Fiesta de San Fermin (Run of the Bulls) in Pamplona

This festival starts in the afternoon of July 6 and ends at midnight on July 14 in Pamplona. During this festival there is music, folk dancing, street theater, fireworks, the ‘Gigantes y cabezudos’ parade, drinks and food and there are folkloric activities, but the most famous part of this festival is the moment when six fighting bulls are driven through the narrow streets of Pamplona. hurried. These bulls complete a course through the center of the city in about three minutes. Not only do they walk through the streets, thousands of daredevils also take on this course. The course ends after about three minutes in the bullfighting ring. Here the bulls are killed by the matadors.

Running of the Bulls

It is suspected that the tradition arose because from 1591 onwards the bulls were transported from the stable to the arena by floats running through the streets of the city. People started running with it, but this was illegal at first. The first legal bull run (also called encierro) was held in 1899. The course, which is protected by a wooden fence, is a total of 848 meters long and this distance is covered in less than three minutes. During the eight days of the festival, 48 fighting bulls are chased through the streets. Dozens of daredevils are injured every year due to falls and some men have to pay for this with their lives. The more people run, the less room there is to avoid the bulls, so the more dangerous the bull runs are. In any case, the bulls do not survive the day, which is why there are always protests from the Anti Bullfighting Committee during these days. Yet in 2017, every day of this festival still starts with the encierro.


The bullfights (corridas) also take place daily during the festival, at the end of the afternoon (6:30 PM) in the bullfighting ring (Plaza de Toros of Pamplona). Then the bulls that have been chased to the arena in the morning are killed by the matadors during the bullfight. Tickets are scarce and expensive.

Protests by animal activists

Protests by animal rights activists take place annually during the Fiesta de San Fermin. This is an initiative of the animal rights organizations PETA and Animal Naturalis. In 2017, these protests have been taking place for fourteen years, without the desired result: stopping this animal suffering. During these protests, hundreds of people take to the streets with their torsos bare, painted blood red and sometimes even covered in blood, carrying banners. Until 2008, there were protests involving naked running. This was stopped because the media attention for nude running resulted in more tourists attending the bull runs.

Writer Ernest Hemmingway

The writer Ernest Hemmingway visited Pamplona nine times and annually from 1923 to 1927. He mainly came for the Fiesta de San Fermin. Before Hemmingway attended this party, no one had ever heard of it, but Hemmingway made the Fiesta famous. He wrote about it in his book The Sun Also Rises, which was published in 1926. In it, Hemmingway described the Fiesta de San Fermin as a celebration of survival. The last time Hemmingway visited Pamplona he felt he had created a monster. During his first visit there were virtually no tourists in the city and during his last visit tourists crowded the streets. Pamplona was no longer Pamplona.

The holy Saint Fermin

The festival is named after the patron saint of the city: Saint Fermin of Amiens. This Fermin was the first bishop in Pamplona and died in Amiens. He was beheaded there. After his death, it was said that a sweet scent rose from his grave that melted ice, made flowers grow and healed the sick. The religious aspect of the festival has now come to play a very subordinate role. The only part that is still a bit religious is the procession that takes place on July 7. During this procession, the fifteenth-century statue of Saint Fernin is carried through the old center accompanied by dancers, street performers and the mayor. The procession starts and ends at the church.