Running of the Bulls® Frequently Asked Questions
Planning your Pamplona trip for the Running of the Bulls® can feel overwhelming at times, especially if this is your first visit. Find answers to the most important and commonly asked questions about touring with RunningoftheBulls.travel and the San Fermin Festival to make your adventure stress-free. Our Running of the Bulls® FAQs are quite extensive, but always feel free to contact us for any other questions!
Without a balcony for the Running of the Bulls® in Pamplona, it is likely that you will have little to no view of the Run itself. There are only three watching areas available at street level: Telefonica, Plaza Consistorial and Mercaderes. Space in these designated areas is limited and crowds are known to form at least 2 hours before the Run.
This is especially true at the beginning of the San Fermin Festival and the opening ceremonies for the Running of the Bulls®. Later in the week, it may be possible to claim a viewing spot at street level just behind the barrier that separates the medical staff from spectators and the Bull Run (encierro). It is important to note that you would need to arrive by 6:00 a.m. in order to claim a spot, and there is a chance that you could still lose that location when the police open the gates to let out surplus runners as they will then be fighting for your spot as well. We recommend arriving by 5:00 a.m. during the first days of the festival as well as on weekends in order to secure a spot at the barrier.
Standard hotel rooms in Pamplona, Spain typically range between EUR 200 and EUR 2000 for the San Fermin Fiesta, depending on the time of the week. It is often more affordable to avoid the 7th, 8th and weekends when booking as the crowds are smaller.
Apartment rooms can be just as expensive as hotel rooms and do not necessarily provide more comfort as it is not uncommon for the bathrooms to be shared with other guests. Private apartments usually require a minimum of a 3 – 4 night commitment and can cost over EUR 1000 per night.
It is important to note that cost is largely dependent on location and standard.
We recommend booking as early in the year as possible. Hotels and apartments in Pamplona fill up fast and far in advance of the San Fermin Festival. If you prefer to be close to the action, select one of our hotels in the Party Zone, but, if you need peace and quiet while sleeping, we recommend the Quiet Zone. Choose your preferred date(s) and book something close to the city center if you would like to avoid taking buses or taxis.
During the Running of the Bulls® and the San Fermin Fiesta, over 1 million visitors crowd Pamplona, Spain, a city of 250,000 inhabitants causing hotels to sell out in advance and quickly. The best alternative to a hotel is to rent a room in an apartment or an entire apartment, depending on the size of your group. The most sought after and more expensive locations are found where the fiesta takes place in the old part of the city (casco viejo). There are more modern and less expensive options available outside the inner city, but these will require a bus, taxi or long walk to reach the fiesta.
Lodging is the largest cost factor when planning a visit to the San Fermin Fiesta or Running of the Bulls®. It is possible to mitigate this cost by arriving later in the Festival when the crowds are not quite as large. Although we do not recommend it for safety reasons, some visitors do choose to sleep in the city parks as Pamplona does provide public bathrooms for showering.
It is important to note that, based on your completed purchase, RunningoftheBulls.travel makes a commitment to your balcony and/or apartment host in Pamplona, Spain. Because our suppliers are very firm about cancellations, we must be as well. Our ability to refund your purchase is based on the probability that we are able to resell your reservation to another party and, therefore, depends on the timing of your cancellation. When purchasing from RunningoftheBulls.travel, you acknowledge that you have read and agree to the following cancellation policy:
- Before April 1st: 75% Refund of payment
- April 1st – May 1st: 50% Refund of payment
- May 2nd -June 1st: 25% Refund of payment
- After June 2nd: Payments are not refunded
If you are concerned about a cancellation, you may also consider purchasing travel insurance to cover potential losses.
RunningoftheBulls.travel will provide you with an eVoucher containing your purchase information and instructions for locating your Pamplona balcony once your purchase is complete. The name of your package is the actual balcony address. For example: “Estafeta No 2, Level 1” would be the first level of house number 2 found on Estafeta Street in Pamplona. It is very important that you know where the entrance to the location is. We highly recommend finding the door the day before your reservation for the Running of the Bulls® when the nervous and excited crowd of runners is not present.
On the day of your reservation, one of the skilled RunningoftheBulls.travel representatives will be awaiting your arrival outside the building. They will have a check-in list in order to verify your name and purchase information. Please remember to bring your eVoucher with you so we can confirm your reservation as these balconies are some of the most sought after in Pamplona.
Although the Bull Run (encierro) starts at 8:00 a.m., you must arrive early due to street closings beginning at 7:00 a.m. We recommend that you arrive between 6:30 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. The representative will lead you, along with all other spectators for the day, upstairs to your designated space promptly at 7:00 a.m. We request that you please not ring the doorbell before 7:00 a.m. as a courtesy to your host. If you arrive after 7:00 a.m., we cannot guarantee that you will be able to fulfill your reservation as the police will prevent you from entering. RunningoftheBulls.travel does not offer refunds due to late arrival.
With each individual balcony reservation, we strive to inform you of breakfast accommodations, but this is not guaranteed. While some apartment owners do not provide food or drinks for the Running of the Bulls®, many serve refreshments such as coffee, hot chocolate and pastries. A few owners may even offer a full breakfast for their guests! In most Pamplona apartments, you are welcome to bring snacks such as Churros (Spanish friend dough) or baguettes. Alcoholic beverages, cups and glass bottles are not allowed in order to protect runners from falling objects.
While balconies for the Running of the Bulls® and the San Fermin Festival vary in size, they generally have space for 4-5 average size people. These private Pamplona balconies are attached to individual apartments. There are typically at least 2 balconies per apartment, allowing us to accommodate larger groups. We also offer large balconies that can hold 10 to 20 people, making them a perfect choice for large groups. In most of our Pamplona apartments, you are able to move freely within and rotate viewing spots amongst your party or other guests in your viewing group. Additionally, many balconies in Pamplona are close enough that you are able to hold hands from one to another!
All children 5 years or younger may visit our balconies and terraces at no charge provided they are in front of their parents or held in their arms. Our hotel partners have special offers for children as well.
Balcony spaces sold in advance throughout the web range from USD 90 to USD 250 per spot, i.e. per person, depending on the location, day and quality of the apartment. It may be possible to purchase a less expensive balcony space once you arrive in Pamplona on the day of the Bull Run (encierro) but these balconies are often considered inferior due to locations at high levels or at less interesting points in the Bull Run route. It is important to note that we do not recommend visitors to rely on these less expensive options without knowing where they are going, the ability to speak minimal Spanish, and the understanding that they may not find an open space and therefore miss the Running of the Bulls®. We also advise to be wary of providers requesting bank transfers as there is no recourse if they do not show or make a mistake with your reservation. We have consoled many disappointed customers of other companies frantically wandering the streets because they cannot enter their balcony due to this occurrence.
This depends of the type of Sanfermines you prefer to celebrate. If you want to enjoy the most popular event, the Txupinazo Opening Ceremonies, which occurs on July 6th, you should arrive to Pamplona by July 5th. If your desire is to enjoy the festival as a local with less people but the same fiesta, we recommend you attend during the week as the weekends are crowded with visitors from neighboring countries. Last, but not least, if you wish to participate in the Pobre de Mi, arrive no later than July 13th as this occurs on July 14th.
The safest and easiest way to purchase a balcony space for the Running of the Bulls® is online by visiting our Balconies Booking Page where we provide a secure online checkout.
Descriptions and details of each available balcony and package, including the precise location of each balcony, are provided before purchase. This distinguishes RunningoftheBulls.travel from other vendors as many only offer an approximate balcony location prior to purchase. Upon payment for your Pamplona accommodations, you will receive an eVoucher and detailed instructions for locating your balcony.
It is possible, but unlikely, to purchase a balcony spot once you arrive in Pamplona or on the day of the Running of the Bulls® (encierro). However, while often a less expensive option, most of these balconies are only available for weekdays other than the 7th or 8th and are considered inferior in location as they are higher up or on the less interesting areas of the Bull Run Route. It is our recommendation that this option is only pursued if you: 1) know where you are going, 2) speak at least a little Spanish, and 3) clearly understand that there may not be a space available, causing you to miss the Running of the Bulls® (encierro) entirely.
There are numerous strategies for choosing your perfect private balcony location in Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls®. You may prefer to choose based on balcony level, the route for the Bull Run (encierro), or even the festivities occurring before or after the run. Many guests prefer to be on a higher level balcony so they can see as far as possible while others want to be close enough to the ground to smell the bulls as they run by. Some visitors choose Estafeta Street because it is a long, straight road allowing you to see the farthest or Santo Domingo where you are able to see runners praying to San Fermin’s statue for luck in their run. Often considered the top location is Dead Man’s Corner, aptly named for the sharp turn from Mercaderes onto Estafeta, where bulls often collide with runners. Additionally, balconies located on Mercaderes are prime locations to watch the runners warm up and line up for the Bull Run (encierro), one of the most interesting activities to see while awaiting the start of the run, especially since you must arrive before the streets close at 7:00 a.m. for the Running of the Bulls® to begin at 8:00 a.m.
In general, we recommend purchasing your balcony location for the Running of the Bulls® no later than early Spring. Pamplona balconies for the initial Running of the Bulls® as well as for the first weekend of the festival usually sell out around this time. This is also true for the Dead Man’s Corner location throughout the entire festival. However, it is likely that a spot on Estafeta will still be available closer to July.
The festival of San Fermin, known to locals as Sanfermines, originated as a religious affair in honor of Saint Fermin, a patron of Navarra, and dates back to the Middle Ages. Sometime in the 1400s, with the addition of festivities including music, a tournament and bullfights, a version of the San Fermin Festival we see today was born. The festival originally lasted a mere two days and was celebrated in October until 1591 when the Pamplonicas determined July would be a more pleasant time of year. At present, the San Fermin Festival kicks off July 6th at noon with the Txupinazo Opening Ceremony and comes to a close with the Pobre de Mi Closing Ceremony on July 14th at midnight. History also documents other additions to the festival throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, including the most well-known event occurring during the San Fermin Fiesta: the Running of the Bulls® or “Encierro.”
Made famous world-wide in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”, the Running of the Bulls® in Pamplona, Spain is just one of the numerous festivities celebrated during the San Fermin Fiesta. This is the focal point of the festival for most visitors. The Running of the Bulls®, or Encierro, began in the 17th or 18th century and is derived from the need to run cattle from outside the city into the market. Along the way, this became a sort of competition and the Bull Run we know today.
The Running of the Bulls® takes place daily at 8:00 a.m. from July 7th through July 14th and usually lasts less than five minutes. The Bull Run Route is 826 meters (0.5 miles) in length, beginning on Santo Domingo and ending at the Bull Ring.
San Fermin Festival & Running of the Bulls® FAQs
Immediately after the Bull Run, (encierro) heifers (vaquillas) are released in the bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros). They will chase all the runners who made it into the arena. It is less dangerous to be hit by a heifer, especially because their horns are taped. However, they can cause damage and one man was paralyzed from being hit.
Yes, it is possible to watch the runners and bulls enter the arena from the Bull Run. Just walk to the bullfight arena early in the morning to gather a seat before the Bull Run (encierro) begins at 8:00 a.m. After a balcony spot, this is the second best option for watching the Running of the Bulls®. Please note that your wait time will be longer in this area and Pamplona can be cold at this time of year. Additionally, you will not have the best view of the race itself but more of the bulls and vaquillas entering the arena. It is a great place to enjoy without leaving the electrifying atmosphere of the encierro.
It is against the rules:
- To admit anyone under the age of 18 into the course as minors are prohibited from running or participating.
- To go over the police barriers which the authorities see fit to erect.
- To place oneself in the zones and areas of the itinerary which are expressly reserved by the agents of the authorities.
- To hide oneself before the release of the bulls in corners, dead angles or doorways of houses or establishments located throughout the length of the course.
- To leave the doors of the houses open along the course. The owners or tenants of the property are responsible for this.
- To enter into the route in a state of drunkenness, under the effects of drugs or in any inappropriate state.
- To carry objects which may impede the correct running of the Bull Run.
- To wear clothes or shoes which are not appropriate for the run.
- To call the animals or distract them in any way and for whatever reason in the course or during the rounding up in the Bull Ring.
- To run at the bulls or to run behind the bulls.
- To touch, to harass or mistreat the bulls and to obstruct their path by any kind of action during the exit and entrance of the release of the young bulls in the bullring.
- To stop in the Bull Run or station oneself on the walls or barriers or in the doorways in such a way as to impede the run or the defense of the runners.
- To take snapshots from inside the route or from the fencing or barriers.
- To carry troublesome paraphernalia that could upset the proper execution of the Running of the Bulls®.
- To install any kind of equipment that invades the horizontal, vertical or special area of the bull-running, except by express permission of the City Hall.
- Any other kind of occurrence that could hinder the normal functioning of the Running of the Bulls®.
The traditional attire for the San Fermin Festival is white pants and a white shirt with the customary red scarf (Pañuelico) and red waistband. You can buy your Running of the Bulls® Outfit here. From our collection of photos you will see that everyone dresses this way and you will enjoy the fiesta more if you do not stand out from the crowd. We recommend bringing your white pants and shirts from home and purchasing your scarf and waistband once you arrive in Pamplona. These red accessories are available in several shops on Estafeta, Mercaderes and Chapitela streets as well as several places in the Taconera Park, around the Bull Ring and Menindades Square. Keep in mind that it is important to be comfortable and not to worry about getting your clothes dirty.
- First, get in line behind the cut-off/start line on Mercaderes Street. The curve at Plaza Consistorial where the Txupinazo Opening Ceremonies take place is a good location. Be there by 7:00 a.m. at the latest or you risk not finding a spot.
- Around 8:00 a.m. you will have a chance to move around the course and get into position. First time runners usually fare well on Estafeta Street because it is comparatively “easy” due to its straight, even ground. The end gets more densely packed than the beginning.
- Wait for the rocket shots. The first shot signals that the gates have been opened and the bulls are running. The second shot tells you that the last bull has left the corrals. Many people will start running at this point even though the bulls are not in sight. If you get to the bullfight arena way before the bulls, be prepared to face a laughing audience.
- When you see the bulls, run ahead or alongside them. Get out of their way when you are tired. Do not touch the bulls as it is regarded as disrespectful and unprofessional to distract the bulls. Avoid holding on to other people or running with your head turned backwards because that is how pile ups begin.
- If you want to run into the arena (Plaza de Toros), we recommend that you run in the last part of Estafeta Street. You are not required to run the full route and attempting to do so will most likely not allow you to enter the arena as you must stay in front of the bulls for this because, once the bulls pass, barriers close off the street to prevent the bulls from doubling back. The bulls are much faster than humans and, additionally, there are thousands of other people running with the same goal. The gates, located at Dead Man’s Corner and at Telefonica, close behind the last bull. In order to run well, you must decide where you prefer to run, wait there and then run with the bulls as they head to your location. Try to be close to the bull but then you must exit the race.
During the Bull Run (encierro) the bulls usually do not get hurt. They may bruise themselves if they slip and fall. On the evening of the Bull Run at 6:00 p.m., the bulls are killed during the Bullfights in the bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros). Particularly brave bulls may be pardoned by the audience, allowing them to live as a sementar to perpetuate a great race of bulls and to die a natural death, but this rarely happens.
The chance of being hit or gored by a bull in the Running of the Bulls® (encierro) in Pamplona is relatively low. However, being hit may result in injuries ranging from bruises to goring (the bull’s horn piercing the body) and death. Deaths are rare, usually occurring when a horn digs into a runner’s lungs. There is no guarantee for avoiding collision with a bull. People have been known to get hit even when they are pressed into a doorway. It is impossible to know exactly what catches a bull’s attention and makes him turn suddenly. The death toll since 1910 is 15 men, including a man who suffocated to death in a pile-up of runners.
Besides the dangers of the bulls themselves, there is also the possibility of being trampled on by other runners. This is quite frequent and can result in serious injuries if runners pile up. The worst bottleneck is at the entrance to the Bullfight Arena (Plaza de Toros). This location should be avoided, especially because there is no escaping from the bulls. Dead Man’s Corner is also a dangerous spot that should be avoided by first time runners.
Anyone 18 years or older is permitted to run with the bulls in Pamplona. However, it is important to note that the police are very vigilant and will immediately pull anyone out who breaks the rules, either before or during the Bull Run (encierro). The most important rules include:
- No intoxicated runners
- No electronics (photo or video cameras, phones, mp3 players etc.)
- No high heel shoes, flip flops or other sandals
- No touching of the bulls (You may see some runners do this but it is seen as disrespectful to the animal and will be punished by aficionados and the police alike.)
- Anyone standing in front of the start line will be removed from the Bull Run (encierro) course at 7:00 a.m. The line is located on Mercaderes Street so that anyone between Santo Domingo and the beginning of Mercaderes will be eligible to run. Many people line up in Estafeta Street but they will all be disqualified. Runners are given time to spread out throughout the entire course before the Bull Run starts. Before 7:00 a.m. however, you must wait behind the start line. This is done to limit the total number of runners each day.
In total, you will see 12 animals. There are six bulls which can be identified immediately by their darker coloring, either black or brown. The other six bulls are actually steers, recognizable by their lighter coloring, usually white and brown spots. Up close you can also tell them apart because the bulls are not castrated. The purpose of the steers is to keep the whole pack together and to calm down the bulls. The steers run every day and know the course well. Steers are harmless, meaning they will not try to gore you. If you stand in their way, however, they may bump into you.
The Bull Run course 826 meters (0.5 miles) in length and generally lasts between two and six minutes depending on whether any bulls get separated or not. In the case that the pack gets separated, the separate bull will have to be guided by expert runners into the bullfight arena.
The Bull Run (encierro) starts on Santo Domingo Street and finishes in the Bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros) at the end of Estafeta Street.
The Running of the Bulls® occurs daily from July 7th through July 14th at 8:00 a.m.
In Pamplona, during the festival of San Fermin, it is best to get around by walking or use public transportation, because vehicles are not allowed in the center of the city from July 5th to July 14th.
If you are traveling to Pamplona by car, the best option is to park in a parking garage. All of our partner hotels provide private parking to keep your car safe, but, if you choose to stay at other hotels, we recommend the following garages.
Plaza de Toros Parking
C/ AMAYA s/n, PLANTA BAJA
31002 – PAMPLONA
Phone: +34 948 212 046
Carlos III Parking
Avenida Carlos III
PZA BALUARTE s/n, SOTANO 3 4
Phone: +34 948 213 293
Corte Inglés Parking
Phone: +34 948 202 000
Parking is also available on the streets, but, unless you know where to go, it can take hours to find a spot. It is best to park your car in a neighborhood outside the city center in the San Juan or Iturrama districts and walk downtown from there.
Above all else, make note of and remember where you parked your car! Also, keep in mind that, in Pamplona, street names are written in two languages: Spanish and the Basque language, Euskera. It is advisable to note both and know that “Calle” means street in Spanish and “Kalea” means street in Euskera.
For most travelers, the best way to arrive in Pamplona is by plane. However, as Pamplona is not a large city, it does not house a large airport, making flying an often complicated and expensive adventure during the San Fermin Festival.
RunningoftheBulls.travel proudly offers a private transfer service from anywhere in Spain to Pamplona. This is a quick, convenient way to reach Pamplona well rested and ready for maximum enjoyment! Upon your arrival to Spain, one of our private drivers will be waiting with your name to take you to your hotel without having to stand in line.
Whether you prefer to arrive via plane, train or bus, we have provided information here to help you organize your trip.
The Pamplona airport is 6 km from downtown, in the village of Noain. Currently, the best way to get to the main part of town is by taxi or by using our private service transfer.
Besides Noain, the nearest airports where you could arrive are: Vitoria (101 km), Biarritz (128 km), Bilbao (170 km), Zaragoza (172 km), Madrid (407 km) and Barcelona (437 km).
From these cities you can easily take train or bus services that are cost effective to Pamplona.
Train Station of Pamplona
Address: Plaza de la Estación 1, Pamplona
Information and Tickets: +34 902-320320
Online reservations: Renfe
The Pamplona train station is in the neighborhood of San Jorge. The city rail system works very well, thanks to Alvia’s new and fast trains.
Once you arrive at the Pamplona train station there are three options to get to the old town: by taxi, by bus (Line 9), or using our private transfer service.
Pamplona Bus Station
Address: C/Yanguas y Miranda Nº2
This new bus station is located in the center of the city where several companies operate daily connections between Pamplona and Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian, Vitoria, Zaragoza and Biarritz.
Once at the bus station, you can walk to your hotel if it is located in the city center or take a bus if it is not.
Bus tickets are available for purchase at:
Getting Around Pamplona:
Pamplona is a city where you can easily see all the sights on foot. If your hotel is situated in the old town, you will not need you to take any transportation to get around the city. If your accommodations are located outside the city center, it is best is that you travel to the city by taxi (+34 948232300 or +34 948 221212) or urban bus.
There certainly are! Here are a few:
The Giant Parade (Los Gigantes)
The Giant Parade was created by the end of the 19th century and involves four giant pairs of kings and queens dancing through the streets. They represent the world’s continents as they were seen in the 19th century: Africa, Asia, America and Europe. The Giant Parade takes place daily.
The San Fermin Festival includes a ‘children’s day’ featuring numerous shows and a playground especially for the young.
The fairgrounds located just outside the old city offer rides and other such amusements.
The Fire Bull
The Fire Bull runs through the streets each night during the San Fermin Fiesta, sparkling with firecrackers. This is a sight for anyone but especially children.
Please note: The bullfights are very bloody and the audience on the Sun side is quite rambunctious. We recommend only taking adolescents and finding a sitter to keep younger children while you enjoy this part of the festivities.
For children’s event dates, times and locations, please view the San Fermin Festival Schedule or pick up a program at any of Pamplona’s information centers.
We strongly advise that you do not bring pets to the Running of the Bulls®. While there are some hotels that allow pets, Pamplona is very crowded during the San Fermin Festival often causing stress and other difficulties for your pets. Pets are not allowed on balconies or terraces or at any event hosted by RunningoftheBulls.travel.
The San Fermin Festival is a family event as evidenced by the number of strollers and child-friendly events which are found even into the late hours. Spanish families take out the whole clan so that the elderly and the young mix in the streets even past midnight. Outgoing aficionados and youngsters are generally respectful of anyone who does not want to be bathed in sangria. Clean clothing and a serious expression keep them at bay unless you dive into the street where the night clubs are found.
The climate of Pamplona during the festival of San Fermin varies widely. It tends to be hot and dry, but some years the weather has been rainy and cold, particularly late at night or early in the morning. To plan for your trip to Pamplona, check the forecast for this year.
If you plan to watch the Running of the Bulls®, we recommend bringing a sweater or jacket as it can be chilly in the morning before the Bull Run. Mornings are usually temperate but the afternoons can be hot, especially in the Sun section while watching the Bullfights. Evenings are typically cool so we recommend a light jacket or sweater then as well.