Urban tourism in Navarre is your sure bet to make the most of every second you’re away from your routine.
If you opt for Pamplona, you won’t be disappointed by its first-class historical heritage, the old town, replete with mediaeval churches, the great atmosphere and all its green spaces. And even more so when you combine all that with the splendour of its mediaeval walls, its gastronomy – with a special tip of the hat to its pintxos – and its marvellous cultural agenda.
If you prefer smaller cities, you can take your time to explore the amazing cultural heritage of places like Tudela and Estella-Lizarra, and combine the experience with great food, nature and a less hectic pace. Because you can do heaps in one weekend.
And you’ll soon see, as you discover other things to do during your break, that you’ll want more and wish to come back!
Pamplona, the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre
And the perfect place to spend the weekend. Or to make the most of a few days off.
Because Pamplona has so much to offer:
“Fill your boots” gastronomy with an all-star line-up of pintxos.
Top-of-the-line historical heritage and heaps of green areas.
A non-stop cultural life in a restless city.
And the San Fermín festival, intangible cultural heritage recognised by UNESCO and known worldwide.
Oh, and this is just the beginning...
We’re going to tell you everything on a jam-packed page.
Para saber por dónde te mueves
Recorre Pamplona siguiendo el plano de la ciudad.
Tudela, the second most noteworthy city
Right after the capital. A charming city born between the arid Bardenas Reales and the intense green of its market gardens.
It’s not short on history, because it was founded in 802 under Muslim rule, although for four centuries Muslims, Jews and Mozarabs lived side by side here, forming a cultural mix which is still apparent in the city’s streets. The city belongs to the network of Jewish quarters Red de Juderías de España-Camino de Sefarad.
Later came the Christians to complete the job and turn the city into a true artistic gem. Don’t miss Plaza de los Fueros, the spectacular cathedral, the city’s churches and palaces, alleys, fortified walls and watchtowers.
Because Tudela is an enchanting city that combines history and good food, and one which should be explored on foot. Did you know that it is home to the finest vegetables? From the floodplains of the River Ebro come the tenderest artichokes, asparagus, lettuce hearts, borage and cardoon. And if you put a selection of these together in one stew, you get the star dish in the region, menestra.
It is also a land of festivals and traditions. It honours its patron saint, Saint Ana, from 24 to 30 July, and the festivals known as El Volatín and The Bajada del Ángel, held in Holy Week, have been declared of Historical-Cultural Interest.
Cathedral of Santa María
The Gothic cathedral has been a national monument since 1884. It has three formidable portals, of which the spectacular Portada del Juicio (Portal of the Last Judgement), which mixes the Romanesque and Gothic styles, should be highlighted.
Don't miss its Romanesque cloister, which can be accessed from the Tudela Museum, or the Baroque chapel of Santa Ana, the city’s patron saint.
Plaza de los Fueros
A mandatory stop, this is the heart of Tudela.
What was once a bullring now has a central bandstand. The facades of its houses display the shields of the Ribera villages. It is presided over by the Casa del Reloj, the hub which oversees all of the city’s events: Holy Week, the Baile de la revoltosa (a traditional celebration), among others.
Palace of the Marquis of San Adrián
Nothing other than the finest Renaissance palace in Navarre. And it has a bit of everything: a lightwell, spectacular eaves, murals and centuries of history, in which even Goya played a part; his portrait of the Marquis is now on display in the Museum of Navarre.
Another example to highlight is the Palace of the Marquis of Huarte, with its lavishly decorated facade and its double imperial staircase, considered the most beautiful in Navarre.
Church of la Magdalena
Declared a Site of Cultural Interest —and that makes three—, it conserves its slender 3-section tower, one of the few Romanesque towers to be found in Navarre. The Romanesque doorway leads to an interior where you will discover a beautiful Plateresque reredos.
Make the most of your visit to see the Judería Nueva quarter and enjoy the maze of winding lanes around Calle San Miguel.
The Ebro bridge is the first example of mediaeval civil architecture you come across in Tudela if you enter the city on the NA-134 from Pamplona. With its 17 ogival and semi-circular arches, it is 360 metres long and offers one of the finest panoramic views of the city. It has been renovated on several occasions to withstand the force of the Ebro, the mightiest river in Navarre.
Its strategic importance was so great that Tudela adopted it as the symbol of the city.
An ancient thirteenth-century defence tower offering breath-taking views.
It’s a hexagonal brick building which conserves its mediaeval cistern, an underground reservoir to store drinking water from rainfall.
The latest renovation it underwent converted it into the first camera obscura in Navarre and an interpretation centre with panels explaining the cultures that have lived together in the capital of the Ribera: the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians. A highly recommended place to visit.
Muñoz Sola Museum of Modern Art
If you like paintings and particularly works from the second half of the 19th century, be sure not to miss this museum. The local painter César Muñoz Sola, a portrait artist who also worked in other genres, such as landscape and still life, stands out for his exquisite technical quality, identified with Realism and French Impressionism.
What a lot of thing there are to see in Tudela!
Locate all these monuments on a street map
Festivals and things to do in Tudela
There’s lots going on in Tudela, so you won’t be bored for a second. Two festivals of tourist interest in Holy Week: El Volatín and the Bajada del Ángel. In spring, the wonderful Vegetable Days and Vegetable festival. The city’s great patron saint festival in July. And in autumn, the Ópera Prima Ciudad de Tudela Film Festival for debuting filmmakers. And there are heaps more things to do, which you can find out about here.
Estella-Lizarra, the mediaeval star on the Way of St James
The last of this trio of Navarrese cities is a wonder of immense cultural value.
A city whose Basque name means star. Like the ones in the Milky Way that guided the pilgrims as they walked. And you can feel the Way of St James everywhere here, with all its pilgrims, symbols, bridges, churches and palaces. Perhaps that is why it’s known as the “Toledo of the north”. And its Jewish quarter, which surrounds the entire city, was the third in importance after those of Tudela and Pamplona. That’s why Estella belongs to the network of Jewish quarters Red de Juderías de España - Caminos de Sefarad.
Take note of these three Romanesque jewels: the Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre, the cloister of San Pedro de la Rúa, and the portal of San Miguel.
Although Estella’s small, it’s a great choice for a relaxing break and a place that allows you to combine its urban environment with some of the wonderful places to visit in the surrounding area: the monasteries of Iratxe and Irantzu, and the landscapes of the Sierra de Urbasa, including the amazing Source of the River Urederra.
Get away for a weekend, try some roast suckling pig and the local vegetables, and if you have sweet tooth, take some delicious Rocas del Puy chocolates back home with you.
Church of San Pedro de la Rúa
Perched on high ground overlooking the city, this church welcomes you with a beautiful, richly decorated13th-century portal with a lobed arch of Arab influence, an imposing tower and an interior which houses, among other things, the chapel of San Andrés, patron of the city, and a 12th-century cloister, considered one of the finest exponents of Navarrese Romanesque stonework.
And don’t overlook the capriciously entwined Solomonic column holding up one of the central arches, an idea which can also be found at the Cathedral of El Burgo de Osma (Soria) and the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos).
Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre
In the charming Plaza de San Martín stands the Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre, the only example of Romanesque civil architecture in Navarre and declared a National Monument in 1931.
The palace dates from the 12th century and has a beautifully harmonious façade, arranged in three heights; the ground level consists of an arcade with robust semi-circular archways and the one above it has large windows, each divided by four small arches which rest on fine columns with capitals. The façade is framed by two columns with historiated capitals, one of which depicts the fight between Roland and the giant Ferragut, and two towers adorn the roof of the building. A little gem that's well worth a stop on your walk.
After restoration work carried out in 1975, the palace was converted into a museum devoted to the painter Gustavo de Maeztu.
Church of San Miguel
This church is located on the left bank of the River Ega, in the district of San Miguel, built in the second half of the 12th century and home to both Franks and Navarrese residents.
One of its finest features is the north portal, which is truly representative of late Romanesque sculpture, with Christ in Majesty on the tympanum, surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists, and the Virgin and St John interceding at the Judgement.
The impressive exterior of the building consists of contrasting volumes, such as those of the Baroque tower beside the chevet and the bulky mediaeval tower at the foot of the nave.
And if you don’t want to miss a single church
Be sure to see the 14th-century portal on the Church of El Santo Sepulcro, the doors of the Church of San Juan Bautista, the Church of Santa María Jus del Castillo, once the location of the old synagogue, and the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Puy, patron saint of the city.
There’s art all around in Estella-Lizarra.
There are also plenty of palaces
If you wander through the streets at your leisure, you’ll discover beautiful palaces and houses of the nobility, such as the palace of Eguía (16th century), now the city library, the stately house of Ruiz de Alda (17th century), the house of Fray Diego, now the city’s culture centre, the Governor's Palace (17th century), now the Carlism Museum, and a set of ancient Gothic arches which used to be the entrance to shops and Way of St James hostelries.
Don’t miss Calle Mayor, with its emblazoned buildings and an 18th-century Baroque palace at number 41. Or the Station building (1927), which used to be a narrow-gauge railway station and is now the coach station.
There’s no lack of festivals, either
On 25 May, Estella-Lizarra honours its beloved Virgen of El Puy, the patron saint of the city. If you visit the city at the end of July, you’ll find it decked out as if you were in the Middle Ages to celebrate Mediaeval week, and then the 7 days of the lively city festival begin on the first Sunday of August.
In the second fortnight of September, you can attend the Early Music Festival, and on around 30 November and always at a weekend, there’s the San Andrés livestock and crafts fair.
And what is there in the way of food?
Here’s the menu: seasonal vegetables, potxas beans, chickpeas, truffle, cod ajoarriero-style, chilindrón (lamb stew) and roast suckling pig. The typical desserts to choose from include alpargatas (puff pastry), Rocas del Puy (chocolate and hazelnuts), Tarta de Santiago, sanchicos (filled chocolates) and delicious D.O. Idiazabal cheese.
And don’t forget that this is a land of fine wines, so you can visit one of the nearby wineries if you like.
Want to see everything Estella-Lizarra has to offer?
Explore the city with a street map
Festivals and things to do in Estella-Lizarra
A lively patron saint festival, the fascinating Early Music Festival, the mediaeval market and, to bid the year farewell, the crafts and livestock fairs of San Andrés are just some of the events held in the city. And there are a lot of other activities for you to enjoy, too.
Psst! Psst!... here are more options:
More ideas for your stay in Navarre
Although we’ve only talked about city breaks here, you should know that Navarre has many more options when it comes to a short holiday. Here are a few.
Pintxos, garden vegetables and world-renowned cuisine will be the delight of your getaway. You may go home with a few more pounds, but you’ll be happier than ever.
Thousands of years of history that offer a landscape jam-packed with castles, cathedrals, walled enclosures and monuments. Our recommendation: immerse yourself in local culture in the company of official guides, it's really worth it.
Wellness and wellbeing
Wellness and wellbeing
A woodland walk to breathe in fresh air, a good soak in thermal waters or resting in a charming hotel are your best allies to recharge your batteries in Navarre.