July 6th is one of the most unique experiences at the Running of the Bulls – even though the bulls aren’t running yet, there’s still a spectacle in-store. This is the day of the Chupinazo (Txupinazo in Basque) – the Opening Ceremonies that kick off the San Fermín Festival at Noon. If you want to really be able enjoy this day, we recommend you arrive in Pamplona on July 5th, giving you the opportunity to discover authentic Pamplona. You’ll feel the anticipation building in the atmosphere on this day before the big day. You can smell the excitement, and see the changes as this calm city is converted into a huge party town.
July 6th is the happiest day of the Fiesta. We are waiting all year for this day, so you can imagine the explosion of joy when the rocket goes off at Noon on the 6th and the leader of Pamplona announces that the festival has officially started. The Txupinazo is one of the most exciting and raucous events you’ll ever witness. The morning of the event, everyone wakes up puts on their official San Fermín outfit, white clothes accented by the Faja (red sash around the waist), but not the Pañuelo (red bandana). We reserve the scarf only for Fiesta, so we don’t wear it until noon. Before the Opening Ceremonies, you should keep the pañuelo in your pocket or knotted around your wrist.
Once we are dressed and ready to start the day, we meet friends and family somewhere in the Casco Viejo (old city center) to celebrate the Txupinazo. The most popular meeting locations include:
1. Plaza Consistorial (Town Hall Square): Normally this is something that we do just once in our lives – mostly because of the insane mosh pit this square turns into. This is why it is normally a traditions for us when we are around 20-25 years old. We arrive at the plaza between 10:00 and 10:30 am to find our spot and prepare for the crowd. If you choose this option, you have to know that each entrance to the plaza will be blocked by a police checkpoint, to be sure people don’t bring anything besides sangria or champagne.
Before noon, people are singing, dancing and pushing, and when the leader of Pamplona goes out to the balcony of the Ayuntamiento (town hall) they declare: “Pamploneses, Viva San Fermín!” and, “Pamploneses, Gora San Fermín!” And the crowd, holding their pañuelo with both hands replies to them, “Viva!” in Spanish, then “Gora!” in Basque. From that moment on, people put the pañuelo around their necks, and technically speaking, they won’t take it off until the end of the festival.
After more singing, dancing and celebration, it is time for La Pamplonesa and the Gaiteros. Time to dance our way around Pamplona and ask for the owners of the balconies nearby to douse us with water to wash of all that we accumulated during the Txupinazo.
If you don’t like crowds, this is not the place to be. Also, if you are traveling with children or elderly folks you do not want to be on this square – at least at ground level. Aside from the sometimes overwhelming press of the crowd, there are also many broken bottles on the ground, and people often end up with serious cuts at this event.
2. Plaza del Castillo or Paseo Sarasate: Young groups of friends gather in the middle of Plaza del Castillo the largest square in the Casco Viejo. They fight with flour, eggs, cava or sangría – a slightly calmer version of what’s going on in Plaza Consistorial. Also, families with kids meet in the bars and cafés around the edge of Plaza del Castillo, to drink a glass of champagne and have brunch together. There are two big screens to follow what’s happening at Plaza Consistorial.
3. A Balcony on or near Plaza Consistorial: People who want to experience this magnificent, once in a lifetime event, but who are looking for a more luxurious or safe experience, take this option. There are balconies, terraces, and luxurious places with direct views of the action. Also, there are cheaper options located in balconies where you can feel the atmosphere and see people celebrating, but with no direct views of the Ayuntamiento..
Those options allow you to participate in the San Fermín Opening Ceremonies, but in a way that suits your taste for adventure or luxury. Just like the entire fiesta, the Txupinazo is a mix of young and old – some sipping their drink, and others throwing it.
¡Viva San Fermín!