Our visit to Loulé turned out to be the highlight of our break. It’s just over 7 miles and 20 minutes from Pestana Vila Sol in Vilamoura (where we stayed) by Uber for under €10!
Loulé is my kind of Portuguese town. It’s no ordinary tourist destinations, like Faro and Albufeira where we also visited. It’s the real thing, the genuine Portuguese market town for the locals rather than tourists. It’s diametrically opposed to Vilamoura. That we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day on our visit added to its charms.
Being there on a Monday, we avoided the hustle and bustle of the market day of Saturday when two additional markets were held in the town – the fish market around the covered market and the gypsy market on the verge of the town.
Praça da Republica
Praça da Republica is the axle that threads through the characterful and charming town of Loulé. It’s a tree-lined avenue flanked by eateries and shops housed in colourful buildings.
Mercado Municipal de Loulé (Municipal Market of Loule)
The Municipal Market which is situated at the Praca da Republica Street is so striking that it’s unmissable!! It’s built in neo-Arab architectural style and was opened in 1908.
The rather ghoulish figure outside and the skull at the main entrance in the photos could be attributed to the fact that it was Halloween the following day. However they could not detract from the aesthetic beauty of the building!
Inside this Arabian inspired covered market, there’re eating places and stalls selling fresh produces and regional handicrafts. Unfortunately we were there too early so the interior was almost empty!
Camara Municipal de Loulé (District Council of Loulé)
The rather stately building is just across a side street from the covered market. It was constructed in 1842 as the residence of the Police Captain José Rafael Pinto. Although it was acquired from the family in 1885 it maintained its town house features until 1942 when it was remodelled.
Convento do Espírito Santo (Covent of the Holy Spirit)
Not far from the town hall is a large public square in front of this distinctive pink building. It was built in the early 18th century and had undergone significant alterations after the 1755 earthquake. It now houses the Municipal Art Gallery (closed on Monday).
The café in the courtyard was a restful spot for our mid-morning refreshment – a cappuccino and pastel de nata!
Largo Gago Coutinho Loulé (roundabout)
This eye-catching roundabout is at the end of Praça da Republica.
The centrepiece of the fountain at the roundabout is the bronze and stone sculpture called “Gente feliz dançando ao sol” (Happy people dancing in the sun) installed in 2005 when the roundabout was upgraded
Cidade Velha (Old Town)
Within this delightful Old Town, there’s a 13th-century castle, a 13th-century Gothic church and a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets. Unfortunately, it being a Monday, the castle and the museum inside it were closed and the church was only open from 15.00 until 17.00.
Castelo de Loulé
The thirteenth century Castelo de Loulé was classed as a National Monument in 1924. It certainly looks imposing. The Municipal Museum housed in the castle is said to contain exhibits of Roman and Bronze Age artefacts discovered in the area
Igreja Matriz de São Clemente
This 13th-century gothic church was converted from a mosque. The church’s bell tower was originally a minaret. It is said to be Portugal‘s only mosque building from the Moorish era that still exists.
Igreja de São Francisco Loulé
As we wandered around Loulé after visiting the Old Town, we came across this church just off Largo de São Francisco. According to the notice board outside, the church dates back to the 16th century. It became the parish church in 1890
As we headed back to Praça da Republica to have lunch at one of the eateries opposite the Town Hall (as recommended by our driver), we came across more colourful buildings and a couple of traditional shopping streets where I managed to find a fridge magnet of Loulé, not the generic ones of Algarve!
Here is my prized fridge magnet and souvenir of a memorable day trip