This serene mountain town has rustic charm and natural beauty and is the site of one of Europe’s most famous divine encounters.
Venture beneath the magnificent 19th-century church in Lourdes and into the grotto where a young woman encountered the Virgin Mary. Look around the house where she lived and travel to a nearby vantage point to enjoy spectacular mountain scenery.
Start your Lourdes visit at the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame on the south bank of the Gave de Pau. In the small cave beneath the Basilique du Rosaire, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous reported that she was visited by the Virgin Mary 18 times. Leave a candle near the entrance, join the Mass in the grotto or stand in line to bathe in the marble bathtubs filled with Lourdes waters.
No visit to the grotto is complete without also witnessing the beautiful church aboveground. This was completed in 1899 in a Romano-Byzantine style. Admire the three tall spires that dominate the exterior. Step inside to see the interior walls decorated with exquisite mosaics.
Follow the river east to the Maison Paternelle de Ste-Bernadette. This rickety home was bought for Bernadette and her family by Lourdes’ abbot after her visions. Today it is a museum run by her descendants with a range of artifacts including photos and the bed where she slept.
Leave the sprawling streets to visit the Pic du Jer mountain peak just south of town. Tackle the 3-hour hike to this natural lookout or choose the shorter funicular ride. Experienced bikers can attempt the steep trail. Reach the summit for breathtaking views back across town and toward the giant Central Pyrenees. Make a gentle stroll back down.
Lourdes is a small town in southern France, approximately 28 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Pau and an 8-hour drive south of Paris. Because it attracts millions of pilgrims annually, you will find numerous accommodations with hotels to suit all budgets. Sit in small cafés or eat at some of the excellent hotel restaurants that are often open to people staying elsewhere.
Experience one of Europe’s most beautiful pilgrimage locations at Lourdes.