Discover Lourdes: a guide to the best things to See and Do
To give you a helping hand in planning your visit to Lourdes, we have compiled a list of things to do in the town itself. We also have a separate article with a list of ideas for day trips from Lourdes. While most people associate the name Lourdes with the millions of pilgrims that visit each year, there are plenty of other things to keep everyone occupied. This things-to-do list will help you work out how long you want to stay or how to keep the kids occupied on a rainy day. After first visiting Lourdes in 2013 on holiday, we are lucky to now call this part of France home. Lourdes has become a place we visit on a weekly basis to shop and grab a coffee or croissant. We enjoy wandering around the town and finding out new things to see and do.
We have a separate page with lots of practical information about visiting Lourdes. Here you will find information about transport connections, accommodation, eating and drinking, the best time of year to visit, and more. We think Lourdes is a great place to base yourself for a holiday in the Pyrenees and somewhere that offers something for everyone.
Visit the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes is one of the most important religious sites in the world and is visited by millions of pilgrims from around the world each year. On the site in 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to a local girl, Bernadette Soubirous on 18 occasions near a small cave or grotto. The water that flows from the grotto is said to have healing powers and there are 70 recognized miracles over the years. There are 22 places of worship on the site, the first of which started construction in 1866 and was consecrated in 1876.
Regardless of your religious beliefs and motivations we highly recommend a visit to the site. Walking around the grounds and churches is well worthwhile and there is plenty to see. We spent a little over an hour exploring the different levels of the Basilica and surrounding grounds. Our visit was in the off-season which meant there were not too many people around the site. The busy pilgrim season starts after Easter and runs through to October and there are literally millions of people who come to visit.
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes is open all year from 7 am to 10 pm and entry is free. There are masses and other celebrations on a daily basis and you will find more information on the Lourdes Sanctuaire website.
Take the funicular or hike to the Pic du Jer
Pic du Jer sits above Lourdes at a height of 951m from which you have a fantastic view over Lourdes and the surrounding Pyrenees. You can get to the top via the funicular railway which climbs 438m over 1.1km at gradients up to 56%. The railway was opened in 1899 and continues to run to this day. Once a the top you can take a walk, explore the highest visitor cave in France, enjoy some food at the restaurant or simply enjoy the breathtaking views.
The Pic du Jer funicular operates from early April to early November each year and runs 7 days a week. Opening hours are 10 am to 6 pm in April, May, and June, 9:30 am to 7 pm in July and August, and 9:30 am to 6:30 pm in September and October. Return ticket prices are €12.50 for adults, €10 for people aged 6-17 and students, and free for those under 6 years. The Pic du Jer website has much more information about visiting.
If you are feeling energetic, you can also walk to the top of Pic du Jer as we did. The trail starts next to the funicular station and will take you all the way to the top. It gets very steep in places so make sure you have good sturdy shoes on. There are options to take the gravel road to the summit, it’s not quite as steep and the walking can be a bit easier. It is used for access to the top by mountain bikers and some vehicles and is well maintained.
Explore the Chateau Fort de Lourdes
The Chateau Fort de Lourdes is a prominent feature of the landscape in Lourdes and sits atop a rocky outcrop in the centre of town. Use of the site dates back 1 000 years to Roman times and it has been used as a fort, residence, prison, and since 1921 a museum. It is listed as one of France’s historic monuments.
The Chateau Fort de Lourdes is open 7 days a week from mid-April to mid-October and 6 days a week at other times. (closed Monday) Operating hours are 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm, except July and August when it is open from 10 am to 7 pm with no closure at lunchtime. Tickets are €7.50 for adults, €3.50 for people aged 6-17 and students, and free for those under 6 years. View the Chateau Fort de Lourdes website for more information.
Enjoy the outdoors at Lac du Lourdes
Lac du Lourdes is located 3km from the centre of town on the way to Pau. It is a glacial lake and there is a 6km walking and cycling trail to explore. On the water, you can enjoy a range of activities including fishing, canoeing, and swimming. There is a restaurant by the water’s edge if you want to enjoy lunch or bring your own and utilize one of the picnic spots available.
We often stop in at Lac du Lourdes when we are out cycling. There is a beautiful picnic area that is well used by locals and visitors alike and it’s always nice to just sit and take in the views. It can get quite busy at times in the summer months so we recommend getting out there early if you are looking for a picnic spot by the lake.
Take a walk or cycle on the Voie Verte de Gaves
The voie verte de Gaves is an 18 km path for cycling and walking that runs from Lourdes along the Lavedan Valley to the town of Soulom. It was once a rail line taking tourists to Luz Saint Sauveur and the ski resort of Cauterets and passes through a number of villages and towns along its length. It is suitable for anyone who enjoys riding a bike and is completely separated from the road making it perfect for a family ride. You can find more information about the ride on our voie vert de Gave ride guide.
There are two bike shops in Lourdes where you can hire bikes if you don’t have your own. Both hire a range of bikes including electric bikes. Bike & Py is located in the centre of town while Cycle Arbes is located across the road from the E.Leclerc supermarket just outside the town centre.
We regularly cycle on the voie verte when we are cycling along the valley floor. The surrounding views and the ever present Gave du Pau running next to the path make for a spectacular backdrop. The voie verte gets quite busy in the summer months but it provides a great atmosphere and there is plenty of space for everyone.
Sample the local produce at Les Halles
Les Halles in the centre of Lourdes is the local produce market. Here you will find fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, and bread from around the region. Outside the market, there is usually a range of other stallholders selling everything from jewellery to mattresses. If you love markets it’s definitely worth having a wander around.
Les Halles in Lourdes is open 7 days a week from 6 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday, 5:30 am to 2 pm Saturday and 6:30 am to 2 pm on Sunday. Saturday is the best day to visit as you will have the greatest range of stallholders open. We highly recommend the croissants from the boulangerie inside Les Halles. They are some of the best we have tasted in France.
Walk through the forest at Bois de Lourdes
The Bois de Lourdes is a 400-hectare forest on the western outskirts of Lourdes. It is a popular place for locals to head out for a walk through the forest and sits next to the Gave de Pau. There are picnic facilities and children’s playgrounds for you to enjoy. If you are looking for somewhere close to Lourdes to have a picnic, run around with the kids or walk through the forest then we recommend Bois de Lourdes.
We regularly cycle through the forest on our favourite routes. The tree-lined roads and trails are always beautiful and provide a calm and peaceful atmosphere. There are usually people out walking dogs, sitting having a picnic or out with children. The colours in Autumn are beautiful as you can see in the photo below.
Cycle the legendary cols of the Tour de France
If you are a keen road cyclist, Lourdes is a great place to base yourself for a cycling holiday. We loved the area so much that we moved here in 2021 after visiting on holiday numerous times. From Lourdes, you can access iconic climbs including Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin, Col d’Aubisque, Hautacam, and Luz Ardiden. The Tour de France is a regular visitor to Lourdes and in 2022 stage 18 started in Lourdes, finishing on the nearby climb of the Hautacam. We have a list of 40 cycling routes in the Pyrenees to give you an idea of what is available. You will be spoiled for choice we promise.
Cycling is what brought us to this part of France and we have been lucky to cycle all 8 of the Tour de France climbs in the immediate vicinity of Lourdes. We can’t recommend this area highly enough as a road cycling destination and somewhere to visit at least once. Even if you are not a cyclist yourself, we highly recommend driving up some of the famous cols. Not only are they beautiful destinations in their own right, but you get a real appreciation for what the riders are faced with during the Tour de France.
More information about the Pyrenees
If you are planning your first trip to the Pyrenees we have a number of other pages that might interest you. Our How to Get to the Pyrenees article outlines what you need to know about getting to the Pyrenees by car, train, plane, or ferry. If you want to consider some of the surrounding towns as a base for your stay then have a look at our guides for Argeles Gazost and Luz Saint Sauveur, both are not too far from Lourdes. Finally, our Things to Do in the Pyrenees article outlines some of the other great activities you can consider when you visit.
If you need a quick question answered about visiting Lourdes feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com or alternatively consider our bespoke travel planning service if you want us to take care of more.