Securing a Bird's Eye View of Pamplona's Running of the Bulls

Posted by Adrian Garcia, Special Travel Contributor on Feb 9th 2024

Securing a Bird's Eye View of Pamplona's Running of the Bulls

Every year, from July 6 – 14, the charming city of Pamplona, Spain transforms into a bustling hub of excitement as a million guests from around the world arrive to join in the Festival de San Fermin. At the heart of the fiesta is the running of the bulls, or Encierro, a tradition that dates back centuries. 

While a couple of thousand brave souls confront their fears each morning attempting to run alongside the bulls on the narrow cobblestone streets, others choose a perspective that is much safer, and still delivers an exhilarating and memorable experience … they watch from the comfort of an apartment balcony in the historic buildings overlooking the iconic route. 

Apartment owners in these buildings make their balconies available to tour operators who bring travelers to Pamplona to witness the event and create lifetime memories. Of course, the apartment owners benefit financially from this, but their primary motivation is their love for their town, their sense of duty to perpetuate the Festival de San Fermin and honor its patron saint, and their genuine interest in sharing their culture and its traditions. These families warmly welcome these guests and delight in the wonderful experience the travelers have in their homes. 

Perched above the streets of Pamplona, the balconies deliver a bird’s eye view of all the action as it unfolds below. Guests are in place in their temporary home by 7 a.m. They are greeted by their hosts, the television is tuned to the national pre-Encierro broadcast which is building anticipation as the expectations of the day are reviewed, then it’s time to step out onto the balcony to begin soaking it all in. 

The preparations for the morning run are thorough:

  • Temporary barriers are constructed
  • Medics stage their triage areas
  • Ambulances are backed into place
  • Local police are actively managing the gathering crowds
  • Runners mill about nervously stretching and bouncing in place. 
  • Many offer prayers to a large mural of San Fermin at Dead Man’s Curve seeking protection 
  • Others approach the Pastores (bull shepherds) in their green shirts and tan chinos offering a fist bump in gratitude for the dangerous work they do to keep them safe 

All the runners are then moved back near the corrals where the bulls will be released. The course is completely cleared by law enforcement, then inspected and declared ready by the Mayor and Encierro officials. Those still intoxicated from the night-long parties in the bars and streets, and anyone else that may be breaking the rules, are removed and escorted away by the police. 

Any soul of legal age can step onto the 929-yard route and risk their life sprinting before the rampaging herd of six, 1500 lb., Toro Bravos specially bred for this day. The anticipation is palpable as the runners, dressed in traditional festival attire – white pants and shirt, a red bandana tied around their neck, and a sash knotted at their waist – are permitted to move to their preferred starting points. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the firing of the rockets announcing the commencement of the Encierro. 

Standing on balconies along the route, a section of the course is laid out before the guests, offering a panoramic view of the impending chaos and excitement. The rockets are fired, the bulls released, and the balconies are marked with high energy excitement as the frantic scramble is on. The dare devils pack the slick and narrow streets moving as fast as their legs will carry them until they finally either: 

  • Bail out
  • Are pushed aside
  • Knocked down
  • Flipped heels over-head
  • Trampled
  • Gored 

Watching the Encierro from a balcony provides a sense of safety and security while still immersing yourself in the thrill of the event. Above the chaos, spectators can fully appreciate the spectacle unfolding before them, free from all the significant danger playing out on the streets below. 

From their unique vantage points, guests observe the varying strategies employed by the runners – some sprinting ahead with determination, some running alongside tapping the bulls with a rolled paper, some trying to stay a few steps ahead running directly in front on the horns of a bull. Others bail out quickly or find themselves diving under a barricade for last second protection. Some just change their mind and decide to hold their place, get out of the way, and watch. The atmosphere is electric, with cheers and shouts echoing through the streets as the bulls make their way towards the famed Plaza de Toros where they will face the matadors later that evening on the sands of the arena floor. 

Then just like that … it’s over. The aftermath is on the street below. You see the medics offering immediate attention, assessing the extent of the damage to each injured runner, then getting those in need of critical care to a nearby ambulance ready to make its dash to the hospital. 

Stepping away from the balcony that delivered a memory you won’t soon forget you pause in the living room where everyone is gathered to watch the slow-motion replays of the exhilarating run from every angle. There are gasps as the telecast shows a sudden pile-up on the course, a near miss, and unlucky runners being tossed about, trampled, squashed, or gored. 

As you join the crowds re-entering the streets, you’ve had your own rich cultural experience with the centuries’ old tradition of the running of the bulls and gained a special appreciation for Pamplona’s Festival de San Fermin. 

Now your attention will be turned to the remaining activities of the day … celebrating Spanish culture at its finest, enjoying traditional music and dance, savoring local cuisine, drinking sangria, attending a bullfight, and watching the spectacular fireworks display that illuminates the sky each night at 11 p.m. 

Secure a balcony space and you’ll be glad you did. Witnessing the thrilling running of the bulls at the Festival de San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain is a must-see event for any adventure traveler. These unique birds’ eye views are limited and sell out months in advance. You need to do your research, locate a reputable source, and be ready to book quickly. 

We are proud to offer a variety of Pamplona balcony rentals along the bull run route throughout the Festival de San Fermin. We have made it easy for you to view the iconic Running of the Bulls. Choose from a variety of vantage points:

We also offer Pamplona balcony rentals for the opening and closing ceremonies.