Travelling to Lourdes, France with Kids: Why You Should Visit

Lourdes is nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in Southwest France. This little town is incredibly spiritual, peaceful and tranquil, and travelling to Lourdes with kids (or on your own) will give you a new outlook on what spirituality means.

The town is one of the world’s most famous pilgrimage sites in the Catholic faith. In the extraordinary events of 1858, a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary, known as “Our Lady of Lourdes.”

Lourdes is known for the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes, or the Domain, where pilgrims gather from all over the world. Sites within the Domain include the Basilica of Saint Pius X, the Grotto of Apparitions or the Grotto of Massabielle which is known for its healing water, and the Rosary Basilica.

Visiting Lourdes France with kids

Bernadette, was just 14 years old and reported 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary between February and July of that year near the grotto of Massabielle. During these visions, the figure, whom Bernadette described as a beautiful lady, instructed her to drink from a spring within the grotto, pray for sinners, and have a chapel built at the site in her honor. She revealed her identity with the words ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’. The initially hidden spring, once found by Bernadette, began to flow with water, and this water soon became associated with miraculous healing properties.

Mary told her to dig a hole to find a spring and build a chapel on top of the spring. Today, there are 70 confirmed miracles of healing after people bathed in the holy water from the spring. Each year, millions visit the Grotto of Massabielle (Grotto of the Apparitions) where pilgrims attend mass and drink or bathe in the spring water. The spring water from the grotto is believed by some Catholics to possess healing properties.

Today, Lourdes attracts millions of visitors and pilgrims annually, who come to pray, seek spiritual solace, and bathe in or collect the spring water, hoping for physical and spiritual healing.

There are so many reasons why you should visit lourdes with kids

We drove to Lourdes from Girona, Spain, on our way to San Sebastian, and then on to visit Bilbao After settling into our hotel, we walked into the center of Lourdes with our son and immediately noticed the town felt peaceful and incredibly spiritual. We were here in the off-season in November, so some hotels and restaurants were closed or had limited opening hours.

We could imagine visiting during the summer, and we were very happy to be missing that. In this more intimate setting, seeing the assistance given to the sick and handicapped people who had made the pilgrimage to Lourdes to be healed was incredibly moving.

Our Lady Of Lourdes Basilica

pilgrimage to lourdes with kids

You cannot miss Our Lady Of Lourdes Basilica; it stands majestically in the center of town and the area of the Grotto from the Rosary Esplanade to the bridge beyond the baths, is the heart of the Sanctuary.

The first Orthodox church - the foundation of the cathedral

 

After exploring the upper Basilica, we heard singing and headed to the Grotto of Massabielle. We couldn’t believe our luck – outdoor Mass was just starting. Mass is celebrated daily in multiple languages.

mass at lourdes

We enjoyed a beautiful Mass which ended with us proceeding past the miraculous spring underneath the grotto. Droplets flowed from the walls allowing us to touch with our hands and wipe the holy water on our body. Walking in the grotto and moving with pilgrims from one end to the other, and touching the smooth cold rocks, brought me to tears. It gave us time to acknowledge our gratitude and seek blessings. We felt at peace and blessed to be there.

lourdes grotto

We shared an unforgettable experience in this place of prayer, healing and contemplation. To be in this holy place and actually see and touch the spring and statue of the Virgin Mary, felt overwhelming. After we left the grotto we were able to drink and collect holy water a short distance away.

The Basilica itself is worth several daily visits. A highlight of the activities was the evening procession with candles and torches lighting the sky as the sun sets behind the Basilica.

Locks on the Lourdes bridge in France

The Miracles of Lourdes, France

A total of 70 miraculous healings have been acknowledged by the Catholic church at Lourdes since 1858. There have been four miracles since 1978, with the most recent in 2018 when an Italian woman was said to have been healed of acute rheumatism. Over 7,000 cases of unexplained cures from severe medical conditions have been also recorded. The original vision was by a child, so visiting Lourdes with kids and imagining what the landscape looked like before any buildings existed is a great mental journey with your family.

View of Lourdes from Lourdes Castle

Lourdes gave us an ordinary sense of peace, joy and healing. If you need to reset, heal your soul, and relax, this is the place to gather yourself in quiet contemplation.

Visiting Lourdes, France with kids

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the complex containing the grotto and the spring, along with several churches and basilicas, stands as a testament to the enduring faith they have inspired. Bernadette Soubirous was canonized as a saint, and her life and the messages of the Virgin Mary continue to be a source of inspiration and devotion for people around the world.

Visiting Lourdes with Kids

Is Lourdes worth visiting?

You might ask yourself if Lourdes is worth visiting. If you’re in southwestern France or in the Pyrenees. I would say that’s a definite yes! We didn’t know if it would be worth a stop, never mind an overnight stay, but we’re very glad we visited and explored this little town. In the summer, you’d need to have hotel and restaurant reservations, but in the offseason, there’s plenty of lodging availability and no crowds. This is a major pilgrimage site and a beautiful town nestled into the foothills.

Visiting Lourdes with kids can be a profoundly enriching experience, blending educational opportunities with spiritual growth and family bonding. If you Here’s why you might consider it for your next family adventure:

Educational Value

Lourdes offers a unique chance for kids to learn about history, religion, and the power of faith outside the classroom. They can hear the story of Saint Bernadette and the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, deepening their understanding of Catholic traditions and the role of pilgrimage in religious life.

Spiritual Growth

For families practicing the Catholic faith, a visit to Lourdes can be a pivotal moment in your child’s spiritual journey. It’s a place where the concepts of prayer, miracles, and devotion come to life. Even for those of other faiths or none at all, the atmosphere of hope and faith in Lourdes can be moving and offer a chance for reflection.

Witnessing Compassion and Humanity

Lourdes is renowned for the spirit of volunteerism and the compassionate care given to the sick and disabled visitors. Children can observe these acts of kindness, learning the importance of compassion, empathy, and helping others in need.

Experiencing a Sense of Community

The town is a meeting point for people from all over the world, united by faith and the search for healing. This global gathering can teach children about cultural diversity, inclusivity, and the shared human experience, fostering a sense of belonging to a larger community.

Natural Beauty and Adventure

Lourdes is not just about spiritual and religious education; it’s also situated in the stunning landscape of the Pyrenees. Families can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, exploring the countryside, and enjoying the natural beauty of the region, making it a well-rounded travel experience.

Interactive and Engaging Learning

Many aspects of Lourdes, from its museums to guided tours, are tailored to be accessible and engaging for visitors of all ages, ensuring that children can interact with and absorb the significance of the place in an age-appropriate way.

In essence, Lourdes can provide a deeply meaningful family trip, offering a blend of learning, spiritual exploration, and the chance to experience one of the world’s most revered holy sites together. Whether you’re drawn by faith, curiosity, or the allure of the Pyrenees, Lourdes has something to offer every family.

Visiting the Lourdes cathedral complex

Lourdes, France: Hidden Gems and Insider Secrets

Here’s a more detailed guide on how to make the most out of your visit to Lourdes with kids!

How do I get to Lourdes?

Lourdes is well-connected by train, with direct services from major French cities such as Paris, which takes about 5 hours. For those flying, the nearest airport is Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport, which is about 10 kilometers from the city center and offers shuttle services. Car rentals and taxis are also readily available at the airport for a convenient transfer to your accommodation.

What are the top attractions in Lourdes for families?

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is the heart of the city, welcoming millions of visitors and pilgrims annually. For families, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is especially captivating with its impressive architecture and mosaics. Outside the religious sites, the Pic du Jer offers a funicular ride to the top where families can enjoy panoramic views of the Pyrenees.

What kind of accommodation options are available in Lourdes?

Lourdes has all types of hotels and apartments. From luxurious hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts, this city has everything for every style and budget. Many hotels are geared specifically towards families, offering spacious rooms and on-site facilities such as play areas and kids’ clubs. Holiday rentals are also available for those who prefer a home-like atmosphere. Here are some great Lourdes hotel options.

Do I need to learn French to visit Lourdes?

French is the primary language spoken in Lourdes, but due to its international significance as a pilgrimage site, English is widely understood and we had no problem communicating in hotels, attractions and restaurants.

What are some lesser-known things to see for visiting Lourdes?

For a unique experience, visit the Sanctuary’s grotto very early in the morning or late in the evening when it is quieter and more reflective. It’s a completely different feeling when you’re there on your own and can reflect and even meditate.

Attend the Torchlight Marian Procession. One of the most moving experiences in Lourdes is the Torchlight Marian Procession that takes place every evening at 9 pm from April to October. It’s less crowded outside of peak summer months. Participants carry candles and it’s a visually stunning event that provides a deeper sense of the spiritual atmosphere in Lourdes.

Explore the Crypt. Below the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception lies the Crypt, the oldest part of the Sanctuary. It was the first chapel built at the site in 1866 following the apparitions. The Crypt is smaller and less visited compared to the upper basilicas, offering a more quiet and intimate space for reflection.

Visit the Moulin de Boly. Discover the birthplace of Saint Bernadette, known as the Moulin de Boly, where she was born in 1844. This restored mill is a short walk from the main sanctuary area and gives you a glimpse into the saint’s life. It’s a touching insight that you won’t get if you just stick to the main pilgrimage sites.

What else should we see in Lourdes?

  • Le Petit Lourdes: This charming miniature park recreates the town of Lourdes as it appeared in the 19th century and is less frequented by tourists.
  • Lac de Lourdes: For a tranquil escape, visit this lake just outside the city center, ideal for a peaceful walk or a family picnic.
  • The Abandoned Railway Tunnel: Adventurous families can explore this disused railway tunnel on the outskirts of Lourdes, providing a spooky yet exciting experience.

kids drinking holy water from the spigot

What are some activities for kids in Lourdes?

Beyond the spiritual attractions, Lourdes has several activities that are great for kids. The Château Fort Museum, located in an ancient fortress overlooking the city, provides interactive exhibits and medieval history. The hike up to the fort is fun, and there are fantastic views of the entire countryside and the cathedral. Also, the green spaces around the Sanctuary are perfect for letting kids run and play, ensuring they have a fun and active visit.

Another Stop in Your Journey Together

Travelling to Lourdes is an opportunity for a family to travel on a journey together that is both outward and inward. It’s a chance to bond, share experiences, and discuss big questions about life, faith, and purpose in a context that is markedly different from everyday life.

Have you been to Lourdes with kids?

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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