So what is the city of Pamplona like during the rest of the year? I mean, when the Fiesta comes to an end, does the city hold back any exciting secrets during the rest of the year?
Frankly, no. Pamplona (or Iruñea, -as it is called in Euskera-Basque Language) is a fairly ordinary mundane place during the rest of the year. It is a fairly small provincial capital - with a population of about 190,000 people which sits under the shadow of the Pyrennes, about 50 kilometers south of the mountain range, on its west side. If it were not for its famous San Fermín Festival, it would not particularly attract anyone's attention. Pamplona is not by any means an ugly city - and indeed, if it's not strikingly beautiful, it is at least a pleasant place, with lots of open green spaces (which serve as a free spot to bunk down in during the hectic fiesta). Its accessible size means that the city can be traversed on foot if you are not in a rush and it has all the facilities that a modern city needs - although it sags somewhat on its cultural offerings. Pamplona has two Universities - a public one and a private one along with the Long Distance University (Uned)- which attract students from all over. And of course, it has its San Fermín Fiesta. So that, all in all, Pamplona is not a bad place to live in.
Apart from the San Fermín Festival, perhaps the best thing about Pamplona is its surroundings; meaning the countryside, indeed, the whole of the province of Navarra has some striking qualities; particularly its natural landscape. It has not yet been contaminated by "progress".
There are lots of interesting places to visit around the province; Navarra is particularly rich in Romanesque churches and art. The Province is also well known for its cuisine.
BARS AND NIGHTLIFE
Bars and nightlife might seem to be the only thing that exists in Pamplona if you show up in the city right in the middle of San Fermín. Be that as it may, it has to recognisedthat the Fiesta is something apart. Nevertheless, it is clear that there are a high density of bars, pubs,taverns and social clubs that don't exactly disappear during the rest of the year, and foreigners who are used to having just one pub in a radius of a square mile, will probably be startled by the high density of bars found in the town. It does have to be admitted that the bars are frequented regularly by the locals all through the year, so if you are into drinking, Pamplona will please you no end.
But don't confuse the permissiveness of San Fermín with the rest of the year. Any kind of disorderly behaviour is heavily frowned on in the bars and pubs. The permissiveness of fiesta only lasts from the 6th of July to the 14th of July. Those ten days might give you the impression that the end of the world is coming, but in fact, even in San Fermín, appearances are misleading. There are norms of behaviour which must be followed.
Summer in Pamplona tends to be hot and dry, but summer storms can occur and when it rains it rains with a vengeance. Temperatures can dropdramatically then and the days can be cool. Maybe, between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. Other days can be extremely hot, up to 40degrees coleus. It depends on the year.
Whatever the weather is like during the day, the nights are always a bit cool, particularly those dark hours just before dawn. This is the time when many a reveller is inadvertently parading from bar to bar in light dress oblivious to the change in temperature. The consequences of which will appear a day or two later in the form of colds, flu, and hoarseness etc. So, take a jersey or pullover for the nights and remember to bring some rainwear, just in case.
For some people the lack of language is no problem but for others it is. In Pamplona the people speak Spanish and Basque, but most people haven't got much further than that. Don't expect to have any very profound conversations with the locals in any other language. If you want to converse with them it helps no end to have at least a smattering of Spanish, and the advantage is that you can get a much better idea of what's going on around you. If you can't speak to them, you'll still have a great time at the Fiesta, but it probably means that you are going to be spending a lot of your time in the "ghetto" with other foreigners, and missing out on some of the real action.
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