Loule, Portugal - A Tourism Guide
Loulé is a traditional Portuguese market town that is one of the most popular day trips of the central Algarve region. Loule makes for an enjoyable excursion, as it provides interesting historic monuments, a lively market and a traditional Portuguese atmosphere.
The historic centre of Loule
Loule has a pretty town centre of busy shopping streets, tree lined plazas and narrow cobbled side-streets. The town’s focal point is the Moorish inspired covered market, and this market on Saturdays expands to include the surrounding streets. Other sights in Loule include the Museu Municipal (and the “castle”), the Conceição chapel with its beautiful tiles and the Espírito Santo convent complex.
Loule is the one of the largest residential towns of the inland Algarve, and there are excellent public transport links serving the central Algarve region. This means that Loule is easily accessible as a day trip or can make for an alternative holiday destination from which the entire region can be explored. This guide will provide an introduction to Loule, for visitors who are planning a day trip or holiday to this unassuming but characterful town.
Why Visit Loulé?
Loule is a relaxed and unhurried destination that offers great shopping and a selection of interesting tourist attractions, all set around a delightful town centre. Loule is one of the only destinations in the Algarve whose sole focus is not tourism, it is a town full of ordinary Portuguese going about their day lives.
Loule market has a varied selection of stalls
Loule is a town best to get lost in and simply wandering around the series of pretty cobbled streets that hid small shops, quaint house and open up onto plazas or busy shopping streets. The town has sufficiently tourist sights to fill a half day while having good public transport links to the major coastal towns of the central Algarve.
Loulé as a holiday destination
As a holiday destination Loule is suited for the more intrepid and independent visitor, who wishes to escape the common tourist routes, by having an authentic and cultural holiday. In Loule there is a selection of excellent hotels and restaurants, which tend to serve inexpensive traditional Portuguese cuisines.
With a rental car the entire central Algarve region can be easily discovered while the inexpensive public transport makes it possible to explore without a car. Loule is in the north of the Algarve and is not situated close to the coastline, therefore do not expect a holiday in Loule to be a beach holiday. For a Guide to the best hotels in Loule please click here.
Arco do Pinto connects two house owned by the same (Pinto) family
What are the main tourist sights of Loulé?
Loule was an important Moorish city (8-12century) and remnants of this North African heritage can be seen throughout the town in either the historic monuments (the castle, Saint Clemente bell tower) or more modern structures such as the market.
The North African inspired covered market
Loule market is housed in a large covered market that was constructed in 2007 and key design elements of the building were inspired by North African designs. Inside the market there are family run stalls selling local grown or sourced produce which include fish, foods, fabrics and gifts. The market is shut on Sundays. On Saturday mornings the gypsy market is held to the west of the old town makes the town come alive with the sounds, sights and aromas of a busy market. This is a gypsy market so expect a diverse selection of items for sale ranging from craft gifts through to old junk.
The castle walls of Loule
The Municipal Museum (€1.50) contains a series of exhibits of Roman and Bronze Age artefacts discovered within the castle and the Loule region. The ground of the museum has been excavated to reveal the Moorish ruins that the town was built upon. The museum also incorporates the Loule castle, which is more a series of walls than an intact castle but the structure does signify the importance of Loule in the Moorish era. From the castle walls there are great views over the old town.
The Igreja de Clemente is the main church of Loule and was converted from an ancient mosque. The interesting feature of the church is the tall bell tower that was originally the minaret of the mosque. The church overlooks the pretty Amuados gardens that were originally the towns grave yard.
The bell tower of the Clemente Church
One of the most stunning sights of Loule is the Nossa Senhora da Conceição chapel which is hidden down a side street. The interior of this small 18th century chapel is adorned with beautiful Azulejos tiles while the altar is lined with beautiful gold decorations.
The nondescript exterior of the Conceição chapel
The town hall is set on the edge of the old Convent of Espírito Santo complex, which also house the municipal art gallery and a neoclassical cloister. In the centre of the convent is Loule’s most notable feature, a single Araucaria (Norfolk Island Pine) tree. The 200-year-old tree which orginates from Australia is 45m tall and dwarfs all other buildings in Loule.
The tall Araucaria tree in central Loule
How to Travel to Loule and Loule buses
Most visitors travel to Loule by bus and there are direct bus services from Faro and Albufeira. Bus is the recommended means of transport to travel to Loule, as Loule train station is located 5km south of the town and will require a taxi journey. A bus ticket from Faro to Loule costs €3.25/€6.50 (single/return) while from Albufeira to Loulé costs €4.30€/ €8.60 (single/return). Both bus journeys take 40 minutes and the services are operated by Eva buses. The Eva bus website has an English section and displays the latest timetable for both routes, the website is here:
From the bus station it is just a short walk (300m) down the busy shopping street of Avenida 25 de Abril to the market and centre of the town.
Loule bus station
For visitors traveling from the western side of the Algarve (Lagos or Portimão), the only public transport option is by train. The train is very slow, about 1hour 30 min from Lagos and there are limited departures but it is possible to visit Loule as a day trip from these towns. The Algarve region train is operated by CP and the latest timetable can be see here:
How to Explore Loule?
Loule is large residential town but the historic centre covers are relatively compact area. The tourist office will be able to provide a map of the town but a better way to explore is to follow the two marked walking routes which cover the entire of Loule. Loule is located on the edge of the Barrocal Hills but there are no steep hills within the town centre just cobbled streets.
A typical day trip to Loule takes around half a day. The excursion can be extended walking up to the Nossa Senhora da Piedade church, this is a challenging hiking trail and only for the fit but the panoramic views are worth the effort.
Loule, Silves or Faro as a Day Trip?
Loule, Silves and Faro are all popular day trips but each town has it’s own positives and negatives as day trip destinations.
Silves is by far the most scenic and historic of the three. It is set on the banks of the Arade River with cobbled streets leading up the hill to the imposing red brick castle. Silves main difficulty is the limited public transport as there are only direct services to Portimão or Albufeira.
Loule is the most central and thus most accessible of the three towns but has the fewest historic monuments or major tourist sights. Loule is best visited on a Saturday when a visit can be combined with exploring the large morning market.
Faro is the largest of the three day trip destinations and, is sadly often overlooked as an excursion. Faro has a pretty old town that is surrounded by ancient Moorish walls while the town centre is pedestrianised and lined with open air cafes. Departing from Faro’s harbour are tours of the Ria Formosa natural park, a series of salt water lagoons and waterways.