Loule "the real portugal", is an Inland Town in central Algarve on the south coast of Portugal. The beginnings of Loulé are uncertain, some historians putting it as far back as 400BC, but others say it's origins are Roman. It is a fact that when the Arabs invaded the Algarve in 715, Loulé was already an important town. It has been a part of Portugal since 1249 after the Algarve was recaptured from the Moors and in 1291 King Dom Dinis established the Algarve's only medieval fair in Loulé, a sign of the wealth of the region.
Loulé is an interesting town some 16km to the north of Faro. The landmark church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade - a modern dome shaped building reminiscent of a space ship - can easily be seen on a hill, just to the west of the town, from the A22 motorway. It is a large town with all the usual amenities you would expect to find - a great selection of shops, numerous banks, art galleries, swimming pools and sports pavilion to name but a few!
Loulé is famous for it's Saturday morning gipsy market (at the end of Rua da nossa Senhora da Piedade) and there are trips available from most resorts in the Algarve if you don't have a car. It also has a really good daily market in the Arabian style market hall on Praça da República (open every morning except Sunday).
Although it is quite a big town, all the areas that visitors will probably want to see are in a relatively compact area. It is a good idea to use a map as on a first visit (from experience!) it is easy to turn down the wrong street and walk a lot further than you may want to!
Entering Loulé from the south west there is a roundabout with a statue of 2 cyclists - turn to the left and the road will go past a Modelo supermarket and on towards the Nossa Senhora da Piedade Church. The road to the right leads to the centre and as it goes up the hill, just before traffic lights at the top, there is an archway through the old walls on the left which leads through to Largo da Matriz.
In the middle of this small square is the main church of Loulé, Igreja de S.Clemente and to the left of the square is a small, peaceful garden, Jardim dos Amuados (Garden of Sulks), which is an ancient Arab cemetery
Loulé castle (13th/14th century) built on an area previously settled by the Romans, is just a short distance down the road from the market on the left hand side. From this approach it isn't very obvious that it is the castle as, through the arched gateway, you see the whitewashed walls of the 'alcaidaria' ( which was the living quarters for the castle commander and his garrison) surrounding a small courtyard and no visible signs of the castle walls. Across the courtyard lies the municipal museum, next door to which are some steps leading up to the remaining section of the castle walls.
The three remaining grey stone towers and short walkway between them are well preserved and apart from getting a great view of Loulé does also give a taste of the historical heritage of the Algarve. (There is a small charge for visiting the castle)
A little further along the street from the castle is the Convent of Espírito Santo which also houses the municipal art gallery.
Apart from the historical points of interest, there are also lots of cafés and shops in the criss-crossing network of cobbled alleys and streets and plenty of places to sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by!
The main avenida (José da Costa Mealha) is a bustle of cars and people going about their daily business on either side of the central gardens with benches under the trees and kiosks for refreshments along it's length.
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.
Loule - History
This place is a rural administrative and active market town with some remains of a castle dating back to the 12th Century. The Arab castle has been virtually destroyed leaving some walls still standing that are now surrounded by modern buildings. Like most other towns in the Algarve, most of the older potentially interesting buildings have been destroyed in the earthquake that occurred in 1755.
Loulé - Description
Within the remaining walls is a museum with an explanation of what was in the past the grandeur of the castle. The various earthquakes that it has suffered through its history have damaged the 13th Century Church of São Clemente. However, its Gothic arches and side chapels that are from the 16th Century have survived. The town Loulé consisting of some 20,000 residents is mainly concerned in producing souvenir products made out of copperware, leather, cane and wood, or, servicing the tourist industry. The weekly Fair attracts tourists from all along the Algarve. Due to the demands of the tourism this town has blossomed in size. An important event is the annual Carnival held in February that is considered to be one of the best in Portugal. In the town there is a Museum that is devoted to the local industry of dried fruits and it is interesting to see how these products are prepared for the public. To the west of the town is a hilltop Church that is built on the site of a 16th Century chapel. This is the destination of an annual religious procession that requires some physical effort on the part of the bearers of the church's religious shrines.
Loulé - Nearby Locations
Near to Loulé is Almancil a small town that acts also as a supplier of services to the prosperous holiday areas just south on the coast. Further inland is the small village of Alte, a village that is known for its un-spoilt rural architecture and its enthusiasm for folk music. Another inland village is Paderne that has a romantic 13th Century castle in ruins sitting alone on the crest of a deserted hilltop. The coastal town of Quarteira that was once a fishing village is now converted into a multi-apartment tourist location. Not too far away from Loulé is the village of Querença with its stalactite caves. Also, the village of Salir with ruins of a castle and a nearby two 800 meters long walls from the Neolithic period. The small village of Benafim existing from Arab times and within easy reach of Loulé, still reflects rural life from the early part of the last century.
This area has two added attractions in both the caves at Alto Fica and the rock face of Rocha da Pena. The towns of São Brás de Alportel and Santa Bárbara de Nexe, are both small and also demonstrate the fast disappearing Portuguese atmosphere reflecting the rural social style of life. In São Bras de Alportel there is an interesting museum that houses a permanent collection of rural artefacts and costumes truly reflecting the past manner of living in the Algarve See Loule Map below.
Images of Loule Carnival
Information courtesy of general internet research and algarveuncovered.com, portugal-info.net, tripadvisor.com, algarve-guides.com and many more sources
Villa Rentals in Loule and holiday rentals in the Algarve Portugal in general are big business so you should expect to be treated with professionalism and with courtesy