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Plaza del Castillo – The Heart and Soul of Pamplona

The Plaza del Castillo is not just a square; it’s the heart and soul of Pamplona and place where the spirit of city comes alive. For anyone visiting Pamplona, this plaza offers a glimpse into the city’s vibrant past, its spirited present, and its hopeful future. Whether you’re dancing during San Fermín, sipping coffee at Café Iruña, or simply resting under its shade, the Plaza del Castillo embraces you with its timeless charm.

Plaza del Castillo dates back to the medieval times and has witnessed countless evolutions of the city. Originally a castle in the 9th century, the location became a plaza by the end of the 16th century after the demolition of the castle. Over the centuries, the square has seen countless events, from medieval markets and knightly tournaments to political gatherings and cultural performances. Its cobbled paths whisper tales of kings, revolutionaries, artists, and everyday citizens who have crossed it.

The Plaza’s surroundings have always been a tapestry of historic buildings and establishments. These structures, such as the iconic Café Iruña (opened in 1888), give the square its distinct character. The café, in particular, is a must-visit, not just for its Belle Époque décor but also for its famous patrons, including the American author Ernest Hemingway, who frequented it during his time in Spain.

Plaza del Castillo

The Plaza del Castillo during the 2023 Chupinazo

While Plaza del Castillo is a place of daily rendezvous for locals and visitors alike, it’s during the San Fermín festival that the square truly becomes the epicenter of celebrations. San Fermín, held every July, is renowned globally for its running of the bulls event, but there’s so much more to this festival. The square fills with musicians, dancers, and revelers donning traditional red and white attire, echoing with the sounds of traditional Navarrese music, laughter, and merriment. In fact, many of the businesses calmly serve tapas and coffee during the day before becoming a boisterous club scene during the evening.

Another beautiful tradition linked to the Plaza is the ‘Pobre de Mí’ (Poor Me) ceremony. As the San Fermín festival draws to an end, thousands gather in the square with candles in hand, singing the melancholic song “Pobre de Mí”, marking the culmination of the festivities and expressing their yearning for the next year’s celebration.

Plaza del castillo pamplonaBeyond festivities, the plaza has always been a melting pot of culture. Street performers, painters, and musicians find it an inspiring backdrop. The central kiosk often hosts band performances, while the peripheries see children playing, elders engrossed in conversation, and tourists soaking in the ambiance.

For literature enthusiasts, Pamplona and Plaza del Castillo hold special significance due to the aforementioned Ernest Hemingway. His novel “The Sun Also Rises” prominently features Pamplona and its San Fermín festivities, with many scenes set in or around the plaza. Hemingway’s affinity for this city has immortalized the Plaza del Castillo in the annals of literary history.

Plaza del castillo pamplona

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