Your guide to visiting Lourdes: Everything you need to know
Planning a holiday can be time consuming and at times confusing. We have created this guide about Lourdes to help you prepare for your trip to this historic town. Our first visit to Lourdes was back in 2013 when we came to the Pyrenees on a cycling holiday. We are now lucky to call this part of France home and Lourdes is somewhere we visit on a weekly basis to shop or grab a coffee. Whether you are coming on a pilgrimage to visit the famous grotto, for health purposes, or to enjoy the stunning mountains this guide will help you prepare for your visit.
Lourdes is located in the southwest of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. It is one of the most important religious sites in the world and over 5 million pilgrims visit each year. The main tourist season runs from Easter to October and July and August are the busiest months. Over the winter months, many hotels, and businesses close, and while it is still possible to visit Lourdes at this time of the year, your accommodation choices will be reduced.
While most visitors to Lourdes are coming as pilgrims to experience the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes, it is also a great base for other activities in the Pyrenees. There are a range of activities within the town itself, but it is also a great base for those who wish to explore the Pyrenees mountains and everything they have to offer. Most of the major attractions within the Pyrenees National park are within a 1 hour drive of Lourdes. There are also options to catch a bus to some destinations in the park.
How to get to Lourdes
Lourdes is easily accessible by road, rail, and air giving you plenty of options to get here. We would advise booking well in advance as trains and planes do sell out given the popularity of Lourdes as a tourism destination. On more than one occasion our plans for a weekend away from Lourdes have been stopped due to a lack of availability on the trains.
If you are planning to drive to Lourdes you will most likely arrive via the A64 which is the main Autoroute that runs from Toulouse to Bayonne. Lourdes itself is located 18km south of the A64 and is nice and easy to get to and the turnoff is well signposted. The driving distance from Toulouse airport is 180km, from Bordeaux airport 255km, and from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport 855km as a guide.
If you plan to hire a car while you are visiting Lourdes you can do so at the Lourdes Airport or at the train station in town. We generally hire cars from the airport as not all rental car companies operate from the station. As a tip also, we find that car hire from Toulouse airport can be significantly cheaper than Lourdes. While this option is not feasible for everyone it is something to keep in mind.
The SNCF train station in Lourdes is located a short walk from the city center and there are plenty of trains on a daily basis in both directions. From Lourdes, you can catch direct trains to Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Paris with stops at smaller towns along the way on TGV, Intercite, and TER services. We have a separate guide to the French rail network if you would like more information about trains in France.
For direct travel to and from Paris, you can choose either the high-speed TGV service via Bordeaux to Paris Montparnasse station or the overnight service via Toulouse to Paris Austerlitz station. There are 4 TGV services a day with travel times of 4 hours 50 minutes and 1 overnight service that takes 10 hours. We have used both services and would recommend either, it really depends on what suits your travel plans best.
Lourdes has an airport that is located 17km to the north of the city that is serviced by bus or taxi if you do not have a car. There are two main airlines operating regular passenger service from the airport, Volotea, and Ryanair. Volotea offers daily flights to Paris Orly airport and twice weekly flights to Naples, Venice, Palermo, Rome, and Catania. Ryanair offers flights to London Stanstead, Dublin, Milan, Malta, and Rome. Schedules vary based on the season so double-check with the airlines. The major car rental companies operate from the airport.
Pau airport is located 54km from Lourdes and offers daily flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle on Air France and Paris Orly on Transavia. There are no direct shuttle or bus services from Pau airport to Lourdes. You can catch a bus from the airport into Pau and from there catch a train to Lourdes. The major car rental companies are located at the airport if you wish to rent a car.
The closest major international airport to Lourdes is Toulouse Blagnac, a distance of 180km by car. You can catch a train from Lourdes to Toulouse Matabiau station and from there catch either a bus or the tram to the airport. The bus to the airport leaves from the train station whereas you will need to catch the Metro to link up with the tram service. We recommend allowing 2 hours to get to Toulouse airport from Lourdes by car and 4 hours by rail.
Getting around Lourdes
Lourdes is not a large city and if you don’t mind walking a bit you will be able to access most attractions on foot. There are some steep hills and streets to negotiate at times. For those who aren’t keen to walk, there are local buses that run regularly throughout the day to take you around town There is also a small tourist train that operates during the tourist season that takes you between the major attractions. If you wish to travel to some of the towns and villages surrounding Lourdes there are bus services available if you don’t have your own transport.
The TLP Mobilities website has all the information you need about bus services within Lourdes as well as buses to the airport and Tarbes. Tickets can be bought onboard from the driver or at the Lourdes Tourist Information center. You can use a credit/debit card to purchase a ticket on the bus but we have found it does not always work, especially if you have an international card, so have some cash handy.
For bus services into the mountains, you will find information on the liO Occitane website. From Lourdes, you can travel on the 962 bus to Bagneres de Bigorre or the 965 bus which travels to Cauterets, Luz Saint Saveur, or Gavarnie. Purchase tickets onboard. You will need cash to purchase your tickets and they cost €2 regardless of your destination. We catch these buses regularly and find them to be a great service to help you get around.
Accommodation options in Lourdes
As you would expect from a town that hosts over 5 million visitors annually, there is no shortage of accommodation options for you to choose from. As an interesting fact, Lourdes boasts over 270 hotels making it second to Paris for most hotels per square kilometer in France. Whether you want a luxury 5-star property or a cheap budget hotel there will be something to suit your style and budget. Prices per night start at €35 for a budget hotel and increase to over €200 per night for a luxury hotel.
If hotels are not your thing you can consider one of the many campgrounds in and around Lourdes. Here you can pitch your own tent, park your camper van or rent one of the onsite cabins or vans. If you prefer a house or apartment you will also find plenty of properties ranging in price and style on sites such as Airbnb.
Eating and drinking in Lourdes
There are five supermarkets in Lourdes, E.Leclerc, Carrefour (2), Lidl, and Netto with E.Leclerc being the largest. Supermarkets in France are typically open 8:30 am – 8 pm Monday to Saturday and 8:30 am – 12:30 pm Sunday. Carrefour City is a smaller supermarket in the center of Lourdes. Its opening times are longer being 7 am – 9 pm Monday to Saturday and 8 am – 8 pm on Sunday. This is handy if you don’t get to the larger supermarkets before they close.
Les Halles is the fresh food and vegetable market in Lourdes. It is open Monday through Saturday and is worth a visit to sample some of the local produce. You can purchase fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and bread. We highly recommend the boulangerie located inside Les Halles, their croissants are some of the best we have ever tasted.
Lourdes boasts over 100 restaurants and cafes serving a wide variety of cuisines for those who wish to eat out. There is something to suit all budgets so everyone should find something that suits their taste and budget.
When to visit Lourdes
Based on our experience we think the best time to visit Lourdes are the months of May and September. During these months there are fewer people visiting making for a more pleasant experience. July and August are the busiest months and we suggest avoiding these months if you are not a fan of large crowds and your holiday schedule allows it. The months of November to April are considered the off-season and many hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, cafes, and attractions take the opportunity for a break and close.
Things to do in Lourdes
While the majority of visitors to Lourdes come on pilgrimage to visit the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes and the cave where Mary appeared to Bernadette, there are plenty of other things to keep you busy during your stay. Lourdes is a great base for a range of activities including cycling, mountain biking, hiking, and sightseeing in the beautiful Pyrenees. We have put together two separate articles with things to do in and around Lourdes. The first article focuses on things to do in Lourdes itself and the second article focuses on day trips from Lourdes to the surrounding area.
How many days do you need in Lourdes?
How long you stay in Lourdes will depend on what you wish to see and do while you visit. If your plan is to visit the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes only, then you can easily complete this within a day. This will give you time to see the various places of worship, attend one of the daily ceremonies and wander through the surrounding streets. If you would like to see some of the other attractions within the town we would suggest a minimum of 3 days. This will give you time to explore the main attractions, but also time to relax and enjoy the area without having to rush.
Amenities and services
Lourdes is the main center for the mountains and surrounding towns and villages so you will find a range of amenities and medical services should you require them. This includes a hospital, doctors, dentists, chemists, petrol stations, mechanics, banks, outdoor stores, and hardware stores. If you can’t find what you are looking for in Lourdes, Tarbes is a much larger city and is only 23km by car. Tarbes is also serviced by train and bus from Lourdes.
More information about visiting the Pyrenees
If you are visiting the Pyrenees for the first time we have you covered with additional information. Start with our How to Get to the Pyrenees page that goes into a bit more detail on the options for travel to the Pyrenees generally. Our Things to do in the Pyrenees expands on the information already provided on this page with a range of attractions a bit further, but still doable, from Lourdes.