It is a place where spiritual fervour intertwines with the pleasures of the body – good cuisine, wine, sport and wellness centres. All of this in a scenic area filled with picturesque tenement houses, majestic nature and beautiful lakes.
Ville de Lourdes is a small city located in Occitanie in the south-west region of France. Every year, citizens of Lourdes welcome around 6 million guests from all continents, as the city is one of the most important places of Marian devotion. Despite the great number of tourists and pilgrims, Lourdes has remained a refuge of calm where people care first and foremost about their religious and spiritual well-being. The town consists of narrow streets, small cafes and restaurants serving local specialties and fine white wines. A great advantage of the city is its location at the foot of the Pyrenees.
The most famous for:
the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared in front of little Bernadette Soubirous 18 times – after that the city became nationwide well known.
The most interesting architecture styles:
neo-Byzantine and neo-Gothic styles.
A breakthrough moment in history:
after the French revolution (1789), this defensive settlement changed into a nice and peaceful town.
Famous historical monuments:
the Château fort de Lourdes, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
One definitely needs to see:
the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Grotto of Massabielle, the crypt over the grotto, House of St. Bernadette, the Pic du Jer, the Cirque de Gavarnie.
the Cheese Market where you can buy famous in the region cheese such as “Pyrénées” and “Barousse”.
A place for a walk:
the trail "In the footsteps of Bernadette" that leads through the places related to the life of the Saint Bernadette.
Off the beaten track:
the Cirque de Gavarnie cirque in the Pyrenees with the 422-meter tall Gavarnie Falls.
Bernadette Soubirous, the English doctor David Boly.
What is worth visiting?
The most popular tourist spot is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes that is located at a high rock and consists of three churches, one of them being located in the underground level. The main neo-Gothic building comprises 10 chapels, a nave, and a characteristic slender bell tower. Constructed in honour of Pope Pius X, the underground part of the basilica resembles a boat flipped upside down and can accommodate 25 000 people. Nearby is the neo-Byzantine basilica of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire de Lourdes, erected in memory of the Marian apparitions that were witnessed by Bernadette Soubirous, a daughter of a local miller, in 1858. These extraordinary apparitions took place in the Grotto of Massabielle above which a church was built years later.
The grotto has a spring found by young Bernadetta in one of her visions. Pilgrims visiting this place can draw for free any amount of water from the spring. Many of them believe in its healing power. The beauty of this neo-gothic sanctuary can be fully admired from the top of a 1000-year-old fortress the Château fort de Lourdes that was built on a rocky cliff with a spectacular view of the town and the picturesque Pyrenees. The old stronghold was converted into a museum and granted the status of a historical monument. It houses exhibits related to the history of the Spanish-French Pyrenees (traditional outfits, faience, furniture from the 18th century). The walls of the Château hold the botanical garden, which in spring and summer blooms in thousands of colours. Major attractions are the miniatures of the city’s buildings.
Magic of nature
In and around Lourdes, tourists can find centres promoting active pastime. They can choose from stables, bike rentals, kayak and climbing equipment points. People who love adrenaline can try bungee jumping or riverboarding. In addition, tourist can relax in local spa centres and six health-resorts with thermal water. The pristine beauty of the Hautes-Pyrénées region encourages hiking – it has remained intact thanks to numerous nature reserves, including Réserve Naturelle du Pibeste-Aoulhet and Cirque de Gavarnie. Tourist can admire beautiful views form the peaks of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2877 m a.s.l.), the Pic du Jer and the Pont d’Espagne Bridge which are located in the very heart of The Pyrénées National Park.
Grottes de Bétharram, discovered in 1810 and opened to the public in 1903, is an underground masterpiece of nature. The nearly 3 km long tourist route spreads on five levels. One-and-a-half hour hike unveils further rock formations that have been forming in the cave for millions of years. Another attraction is a barge cruise along the river flowing at the bottom of the cave. Finally, Lourdes is also an excellent starting point to the best ski resorts in the higher mountains. Lovers of fun in the snow most often stop in Lourdes to discover new places and pistes to ski each day.
Something for the body
The southwestern French cuisine has a lot in common with those found in Italy and Spain. Tourists can try here specialties from Bigorre region, such as Tarbais beans, Pyrenean trout, or sweet chestnuts. The area is famous for excellent cheese, white wine from Jurançon and red wine from Madiran. The richness of local cuisine can be savoured with traditional dishes composed of goose or duck meat, fois gras
and legumes. As far as handicraft works are concerned, Lourdes is famous for elaborate wooden figurines depicting the saints and the Virgin Mary. Another element of local folklore is the traditional way of producing yarns of Pyrenean wool by local residents – a craft not yet made obsolete by technological progress.
numerous religious heritage sites that contribute to the specific atmosphere of the city and which are visited by pilgrims, people on historical and cultural tours.
a slow-cooked soup that consists of vegetables and beans, prepared in confit stock (poultry meat preserved in fat). The soup is very nutritious and, in accordance with tradition, includes a little bit of red wine.
The Grotto of Massabielle
a grotto with a spring visited by pilgrims in the hope of being miraculously cured.