Visiting Lourdes is a unique experience. For one thing, the people you’ll meet there are not tourists – they’re all in other parts of France. Instead, this Pyrenees town plays host to hordes and hordes of pilgrims desperately hoping for a cure from the supposedly holy water or to see a vision of the Virgin Mary, who is said to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous here in 1858.
Regardless of whether or not you believe, going to Lourdes provides a fascinating insight into the power of faith. And while most of the tourist spots revolve around St Bernadette and her visions (principally the Rosary Basilica, theGrotto of Massabielleand even the Wax Museum), the rest of the town is beautiful in a typically French way.
Lourdes’s Top 10
10. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Hold onto your ovaries, girls, who knows what could happen!
5. The Rosary Basilica Designed by Leopold Hardy and built between 1883 and 1889. Tread carefully on those creaky floorboards!
9. Moulin de Boly The birthplace of Bernadette. Insanely popular with pilgrims and quite a cute little house.
4. Chemin de la Croix This marks out the 14 Stations of the Cross. Some pilgrims scoot to the first station on their knees. Each to their own…
8. Musée de Lourdes Explores the town’s history and the life of Miss Bernadette.
3. Pic du Jer Incredible panoramic views from the summit. Either take the train or go the proper way – walk.
7. Le Cachot Bernadette’s home at the time of her visions. It was also once a prison.
2. Château Fort This castle was once Lourdes’ major drawcard before Bernadette stole its thunder. Set on a rocky summit, it also houses the Musée Pyrénéen.
6. Maison Paternelle de Ste-Bernadette The lucky Soubirous family had this house bought for them by the people of Lourdes. Do you think your hometown would go for it?
1. Sanctuaires Notre Dame de Lourdes Pay your respects by lighting a candle or take your chances in one of the 19 baths said to cure the sick. Or head into the Grotto of Massabielle and see if Mother Mary comes to you.
- Chateau Fort—The Lourdes castle has been a notable part of French history since the 8th century.
- Grotto of Massabielle—This shrine became a major pilgrimage destination following Bernadette Soubirous’ visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858.
- Maison Paternelle de St Bernadette—The town bought this house for Bernadette Soubirous after her visions.
- Musée de Lourdes—This museum showcases the town’s history and features period costumes and exhibits.
- Chateau de Pau—A historic castle in nearby Pau where King Henry IV was born.
Lourdes Art & Culture
- Musée Pyrénéen—This museum at the Chateau Fort has a collection of artefacts, folk art,and tools used hundreds of years ago.
- Basilique du Rosaire—A beautiful Byzantine-style church consecrated in 1901 with lovely stained glass and mosaics.
- St Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church—This church built in response to the miraculous visions is hard to miss with its golden domes.
- Lourdes Classical Music Festival—This annual festival in April features orchestra concerts held at churches around Lourdes.
- National Pilgrimage of St Rosaire—An annual pilgrimage in October celebrating St Rosaire with a special mass.
- Boulevard de la Grotte—The main road in Lourdes is lined with shops and boutiques, many selling religious souvenirs and kitsch.
- Au Mouton des Pyrenees—The wool of the Pyrenees is quite famous, and this boutique specialises in slippers, mittens and other items made from it.
- The Book Shop—Extensive bookstore in Lourdes featuring many works of literature, guides and magazines.
- Covered Market (Les Halles)—Located in the Place du Champ Common, this produce and grower market is open 6:30 am to 1:30 pm Monday through Saturday.
- Palais du Rosaire—Offers a large selection of religious souvenirs, including containers for bringing grotto water home.
Gay & Lesbian Lourdes
- The Angel—A lesbian-owned bed and breakfast centrally located in Lourdes offering holiday activities and women-only weeks.
- Helgon Hotel—This nicely appointed, gay-friendly hotel is on a quiet street close to the sanctuaries and offers free Wi-Fi.
- Résidence Les Jardins de Lourdes—This popular, gay-friendly hotel in the town centre has a fitness centre, sauna and solarium.
- Le Colibri—A mixed bar and disco that throws parties with performers and go-go dancers.
- Citotel de la Vallée—This simply furnished, gay-friendly hotel is located in the town centre and offers dining and a bar.
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes—This large area surrounding the shrine features open spaces, esplanades, churches and baths.
- Le Pic du Jour—The summit of this mountain is accessible by a funicular railway and affords spectacular views.
- Chemin de la Croix—A 1.5km trail up the hill through the forest that draws devout pilgrims with holy statues and stations along the way.
- Little Tourist Train—See many of Lourdes’ important tourist sites along the 7.5km circuit of this street train.
- Pont d'Espagne—Huge waterfalls running through the forest can be seen from this bridge.
- Cheer on the FC Lourdais in a rugby match at the Antoine-Beguere Stadium.
- Go fishing in the turquoise waters of the large Lac de Lourdes, which used to be a glacier.
- Enjoy splendid views of the Pyrenees by bicycle in Les Voies Vertes des Gaves.
- Take a trek through the valleys and mountains of the expansive Pyrénées National Park.
- Play a round of golf at the scenic Lourdes Golf Club 4km west of town.
Lourdes Fetes is a two-month festival starting at Easter. Enjoy folk dancing, stargazing, markets and performances.
Bike racing is almost a religion in France and even Lourdes stops to worship the riders when the Tour De France rolls around in July.
August sees Journée de la Paix,a celebration promoting global peace.
National Pilgrimage of St Rosaire is celebrated every October.
When To Go
The weather in Lourdes ranges from -5ºC (23ºF) to 20ºC (68ºF). So a jacket is a good idea even in summer!
Summer gets the most rain. It shouldn’t interrupt your stay too much but you will most likely experience a few short downpours.
Walking is the best way to get around and see the sights. With several pedestrian-only streets, it is also very safe.
Hiring a car is a possibility, particularly if wanting to explore further afield.But Lourdes’ streets are confusing, with lots of one-way roads and pedestrian-only access. And for a holy town, parking is decidedly devilish!
A pilgrimage site of incomparable appeal, Lourdes is a beautiful town in the Hautes-Pyrénées region of France. A place of peerless spiritual energy in the Christian world, the commune welcomes millions upon millions of visitors every year to the famous Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Remarkably, the town of only 15,000 contains more hotels than any other city in the country save Paris. It has been this way in Lourdes since 1858, when peasant girl Bernadette Soubiron, now Saint Bernadette, experienced several alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
Over 150 years later, some 5 million Christians make the pilgrimage to the Domain, or Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, to drink in the spiritual atmosphere and step on what they perceive is sacred ground. The Domain contains three basilicas, a church, two chapels and a famous grotto where the visions of Saint Bernadette first took place. Even if you are not a Catholic, a trip to Lourdes, if only as a casual observer, is a powerful experience.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
The weather in Lourdes is quite mild throughout the year, with relatively warm winters and summers devoid of intense heat.
- Winter (December to February) 4-12°C
- Spring (March to May) 6-18°C
- Summer (June to September) 14-24°C
- Fall (October to November) 7-19°C
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