It if it wasn't for Ernest Hemingway, Pamplona wouldn't be the town it is today. it seems odd that Pamplona's fame throughout the world should largely boil down to down an American novelist who first came here in the 1920s but at the same time, it is widely accepted that that is the case. So why did Hemingway come to Pamplona? How did he make the place so famous? And where did he stay?
Hemingway lived in Paris from 1921 to 1923 where he would mingle with other artists and writers. It was here where he first heard about the San Fermin festival and in 1923, before leaving France, he would take a trip there himself and document these experiences in his novel entitled 'Fiesta: the Sun Also Rises'. The novel was a great success that was turned into a Hollywood movie and would change Pamplona forever, making it a city that would go on to attract increasing numbers of tourists from all over the world who wanted to experience the running of the bulls festival that Hemingway was in awe of. In total, Hemingway would go on to visit Pamplona nine times.
He first stayed in the Hotel Quintana (which is called the Hotel Montoya in his novel) and would do so for many years to come. In the Sun Also Rises, he mentions sitting at the hotel bar whilst drunk and looking out of the window into the main square (La Plaza del Castillo). Luckily the bar still exists, even though the hotel doesn't, and is just up those stairs to your right as you enter the place which is now known as Tropicana Cervecería. By having a glass of red wine here (Hemingway's favourite drink), you'll be reliving the pages of his classic novel.
Hemingway developed a great friendship with the owner of this bar, Juanito Quintana, and the two of them together would have long conversations about politics and bullfighting, as well as the occasional heated argument but their friendship persisted nonetheless.
Hemingway is, however, most associated with the nearby and more upmarket Hotel La Perla. He first stayed here in 1927 and considered it to be his favourite hotel in town. Due to the fascist dictatorship that Spain had become in 1938, Hemingway felt reluctant to return to Pamplona but did so in 1953 and stayed at La Perla in room number 217 which has a balcony overlooking Calle Estafeta where the bull runs take place. He returned in 1959 and stayed in the same room. It was the last time he visited Pamplona before his death in 1961. The room has been left just as it was back in Hemingway's time in order to pay homage to the writer.
What's lesser-known is that Hemingway also once stayed at the Hotel Yoldi which was famous for hosting bullfighters and, like La Perla, is still going, as well as an old pension at 5 Calle Eslava which was directly above the pharmacy that stands there today. It is believed that he ended up in the cheap lodging on Calle Eslava, after arriving at Hotel La Perla and not being able to afford a room there (before his fame, of course). The hotel owner at the time, Ignacia Erro, then recommended the cheaper option which he gladly took.
“I've written Pamplona once, and for keeps. It is all there, as it always was, except forty thousand tourists have been added. There were not twenty tourists when I first went there.” (Ernest Hemingway 1899 - 1961)
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