You may not have heard of Loule in the Algarve, as it is a smaller city more inland than most of the popular coastal resorts including Quarteira and Lagos. But it’s a totally underrated Portuguese destination. You will find Loule to be a relaxing weekend away. If a good local market, beautiful architecture and a historical castle is your bag, then it really is the perfect destination! By the way, it is officially a city but is certainly on the smaller side and actually feels more like a town!
When to visit Loule
The summer is the perfect time to visit Loule – it’s pretty much guaranteed amazing weather in the Algarve from June through to September. Temperatures can be between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius in June, July and August. Consider avoiding school holidays (UK and Portugal) as the Algarve is quite touristy and it can get very busy.
In the winter (October to March) it is quieter, but can be quite cold at night. If you visit at this time do bring a couple of sets of jeans and jumpers just incase.
If you are a music lover then why not visit Loule for Festival Med? It’s a small and family friendly music festival with stages dotted around the historical centre. In 2022 the festival was from 30th June to 2nd July. If you want to check the dates for Festival Med then visit the website here. There is also an app that you can download to tell you what acts are on each different stage.
How long should I stay in Loule?
I recommend that you spend a couple of days at least in Loule and surrounding the local area. I stayed for 3 days which was perfect because we did one day of historical sites, one day for shopping and one day for swimming and water slides at Aqua Show! If you want to take it easy and travel slowly around the area you could easily do a week or more.
However, it is possible to see the main historical sites on a day trip and you can easily travel from the following surrounding areas in one day:
- Sao Bras de Alportel
How to get to Loule
How to get to Loule from Faro airport
Loule is very accessible from Faro airport – you can get there in a taxi from Faro airport for around €35 and it will take approximately 20-25 mins.
Ubers and Local Taxis
Ubers work in Loule and are much cheaper and more reliable than the local taxi firm. If you do want the local taxi number it is +351 289 414 488.
However, I have experienced been ripped off before – one taxi driver tried to put us on Tariff 3 on a Friday afternoon! Insist on the correct tariff and check the prices against Uber if you use them. Unfortunately some of the local cabs here sometimes like to make up their own rate! If you are unsure whether you are being ripped off ask for a receipt and get a photo of his number plate just incase. Then if you want to complain you can put in a complaint online.
Loule is also accessible by train – Loule train station can be found around 10 minutes drive South West from Loule city centre. The taxi to the train station from Loule centre shouldn’t cost more than around €7. You will find that the train goes all the way along the Algarve to Lagos from here. You can buy tickets on the day or book in advance on the cp.pt website.
What to Pack for Loule
Here’s a list of recommended items to take to Loule in the summer:
- Walking boots and walking sandals
- Sun hat
- Sun Cream
- Dresses and shorts
- Cycling shorts and leggings
- T-shirts and vest tops
- Bikini (there is an outdoor swimming pool!)
- Refillable water bottle
- Euros in Cash (some smaller shops and cafes still don’t accept card)
- Good camera
- Gadgets – phone and laptop with chargers
- Medication – especially if you are prone to certain infections in hot weather such as UTIs or thrush
If you are visiting in the winter months:
- Pair of jeans
- Thick walking socks
Where to stay in Loule
There are some fantastic guest houses and hotels in Loule. I found an excellent value Air BnB right opposite Loule market which worked out around £30 a night! There are four rooms in total sharing a bathroom and kitchen/lounge. Here is the link if you are interested: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/28178671
Some excellent options for accommodation in Loule include:
- Hospedaria Dom Fernando – An excellent location right opposite the Market and one of the best guesthouses in the centre. Rooms include a desk and free wifi so is great for remote workers. There is also an on-site restaurant.
- Loule Jardim hotel – Loule Jardim hotel boasts a unique selling point of a salt water swimming pool offering a view over the city of Loule and the Algarve coast. There is a bar available, and also a delicious breakfast served in an interior garden.
- Casa Loule – Perfect for two travellers, Casa Loule is close to the market and city centre. It offers a balcony with city views.
If you don’t mind being further out then you can consider Golda Sol which is approximately 4km away. There are also a number or apartments and shared villas (with and without pool) on offer in the local area.
Where to eat in Loule
Loule has some fantastic restaurants and it’s great value for money. Here are a few of my main recommendations:
- Praca Central (Portuguese) – I loved this little cafe on Praca da Republica. You don’t need to spend more than €10 for a really decent meal. I had a gorgeous quiche. The dishes include fish, salads and hamburgers too. They have indoor and outdoor dining.
- Pizzeria Luzzo (Pizza) – Pizzeria Luzzo is a chain Pizzeria, but excellent quality and Service. I really recommend it if you are looking for pizza in Loule.
- Restaurante Churrasqueira Jolibela (Mediteranean and Barbeque)- For an excellent selection of beef and chicken head to Jolibela on Rua Camilo Castelo Branco. The peri-peri chicken is one of the best in the Algarve and it’s also one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday.
- O Avenida Restaurante (English and Portuguese) – Head to O Avenida for an amazing beef Wellington or Steak and Pepper sauce. They also do excellent Mussels!
- Borges Restaurant (Seafood) – For something a little pricier and an excellent selection of fish and seafood head to Borges in the nearby town of Almancil. They have excellent oysters and also some great vegetarian and vegan options.
Shopping in Loule – Loule Market and Beyond
Loule really is a fantastic place to shop. There are a lot of bargains to be found and the shoes and jewellery in Loule are on the whole high quality.
Loule Municipal Market
Loule Municipal Market is one of the highlights of Loule. It has a beautiful traditional Portuguese design with pink arches and the market dates back to 1908. Inside you will find a tapas bar, Gelato ice cream bar (1800 Gelato) and a rather stinky fish market at the back! You can find stalls with local produce such as honey, olive oil and sardines. There are also many handicrafts up for grabs such as local pottery, azulejos tiles, cork bags and table cloths. In the market, prices are open to some negotiation. It’s open from 7am to 3pm Monday to Saturday. The best time to visit is on a Saturday between 9am and 1pm.
Rua 5 de Outubro
Loule is a great city for shopping, especially for clothes, jewellery and shoes. There are some nice shops dotted all over the city, many with beautiful dresses in tribal designs. My favourite street is Rua 5 de Outubro (with St Francis Church at the end).
Mar Shopping Centre Loule
If you are looking for a shopping centre which will shield you from the heat and give you more variety then head to Mar Shopping centre near Loule. This fabulous place combines a shopping centre, designer outlet and a fully integrated IKEA store!
MAR Shopping Algarve
Lugar e Caliços – Cx. 787-E – Esteval
8135-014 Almancil, Portugal
Historical Sites and Architecture in Loule
There are some great historical gems to be explored in Loule. Start with the castle and after that work your way down the main high street where you will find most of the main buildings.
Loule castle was built during the reconquest from the Moors in 1289. It has 3 strong towers remaining and the castle itself is also an archaeological Museum. The castle used to boast approximately 940 metres of defensive walls.
Inside the castle lies the ‘alcaidaria’ which is where the commander of the castle used to live. It was possibly built in the 14th Century and then rebuilt in the 18th Century. The alcaidaria was visited by King Pedro I in 1359, King Alfonso in 1458, after the conquest of the North African garrison of Alcacer Ceguar, and then King Sebastian in 1573.
In the courtyard of the castle there is a well, some medieval blocks and an arch of the old gateway leading to the town. It’s free to walk the castle walls and just a few euros for museum entry to learn about the history of the castle.
Churches of Loule
The city has some beautiful Churches to explore including the Gate to Graca Convent, Sao Clement and the Church of Misericordia.
Gate to ‘Convento de Graca’ Church
Venture slightly off the main road near the central roundabout and you will find the ruins of an old 14th Century Convent – the gate to ‘Convent de Graca’ Church. Only the Gothic arch remains today, but it is well worth a visit.
Main Church of Sao Clement
The main Church of Sao Clement dates back to the 13th Century and was probably built on the site of an old Mosque. It reflects a Southern Gothic style of architecture and has undergone a number of renovations and alterations in the 16th and 18th Centuries. The bell tower began its life as a Moorish Minaret. There is also an ancient pillar set into the wall inside the tower. The interior of the Church has 3 naves and supporting columns appear to be have been taken from previous structures from the Roman period. The high altar has a carved and guided 18th Century altarpiece and statues from the same period.
Inside the Church there are three side chapels that are significant:
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Concalacao – Chapel to the Lady of Consolation which has an arch and ceiling consisting of 16th Century Manueline Vaults covered with narrative tiles.
- The Chapel of Sao Bras – which has a 16th century arch, an 18th Century polychrome arch and a 16th Century statue of the patron saint.
- Capela das Almas – The Chapel of souls which dates back to the late 16th Century and has walls decorated with 17th Century tiles.
Manueline – an ornate style of Portuguese architecture developed during the reign of Manuel I (1495–1521). It is characterized by elaborations of Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Church of Misericordia
This is a 16th Century building with a Manueline entrance with carved ropes, finished off by two pinnacles. In the doorway is a cross from the same period with statues of Christ and Mary. The carved altarpiece is a simple 18th Century design, but it contains two 16th Century statues, one which is an alabaster statue originally from the Graca monastery.
Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao
The Church of our lady of the conception dates back to the 17th Century. This unassuming Church was built on the spot of a 16th Century Oratory, backing onto the gates in the city walls. Inside it has fine tile decoration depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and a richly decorated gold altarpiece. On the ceiling there is a panel painted by Rasquino (a 19th Century Algarve painter). There are also fine examples of religious sculpture of the period.