychromed, silver-covered statue of San Fermín, clothed in a beautiful cape of red and gold, as it leaves its chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo, on Calle Mayor, at the entrance to the Old Quarter, the Caso Antiguo, to be paraded around its narrow streets by the civil and church authorities of the city in a religious procession of song, dance and prayers, lasting several hours before finally ending back at the Church of San Lorenzo with a holy mass to honor the patron saint of the fiesta, Pamplona’s parton saint of the fiesta.  The Comparsa de Gigantes, the Company of Giants, marches at the head of the procession. Behind come the ecclesiastical authorities, buglers, kettledrums and txistularis, traditional flute players, who precede the statue of the Saint, followed closely by the Archbishop of Pamplona, the mayor and city council members, and bringing up the rear is the beloved Pamplonesa Municipal Band.  Here the Giants dance to the sounds of the  Gaita and Txistu, traditional Basque flutes, as the bells of the Cathedral ring out.

ABC_5065-1200x795After mass, the Comparsa de Gigantes head back to the Plaza Consistorial, to dance to the delight of the thousands of Pamplonicas filling the plaza in front of the town hall.  From there its off to lunch!



A Brief History of the Fiesta de San Fermín

town hall square
The crowd in the Town Hall Square for the chupinazo

The historical origins of the San Fermín fiesta are difficult to pin down.  There are writings from the 13th and 14th centuries that mention the Sanfermines, which, up to the 15th-century, were held in October to coincide with Saint’s birthday on the 10th.  But at some time during the 15th-century the fiesta was moved to July in part because of October’s unpredictable weather, but July can also be unpredictable at times due to the Atlantic storms that help give Green Spain it’s name.

According to some historians, the Sanfermines are actually a combination of three separate fiestas; a principle religious festival in honor of one of the cities patron saints, San Fermín, which has taken place since time immemorial, a commercial fiesta organized in the 14th-century and combined with the bullfighting festival, the Feria del Toro, which also began during the latter part of the 14th-century.  With this combination of the three fiestas, and with the change of date in 1591, the Sanfermines were finally born.

In  the beginning, the fiesta lasted only two days and included the Procession of San Fermín, musicians, a tournament, theatre and bullfights.  Later on the celebration grew in both length and scope to include the nightly fireworks and traditional dances in the Plaza del Castillo, the main plaza in the Old Quarter.  Writings from the 17th and 18th centuries refer to religious celebration taking part right next to the musicians, dancers, tournaments, acrobats, bull runs and bull fights, and of the clergy’s concern “over the abuse of drink, the permissiveness of young men and women, and the presence of people from other lands who, with their shows, made the city more amusing.” Nothing changes!

Comparsa de Gigantes
The Giants on Calle Mayor, July 6

The 19th-century saw the addition of the Comparsa de Gigantes, the Company of Giants, representing the Kings and Queens of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.  The eight giants made their debut along with the cabezudos and kilikis, the carnival-like big heads, and zaldikos, the horse-shaped figures who chase the children around the streets during the fiesta.  The morning parades of these figures is a great family tradition that continues today, with the oldest Gigante dating back nearly 150 years.

The 20th-century saw the regional fiesta grow in popularity when Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”, also known as “Fiesta”, was first released in 1926.  It encouraged visitors from around the world to head to Pamplona to take part in the fiesta.  The movie version of his work, most of which was actually filmed in Mexico, again brought greater exposure to the fiesta when it was released in 1957.  Television exposure in the early 80s attracted even more attention.  Today, the fiesta attracts tens of thousands from around Spain, France, and the rest of world, nearly doubling the cities population over the weekends.

Running With The Bulls

The Feria del Toro has been an important part of Pamplona’s legendary festival for more than 100 years. The 8-day Festival Of The Bull, the encierro, the running of the bulls and the bullfights in the afternoopn, was a favorite of Papa Hemingway, whose classic 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises” (Fiesta), has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to the capital of Navarra since it was first released.

running with the bulls
Running with the bulls along Calle Estafeta

Advice From Veteran Runners

Access To The Route

If you want to participate in the encierro, the running of the bulls, you should enter the route before 07:00 through the gate in the Plaza Consistorial and stay within the barricades in that section of the route, between the Town Hall Square and the Old Military hospital on Calle Santo Domingo. Shortly after 07:00 the access will be closed and your will not be allowed to leave until the encierro begins and the bulls are on their way.


The Most Dangerous Stretches

There are no ‘safe’ places along the route, but the most dangerous stretches are at the top of Santo Domingo and from the Callejón to the Plaza de Toros.

Clothing – What To Wear

Wear comfortable clothing and sneakers or running shoes. Do not carry any other items with you, including backpacks, cameras, etc. The police will remove you from the route and there is the possibility of having to pay a fine of up to €3000, depending on the infraction.

Ask An Expert Runner For Advice

The running is neither a joke nor an opportunity for media coverage. The risks are enormous and the large number of runners, especially for the first encierro on the 7th, and over the weekend, makes it that much more dangerous. There are dozens of experienced runners, both local and foreign based, including the members of the Amigos de Pamplona, the Miami club, who will gladly offer advise if you only ask. Remember, it takes years of practice to become a good runner.

Getting In And Out Of The Flow

Getting into the flow is as important as getting out of the way. Get in gradually as other runners drop out. Or get straight into the run from a standing start as the bulls close in on your position. Do not stand on the side and block others trying to run with the bulls.

And remember, it’s always Bulls Before Breakfast, so be sure to get your copy of Peter’s book before you head to Pamplona!

Bulls Before Breakfast
Bulls Before Breakfast

The Bulls for Sanfermines 2018

The ranches, Granderías, for the Feria del Toro and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, have been selected for the Fiesta de San Fermín 2018.  Eight bulls from each ranch will run in the encierros, which begin on July 7 and end on the 14th.  The day each breed runs will be decided in the spring.


Victoriano del Río
Hermanos de D. José Cebada Gago
José Escobar Gil
Núñez del Cuvillo
Fuente Ymbro
Puerto de San Lorenzo


See Sanfermin Tours for our exclusive packages for the Fiesta de San Fermín and the running of the bulls.