If you happen to be in Spain during July or looking to attend a unique cultural event that involves being chased by bulls, you should definitely participate in the Running of the Bulls Festival!
Running of the Bulls is an annual festival in Pamplona, Spain, in July. While the festival is actually called San Fermin Festival, the Running of the Bulls event is the show's highlight.
But if you go without having knowledge of what to do and what not to do, you can easily get hurt or kicked out of the event. Nevertheless, attending and getting the whole experience can be tricky if you don't plan ahead and know what to expect.
Luckily, we have everything you need to know about the festival, including the dos and donts, where to stay when you go, and how to run with the bulls.
Let's start by introducing the extraordinary and unique festival that hosts the Running of the Bulls, the San Fermin Festival.
What is the San Fermin Festival?
Running of the Bulls, as we've mentioned, is actually part of a larger festival called the San Fermin Festival. The San Fermin Festival 2022 runs from July 4th to July 14th, with fireworks celebrating the beginning of the festival. The festival lasts for just over a week to honor Saint Fermin, the patron saint of Pamplona.
Running of the Bulls event commences on the second day of the festival and repeats every morning at 8 AM for the rest of the festival. Thousands of people from around the world join to run with the bulls throughout the festival, and another million watch.
Six bulls run each day of the festival, and the run goes for 875 meters (which is just over half a mile). After only a few minutes of running, runners and the bulls end the run in the Plaza de Toros.
Want to spend more time in Spain after you go to Running of the Bulls? We have an article that includes five other cities you shouldn't miss when visiting Spain.
Tips for Running with the Bulls: The dos and don'ts
Running with the bulls takes a lot of bravery. You can always just watch the event, but if you want to run with the bulls, there are some tips you should know.
1. Follow the Rules
The most important thing you need to do if you want to run with the bulls is to follow the rules.
Since it is such a popular event, it's easy to get hurt during the run if you aren't prepared. The police are very strict about who can be on the street before and during the run to keep everyone safe.
You must stay in a particular area of the street before the run starts, and you have to stay alert, so you are ready to run when the gunshot goes off.
If you show up drunk, hungover, or just plain tired, you won't be able to run. Of course, this is for your safety but plan ahead if you are going to run so you can do it safely and successfully.
Make sure to follow the rules they have set at the event, or else you'll risk getting thrown out of the event by the police or event organizers!
2. Know yourself & set your expectations
Do not run if you're not mentally and physically fit. This also includes whether you're under the influence or not feeling well in general.
If you are unsure about running with the bulls, consider watching the run on the many balconies surrounding the event instead of running! You'll still feel immersed in the event without doing the run.
The entire run is just over half a mile, but it can vary depending on where you start. Since the run lasts less than five minutes, you'll have to move fast, especially with the bulls behind you and the hundreds of other people running in the streets.
If you want, you can watch for the first day or so, then run on one of the latter days of the festival when you have a better idea of what to expect.
3. Avoid Injuries
Finally, there are injuries at Running of the Bulls every year. On average, 50 people end up in the hospital after running with the bulls. And there have been 15 deaths during the event over the last century.
There are some ways you can avoid serious injury. First, you don't have to start at the beginning of the course, and the later you start, the less running you have to do.
Start after the "dead man's corner" for the least chance of injury. The "dead man's corner" is a sharp turn in the street during the event where many runners slow down, but the bulls don't, making it quite dangerous.
You'll hear the gunshots go off, which signals when the gates open to let the bulls out, and another to signal when all the bulls have left the gate.
Stay alert, and as soon as you start to see the bulls and people running behind you, RUN!
Once you start moving, don't look back and move as fast as possible. Once you reach the bullring, take a deep breath, and get out of there. There are still bulls behind you!
If you do fall during the run, don't get back up! Stay on the ground and cover your head and neck if anyone runs over you. The worst thing you could do is try to get up and get knocked over again without your head and neck protected.
Make sure you also plan with whoever you're going with on a meetup location and time in case you get lost during the event. This happens more frequently than you'd think! We also encourage you to go with a friend, family, or your travel buddy. Running solo for the event is dangerous and not recommended for beginners.
4. Listen to the locals
The saying "locals know best" really does apply in this context here. Regardless of what plans you've set up with your friends or buddies for this run, it's always best to consult a local to get their opinion.
Local runners participate in the event frequently and will know best about the dos and don'ts of the event.
Make sure you ask a local for advice, even if you're afraid of the language barrier! They're more than happy to help you navigate the festival and keep you safe!
5. Immerse in the experience!
The San Fermin Festival is a culturally and historically rooted celebration in recognition of a 3rd-century Christian convert, so make sure you get in spirit of the event!
This also includes dressing for the occasion with white clothes (nothing fancy, they'll get muddy and tainted with sangria spray), sashes, and a bandana. Trust me, you wouldn't want to be the only person in a tourist t-shirt!
This might be a repeat, but make sure you talk to locals at the event! Make new friends, enjoy a few drinks, and get into the spirit of the San Fermin Festival!
Where to Stay for Running of the Bulls
The closer you can stay to the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona and the Corrales de Santo Domingo, the better. If you stay too far away, you'll have to get up very early and take a taxi or shuttle to the running. It can be hard to find a cab during the event, so your best option is somewhere close enough to walk.
However, be warned that it'll be incredibly noisy during the festival days (and even some nights). We recommend you book another hostel further away from the city center if you'd like some peace and quiet on the days when you're not participating in the event.
If you want to stay in a hostel, the Aloha Hostel Pamplona is great. They have a variety of cheap dorm rooms, and the street where the run takes place in less than ten minutes away walking.
If you aren't staying in a hotel that offers a package that includes a balcony to see them run, make sure you book one well in advance. You'll want a balcony, not a window, and there are many reputable companies you can use to book one.
Looking for other great places to stay other than Pamplona? We have a list of the best hostels in Spain so you don't have to spend time choosing a place to stay when you could be enjoying Spain!
Is Running of the Bulls worth it?
Even if you aren't running, you'll have fun watching the event and spending time with the locals. The event's history dates back at least 6 centuries, and the first record of the event is from the 14th century, so it's a big part of the city's culture.
However, there are some ethical considerations. The bulls who run in the event die later that night at the bullring during a traditional fight. And, it can be traumatic if you are running and get trampled or watch others get hurt during the run.
It's essential to know the full details of the event before you choose to attend.
Plan your trip to Pamplona!
The Running with the Bulls festival will be lots of fun and a truly unique experience. Now that you know the event's dos and don'ts, get started planning your trip with friends to Pamplona with Pilot!