San Fermin Running of the Bulls
Whether you have already been to Pamplona’s San Fermin summer festival in July or not, you have probably heard about its highlight event, the Running of the Bulls, where brave runners test their agility by running ahead of a herd of mighty bulls stampeding along a set course through the streets of central Pamplona, Navarra, Spain. This article explains how to choose San Fermín Running of the Bulls best choice balconies for watching the event.
The Main Attraction of the San Fermin Festival
A little before 8am between July 7 – 14 you may have considered waking up and watching the spectacle broadcast live from Pamplona. For many of you, however, visiting Pamplona to run or watch the San Fermin Running of the Bulls is on your bucket list. If watching, rather than running, is what you wish then choosing the right San Fermín Running of the Bulls Balcony will make an important difference. My aim in this article is to help you make the most of San Fermin’s main attraction – the Running of the Bulls – so that you feel the excitement, sense the anticipation, and live a cultural experience unlike any other. Let’s change your experience from a glimpse of black figures among a blur of rushing white ones to a “wow” moment by choosing the best balcony from which to watch the Running of the Bulls.
Running with the Bulls
There are three ways to experience the Running of the Bulls or el encierro, as it is called in Pamplona. The first and most obvious, but definitely not the safest, is to run the course with the bulls. Be forewarned, unless you are an experienced runner, my suggestion to you is that you drop the idea entirely, as it is far more dangerous than it looks or seems. The general understanding of travelers to Pamplona, Spain is that everyone and anyone can run with the bulls…not so! These are dangerous animals, and are specially bred to attack and kill. Apart from the bulls themselves, there are other dangers from within the course itself. For instance, many runners face possible death, with panic and fear sometimes leading to accidental or non-accidental injuries. Apart from the slippery cobblestones, and the hair-raising tension in the air, runners lose their balance, lean on you, or grab on to you with no intention of letting go even if their life depends on it. You can get stepped on you, be tripped over, and trampled. There are plenty of foreign tour companies selling the run as part of their tours and this is one of the reasons why there is an increasingly large number of foreigners on the course who have no idea what they are in for.
Watching the Bull Run at Street Level
One option is to watch the San Fermin Running of the Bulls at street level from behind double fencing made of massive oak beams that create a barrier between you and the course. A team of (beloved) expert San Fermin carpenters set two layers of rigid fencing in place. This fencing is solid, but also thick, which makes it hard to get a good view of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls from between the wooden stakes. You will find yourself struggling to peak through the gaps. To get a good viewing spot you need to wake up extra early to ensure your place among the multitudes of onlookers. As the carpenters set the fences in place, visitors are standing around waiting for them to finish their job and rush in to reserve their space. The wait is long, especially in the wee hours of the morning. If you choose this option, here are two really good pieces of advice: make sure you are at the right fence. It is only the outer fence that can be used to view from, not the inner fence. No one is allowed to remain on the inner fence, which means that if you make the mistake of holding the wrong place, for long hours of waiting the police will still ask you to get down and leave. Reserving a space by a fence takes two forms; you can sit on the fence or stand by the fence – on your feet for hours. You might be thinking ‘ok, well I will just sit on the ground’ but don’t! The streets at this time of the day are caked with what Peter Milligan humorously calls ‘trash juice’ in his novel Bulls Before Breakfast, and, believe me, it gets pretty ugly. Be forewarned, you risk seeing almost nothing unless you choose the right location; one of which is near the beginning of the course, on the Santo Domingo Street along the sloping railing near the Museum of Navarra.