With a little research and planning, the quaint town of Lourdes is completely conquerable in one weekend.
Here is the list of things to see and do, ranked by importance. If you can hit the first 5, you will undoubtedly feel satisfied with your pilgrimage, but the additional attractions are just in case you are feeling ambitious!
1. The Baths. Everyone goes to Lourdes with the intent of submerging in the healing baths, but as I have previously posted, whether you will be able to dip in or not is a bit of a gamble. Alas, I would still stake out in line for a few hours with a snack (nutella and banana crepe perhaps?) and a book to read (how about the bible?) as you will definitely incur a wait.
- From April to October: Week-days: 09.00 am – 11.00 am / 2.30 pm – 4.00 pm / Sundays and Holidays: 2.00 pm – 4.00
- From November to March: 10.00 am – 11.00 am/ 3.00 pm – 4.00 pm / Sundays and Holidays: 2.30 pm – 4.00 pm
2. The Grotto. The Grotto is open all year long, and can be accessed at night by avenue Mgr Theas. It is important to remember that you must refrain from speaking while in the area immediately outside of the Grotto. There is a line to walk through that moves at a steady pace, discouraging you from praying or reflecting inside the cave. It will take a few minutes to an hour to pass through but you can let your hand graze over the contours of the cave walls as you wait, which is rather inspiring. When you emerge from the Grotto, you will see rows of metal pews to pray and listen to the rosary.
3. The Candlelight Procession. Nightly at 9pm – buy your candle ahead of time or bring a euro to donate for a candle at the esplanade. The procession will start right on time by the Grotto and while you follow the candle behind you and sing along with the Ava Maria, you’ll be led around the esplanade to the sanctuary entrance.
4. The holy water faucets — Fill up canisters or just lean your hands right down to the spout and savor a little sip. The faucets are attached to the right side of the church before you reach the grotto. Make sure to stalk up on little bottles to take back for loved ones.
5. St Basilica Pius X – Boasting the title of worlds largest underground church, the modern concrete building can house 25,000 worshipers at one time.
6. Daily Mass in English at 9:00 AM in the Chapel of Sts Cosmas and Damian. It’s located in the same building as the confessions to the right of the sanctuary, along the water. The mass is located on the 2nd floor, which is actually the third because Europeans count the ground floor as zero, not one. This open auditorium is nothing special, and I was disappointed by the lack of decorations (superficial maybe, but we’re in Lourdes for Pete’s sake, you’d figure the windows would at least have a little stained glass)- but are you really going to make the trip all the way to Lourdes and not go to one mass you can actually understand? There wasn’t anything for us to kneel on during mass, so we had to put our knees right onto the cold linoleum. The mass, however, was beautiful and I loved the sense of community I felt being surrounded by 100 english speaking catholics, with a sea of Catholics from every corner of the world just below the windows.
7. Confessions in English. Located in the reconciliation chapel, to the right of the esplanade. The confessions are held daily 10-11:15 and 2:30-6:00. Don’t worry if you haven’t been to confession and are unsure of the process, the priest will give you a small pamphlet to help you follow along.
8. Blessed Sacrament Procession. Daily at 5pm. This starts at the Esplanade, where the underground church entrance is and goes through to St Pius x basilica. Aunt Hilda, this fabulous soul who volunteered every year for 40 years at Lourdes, swears that there are more healings during this procession than from a dip in the baths.
9. Way of the Cross High Stations. Located above the upper basilica entrance this loop is extremely steep and not for the physically unfit. I jogged the path one morning before breakfast and was absolutely exhausted before I even reached the top. This loop is not wheelchair accessible and will be very tiring, but the beautiful imagery and sense of peace that will wash over you at each station is worth the push. There is also a way of the cross low station across the river, behind the meeting tent. This much more condensed (and flat!) variation is a better option for those who aren’t feeling up for the steep incline.
10. Tourist Shopping. You will find hundreds upon hundreds of the same store selling the same exact tourist knicknacks, but at different prices. Poke around and see which is offering the best deal before pulling out your wallet. Every store is sure to have rosary beads, crosses, holy water vases, and candles.
11. Chateau-Fort & Musee Pyreneen. Visiting the castle will provide you with a panoramic view of the city and sanctuary. There is also a museum included in the ticket price. The fort is completely accessible by foot, with an entrance just off of Rue la Grotte.
12. Musee de Cire – Wax Museum located on the Av Peyramale.
13. La Nativite – A museum dedicated to nativity on Qua Saint-Jean.
14. Musee de lourdes – A museum of Lourdes history, located on Rue des Pyrenes
15. Bernadettes home – Visit the house Bernadette was born in and lived the first 10 years of her life. Located on Rue Bernadette Soubrious, you can tour the small living space. Tours are available Spring through Fall from 9:00-12:15 and 2:15-7:00pm.
16. Le Petit Lourdes – a museum that depicts the story of Lourdes in a mini display. Place Mgr Lawrence