Perhaps there is no point in trying to retrace the steps of Ernest Hemingway in Pamplona unless you're willing to get drunk. Not doing so would, in many ways, mean not having the true Hemingway experience. Like everyone else at the San Fermin festival, Hemingway spent his time drinking throughout the day and night whilst taking the odd siesta in between the rounds. The legendary American author, who documented his Pamplona experiences in his novel 'The Sun Also Rises', fell in love with Pamplona and its bars, most of which are still there today in the main square, enabling us to relive his drunken adventures.
Founded in 1888, Café Iruña is one of the most beautiful places in Pamplona to have a drink in. A real effort has been made to preserve and maintain its original appearance which is why the interior, with its detailed ceiling and chandeliers, makes you feel like you are stepping back in time to the 19th century to a truly classy place where the drinks are surprisingly cheap. Hemingway mentions Café Iruña on multiple occasions throughout his novel. It was a place where he would often spend long afternoons drinking red wine in the shade.
Just as Hemingway's novel pays homage to Café Iruña, the venue itself pays homage to Hemingway by having a quiet designated bar area called 'El Rincón de Heminway' where you can find the writer himself in the form of a bronze statue which leans over the bar as if waiting to be served, as Hemingway would have done so many times before.
When Hemingway drank here, the Tropicana Bar was part of the Hotel Quintana where he used to stay (referred to as the Hotel Montoya in the Sun Also Rises). Although the hotel is gone, the bar still remains. Not only does this bar feature in the novel, but it was reported that Hemingway once came here and got completely drunk with two women who left and stepped outside into the main square with the writer following them outdoors in just his underpants. He also became very close friends with the owner, Juanito Quintana.
Perhaps there are two reasons why Hemingway loved drinking at Bar Txoko so much. Firstly, because it is right beside the former Hotel Quintana where he used to stay and secondly because it was and still is, a place where bullfighting enthusiasts congregate. Although Hemingway's tipple was known to be red wine, he would often come to Txoko after bullfights and order a vanilla milkshake with cognac. So when you set foot in Bar Txoko, you already know what to order.
In the Sun Also Rises, it's called Bar Milano, in reality at the time it was called Bar Torino, but now it's Bar Windsor or the Windsor Tavern. In the novel, it was the scene of a drunken argument and fight which took place just outside.
The other bars that Hemingway got drunk in were Cafe Suiza at number 37 in the main square (Plaza del Castillo) and Cafe Kurtz, just beside Café Iruña. Both have since been replaced by banks but don't let that stop you from drinking there. At the very least, buy a can of something, walk inside, take a sip and walk out. It's the only way to officially complete the Hemingway drinking experience in Pamplona.
“This is a good place," he said. "There's a lot of liquor," I agreed.” ― Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961), The Sun Also Rises
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