What To Expect
Since 1924, at least 14 people have been killed and countless others have been gored or seriously injured while running with the bulls at Pamplona. The 3-minute, early morning run winds through a half mile of cobblestone streets that have been fenced off in preparation for the event. Runners must be in place, wearing the traditional costume of white pants and shirt with red belt and bandana, by 7:30 a.m. At 8 a.m., a rocket is fired and six bulls weighing approximately half a ton each, along with six steers, are released from their corrals in Santo Domingo and race through the maze of streets lined with screaming onlookers. They are preceded by about 2,000 runners. Even though the cobbled streets have been treated in recent years to be less slick, they are often damp with dew or rain; runners and animals often lose their footing going around sharp turns, and general frenzy and mayhem ensue. The greatest danger is when a bull becomes separated from the pack and, disoriented and terrified, attacks whoever or whatever is in its path.
- July 6: The Chupinazo is the festival’s opening ceremony and takes place the day before the first run. Thousands of people dressed in white and red crowd into the central square. They carry bottles of champagne, red scarves, and various types of food: raw eggs, ketchup, mustard, flour. Shortly before noon, the mayor of the city appears, to welcome everyone to the festival. At this point, the crowd surges, bottles are uncorked, and champagne sprays the crowd. Then a huge and frenzied food fight ensues. At noon, a rocket is fired off signaling the beginning of the fiesta. The crowd cheers and everyone ties their red scarves around their necks. Eventually, the crowd disperses, leaving behind a tremendous mess of broken glass, champagne bottles, and puddles of food.
- July 7: This is San Fermin’s Day. The running of the bulls takes place at 8 a.m., and at 10 a.m., a parade celebrating the religious aspect of the holiday meanders through the streets of the old quarter. Participants include the Kilikis, the Zaldikos (horse and rider), and the Cabezudos – all colorful and amazing creatures.
- July 8 – July 14: The routine repeats itself, minus the parade. Running of the bulls at 8 a.m., quiet until 5 p.m. when the bullfight occurs, followed by fireworks every night and revelry all night long. This is not a particularly family-oriented festival. Besides for the violence of the run and the bullfight, piles of garbage and broken glass litter the ground, and there are thousands of intoxicated people everywhere. If you wouldn’t bring your kids to Mardis Gras in New Orleans, don’t bring them to Pamplona for this event.
By 3 a.m., a few people are already lining up along the route, to get the best viewing locations. If you plan to run with the bulls, you must be in position by 7:30. If you plan on taking pictures of the run, have your camera ready, because in ten seconds, the bulls will have come and gone.
This, of course, depends on your lifestyle while in Pamplona. If you’re eating in nice restaurants and buying souvenirs, take your credit card. During the festival week, restaurants up their prices just like hotels do. However, if you’re living on Spanish fast food (bocadillos, tapas) and Calimocho, the traditional festival drink of Coca Cola mixed with cheap red wine, you can probably get by on $30 a day, maybe less.
- $30 to $150 a day