The city is easy to conquer on foot, but a car is essential for getting up into the scenic mountain surrounds and the pretty villages along the way. To reach Pamplona from Biarritz or Bilbao, allow an hour and 40 minutes. From San Sebastián, it's an hour and a half, and it's just under two hours in the car from Zaragoza.
Pamplona has its own airport, but it's more a hub for regional flights. International travellers can change in Madrid and connect to Pamplona, or fly to Bilbao, Biarritz or Zaragoza. Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) flies to Bilbao from London Stansted, and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) will get you to Biarritz or Zaragoza.
There's a station just off Avenida de San George in the city centre. Renfe (www.renfe.com) trains run directly to Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastián and Zaragoza.
Spain: 34; Pamplona: 948.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the San Fermín festival's biggest fan; The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky, an insight into Europe's oldest people.
Do go / Don't Go
If you don't like crowds, don't go between 7 and 14 July, when they come in their droves for the annual bull runs. Summer can get hot and busy, so May and June or September and October are best for clear, sunny days. It's cold and often wet from late October until April.
Pamplona may be in Navarre, but it's Basque in flavour, so expect lots of bacalao (salt cod), cider and txakoli (a slightly sparkling dry white wine). Pacharan is an anise-flavoured spirit made from sloe berries. Popular dishes include menestre de verduras (vegetable stew), pimientos de piquillo rellenos (stuffed red peppers) and ajoarriero (mashed garlic, potatoes, egg and olive oil). The local cheese is made with raw sheep's milk from up in the mountains. They like taking a trout and stuffing it with cured ham, which is surprisingly tasty. The famous beans of the region are called pochas de sangúesa. Prized pintxos (Basque tapas) include courgettes with sea spider, green peppers filled with mushroom and prawn mousse, and baby squid croquettes.
There are ranks at Plaza del Vinculo, Plaza de las Merindades and close to the main square, Plaza del Castillo, or you can flag one in the street. To book, try Taxi Pamplona (+34 948 351 335; www.taxipamplona.com) or Logi Taxi (+34 606 833 522; www.logitaxi.com).
Tipping is not generally expected, and service won't normally be added to bills, but leave loose change after a set menu or five per cent if it's Michelin-quality fare.
During San Fermín, pack white shirts and trousers and a red scarf to look the part. Bring a Basque and Spanish phrasebook; not only will it endear you to the locals, it will help you order the tastiest pintxos.
The city's grand and Gothic cathedral was built between 1397 and 1530, with a spruced-up façade arriving on the scene in the 18th century. Pamplona's patron saint, San Saturnino, has a church named after him in the old town. The sculptor Jorge Oteiz has a museum in his former home which holds 3,000 of his works (www.museooteiza.org). It's 9km east of the city.
Rummage through Antiguedades Migueleiz (+34 948 220 083; www.antiguedadesmigueleiz.com) on Avenida Roncesvalles for antique books, maps, furniture and art. For fashionable threads, hit Avenida Carlos 111. The old quarter is where to head for Navarran products; try Echeve on Calle Mercaderes for ceramics, hats and botas (wine-holding pouches), or Las Tres ZZZ on Calle Comedias for neckerchiefs and gerrikos (wide, weight-lifter belts). Vinoteca Murillo on the corner of Calle de San Gregorio and Plaza de San Nicolás sells local favourites, including Navarre's famous reds and rosés.
Drive through pastures green up into the hills to Elizondo, an Alpine-style village north of Pamplona, then onwards to Urdax, a peaceful mountain retreat with a stream trickling by, grazing foals and an old monastery.
Walk around the old city walls, a five-kilometre amble between the Media Luna and Taconera parks taking in 500-year-old forts, ravelins and bastions.
March Spring marks the start of the pilgrim season, and the Javierada pilgrimage sees thousands march from Pamplona and other places in Navarre to the castle where the region's patron saint was born in 1506. July The famous San Fermín stampedes through the city streets for a week from the 7th. 29 November Pamplona's patron saint, San Saturnino, has his special day at the end of the month. 3 December The Day of Navarre and its saint, Francis Xavier: expect fun and festivities in the form of concerts and parades.