The second Catholic pilgrimage site in the world after Rome, the town of Lourdes became famous after the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at various times between 11 February and 16 July 1858. Today, the sanctuaries of Lourdes located on the banks of the Gave de Pau river attract millions of visitors and pilgrims each year. The key sites of the Religious Town (Cité Religieuse) are the Rosary Esplanade (Esplanade du Rosaire) – dominated by the neo-Byzantine Our Lady's Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame), the Crypt and the Immaculate Conception Basilica (Basilique de l'Immaculée Conception) – the famous miraculous grotto where the Virgin appeared on 18 occasions, the underground St Pius X Basilica (Basilique Saint-Pie X), the Espace Sainte-Bernadette pilgrimage centre and the Way of the Cross (Chemin de Croix) and its 15 stations. The entire place is imbued with a very special spiritual and mystical atmosphere.
Also worth a visit in Lourdes is the fortified castle overlooking the town. Inside, the Pyrenean Museum (Musée Pyrénéen) houses collections of objects and art relating to the history of the Pyrenees mountains. The castle ramparts offer a beautiful view over the sanctuaries and the Pyrenees.