Fun Events to Experience in the True Festival of San Fermín

A big party, bulls, and red bandannas around the neck. Do you know what we’re talking about? The is what most people think of when they think of Sanfermines. However, the festival in Pamplona is much more than a drunk people and young men running through the streets being chased by bulls. The people who live in or are from Pamplona know what we’re talking about. From July 6th to the 14th, the capital of Navarra shows off lots of traditions and customs typical of the festivals that are known by the people who crowd the streets as “Lo Viejo” in these days. Also, these activities usually take place during the day, so they are filled with children and the elderly as well as the stereotypical San Fermín crowd. Don’t be deceived! If you don’t read this article, you’ll never know what the real San Fermín is like.

Las Dianas (The Dianas)

The True Festival of San Fermín

On July 7th, San Fermín day begins with the music of the Dianas. At 6:45, the municipal band La Pamplonesa is already ready to walk the streets of the Old District, playing the most iconic songs of the Dianas to wake up the people in the buildings they pass. Other bands also take part in this event, including groups of pipers and txistularis. They all get lost in the energetic melodies flooding the streets before they turn towards the town hall at the end of the day.

Desayuno en la Churrería de la Mañueta (Churros from La Mañueta for Breakfast!)

The Festival of San Fermín that No One Knows

After the Encierro, nothing will taste better than churros and chocolate, and it is customary for many to go to breakfast at the churro house La Mañueta. This began in 1872, and they are now only open during Sanfermines (from 6-11 A.M.) and Sundays in October. This family business that has been passed down from generation to generation is something you must do when you’re in Pamplona for San Fermín. But you’ll have to be patient. The lines for this famous restaurant are always long, but the traditional breakfast is worth the wait.

Baile de la Alpatgata (The Espadrille Dance)

The True Festival of San Fermín

Another place that many Pamplona locals frequent after the Encierro, to experience the true Sanfermines, is the Casino Iruña. If you are feeling a little heavy after your churros and chocolate, and you want to move your body around a little, you can join the Baile de la Alpargata at 8:30. You can sit down to eat breakfast, but don’t miss getting up on the dance floor, because few can resist following the choreography that the popular bands play. I’ll dance here till I’m a grandma!

Gigantes y Cabezudos (Giant Figures and Giant Heads)

The True Festival of San Fermín

After regaining your strength with a breakfast of churros and chocolate, it’s time to head back out into the streets for giant figures and giant heads. This main attraction for the younger festival goers starts at around 9:30 in the morning. Its origin is uncertain, and there are many different stories that exist. The giant figures, that measure between 3.85 and 3.9 meters, represent European, American, and African kings and queens. These figures, accompanied by the heads, are also known as kilikis in Pamplona. They pass through the streets of the old district to the music of Navarran and Txistus bagpipes. This may be thought of as an activity for the kids, but we would by lying if we said that the adults did not look forward to it as well.

Procesión de San Fermín (Procession of San Fermín)

The True Festival of San Fermín

Although the festivities technically start on the 6th with the Chupinazo, the July 7th is the big day for festivities in San Fermín. At 10 in the morning, people celebrate one of the most intimate yet crowded parts of the festival: the Procesión de San Fermín. The image of the saint is carried through the town for about an hour and a half, accompanied by clarinets, kettledrums, maceros, guards, txistularis, bagpipers, giant figures and giant heads, the municipal band (La Pamplonesa), and the cabildo (an assembly of the ecclesiastical positions of the cathedral). This is an impressive event for the true Sanfermines.

Función de la Octava (Celebration of the Last Day of the Festival of San Fermín)

The True Festival of San Fermín

On July 14th at 10:45 in the morning, the town and its visitors process down the streets to celebrate the Octava de la Festividad del Santo, which is celebrated in the Chapel of San Fermín in the Church of San Lorenzo. The municipal company comes dressed in regalia, and they are accompanied by the giant figures, the band La Pamplonesa, and other figures of the solemn, courtly procession in one of the most important events of the true Festival of San Fermín.

Ofrenda Floral de los Niños a San Fermín (The Children’s Offer of Flowers to San Fermín)

The True Festival of San Fermín

On July 10th at 11:00 in the morning, the children honor San Fermín by offering bouquets of red and white carnations. This is a very family-friendly event that takes place around the church of San Lorenzo, in the Rincón de la Aduana of Pamplona.

El Apartado (The Selection of the Bulls)

The True Festival of San Fermín

This tradition consists of letting the bulls for the afternoon bullfight into a pen with the matadors and then separating them. There are three lots (two bulls per matador), and the matadors take note of the different qualities and deficiencies displayed by the animals. The matador’s note cards are put in a hat, and as the cards are drawn, the bullfighters are awarded their opponents in order of age. The bulls are then separated into individual pens so that they can calm down before the actual fight. A bullfight takes place every day at 1:00 P.M.

You can get tickets at the ticket offices in the Plaza de Toros from 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. The bullfighters as well as politicians, artists, and renowned fans will be at these events. And if you like to try interesting food, we have a tradition for you. In the bar El Apartado, it is customary to drink sherry, but you can also try what many consider a delicacy of San Fermín: the testicles of the bulls (las criadillas).

Vermut en el Caballo Blanco (Vermouth on the White Horse)

The True Festival of San Fermín

Around 2:00 P.M., people go drink vermouth, finding a unique tranquility amid the hustle and bustle. Go past the cathedral and cross the cobbled street of Redín, and you’ll find the Caballo Blanco. There, you can lie on the grass, eat or drink something at a terraza, and enjoy the music from little daily concerts that usually take place. This relaxing break in the day also comes with splendid views of the fortress of the city. If you want to experience the real festival of San Fermín, you have to experience this event.

El Riau-Riau (The Riau-Riau)

The True Festival of San Fermín

The RiauRiau, which takes place on July 6th at 4:30, is a popular event in which the young people, the Vals de Astráin, try to stop the municipal procession from getting to the church of San Lorenzo to attend the religious vespers in honor of the saint.

The event was officially canceled because of some incidents that occurred in 1991, but an unofficial Riau-Riau is organized every year by one of the Peñas Pamplonicas in order to recover the tradition.

It is called The Riau-Riau because the people trying to stop the procession make that noise (“riau-riau”) over and over in their efforts to stop it.

Paseo de Mulillas (The Walking of the Mules)

The True Festival of San Fermín

The Paseo de Mulillas is another popular activity of the true festival of San Fermín. Just before the evening bullfight, around 6:00, a colorful procession of riders dressed in traditional 17th century garb, several mules flanked by mule-drivers, and the band La Pamplonesa cross the streets of the Old Town from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to the Plaza de Toros to the rhythm of the pasadoble. Along the way, you’ll also see the Peñas with their raucous, brass bands.

El Torico de Fuego (The Little Bull of Fire)

The True Festival of San Fermín

The children have their own Running of the Bulls, which takes place at 9:45 P.M. Using the same route as the actual Running of the Bulls from the morning, a Bull of Fire takes off from the Plaza de Santiago, behind the town hall, to chase a multitude of children running down the streets, enveloped in a spectacle of light and gunpowder.

El Encierrillo (The Little Running of the Bulls)

The True Festival of San Fermín

Preceding the hustle and bustle of the morning Running of the Bulls, El Encierrillo is a quiet spectacle. This is a transfer of the six bulls that will run in the next day’s Running of the Bulls from the Corrales del Gas to the Santo Domingo. It is a short and silent journey that takes place at night. The bulls run for 440 meters with only the noise of the shepherd behind them and their hooves on the pavement. It takes place at 10:00 P.M., and it is very exclusive. It is one of the most unique events of the true festival of San Fermín.

El Pobre de Mí (Poor Me)

The True Festival of San Fermín

The event that closes the festivities on July 14th is that of El Pobre de Mí. At midnight, everyone gathers in front of the balcony of the town hall, and, with the Mayor’s declaration of the end of the festival, they raise up their bandannas and the candles that cover the plaza while singing the popular song Pobre de .

Author: María Monreal

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