Pamplona Spain is most frequently identified as that place where crazy people run through the streets just ahead of a herd of angry bulls. It’s called The Running of the Bulls, a part of the San Fermin Festival in July. It only lasts eight days, but that’s all most people know of Pamplona.
You might have read Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, which is set primarily in Pamplona. He brought fame to the tradition of running with bulls.
But savvy travelers as well as people who love food recognize that Pamplona and the Navarra region of northern Spain is a cultural wealth of great food.
What is a Pincho or Pintxos
There are a couple of spellings of pintxos, based on the English, Spanish or Basque language, but don’t get too hung up on that.
A pincho is a small tapas or appetizer-like dish, usually consumable in one bite, maybe two. The difference between tapas and pintxos is the social setting. Tapas are consumed as a meal, but pinchos are served in bars, usually eaten while standing, and always with a glass of wine.
And this is key to the pinchos experience – when you are finished with your pincho, if you liked it, you wad up your paper napkin and fling it to the floor with gusto. The trashier the bar serving pincho, the better.
Semana del Pincho in Pamplona Spain
Instead of visiting Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls when crowds and prices make enjoying this lovely city a challenge, consider a visit in March for Semana del Pincho. Semana, of course, is the Spanish word for “week.”
Semana del Pincho or Navarra Pincho Week is in March or April, but the exact week varies based on when Easter falls. It’s usually the week after Easter. During that week, about 75 bars and restaurants in Pamplona create special pintxos for the week and special fixed prices to match.
Each participating establishment is listed in a brochure, including the style of pinchos and the hours in which they are served. The public is invited to vote on their favorite pinchos from a number of categories and the winners claim bragging rights for the coming year.
Here’s a tip: the Restaurante Abaco near the bull ring has won Best Pinchos four different years.
Wandering the ancient streets of Pamplona on a pleasant spring evening, the same streets traversed by Hemingway and equally celebrated figures of the centuries, sipping wine and sampling pintxos, enjoying the company of friends, both old and new, is one of the great cultural experiences when traveling in Spain.