The charming city of Loulé is one of the Algarve’s most precious secrets. Its history dates back to the arrival of the Moors in the 8th century when the area began to flourish. Nowadays, the town located in the heart of the Algarve is a unique fusion of Arabic and Roman influences that will leave an impression on any curious visitor. Loulé preserves the Algarvian essence with its traditional architecture and laidback lifestyle. But don’t be fooled, the locals also know how to have fun! If you happen to be around, don’t miss the city’s renowned events like the Med Festival, the White Night Festival or even Carnival.

Check out our list of the top 5 things to do in Loulé that are worth a visit!

LOULÉ MUNICIPAL MARKET

The market has been open since 1908 and it’s known for its Arab-inspired architecture. A visit will guarantee you an authentic cultural experience. You’ll shop alongside the locals and get to see, smell and taste the amazing traditional snacks and fresh products. The market is open Monday to Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Saturday outdoor market closes at 1.30 p.m. and it’s a great time to find good bargains. Loulé market is certainly one of the Algarve’s top markets and is not to be missed.

Our Loulé Market & Town Tour makes the whole experience even more pleasant with pickups available directly from (or near) your hotel or villa between Praia da Luz and Quarteira. This way you can slow down as the locals and forget about any logistics. Early next year, the city will have 4 new restaurants. Visitors will then be able to enjoy regional dishes and delicacies while surrounded by the wonderful atmosphere of the historic building.

Loulé Market
Loulé Market, photo by CM Loulé

CAFÉ CALCINHA

Afterward, head to Café Calcinha which is just a short walk from the market. This iconic coffee bar first opened its doors in 1929 and has since been known for its captivating ambiance and décor. Breath in the Belle Époque while drinking espresso and eating the famous “Folhado de Loulé”, a regional puff pastry sweet. Café Calcinha is since 2014 part of the Historic Cafes Association’s route called “Rota dos Cafés com História”, an itinerary through the most emblematic cafes of Portugal. On your way out don’t forget to take a selfie with the statue of the 20th-century poet António Aleixo, a former regular of Calcinha.

Cafecalcinha
Café Calcinha in Loulé, photo by Barlavento

CASTLE OF LOULÉ

After the coffee break, go to Loulé’s Castle, a classified National Monument since 1924. Its origins date back to the 2nd century when it was used as a fort by the Romans and later the Moors. The castle was extensively damaged due to earthquakes. However, its gate tower and three further towers, along with the walls connecting them are notably well-preserved thanks to the restoration work done through the years. Looking over the city and surrounding countryside from one of the towers will certainly take you back to the medieval times. Then complete the visit with the Municipal Museum situated in the castle’s courtyard. There you’ll learn all about the history of Loulé from prehistoric times to the modern age.

Loulé Castle
Loulé Castle

 

OLD CENTRE OF LOULÉ AND MATRIZ DE SÃO CLEMENTE CHURCH

The castle is located within Loulé’s medieval old centre. So, after the visit, take your time roaming around the narrow streets while admiring the symbolic Algarvian chimneys and the little whitewashed houses. But make sure to bring appropriate footwear because the stone pavement can sometimes be tricky. Don’t miss the 13th-century church named after the city’s patron saint, São Clemente. The church’s tower used to be a Muslim minaret and only after the Christian reconquest did it gain its current Baroque style. Just in front of the church’s square, there is the Amuados Garden. It’s an old cemetery turned into a delightful retreat where you can gaze at the beautiful scenery that surrounds the town.

 

DISCOVER LOULÉ’S CRAFTS AND CULINARY SCENE

Strolling through the streets of Loulé, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the city is often considered the capital of crafts in the Algarve. The town seeks to revitalize historic trades and create cultural immersive experiences for tourists by developing initiatives such as “Loulé Criativo”. Visitors can now take arts and crafts or culinary workshops to learn more about a different part of the Algarve.

However, if you are more excited about doing some shopping, check out Rua 5 de Outubro. It’s the main shopping street in the centre of Loulé, where it’ll be easy to discover some lovely craft stores. You’ll find shops selling handmaid palm craft items created with an ancestral technique that passed from generation to generation. Also, look for cork shops that sell everything you can imagine made from – yes, you’ve guessed it – cork, which is one of the most characteristic natural products of Portugal.

If you’re interested, the Popular Fair of Loulé happens every July and it’s a great display of local craft and food products, plus there’s live music. When it’s time for lunch don’t be overwhelmed by the variety of cute cafés and trendy restaurants. Pick one that suits your needs, from hardcore traditional food to Asian cuisine. Then, a walk will help to digest all that yummy food. So, continue exploring as you head to the main avenue Avenida José da Costa Mealha where Carnaval is held every winter – though it’s still fun despite the weather!

 

It seems like you’ve arrived at the end of our list of the top 5 things to do in Loulé but there’s still a lot more to see. The municipality of Loulé is the largest and most populous Algarvian municipality stretching from uplands to the sea. It offers tourists a chance to enjoy the beautiful beaches in the touristic complexes of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. Yet it also provides cultural enriching countryside experiences.

If you are feeling adventurous, paragliding in Loulé is an unforgettable way to see the countryside meeting the sea. Or, instead, hop on a quad bike for a special first experience in the rural Algarve. In fact, why not do both?