Best known for July’s annual running of the bulls, Pamplona is the home of Osasuna, the only major club in the partly Basque area of Navarre. The region also has its own team that plays occasional fixtures against their counterparts around Spain.
Named after the Basque word for ‘health’, Osasuna have historic links and rivalries with nearby Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao. Basque players tend to come and go between them.
Like Bilbao (and Real Madrid and Barcelona), Osasuna are owned by their members – this citadel city has a powerful sense of autonomy. Its virtues were extolled by writer Ernest Hemingway in his book ‘The Sun Also Rises’. The plot partly revolves around the bull run and the café life of Pamplona. Today themed walking tours take in the sites in Papa’s first novel, including the legendary cafés of Plaza del Castillo, including former Café Kutz, now a bank.
It was at the Kutz, three years before Hemingway’s visit, that members of two local sporting fraternities, the New Club and Sportiva Foot-Ball Club, met in 1920 to found Club Atlético Osasuna. The driving force behind this move was Pamplona-born Eduardo Aizpún, who earlier played for Pamplona Club de Fútbol, the one in Navarre. This lawyer and philanthropist also founded CD Ribaforada, still in existence today.
Details of early Osasuna games were recorded by Eduardo’s brother Marcos, a journalist on ‘El Pueblo Navarro’. Adopting red shirts, Osasuna played friendly games at the local racecourse, the Campo del Ensanche and the Campo de San Juan, against mainly Basque teams. Their first star was Pamplona-born Seve Golburu, who played for Spain at the 1934 World Cup.
That same year, Osasuna began a third season in the Segunda, and gained promotion to the Primera, the first of 35 top-flight seasons to date. Their most successful period was quite recent, the fourth-placed finish of 2006 and subsequent crack at the Champions League. This run came to an end in 2013-14, with relegation by one solitary point.
Osasuna was also where ex-Liverpool striker Michael Robinson started his career in Spain, first as a player (with Sammy Lee and Ashley Grimes), then as the most famous of Spain’s football pundits. His seminal show ‘El día después’ changed for good how Spanish TV covered the domestic game.
Pamplona Airport 6km (3.5 miles) south of town serves only internal flights. Bus No.16 runs to Pamplona bus station (every 12-20mins, €1.30, journey time 15min). A taxi (+34 948 23 23 00) shouldn’t cost more than €15.
A taxi (+34 944 80 09 09) to Pamplona would cost around €220.
The Pamplona Tourist Office offers a room-booking service. Note that no rooms will be available during the Festival of San Fermín between July 6 and 14.
There are no hotels near the stadium, stuck out in the south of town.
The most famous hotel in Pamplona is five-star La Perla, where Hemingway’s room remains in the same style as he would have left it.
The streets around Plaza del Castillo, particularly San Nicolás and Estafeta, are lined with bars, while the terraces cafés on the square itself still echo the old days. The most famous is the Café Iruña, with its own Hemingway corner. The Bar Fitero is a classic pintxos bar, while for the inventive variety, try the Bodegón Sarria.
The main pub in town is O’Connor’s (Paseo de Sarasate 13), with a huge screen for TV football and decent food. Cider is a local speciality – Chez Belagua is the place to try it.