A Visit to Loule Market

If you are staying in the beautiful colourful city of Loule then don’t miss Loule Market – one of the highlights of this inland Algarvian town. Loule is actually small enough to feel like a town, but it does have a Church, Castle and the Mercado (traditional Portuguese market). I totally love the relaxing vibe of Loule. It has a much more Portuguese feel than the coastal towns of Quarteira and Vilamoura. I hope that you enjoy today’s blog which is a guide to visiting Loule Market….

The History and Design of Loule Market

Loule Municipal Market was designed by the architect Alfredo Campos and was inaugurated on 27th June 1908. It is built in the eclectic revivalist style of Neo-Arab inspiration as part of the Art Nouveau scene. It was the first large scale architectural piece that appeared in the borough of Loule in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Things to do in Vilamoura

The location of the market is economically and politically significant as it is built next to the town hall. In order to build it where they did, many houses and parts of the wall had to be demolished. Renovation works took place for 3 years running up to February 2007, when the market was reopened and received the ‘Tourismo de Portugal‘ award.

When to Visit

Loule market is ideal in the shoulder seasons including May to June and September to October. It can be extremely hot in the summer in the Algarve and also a bit too busy in August when the school are off and tourists from Portugal and UK flock to the Algarve. The winter is much colder and there is a risk of slipping on the cobbled streets when it rains.

However, I have visited in both June and November and both were actually a great time to visit. The June visit was combined with Festival Med – a local music festival that comes to Loule every year. In November, the weather reached 20 degrees C and on a Saturday the market was still bustling!

Interior of Loule Market
Inside Loule Market

The best day to visit is definitely a Saturday. All of the vendors stalls will be open from 7am-3pm. It is likely that there will be live music and entertainment on in the market hall. We had Rafael serenading us with covers from The Strokes, David Bowie and The Cure!

Saturday also sees two other outdoor markets come to Loule – the Vegetable market in the streets surrounding Loule Market and the Gypsy market a little further out of town. Loule is full of shoppers and street entertainers on a Saturday, which leads to an electric atmosphere that you will totally enjoy.

How to get to Loule Market

Loule itself is very small and the market is easily walkable from most parts of the town including the Castle. The address of the market is Praça da República, 8100-270 Loulé.

Loule itself is easy to get to by taxi from Faro airport – it will cost around €15 in an Uber (daytime rate). If you are coming to Loule by train, note that Loule station is not located in the centre of the town. You will need to jump in a cab for the short 10 minute journey from Loule station to Loule centre and market.

What to Pack/Take

  • Wear good walking boots or trainers as the town of Loule has a lot of cobbled streets (as mentioned these can get very slippy when wet). Portugal is not really a great place for travellers to be wearing high heels and dresses! However, many of the local Portuguese take pride in their appearance and do dress this way – but visitors are not used to the cobbled and sloping streets so definitely opt for comfortable footwear.
  • Take a water bottle with you, but there are also plenty of places to buy drinks.
  • Loule market is very picturesque and so I would recommend a good camera or at least a charged up smartphone.
  • Take cash in small Euro coins and notes for shopping, because most street vendors won’t accept card payments or Multibanco. €1 coins are good for tips for the musicians and street entertainers. There are often guitarists, singers and clowns of stilts! If you take pictures or videos of any of the street artists always tip them.

What to Buy at Loule Market

Many of the craft traditions of the Algarve are kept alive in Loule, where it is still possible to buy items made from copper, iron, wood and brass using traditional techniques. Loule Market is a great place to pick up souvenirs and consumables such as fish paste, wine and honey. Remember that some items can only be taken home in your checked bag and not hand luggage. Since BREXT there are also restrictions on how many bottles of alcohol you can take into the UK. Here are some of the best things to buy at Loule market….

Fish Loule Market
Fresh Eels at Loule Market
  • Fish! – If you have a kitchen where you are staying and want to buy fresh fish to cook then it is advisable to go very early (preferably first thing!) The fish section is at the back of the market and you can buy eels, shrimp, Dorada, bass, cuttlefish and plaice (amongst others!)
  • Cork Souvenirs – Cork is a natural product of Portugal and most cork comes from the Alentejo region from the bark of the cork trees. This is turned into mats, bags, keyring and many other gifts and souvenirs.
  • Textiles – The textiles section has a wide selection of homeware including tea towels and table cloths in Portuguese designs.
  • Pottery – The Portuguese pottery section is beautiful with a selection of mugs, plates and trays. I love the little ceramic Olive dishes which have a large compartment for your Olives and then a separate compartment for the pips! You can also find ceramic Portuguese Cockrels (Galo de Barcelos).
Loule Market Sauces and Almond Cakes
Loule Market Sauces and Almond Cakes
  • Honey – Honey is ‘Mel’ in Portuguese and there are numerous stalls in the market selling honey and beautiful ceramic honey pots.
  • Filigree Jewellery – Portuguese filigree jewellery making requires extreme expertise on the part of the artisan to work the very fine interlaced and welded gold or silver threads that make up each piece. Therefore, it is internationally recognised for its quality. You can buy filigree necklaces, earrings and bracelets on Loule Market or in the many high quality jewellers that surround it.
  • Portuguese Alcohol – The market is a good place to pick up a bottle of your favourite tipple such as Ginja (Portuguese Cherry Liqueur), Vinho Tinto (Red Wine) and even Portuguese gin.

One last tip – although bartering is not usual in Portugal, it is possible to barter on prices in Loule market, particularly if you are buying more than one item from the same vendor. The textiles women will almost always give a highly inflated price first, so it is a good idea to look at the prices in local shops before you head to the market to make a purchase, to know that you are getting a good price.

Where to Eat

Loule Market Tapas

There is a fantastic tapas bar in the centre of Loule market where you can order fish and chorizo with soft drinks or Portuguese wine. Tapas dishes are around €5-7.

8100 Ice Cream

I highly recommend the ice cream vendor 8100 which is run by a British expat couple who have lived in Loule for over 25 years. They do gorgeous flavours of gelato including Belgian chocolate, Mango and Strawberries and Cream. It’s just €3 for a small cup.

Nearby Restaurants

Just outside the Market there is a row of amazing restaurants (on Rua Dr Nuno Joaquim Saraiva and Rua Jose Fernandes Guerreiro) which are excellent value, especially for traditional Portuguese meat and fish dishes:

  • Flor da Praca – A gorgeous traditional Portuguese restaurant that is great value and good service. Some waiters speak English and they have an English menu. I had the Pork Cheeks in red wine sauce with chips and rice for just €14.
  • O Pescador – An amazing fish restaurant serving Sea Bass, Dorada and often having a ‘catch of the day’ fro around €12-14.

Where to Stay in Loule

For our visit to Loule Market (I took my Mom!) we stayed at Loule Jardim Hotel which was really relaxing and quite luxurious (although it’s only listed as a 3* it feels like much more). We paid just €65 a night (although that was in low season – November – and so we would expect to pay much more in the summer months). The hotel has 24 hour reception, a pool, a gym and a conference centre. It is walkable to the centre of Loule but out of the way of the noise of the bars and festivals which can sometimes be noisy in the summer months. I would highly recommend it!

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