Can you find Flamenco in Pamplona? A few years ago I would have said ‘yes but it’s not a common sight’. Nowadays however, it’s far more common than before partly due to the Flamenco on Fire Festival which has now been running for five years. It takes place in Pamplona’s old town each summer, usually during the final week of August, and attracts some of the biggest names of the genre. The most recent Flamenco on Fire festival saw performances from the likes of Tomatito, Diego "El Cigala", Lole Montoya and Estrella Morente, among others. I remember when the festival started, just a few years ago, and was limited to one concert hall called the Baluarte Jauregia. Since then, not only has Flamenco on Fire grown in popularity but it has also spread from beyond the walls of the Baluarte and out into the rest of the city.
© Photo: JordiDelgado (flamenco guitar and palmas)
During Flamenco on Fire, the people of Pamplona are treated to free live flamenco in the city centre as part of a newly introduced aspect of the festival known as ‘Flamenco from the balconies’; this entails live performances from balconies in the old town where people gather in crowds to watch from below. There are three locations where this takes place; La Calle Mañueta where legendary Flamenco guitarist Sabicas was born, the Ayuntamiento building in the Plaza Consistorial and the Hotel La Perla where Ernest Hemingway often stayed in the corner of the Plaza del Castillo. ‘Flamenco from the balconies’ has helped to spread the spirit of Flamenco throughout the city to such a degree that many have even started referring to Pamplona as ‘Flamenco’s capital of the North’.
© Photo: AlbertoLoyo (the balcony of the ayuntamiento building)
The Jam Flamenca is another free part of the Flamenco on Fire festival. During the afternoon, Flamenco artists perform at the Mesón del Caballo Blanco which is one of the most beautiful viewing points and cafes in the entire city. Here you’ll find a centuries-old house on top of the city walls, overlooking the suburbs and distant mountains in the direction of France. The house was originally a refuge for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago in the middle ages. It is now a café and restaurant in one of Pamplona’s quaintest settings. The Jam Flamenca that takes place here in the afternoon is largely spontaneous and improvised.
© Photo: Eaeaea (Mesón del Caballo Blanco in Pamplona)
There are a couple of venues in Pamplona where you can catch Flamenco all year round. The first that’s worth a mention is ‘El Juncal’. It’s a fairly hidden place, down the stairs at 6 Calle Carmen, which holds small Flamenco concerts on weekends but only once per month. They’ll usually charge a reasonable entrance free but then will also provide drinks and tapas with your ticket. At other times, El Juncal also functions as a Flamenco school offering dance classes and guitar lessons.
The other venue, and my personal favourite, is La Casa de Sabicas; a bar at 20 Calle Carmen dedicated to preserving and promoting the flamenco culture and gypsy heritage of Pamplona which has often been overlooked. Here you’ll find free live music every other night within a raw, natural and authentic environment.
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