September 2015. For fans of the iconic American novelist Ernest Hemingway, there is perhaps no greater tribute to the great man than a visit to the Spanish city of Pamplona. An exceptionally well-travelled man, Hemingway fell head over heels for Pamplona and would return here again and again throughout his troubled life to watch the running of the bulls and drink himself into one of his legendary stupors. One of these famous visits, back in 1925, served as the inspiration for his debut novel The Sun Also Rises. As I strolled around Pamplona myself one autumn afternoon it was amazing to witness just how present Hemingway is in the city some 56 years after his final visit. There’s a statue of him outside Pamplona Bullring and you can check out the extravagant Hotel La Perla, his Pamplona residence whenever he came to stay. But the most atmospheric of these Hemingway sites is Café Iruña, the old dog’s favorite watering hole that features so heavily in The Sun Also Rises.
September 2015. Located on the sweeping Plaza del Castillo, Café Iruña is a striking old structure dating back to 1888. I headed here on a cool morning for breakfast and square views. For me the visit was all about soaking up the atmosphere and less about the actual food and drink, especially as I’d read some very poor reviews online. But in the end I was more than satisfied with my cup of rousing coffee and the small but delicious salmon and cream cheese roll that came with it. Similarly, I hadn’t been on the receiving end of the sour-faced service I’d heard about.
September 2015. Apparently the café interior hasn’t changed much over the years and still boasts the majority of its original features, from the black and white tiled floor, hanging lights and intricate wooden windows to the giant, meticulously polished mirrors and thick ostentatious pillars. The toilets are spotless too, one of the best-smelling gents I’ve ever had the privilege to step into.
September 2015. Cafe Iruña was a huge source of inspiration to Hemingway. He would sit at the little bar in the side room at the back of the main café working on the latest draft of his novel and scribbling down notes for what would become future poems. It was also here that he would stand for hours regaling friends and admirers with his many life stories. This was where he would come to escape his demons: to laugh, smoke, drink wine, guzzle beer, knock back champagne, down gin and smash through mojito after mojito. Today the tiny bar is home to framed photographs of the man, while a thoughtful looking life-size bust props up the bar’s corner.
September 2015. If you’re in Pamplona Café Iruña is the perfect place to kick back for a while and soak up an inescapable sense of history. You can come for breakfast, lunch, dinner or evening drinks, despite its popularity there will nearly always be somewhere to sit. Opening times are 09:00-23:00 Sunday to Thursday, 08:00-01:45 Fridays and Saturdays.
Like this? Why not mop up my other articles on Pamplona.
I’ve also written stacks of reports from all across Spain.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001, so why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.