The Running Of The Bulls Should Be On Your Bucket List
Pamplona’s San Fermin, with its infamous bull run, has been falling in favour in recent years. Once an essential stop on any European summer jaunt, the event has seen numbers dwindling because, well, not so many young travellers are keen on torturing animals.
But neither are young Pamplonans! For the youth of Pamplona the idea of bullfighting couldn’t be further from their idea of having a swell time and celebrating their city. This antipathy towards this aspect of the famous fiesta is reflected in how few young locals participate in the encierro – and not coincidentally how many stay partying in the streets right up to the bull runs 8am beginning, leaving themselves in no state whatsoever to tempt maiming in front of the bulls and, more pointedly, their horns.
We tell you this not to change your opinion on bull runs and bullfights, you really have to come to Pamplona and witness the traditions to make your own mind up on that, but to illustrate that there is so much more to the festival than those five minutes every morning.
The other 23 hours and 55 minutes of each day of the fiesta are filled with street parties, live music, ancient traditions, making out with strangers and good food, wine and that wonderfully Spanish mix of the two – sangria.
But if a week and bit of bacchanal isn’t convincing enough for you, here are some other reasons why you’ve got to slide the Running of the Bulls into your Euro trip bucket list.
It’s Spain’s biggest fiesta
This one is difficult to really quantify, but it’s definitely the biggest in terms of how many foreigners visit. This means that the locals are more accommodating of our ignorant ways, and are accustomed to holding out-of-town hands through some of the celebration’s more confusing traditions. And don’t worry about the event being inauthentic – if you find yourself surrounded with foreigners and need more local flavour simply walk one street this way or that and find yourself immersed in a sea of grandmas eating snails, or young punks drinking kalimotxo (more on what that is, later).
Pamplona becomes a party
Like, pretty much all of it. And all of the inhabitants, too. The aforementioned grannies and punks, their husbands and grandfathers, young families – everybody gets suited up in their whites and reds and hits the streets during San Fermin. And you’ll find something throughout the city, from the packed street-drinking streets through the old town, to the amazing carnival outside the old city walls, the numerous parks that turn into huge, free outdoor concert spaces, and, if you smile a lot, maybe in somebody’s apartment for a tasty, traditional festival lunch.
You’ll be in the Basque Country
Well actually Navarra, which is a part of the Basque Country, or it’s own place, or simply Spain, depending on who you talk to. That’s the thing with Spain, it’s not one homogeneous country, but instead a collection of largely autonomous regions, and few are as interesting as the Basque Country, of which Pamplona is, or isn’t, a part, depending on who you talk to. The Basques have their own language, one which isn’t related to any other on earth, their own customs that have stemmed from the mountains from which the people seemingly sprung, and their own gastronomy – including pintxos, the local tapas that leave a lasting impression on absolutely every traveller who passes through, and kalimotxo, the traditional drink of Europe’s oldest people, a heady mix of cheap red wine and Coca Cola, which is way less gross than you’d think.
You’re so close to everything!
Being in the Basque Country you can quite easily combing your Running of the Bulls trip with visits to the region’s food and partying playground, San Sebastian, or to the culture-thick city of Bilbao. You can visit the red wine hunting grounds of La Rioja within a couple of hours, or take a few hours and finish up in Barcelona, Madrid, France, the Spanish north coast, Ibiza… you name it! A trip to the Running of the Bulls needn’t be a destination, but a waypoint in a much grander Spanish/southern European adventure.
Stoked In The Park
As if that wasn’t enough, Stoke Travel also throw their Stoked In The Park music festival during the San Fermin festival. Included in your accommodation price, the event features international bands and DJs (last year Australia’s Art Vs Science headlined), sporting events, pool parties, cooking classes, wine tasting, and general merrymaking inside the campsite where Stoke live for the event. Stoked In The Park is where travellers enjoy themselves when not in Pamplona city centre, either meeting other adventurers from around the world, chilling out on the amply shaded grassy areas, floating down the river, or raging to the provided music, all powered by Stoke Travel’s famous €10 open beer and sangria bar. That’s bucket list worthy on its own.
It’s time to put the Running of the Bulls back on your bucketlists — not because we think bull running is an especially clever or morally sound concept, but because the party is world-class, particularly Spanish and when combined with the Stoked in the Park music festival gives travellers the ingredients for the best times of their euro trip.