San Fermín festival: Spain’s Exhilarating Rush Between Man & Beast The world’s most exhilarating race (yes, with real bulls!) takes place each July in the cramped streets of Pamplona in Spain. Running of the Bulls is a nine-day festival unlike any other. The famous event is actually just a portion of a three-part fiesta known […]Running of the Bulls 2019 Pamplona, Spain Pamplona Spain
The world’s most exhilarating race (yes, with real bulls!) takes place each July in the cramped streets of Pamplona in Spain. Running of the Bulls is a nine-day festival unlike any other. The famous event is actually just a portion of a three-part fiesta known as the San Fermín festival. The origin of the bulls in Pamplona run dates back to the 14th century. Local Spaniards began honoring the passing of Saint Fermín. He was dragged to his own death by bulls.What could be more fitting a tribute than an annual run with the bulls? In his memory, participants take part in a feast day, an ancient fair and a bull fighting event that has become world-famous.
The massive party kicks off at midday on July 6 after the launch of the Txupinazo rocket. Locals and tourists come together in a rowdy crowd ready to take on nine days of celebratory drinking and eating.
The actual bull run itself includes a half-mile (875 meters) course that winds through four different cobblestone streets of the historic Spanish town. As you might imagine, slow runners are not encouraged to attempt the life-threatening feat of running with bulls. On the mornings of July 7 to July 14, hundreds of anxious spectators dressed in red and white await the sound of the starting rocket – and the lumbering arrival of the bulls.
Once the bulls are released, adrenaline-seeking runners sprint down the road for their lives… literally. The enraged bulls show no mercy to those who slip or fall on the course and make this one of the most dangerous running events of all-time. Once the race is completed, traditional bullfighting commences. This allows runners to take a shot at besting the bulls in true matador fashion. By the end of it all, festival-goers accompany each other for a closing candlelight performance of the song “Pobre de Mi.”
“The Running of the Bulls is a thrilling dash of emotion that takes place on the very thin line of life and death. Are you daring enough to take your chances with the bulls?”
The bull run itself actually only takes up five minutes of each day during the festival. The best spot to view the Pamplona bull run is from a private balcony that hugs the sideline of the course. Grabbing a seat here requires planning far in advance and at a hefty price. For a cheaper alternative, get to the race well before the start time (8:00 A.M.). From there you can stake your position anywhere on the side of the street and enjoy a front-row view.
Make sure to dress appropriately. Put on some long white pants and a white shirt with a red belt and red scarf (called a pañuelico) to fit in with the crowd. Don’t sweat if you don’t already own the traditional festival attire, it’s super easy to purchase for around €20 from lots of vendors in the city. Don’t expect to stay clean either, as some may pour wine on your clothes if you look too pure!
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Runners can choose from various starting point based on how bold they’re feeling. It’s almost impossible to make it through the whole course; you sprint until the bulls start to overtake you, then jump out of the way. Although the run is only a couple of minutes, the intoxicating adrenaline rush can fuel you for hours of partying in the streets afterwards!
When the bull run kicks off it’s total chaos; in the huge crowd of revved-up thrill seekers, everyone’s for themselves. For more than half of the participants, it will be their first and last run. The crazy, anarchic atmosphere makes the run a heart-pumping experience you should try at least once if it piques your interest. Although the injury rate isn’t too high given the riotous nature of the event, there are definitely a handful of incidents each year, and sometimes a couple deaths.
A common perception to make it past Dead Man’s Corner to stay relatively safe. This corner is a 90 degree right hand turn that is home to most of the incidents seen every year from the run. The bulls are travelling at extreme speeds, they run the first 100m uphill in only six seconds. When they come to this turn they do not have the ability to make a quick turn resulting in many bulls sliding out and across into the wall. Run as fast as you can and find a doorway or balcony to hide.
The city of Pamplona is extremely small considering how many people will be arriving for the festival. However, the small airport of Noain is located inside the town itself.
The best way to get around the main part of Pamplona is by taxi or private driver. If you decide to land or stay in a hotel in the neighbouring cities, train and bus services are the most cost effective options.
Renting a place in the actual city of Pamplona is extremely difficult and not fit for everyone. Tons of drunks will be out at all hours of the night so if you are looking for a nice quiet night of sleep, you won’t find it there.
Booking a room in the nearby town of Tiebas will provide you with a cheaper option that is easily accessible by bus, train or taxi. Willing to go all out? Plan ahead of time and go for the gold by booking a balcony on the main street of Mercaderes.
Head to the map below for the best hotel and Airbnb’s in and around Pamplona.
Pamplona is buzzing with parties, live music, and events for everyone to enjoy. Every single night there’s a spectacular fireworks display, dancing, and celebratory revelry. San Fermín has been heralded by some as having the best street parties in Spain. Whether it’s the opening or closing ceremonies, Stoked in the Park music festival, or gallivanting with the locals, you’re bound to have 24/7 fun.
If you are looking to get away from the madness of the nine-day festival, Pamplona offers fun alternatives that aren’t quite as intense as the fiesta. Spain’s beautiful wildlife areas are just within reach. Explore the awe-inspiring scenery of Parque Natural Urbasa and de La Taconera for a full showing of Spain’s natural beauty. If you’re into history, the quaint town includes several monuments, town halls, and plazas that are in close proximity to each other.
The party heads of the world probably won’t be venturing far from the bull festival. It is still nice to have other options to really take in what northern Spain has to offer.
Read more about other crazy Spanish festivals and more exhilarating races
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