The Pamplona city walls are particularly well-preserved and constitute one of the best examples of a fortified city in Spain. The five-kilometre walk along the city walls – seven if you include the Citadel – is one of the best tourist attractions in Pamplona. The fortified enclosure is a listed National Monument and official Heritage Attraction (Bien de Interés Cultural).
Pamplona has been a city under siege throughout history. The Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon sought to take it over and its proximity to France made it a constant target. In addition, the Spanish Monarchs lived in fear of a Navarrese uprising following its annexation to the Kingdom of Castile in 1512. All these circumstances made the fortifications imperative and, once completed, Philip II had the Citadel built, a formidable defensive construction designed to fend off the French and keep the Castilian troops safe in the event of a civilian uprising.
Today, the walls are a great place to explore and a symbol of Pamplona. Paths run along the top and the bottom. The path along the top follows the outline of the fortification and offers splendid views of the mountains and the lower part of the city, while the walk at the base is part of a magnificent greenway loop that takes in Paseo del Arga, riverside groves, and city-centre farms and vegetable gardens.
A good place to start if you decide to walk along the top is at ‘La Media Luna’, where the Interpretation Centre is located. A visit to the Interpretation Centre is highly recommended if you want to understand the full scope of the defence system around San Bartolomé’s fort. The path along the wall leads to the Labrit, Guadalupe, Pilar, Abrevador, Parma, Gonzaga and La Taconera ramparts, followed by the Santiago, Santa María and Royal ramparts of the Citadel.
Along the way, there are several points of interests where you can enjoy the view, the history and the local cuisine. It is worth stopping at the Redín rampart for the view, at the Caballo Blanco for a cold drink, and at the Navarre General Archive to see the historical documents of the Kingdom of Navarre. The building, refurbished by architect Raphael Moneo in the nineties, is regularly used as an exhibition space. You can also drop into La Taconera zoo, where the animals roam freely, or explore the moat surrounding the Citadel.
THE FORT OF SAN BARTOLOMÉ Interpretation Centre
• Until 15 March: Tuesday to Saturday: 11 am to 2 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm. Sunday: 11 am to 2 pm
• From 15 March: Tuesday to Saturday: 11 am to 2 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm. Sunday: 11 am to 2 pm