Lourdes, in the French Pyrenees, is one of the most important centres for the Catholic faith in France and Europe. Receiving around 6 million visitors each year, it is well served by rail lines, making travelling by train to Lourdes an easy option. Long-distance Intercité services connect Lourdes to major cities and towns nationally. Paris to Lourdes by train takes just under 6h00mins, while Toulouse to Lourdes is 1h47mins by rail. A night train from the French capital also operates here, and regional TER lines link Lourdes to the Pyrenees and Basque Country too. Trains stop close to the town’s main attraction, the cave where Saint Bernadette is believed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary.
Because of the large number of visitors with disabilities taking the train to Lourdes, the station is well linked to the town centre by public transport. For those who fancy a stroll, the station is located less than 2 km from ‘the sanctuary’ — the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes (or the Domain, as it’s commonly known) — and so walking is also an easy option. Good signage makes this journey from the train station simple. Those heading towards this important religious site will pass a mass of shops selling related souvenirs, as well as bottles to collect the spring water that flows into the religious buildings and is renowned for its healing properties. Entering the precinct, visitors pass grand statues and then go through Porte Saint-Michel into the large circular sanctuary, where green spaces, a collection of grand churches and the nearby river, Gave de Pau, combine to create a visually impressive space. The ‘Lower Basilica’ is dedicated to the rosary and has Byzantine influences, while the grand Gothic ‘Upper Basilica’ seems to emerge directly from Grotte de Massabielle rock.
Outside the sanctuary, Lourde’s castle is a medieval keep with 17th-century fortifications. It’s now home to the Musée Pyrénéen, dedicated to local folk art. Located on the top of a sheer hill, a 10-minute walk from the train station, it can be reached via a free lift. Nearby Le Cachot and the Maison Paternelle de Sainte-Bernadette are both former residences of this saint. After all that sightseeing, visitors should be sure to sample the local cuisine, which features hearty mountain foods, including cheese, lamb, and goose, all with infusions from Spain, just across the massifs.