Pamplona streets

“It’s not just the Running of the Bulls. I truly feel like ‘2020’ is completely canceled – the entire year,” said Virginia Irurita. 

Pamplona streets
Pamplona’s streets will not be filled with people and bulls in 2020. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)

Two of Europe’s most colorful, historical, and thrilling events have been canceled for the summer of 2020: The Grand Prix de Monaco Formula 1 race and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. These two iconic cultural events virtually define their locations to visitors and a worldwide television audience. But they also are the beating hearts of their towns for the locals. And it’s not just their respective economies.

“Though we welcome visitors from around the world for the Running of the Bulls at Fiesta San Fermin, for the people of Pamplona this is the celebration of our main patron San Fermin – of our spirit and what we are,” said a lifelong Pamplonan who guides tourists all year for the premier custom tour operator “I am sad about it, but I am proud of my town that we will be healthier. Say a little prayer for all of us to cheer up. Viva San Fermin!”

Guy Antognelli, General Manager of the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority is equally pained about the cancellation of the car race.

“The cancellation of the race is a significant blow in the tourism and event industry. More than ever, the Monegasque citizens are extremely proud of this unique and iconic event especially knowing that Charles Leclerc, one of the top drivers, is one of us,” he said.

Fairmont Hairpin
Monaco’s famed city course will not have race cars in the famed Fairmont Hairpin. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)

Welcoming the World to Pamplona

Made for Spain and Portugal’s Virginia Irurita explained the Running of the Bulls takes place each July during the nine-day Fiesta San Fermin – which has only twice previously been canceled, once for flu in 1919 and once during a civil war. “We have to do it. We do the right thing. It’s not just the Running of the Bulls.I truly feel like ‘2020’ is completely canceled – the entire year,” Irurita said.

“But Made for Spain and Portugal helps people really make the most of their trips to Spain and Portugal. So, when people are ready to travel again professional guides like ours will be even more important to them.” (Especially guides who can coach visitors to run with the bulls…or observe the madcap madness up-close.)  

Fiesta San Fermin’s opening ceremony takes just after noon on July 6each year in Pamplona’s Plaza Consistorial del Ayuntamiento to begin the nine-day festival. It is a powerful spectacle and not to be missed. Arrive early in the square if you dare to mingle in the massive crush of revelers under the northern Spanish sun or in the shade of one of the ornate buildings lining the cobblestone street.

You should wear all white – which will be spotted and splashed with Sangria by the time old world pageantry of the day concludes with fireworks. Have a red bandana or scarf (known locally as a ‘panuelico’ and available in shops everywhere) which symbolizes the beheading of Saint Fermin. Keep the scarf on your wrist until the Fiesta San Fermin is officially opened, at which time it goes around your neck for the duration of the fiesta.

Fiesta San Fermin
Fiesta San Fermin’s opening ceremonies viewed from balconies surrounding the square. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)

Death in the Morning

The very square in which you stand for the ceremony, the following morning after the sound of rockets at 8 a.m., will be dissected by six massive, 1,400 lbs. beasts charging through a crowd of 900 or so brave souls during the first morning of the annual “Running of the Bulls.”

The bulls thunder through the square, followed by six steer, along the well-marked “Encierro,” then turn onto the narrow Mercaderes Street leading into ‘Dead Man’s Corner’ and onto Estafeta and up into Plaza de Toros de Pamplona – Spain’s second largest bull ring – where they will meet their end at the bull fights later that day and each day of the fiesta.   

By legend those who run with the bulls – dressed again in all white with the red panuelico – seek to “feel the bull’s breath on the back of their pants.” But “bucket-listers” can experience the madcap mayhem of the Running of the Bulls – and the Fiesta San Fermin, for that matter – up close…but without the risk of Red Cross rescue. offers an immersion experience in which you can view the opening ceremonies and the running of the bulls just above the heads and the horns from a balcony overlooking Plaza Consistorial del Ayuntamiento for the opening ceremonies and another hanging just above Dead Man’s Curve during the daily Running of the Bulls.

Building line, the route and from the safety of the balcony’s visitors enjoy catered Spanish food and drink in comfort and with restrooms and the ability to duck in and out of the crowds if they wish just like a luxury suite at a major sporting event. Irurita arranges the parties hosted in the apartments and offices of local Spanish families who themselves are celebrating the fiesta, which adds to the authentic experience.  

Pamplona festival family
This Spanish family hosts balcony parties during the fiesta and bull runs. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)
Pamplona festival toast
Sipping above the scene. A cava toast to the opening ceremony. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)

Rehearse Your Run

Irurita, who 20 years ago founded Made for Spain and Portugal, which specializes in arranging authentic experiences throughout both countries, can also provide a local guide to coach visitors on how to run with the bulls – even providing a rehearsal and practice walk-through the day before the run.

While this is no guarantee of safety, the Made for Spain and Portugal guide can reveal what to expect and explain the rules with an aim to minimize the risk of injury, goring or death. The guide will also explain the historical significance of the event and, in a walking tour, take guests through the colorful traditions and to all the good viewing spots for the dramatic processions, parades and into all of Ernest Hemingway’s drinking spots.  

Palacio Guendelain on Calle de Zapateria is a perfectly located, luxury boutique hotel. Pamplona is accessible by train from Madrid.

Princess Grace's Garden
Monaco’s grandeur including Princess Grace’s Garden in front of Hotel Columbus. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)

Monaco’s Formula for Success

When the Formula One open-wheel race cars shift and speed through the famed “Fairmont Hotel Hairpin” turn or zip between the glamorous, more than 150-year old Casino de Monte Carlo and Hotel de Paris each May during the Monaco Grand Prix, the action is more than just on the track which snakes through the pristine principality.

Tiny Monaco, two square-miles on the Mediterranean Sea bordered by both France and Italy, is a mountainous mix of glamour, royalty, history, luxury, style and intrigue throughout the year, but never more on display than when the international “flying circus” of Formula 1 roars through each May.

Sumptuous hotels such as the Hotel Hermitage, Metropole, Columbus, and Le Meridian are usually full, as are “celebrity chef” restaurants by Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon while the world-famous Jimmy’z nightclub is bumping with billionaires and supermodels. (Buddha Bar is a favorite by night, Café de Paris, by day, both of which are adjacent to 007’s favorite casino – which is so very glamorous it is connected to the other side of the Opera House.)

Tourism is tops in Monaco, which, though situated in the south of France is independent in the way Vatican City is situated in Rome but is not Italy. Monaco, with its population of 35,000 (8,000 of whom are Monegasque), is ruled by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, the son of the late Prince Rainier Grimaldi III and his wife American movie star-turned princess Grace Kelly. His princess sisters, Caroline and Stephanie, are also very involved in community service. Albert is an adventurer – he was an Olympic bobsledder and has trekked to both the North and South Poles.

Visiting Monaco is an Adventure

Monaco is must more accessible than the Arctic – guests can arrive in style from Nice’s Cote d’Azur Airport via a thrilling seven-minute helicopter flight along the sea. Monte Carlo, Monaco’s most glamorous district, feels like a movie set. Every person you lay eyes on in the lobby of the famed Hotel de Paris, for instance, is a person of intrigue…or they wouldn’t be there!

Sit outside the classic brasserie Café de Paris, which is directly on the street/track of the famed Monaco Grand Prix, and ogle their cars of choice: Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini or Aston Martin, James Bond’s favorite car. In fact, several 007 films – most recently “Goldeneye” – were set and shot in Monte Carlo.

Superchef Ducasse’s “Le Louis XV,” next door in Hotel de Paris, is the world’s culinary experience of choice. 50 pieces of tableware, orchestrated by seven refined waiters, are used for every person dining in the Versailles-style setting – not just Prince Albert, who had his royal wedding catered by Ducasse.

Casino de Monte Carlo
Casino de Monte Carlo and the Grand Prix reflect Monaco’s exciting glamour. 2020 will be quieter in Monte Carlo’s harbor, hotels and shops. (Photo by: Harrison Shiels)

Monaco will be eerily quiet without the whine or roar of the race cars this year – but the decision was geo-politically unavoidable and made early with decisiveness.

“The consequences with regards to the differing measures of confinement as taken by various governments worldwide, the multi-border restrictions for accessing the Principality of Monaco, and the pressure on all implicated businesses, workforce and volunteers required for the event means the situation is no longer tenable,” said a statement from the Automobile Club de Monaco, which regretfully canceled the race which was scheduled for May 21-24.

 Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at [email protected]  

Michael Patrick Shiels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *