This was no small feat, choosing just three favorites from Pamplona to share with you. Truth is, Pamplona is one of my three favorite stops on the Camino Francés, and it is filled with places, people, and food I love and delight in returning to.
Not walking the Camino Francés? Keep reading, because these favorite things show up in some form on all the Camino routes . . .
Mesón de la Tortilla
The Spanish tortilla was not what I expected, when I first went to Spain. Being a California girl, I knew tortillas as the round, flat things you filled with yummy ingredients and ate hot with a bottle of cerveza.
This is something completely different. In Spain, the tortilla is a tasty egg and potato pie-ish thing. Tortilla may be served hot or cold, and often you will see them filled with additional ingredients, like ham, mushrooms, spinach, cheese, or even seafood. It’s not a quiche, because there’s no crust, and it’s not an omelet.
And these tortillas are not just for breakfast. Pilgrims and locals will have a slice of tortilla in the late morning, for what pilgrims call “second breakfast”, or in the afternoon, or even in the evening as a tapa or pintxo.
My favorite place for tortilla is in Pamplona, at Mesón de la Tortilla. Perfectly located in the historic city, you will actually pass right by the plaza where it’s located about three minutes after you enter the city walls. Each day they put out five to seven different tortillas, including several vegetarian options.
Plaza del Castillo at 5pm
It is standard practice in Spain for the local people to fill the plazas with life at around 5pm (1700 hours) every evening in all but the worst weather. You will see children running and riding scooters and kicking balls, adults talking and smoking, young couples snuggled up next to each other on the benches, and the elders holding court around the plaza perimeter. Everyone is out.
In Pamplona, every plaza will be humming, but my favorite is Plaza del Castillo, which is the plaza mayor, or main square, of the city.
Pintxos at 7pm
You may have heard of tapas, but have you heard of pintxos? There is much debate as to which is which, but to the non-Spanish eye (and for our purposes), they are essentially the same thing, just called something different depending on where you are. Pamplona is located in the Basque Country, so there they use the Basque word, pintxos.
Pintxos are small plated servings of little snacks made from various local ingredients. They fill the awkward hunger gap between lunch and dinner perfectly, but they can also stand in for an entire meal if you eat enough of them.
One of the challenges for pilgrims in Spain is that local dinner time is 8pm (2000 hours) at the earliest, and we pilgrims need sustenance way earlier than that. So once you reach Pamplona, after three or four days of challenging ascents and gruelling descents, take a slow evening stroll along Calle San Nicholas, Calle Estefeta, and Calle Mercaderes to soak up the local culture and savor the delicious pintxos on offer at the many pintxo bars. Things really start to get going around 7pm (1900 hours).
Standard practice is to order a drink and one or two pintxos at the bar and indulge there or at a high-top table close by. Costs vary; expect to pay €2-4 per pintxo.
That’s it for now. I leave you with the Spanish version of “bon apetit”: ¡Buen provecho!