Plan a Spiritual One Day in Lourdes Itinerary

Published on

by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

Located in the heart of the Pyrenees, Lourdes is a wonderful destination for visitors for a number of reasons. Famous for its pilgrimages and spectacular cathedral built after a local girl saw apparitions of Mary several times, the town itself is a hugely popular destination and it’s well worth spending a day in Lourdes while holidaying in the area.

How Many Days in Lourdes?

Lourdes is a relatively small town in the Pyrenees, with its main attractions located close to the centre, so it’s not necessary to spend more than a couple of days in the town unless you’re there for an event, such as part of a religious celebration.

Even if you’re not religious, you can still take in the beauty of the surroundings and wonder at the masses of pilgrims coming to wash in the holy water and join the evening procession in the hope of bearing witness to, or experiencing, a miracle. 

A day trip to Lourdes is perfect, however, as you can wander around the town, visit the chateau-cum-museum, and explore the site of the incredible cathedral, including grotto, river and surrounding park.

While Lourdes is primarily known as a pilgrimage site, its historical significance, natural beauty, architectural wonders, and cultural richness make it a worthwhile destination for any traveller.

Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, art, or simply experiencing a new place, you can have a great experience over one day.

Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire
Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire

Getting To & Around Lourdes

Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees, below Pau and Tarbes and just 45 km north of the Spanish border, Lourdes is not the easiest place to reach unless you have your own car.

If you’re on a week-long holiday in the Pyrenees with your own or a rental car (browse options here), it won’t be a problem to reach Lourdes on the scenic and windy roads. However, if you’re using public transport, it’s a bit more time-consuming, though not impossible. 

When travelling from further afield, you can fly into Toulouse and take a train into Lourdes. Arriving at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS), you can take the tram, metro or bus to Toulouse Matabiau Train Station, where you can take a TER to Lourdes which takes just around 2 hours.

You may also be able to fly into Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport (LDE), which is only 10 km away from Lourdes so you can easily take a taxi or shuttle bus from the airport and arrive in Lourdes within 15 minutes, but flights here tend to be fewer and much more expensive than travelling to Toulouse. You can organise transfers here.

If you’re flying into any other major airport or travelling from larger cities, you can also make use of the excellent French train network. The TGV from Paris Montparnasse station to Lourdes, for example, takes around 4.5 to 5 hours. You can view train schedules here.

This, of course, would take up far too much time on a day trip, but if you’re planning on a few days in Lourdes, this may be your best option if you don’t have a car.

Some people also choose to visit Lourdes for the day from cities in neighbouring Spain such as San Sebastian though this is best to do by car or an organised tour.

Within Lourdes, you can also easily travel around on foot. Lourdes is relatively compact and many of its key attractions are within walking distance of each other, so the town centre, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the main shopping and dining areas are all easily navigable on foot.

Walking around Lourdes also allows you to soak in the atmosphere, discover hidden gems, and enjoy the scenic views at your own pace.

You can also rent bicycles to speed up your day trip and even venture out into the surrounding hills if you wish to be a bit more active on your day out.

Otherwise, the Petit Train Touristique is a wonderful way to see the sights without having to walk long distances or to have access to more information as you travel around. You can buy a Lourdes Pass which includes tickets for this train & several museum entries.

Lourdes also has a local bus network with a regular and reliable schedule that connects different parts of the town, including the Sanctuary, train station, and other key areas. During peak pilgrimage seasons, additional shuttle services are often available to accommodate the influx of visitors.

Street in Lourdes
Street in Lourdes

1-Day Lourdes Itinerary

A religious haven, Lourdes has plenty to offer those with a spiritual and historical interest in religion, as well as those with a curiosity and eagerness to explore, to see why Lourdes is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world.

If you prefer exploring with a guide, consider joining a group tour or a private tour.

Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire

The main highlight of any Lourdes day trip is the Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire, so it should be your first stop.

The story behind the basilica goes, in 1858 young Bernadette Soubirous saw Mary the mother of Jesus in the cave while collecting firewood on several occasions and was instructed to dig into the ground to find a spring.

This spring later became the famous fountain below the cathedral that is praised for restoring health to those who drink and bathe in it. After some punishments and praise from those who heard her story, the Catholic church supported building a cathedral in the location to honour the Virgin Mary.

You can see the stunning cathedral from a distance, sitting proudly on a mound beside the river Ousse thanks to the long park in front where the masses join the processions each evening.

As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the basilica’s striking neo-Byzantine architecture, adorned with stunning gold mosaics that depict the mysteries of the Rosary. Inside, the atmosphere is very calm for visitors to reflect and pray, as well as admire the beautiful stained glass windows and an impressive high altar.

The basilica is just one part of the huge pilgrimage site, so when you have taken time to admire the magnificent artwork and architecture, you can take yourself outside and down below to the Fontaine de Lourdes en route to the Grotto of Massabielle.

Known in English as the Miraculous Water of Lourdes fountain, this famous fountain is fed by the spring discovered by Bernadette and is visited by pilgrims who wish to drink or wash in the holy water, or take some home for their loved ones.

For religious visitors, the water holds profound spiritual meaning as many come seeking physical and spiritual healing, however, non-religious visitors also find the fountain compelling as the spring’s history and the testimonies of healing are fascinating from both a cultural and historical perspective.

You don’t need to spend long at the fountain; despite long queues, you can buy small bottles to collect water to take as a souvenir or for its supposed healing properties, before heading towards the cave where the first apparitions took place.

Close View of the Basilique Notre Dame
Close View of the Basilique Notre Dame

The Grotto of Massabielle

It’s essential to see the Grotto of Massabielle on a trip to Lourdes as this is where it all started, with 18 apparitions to the 14-year-old Bernadette. Behind the basilica, the cave is easy to reach and hard to miss due to the hundreds of people gathering, eager to see the cave and pay their respects.

Here, visitors can witness the miraculous spring waters and take in the unusual atmosphere. If you wish to pray, pay respects or collect water directly from the spring, you can join a queue, which is usually quite long (sometimes lasting 1-2 hours).

However, if you just wish to witness the cave itself and soak up the spirituality, you can bypass the queue and see the site from a slight distance.

Overall, the whole site of the sanctuary dedicated by Bernadette to the Virgin Mary is bustling with visitors from all over the world but remains a calm and contemplative location, so it’s much more pleasant to enjoy a relaxed wander around.

As such, you can expect to spend 3 to 4 hours around the basilica, fountain and Grotto if you amble around, immersing yourself in the spiritual and historical richness of the sanctuary.

However, if you’re simply observing the architecture and art, you may find yourself on the site for only a couple of hours and have plenty of time for a relaxed lunch before visiting the next stops on the itinerary.

Grotto of Massabielle
Grotto of Massabielle

Basilica of St. Pius X (Underground Basilica)

Reaching the Basilica of St. Pius X from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Lourdes is straightforward, as you cross the esplanade and walk for 5 to 10 minutes following clear signage.

This modern marvel, built entirely underground, can accommodate up to 25,000 people, making it one of the largest churches in the world. Its elliptical design and minimalist architecture provide a striking contrast to the traditional, ornate basilicas above ground, so this is well worth stopping by while in Lourdes.

Inside, the huge concrete beams spanning the length of the basilica make you feel as though you’re inside a giant rib cage while also evocative of some kind of corporate bunker, so the overall feel is not overly religious as it hardly feels like a church at all.

If you’re claustrophobic, it’s best to avoid visiting around 9.30 am as this is when mass is held and the huge space fills up, making the ceiling feel quite low. Otherwise, it is an amazing structure and should be an essential stop on your day trip.

Château Fort de Lourdes

For your final visit during your time in Lourdes, you’ll need to cross the river and take a short walk up towards the castle and ramparts to visit the Château Fort de Lourdes.

The castle, a mediaeval fortress, is, in parts, over a thousand years old and has served various strategic purposes over the centuries, including as a stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War and the French Wars of Religion.

The highlights of the Château Fort include its impressive ramparts and towers, which offer stunning panoramic views of Lourdes, the Sanctuary, and the surrounding Pyrenees mountains, so make sure you have enough time to wander around the walls and take in the sights.

The castle also houses the Pyrenean Museum, which features fascinating exhibits on the local history, culture, and traditions of the region. Visitors can explore a collection of artefacts, traditional costumes, and folk art, providing deeper insight into the Pyrenean way of life.

The blend of historical exhibits and breathtaking vistas makes it an excellent addition to a day trip in Lourdes, as the visit not only enriches your understanding of the area’s diverse heritage but also offers a tranquil and picturesque respite from the bustling pilgrimage sites.

Château Fort de Lourdes
Château Fort de Lourdes

Rue de la Grotte & Avenue du Paradis

After all of your walking and pondering, your mind and body will be in much need of a rest, so head to Rue de la Grotte or Avenue du Paradis to end your day in the best neighbourhood for bars and restaurants.

This area is conveniently located near the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and offers a vibrant selection of dining and nightlife options, with a high concentration of restaurants and bars catering to both tourists and locals.

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, a family-friendly restaurant, or fine dining, you’ll find it here. As well as enjoying some local Pyrenean food in restaurants such as Le Navarre or Restaurant Alexandra, you’ll also be able to take in the great views and these streets are perfect for enjoying a drink and people-watching.

Have More Time?

Of course, wandering around the wider town is a great activity in any town or city to get a real feel for the place and see more of the local life rather than just the visitors, so if you’ve got time in Lourdes, it’s definitely worth going exploring on foot or by bike.

Due to the immense tourism in the area, a lot of the streets are lined with souvenir shops with deeply religious symbols, some of which are borderline comical, so it can also make for an interesting walk when exploring the town.

However, there are also a couple of other museums in Lourdes, such as the wax museum and Saint Bernadette’s Home (Moulin de Boly) that are worth visiting if you have a particular interest in the religious history of the town and the origins of Lourdes as a pilgrimage site.

If you’d like to be a bit more active and still explore the city, or you’ve got a second day to mix culture, art and scenic vistas, you can walk along The Way of the Cross, a hillside and peaceful walk on the Hill of Espélugues lined with 115 life-sized cast iron statues of prominent figures in the Bible.

Lourdes also has an observation deck accessible on foot, by mountain bike or the funicular via the Pic du Jer station. Here, you have fantastic views over Lourdes and into the Pyrenees, surrounded by beautiful scenery, birds of prey and greenery.

There’s even a restaurant at the top for a meal if you wish, although meals are reasonably expensive.

You should also head back to the Basilica in the evening if you’re able to have a full day to witness the procession as thousands of people pass around the gardens, paying their respects and praying for a miracle.

Pic Du Jer Funicular Station
Pic Du Jer Funicular Station

Where to Stay in Lourdes

Hôtel Saint Sébastien – A comfortable hotel in the centre of Lourdes, this place offers single rooms, double rooms and family rooms along with an on-site restaurant and bar and a very good breakfast.

Hôtel Alba – A higher-end option located only within easy walking distance of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, this hotel has a range of modern rooms to choose from, a restaurant, breakfast and beautiful views of the Pyrenees.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lourdes hotels!

Lourdes is a fascinating location and is much more than just a religious pilgrimage site. The incredible architecture on display from the basilicas to the castle offers all visitors a magnificent glimpse into the past with plenty of stories to capture your curiosity and provide moments of reflection.

Are you planning to visit Lourdes? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

Like It? Pin It!
Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

Leave a Comment