A prosperous city of just under 200,000, PAMPLONA (Iruña) is a robust, visceral place, with a rough-hewn edge and a strong streak of macho self-confidence. Having started out as a powerful fortress town defending the northern approaches to Spain at the foothills of the Pyrenees (the city takes its name from the Roman general Pompey), it later became capital of Navarra – often a semi-autonomous state – and an important stop on the Camino de Santiago. With plenty to offer around its Casco Antiguo – enticing churches, a beautiful park and the massive citadel – Pamplona makes an appealing year-round destination, though for anyone who has been here during the thrilling week of the Fiestas de San Fermín a visit at any other time can only be an anticlimax.
Everything you’re likely to want to see in Pamplona lies within its remarkably compact Casco Antiguo. Centring on the Plaza del Castillo, ringed with fashionable cafés, it’s a glorious and very much lived-in jumble of buildings from all eras, where every twisting stone lane is worth exploring and intriguingly tatty old shops and bars lie concealed behind medieval shutters.