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 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. 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 Municipal Museum 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. 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 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.
Loulé Carnival is one of the biggest events in Loulé and is famous across the Algarve. It takes places in February (over 3 days, the 3rd day being Shrove Tuesday) and is a truly colourful affair with music and dancing and general partying; reminiscent of Brasilian carnivals, when people come from all over the Algarve to watch the processions and join in with the party as everyone takes to the streets! The centre of Loulé (Avenida José da Costa Mealha) is shut off for the carnival and it costs a few euros for entrance
It is worth arriving early- the procession starts at 3.00pm – to find parking, especially if you haven’t been to the town before. If you decide to leave the enclosed area you will have to pay again to get back in, so if you want to explore the rest of Loulé, do it first! It is also traditional at carnival time across the Algarve for people to throw ‘water bombs’ and eggs- so be warned!
At Easter time there is a religious ‘Festival of the Sovereign Mother’, patron saint of Loulé, which again attracts people from all over the country.
Come to Loulé at the beginning of the summer and appreciate the typical sounds and flavours of several countries. 75 hours of music. 55 concerts. 9 stages. 1 festival! During Festival Med, the old city center of Loulé is transformed into a giant Mediterranean bazaar with music, food and activities for the whole family. It is one of the most popular summer events in the Algarve.
First and foremost, Festival Med is a celebration of World Music. Artists from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America join interesting European musicians to fill a program of concerts on many stages at the festival. For families, there is much to do. Concession stands of Mediterranean cuisine are plentiful. Street artists entertain and trick kids. Face painting and silly hair styling is a must-do. Artisans fill the streets with their wares. And, of course, music entertains and transfixes, from classical concerts and reggae, to traditional folk songs and electronica.