First opened in 1881, Gran Hotel La Perla is a spectacular piece of Pamplona history most well known for its association with Ernest Hemingway. But The Sun Also Rises aside, the hotel today is a sumptuous lodging in its own right and rests upon the most privileged location in all of Pamplona, overlooking Plaza del Castillo and the very street that the bull-run takes place on every morning during the festival de San Fermín. An exceptionally knowledgeable staff is always eager to help guests with everything from guide recommendations to local history, all without imposing their presence. And the gorgeous centuries-old building underwent recent refurbishments to ensure its five-star status, including speedy Wi-Fi and modern room upgrades to compliment the classic luxury and rich legacy of this landmark hotel.
YOU SHOULD KNOW It is 24-hour chaos outside the hotel during the festival of San Fermín. Though we imagine if you are here during that time, then you are already well prepared for it. Plus, anyone that’s ever wanted to see the bull-run may want to pay the premium for a room here, as trying to fight the crowds to find a vantage point from the streets below is nearly impossible.
All 44 exquisite rooms of the hotel feature balconies facing outward upon Estafeta Street and Plaza Castillo below. Each room is unique and even the most basic ones are spacious and lavish in their décor, featuring everything from chandeliers to gilded adornments to antique furnishings. The hotel has taken into account the month-long fiesta that takes place outside and has soundproofed each room so that guests can ensure a sound sleep even during the chaos of the festival.
Four rooms have been preserved and dedicated to the historical figures that used to frequent them: Ernest Hemningway, Pablo Sarasate, Don Juan de Borbón and The Royal Family. The chance to stay in the same room that Hemingway lodged in during his long love affair with the festival is a singular experience for any bookworms willing to dish out for the opportunity.
Remarkably airy bathrooms feature black marble counters, rainforest showerheads, and invitingly large bathtubs. Guests will be pleased to find all the toiletries they could need in the stylish washrooms.
A well-dressed and well-learned staff awaits guests as they enter into the opulent reception area with original furnishings, gilded mirrors, classic artwork, and antique furniture fit for a royal palace. While there’s not much to do in the reception area, just downstairs is a gorgeous salon and library that guests will want to spend time in. The space is complete with a classic piano, ornamental carpets, beautiful paintings and sculptures, and collections of books dedicated to the authors that have frequented the hotel.
Beneath the ground floor and facing the lower-level cobblestone street behind the hotel is La Cocina de Álex Múgica, a superb restaurant that doesn’t disappoint. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be taken here, with a much more modern vibe than the hotel above. The head chef is renowned in the region so guests can be sure they are in for an exceptional crash course in Navarre cuisine.
Adjacent to the restaurant is a fabulous vintage-style pub with wood paneling and wallpaper décor. The bartenders here are knowledgeable and friendly and the space is a casual retreat to wind back with your drink of choice.
Valet service lets guests arrive without having to worry about dealing with offsite lots. Once here, the hotel’s perfect location on Plaza del Castillo means all of Pamplona’s main attractions are an easy walk away. For those traveling without car, the bus station is also within walking distance and the train station is a short cab ride, which the hotel is happy to assist in calling.
Keeping in theme with historic establishments, Restaurante Europa (2-minute walk) is a must-eat destination for the more ambitious foodies visiting Pamplona. The Michelin-starred restaurant, with menus strongly inspired by Basque cooking, has been the most talked about restaurant in Pamplona for decades.
Another wonderful option for eaters is Restaurante Anttonenea (10-minute walk), towards the other end of old town, and one of the better kept gastronomical secrets of the city but that still holds its own against the heavy hitters in town.
Café Iruña (1-minute walk) is another Hemingway staple just across the way from the hotel. This historic bar has provided generations of travelers the perfect people-watching locale from its perfect set up under the shaded arcade of Plaza del Castillo.
While Café Iruña is best in the afternoon and early evening, Saint Nicholas Street (3-minute walk), is where things stay busy long after the sun goes down. Guests will find the busiest collection of bars in the old town here. Stop by Casa Otano (3-minute walk), a family-run bar in the middle of the action that has been a longtime local favorite.
WHY WE LIKE IT
There is something singular and special about staying at Gran Hotel La Perla; a romantic nostalgia that is unparalleled anywhere else. And the extraordinary and well-preserved history doesn’t at all detract from its modern comforts. Add that to the world-class location and it by far makes up for a lack of new-age amenities found at larger hotels. Make no mistake; this is old-world luxury lodging at its absolute finest. And if the Gran Hotel La Perla was good enough for Hemingway, it sure is good enough for us.