It is quite simply worlds apart from the rest of the city. That is, of course, if you go there at night and step inside some of its hidden Latin music venues. Even during the day, it feels like a town of its own. San Juan is its name; a modern neighbourhood adjacent to Pamplona's historic old town. Here you will see and feel a different side to Pamplona, which most visitors mistakenly regard as a city that is made up of little more than its old town where all the historical buildings are. San Juan does not have much history to offer but what it can offer is clean streets, modernity, great restaurants, cafes, bars, a vibrancy of its own and a nightlife that feels closer to that of Latin America than Spain. Not to mention, its very own little slice of Japan.
San Juan's atmosphere during the day and evening really revolves around its main high street, Avenida de Bayona. It is here where most of the cafes, bars and restaurants will be found. The small pedestrian street, Travesia de Bayona, is a small pocket of bars and cafes that always seems to be busy during evenings, particularly around Bar Letyana which also has a good reputation for its traditional and local food. The same high street is also home to one of the largest nightclubs in Pamplona, Canalla, which sits opposite the popular sushi restaurant Kimu. But the real slice of Japan is to be found in another part of San Juan.
While strolling up and down Avenida Bayona, you might notice a rather odd monument in the middle of the road with cars passing on either side of it; this yellow tractor on a small patch of grass pays homage to San Juan's rural past. The area had once been largely made of farmland which now seems difficult to imagine.
Perhaps the most surprising, hidden and culturally distinct aspect of San Juan is the nightlife. Aside from the large and fairly typical nightclub, Canalla, the residential backstreets of San Juan are home to a handful of tucked away and fairly hidden Latin music clubs for those who dance Salsa and Bachata. These bars are barely noticeable from the outside but absolutely buzzing on the inside. In many ways, they are the hubs of Pamplona's Latin American community and feel far more like something out of Colombia than Northern Spain. Be sure to check out Bar Velvet, Euphoria VIP and Bar Deluxe for an experience that will feel like a trip to Latin America.
In 1997, a group of Japanese landscape gardeners designed San Juan's very own 'Yamaguchi park' to pay homage to the twinning of Pamplona with the Japanese city of Yamaguchi. The park itself is both a calming and impressive cultural import that represents the four seasons and is rich in the features of a traditional Japanese park with its diversity of flowers, charming layout and soothing waterfall. It is also here where you can find Pamplona's planetarium.
"Pamplona is changed, of course, but not as much as we are older. I found that if you took a drink that it got very much the same as it always was." - Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
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