Cover picture credits ©: Kike_Fernandez
Cover picture credits ©: Kike_Fernandez

Ready to experience this story yourself?

Book your trip

The Citadel of Pamplona – the most impressive fortress in Spain

3 minutes to read

Travel Tips For Pamplona

Find the best deals here for unique accommodations around Pamplona and book your stays in advance.
Build and book a hotel+flight package from scratch, all in one place.
Get personalized advice along with a curated itinerary for your upcoming travels.
Get the most authentic Art and culture experience. Check out these guided tours and skip-the-line tickets around Pamplona.

The Citadel of Pamplona is huge; so huge that it can’t be fully appreciated from the ground in the way it can from the sky. For that reason, I didn’t take advantage of this historical green space when I first came to Pamplona and instead opted for La Taconera, which is arguably Pamplona’s most beautiful park. I did nonetheless start coming here to jog, whilst training for the nearby half-marathon known as La Behobia. The Citadel not only boasts the biggest green space in Pamplona but it also finds a way to have multiple other uses.

© Photo: (Bird's-eye view of the Citadel)

Aside from being a popular spot for joggers, the Citadel is also a place where locals play football, where friends have picnics, where open-air concerts take place and where firework displays light up the night sky during the fiestas of San Fermin. Most notably, this area is home to the most impressive fortress in Spain, an enormous star fort, steeped in history, dating back to the 1500s.

Why the Citadel was built

Pamplona has seen its fair share of wars over the years because of its location; being so close to the French border. Under King Phillip II, construction of the fortress began in 1549 and was designed by Italians, Giovan Giacomo Paleari and Vespasiano Gonzaga to defend Pamplona from potential invasions. It was built as a pentagonal star fort connected to the rest of the city walls.

© Photo: rmbarricarte (The moat area of the Citadel)

Originally, the construction of new buildings outside of those city walls was prohibited. During the First World War however, it was obvious that forts of this kind were no longer relevant in war and so in 1915, the army allowed for some parts of the citadel and city walls to be destroyed to assist the expansion of the city. The ban on construction beyond the city walls was also lifted. The large remainder of the star fort did nonetheless continue to be used by the Spanish military up until 1964. In fact, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the fascists executed republicans here by the Puerta del Socorro; a monolith and plaque has been placed there in their memory.

© Photo: Jorab (Monolith paying homage to the people who were executed in this Citadel, by the fascist regime, during the Spanish Civil War)

The Citadel today

If you take a stroll through the Citadel today, you’ll found moats, cannons, guard posts, old bridges and stone arches there amongst the grass. Technically, there are two parks in this large green space; the Parque de la Ciudadela which is inside the fort and the Parque de la Vuelta del Castillo which is the larger area surrounding it. Within the fort, I have been lucky enough to see live concerts and have been to a number of great live jazz sessions here on random nights, whilst in the green space outside the walls I’ve played football matches, gone on late night jogs and sat down on the grass in the evening to watch the epic firework display that takes place here each night of the San Fermin fiesta.

© Photo: surogati (the firework display of San Fermin)

It’s a refreshing place that separates the old town from the modern residential area of Iturrama. But for me, I’ll always remember the Citadel as the place where I trained hard for months, running along those paths beneath the night-sky and often dodging low-flying bats that would swoop down from the trees.

"Anyone who has been in Pamplona for long enough will make memories in the Citadel in some way or another."

We recommend to book your stays in Pamplona in advance as it can get booked up quickly during certain periods. If you use this link, you pay the same price and we get a small commission - thanks for your support!

Want to plan this trip? Build your own hotel+flight package, or reach out for personalized advice from one of our travel experts.

Interesting towns related to this story

The author

Adam L. Maloney

Adam L. Maloney

Adam is a Londoner who travelled to over 20 European countries and lived in both Portugal and Spain for several years. Adam is a fan of exploring intriguing neighbourhoods and meeting locals.

Are you ready to experience this story yourself?

Book your trip

Stories you might also like