You’ve heard of it, guaranteed: San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls. You’ve seen five-second gifs or short YouTube videos depicting madness and nonsense; participants, clothed in white outfits and red scarves, evading the likes of six provoked bulls each day. Chaos, in a word. Unadulterated, completely celebrated, you-may-not-believe-it-but-entirely-legal-and-intended chaos.
So, would you do it? Would you head to the north of Spain to participate in the annual San Fermin festival? Before you come up with your answer, it’s important to know just what the world-famous fiesta entails.
San Fermin’s Whereabouts: Pamplona, Spain
More unfamiliar than Spain’s most popular cities, Pamplona stretches within the country’s northern valleys. Surrounded by rolling hills and ongoing grasslands, the city boasts scenic landmarks known to all its citizens: a 14th century defense fortification architected within a magnificent park, Roman- and Gothic-influenced cathedrals, and a quaint central plaza. During the 51 weeks outside of the San Fermin festival, the population of nearly 200,000 lives rather calm and pedestrian lives. Come the Running of the Bulls, however, Pamplona completely transforms – as quickly as overnight.
San Fermin’s Well Known Traditions
Surprisingly, though with complete reason, the day’s bull runs occur only once in the morning—8:00am sharp—for a relatively small distance of 825 meters. That’s only half a mile, and for what usually ends in a few minutes.
But the bulls’ involvement doesn’t end there. In fact, common belief is that the animals’ adrenaline peaks during the 8:00am run. But the energy continues in bursts thereafter. Crowds of people lucky enough to cop a ticket pack the Plaza de Toros, Pamplona’s iconic stadium, begin to flood the seats later in the day. Attention to the stadium’s floor, drink and cigars all around, the attendees wait for the evening’s main event: bullfighting. Human vs. beast; wit vs. strength; matador vs. bull.
San Fermin’s Unknown Traditions
Although, yes, we associate the Running of the Bulls with the literal running of the bulls, San Fermin celebrates far more tradition during its weeklong festivities. And rightfully so – 168 hours of bull running and fighting alone would conclude in some pretty grim fates for its participants.
But that’s just the start to the party. Immediately after the bull run, hundreds of thousands of individuals engage in sangria fights, bar and café crawls, singing, dancing, and recreational loitering within the neighborhood parks. It’s a beautiful sight, really. Children as young as 3-years-old wander around naïve and carefree; elderly men and women on the outskirts of Pamplona’s main square, glass of red in one hand, burning cigar in other.
Whether you run with the bulls or not, San Fermin offers events for you to enjoy far and wide. Hop on a plane to Madrid this July. Take a bus thereafter up north to Pamplona. Buy yourself the traditional white outfit and red scarf, and get ready for one incredible ride.
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