Pamplona and its Historic Centre
“La Plaza del Castillo” is one of the most vital points in Pamplona. It receives its name from a castle built by Luis el Hutín in the 14th century on one of the edges of the plaza. This castle was substituted by another one, built by King Fernando the Catholic, which was also destroyed when the “Ciudadela” was constructed. Many years, later before it was forbidden to park there, and today when cars can no longer circulate, it became what you see now: a meeting place circled by bars, a book store, newspaper shop, clothes stores and many other establishments. Sitting at one of the outside cafés with a cold drink and a tapa or a light lunch is one of its many pleasures. The pavilion at its center since 1943 has become one of the symbols of Pamplona.
On one side of the Plaza is the “Palacio de Navarra” where the government is located. The façade facing the “Paseo Sarasate” is the work of the architect, José de Nagusia and the sculptural decorations by Fructuoso Orduña. In niches on the ground floor, you can see representations of Sancho el Mayor and Sancho el Fuerte, and also in the façade, a man from the Ribera and the mountains holding up weapons of Navarra. In its garden, you can admire one of the three magnificent “Sequoya” trees brought from America.
The “Palacio de Navarra“, which presides the Paseo de Sarasate comes to us from the 19th century with the first expansion of the city. In front of this side of the Palace is a large monument to the “Fueros” or authority of Navarra. It was designed by Manuel Martínez de Ubago. Five thick columns support the five parts of Navarra. Five sheets of bronze refer to the liberties of Navarra and five sculptures by Ramón Carmona represent History, Justice, Autonomy, Peace and Work. The feminine figure in bronze is an allegory of Navarra. In her hands, she holds a broken chain, symbol of liberty won in battle and a parchment of the Foral Law.
The Church – Fortress of San Nicolás, from the 12th century, to be found off the Paseo de Sarasate, was, in the beginning, a defensive fortress. During a battle, part of it was burned down. The most important Baroque organ of Pamplona is located inside its beautiful Gothic walls.
Behind the church, San Miguel street intersects with San Nicolás street, one of the most animated and exciting parts of the city and continues on to Mayor street. This is the emblematic street in Pamplona´s historic section that ends in the church of San Lorenzo. The church holds the chapel to San Fermín. The Church-Fortress of San Cernin or San Saturnino, built in the 12th century, still maintains traces of its defensive functions: very thick walls, a look-out tower and bars on windows. The church was reformed in the 19th century, with a Gothic interior. The most important Baroque choir stalls in Pamplona are to found here. A curious rooster-weathervane shows the Germanic origin of the ancient hamlet of San Cernin.
The “Cámara de Comptos” bordering the church on Campana street is the only example of Medieval civil architecture that has survived up until today. It was declared a National Monument in 1868. The building was acquired by King Charles V of Navarra in 1524 so that tax-collecting and other fiscal matters could have a permanent setting. Coins were also minted here, and the building was used for these purposes until 1836.
The Town Hall plaza is at one of the ends of Mayor street. Everyone knows its importance during San Fermín as the rocket to begin the fiesta is launched from the central balcony of its Baroque façade every July 6 in an act called the “Chupinazo”. The first town hall was built on this site in 1423 when the three neighborhoods of the city were united into one – Pamplona.
The Cathedral of Santa María can be found by walking up Curia street from the Town Hall plaza. This is a Gothic temple with a Neoclassic façade by Ventura Rodríguez. It dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and contains such jewels as the tombs of King Charles III and Leonor of Castilla or its delicate Gothic cloister, considered one of the best examples in Europe. The Cathedral of Pamplona contains a polygonal apse with an ambulatory, characteristic of churches for pilgrims.
Following this history of the oldest part of Pamplona, the best way to discover the city is just by walking through its streets and hidden corners full of the joy of living here.