Lourdes, where waters are said to have miraculous healing properties, is one of the most visited Christian pilgrimage destinations in the world. The focus, of course, is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, comprising several churches, basilicas, a grotto and an esplanade. Accommodation in this French town ranges from the ascetic to aspirational; here are the best.
Just beyond the centre of town, opposite the long esplanade of the Sanctuary, Villa L’Orante has river and castle views. This 19th-century villa has a homely and quirky charm, with the four rooms and suites seemingly furnished from antique shops and flea markets in an almost random country-house style. However, each space is unique; expect elaborate wooden headboards and Louis-like chairs, art nouveau lights and stained glass. Bathrooms, in contrast, are utterly modern.
Pleasing views across the river and castle ramparts plus a sunny terrace are the highlights of this central family-run hotel. The rooms, ranging from singles to quads, are all spotless and functional, but there’s probably more appeal in the bright French window-lit lobby lounge, complete with tub chairs and wood-panelled walls. The modest dining room offers a fulsome breakfast. Look out for the extravagantly kitsch hibiscus chandeliers and wall lamps.
It’s fair to say distance cyclists are a significant subset of the pilgrim fraternity and are likely praying for steel and stamina as well as their souls before tackling the mountain roads that notch the nearby Pyrenees. From the broad terrace of this modest bike-friendly hotel with straightforward modernised rooms, you can scan those muscular foothills and begin your day at the buffet restaurant and cafe. Of particular appeal to riders are the in-house cycle repair and washing facilities, along with a private bike park.
In an unassuming family-size house near the town centre, Villa Cécilia has five doubles and one quad, or family, room with bathrooms, a shared kitchen and lounge facilities, along with a decent garden. Families might opt for two adjoining (but not interconnected) rooms. Functional rather than homely, the spotless hostel-like accommodation might feel a bit spartan for some, but the continental breakfasts are generous and the hosts helpful. Note that arrival times are restricted.
Hotel La Source’s range of ensuite rooms offer straightforward, no-nonsense accommodation perked up by the odd stray wall lamp and reading light. Upper-floor rooms have broad views across the river to the Sanctuary and rugged hills beyond, while the pious might gain further solace in the ground-floor Catholic bookshop.
The Hôtel Montfort is one of those timeless-looking and often family-run hotels you’ll find across France – a traditional townhouse fronted by cafe tables and parasols, awnings and shutters shading balconies and windows. Here, the villa-like annexe next door with patterned masonry is more attractive. Both are backed by ramparts, and their compact, straightforward rooms overlook the castle or the Sanctuary. A modern restaurant offers authentic regional cuisine from locally sourced produce.
It’s gratifying that five-star luxury is no sin, even in Lourdes. Built in the 1870s and something of a local institution in its prior incarnation as an upmarket hotel, the Belfry and Spa underwent an extensive renovation in 2017, securing the elegant facade below the castle and completely revamping the interiors. Polished rooms and suites are smart, stylish and feature stripped floors. There are plenty of mirrors, too; even the space-age indoor spa pool has them. A sauna, hammam and sensory showers complement an array of Provence-inspired treatments.
No other Lourdes hotel can match the pedigree of the Grand Hôtel Moderne. Built in 1896 by the nephew of St Bernadette – the young girl whose visions led to the town becoming a major pilgrimage centre – it has a striking baroque style and lavish belle époque interiors. Thoroughly grand and modern when it opened, it maintains those qualities today. Some balconies overlook the esplanade, lending fine views of the famous Torchlight Procession.
There’s a certain funky style to the rooms at the Hôtel Astrid, where pops of colour adorn the bedding, furniture and carpets. Public areas, especially the bar and restaurant, are subjected to further chromatic assault with lime-green, neon-purple and carnation-pink chairs and banquettes, while the floors and ceilings are jet black. The latter features trendy lighting that resembles loose white wiring.