Lourdes can be a pilgrimage or just sightseeing
"All are welcome here"
We easily found parking near the basilique and this was the first sight that greeted us. All the people pushing wheelchairs and escorting pilgrims are volunteers. They pay their own way and many stay for months just to be of service. Everything here was free, including the waters. You can bring your own containers or buy them at the many souvenir shops surrounding the area. People line up at faucets running directly from the famous Spring of Bernadette and fill their containers with the water.
The people in wheelchairs are being taken to the baths, also water from the spring.
"All beside a beautiful river"
The shrine at Lourdes is built on either side of the River Pau and it is beautiful here. You can walk along it when you get tired of the crush of humanity and it is very peaceful.
"The church on a hill"
This was a beautiful day, blue sky, white clouds, quietly flowing river . . . and hordes of tourists / pilgrims. The famous grotto with the spring of Bernadette is in the hillside beneath the church and you line up to walk through. The spring is now covered with a heavy glass but is visible.
Between the two towers there is a huge wall of faucets where pilgrims can get water that comes from the spring. Lourdes was a very inspiring place. The only thing that kind of bothered me was the general noise level. Many people come there to pray and whether or not you are one of them, I think you should respect their intentions. There is a recording that goes "SHHHH" every few minutes simply to quiet the noise level. I found it more distracting than the chatter but assume someone felt it was necessary. Whether or not it was, it certainly didn't work. If you go, please go with respect for people who are there for religious reasons and save the cell phones and loud conversations for the trip home.