This month, Enjoy the Algarve moves away from the coast and visits Loulé. We marvel at the market, praise the pottery painting and get lost in the maze of streets that make up the old town centre. For about three hours. We still don’t know the way. Luckily it’s a very nice old town.
See original article in Enjoy the Algarve magazine October 2015
Pictures by Kyle Rodriguez
Parking can be a pain in Loulé. The city centre is busy and nearly all parking spots require you to insert money in a machine and obtain a ticket – or else risk a massive fine. Still, free parking can be found at the outskirts of town. Coming from the east? A tiny bit of the A22, the section from Estoi to Loulé Sur, is toll free. (Yes, we’re doing things on a budget this month).
Visit the market
You can’t miss this big square building at the Praça da República. With its four pink towers, the municipal market hall looks like a cross between a Disney palace and an Eastern European fort. At least, that’s what we think. The official version is that ‘it follows the eclectic revivalist style of Neo-Arab inspiration which is part of the Art Nouveau trend’. It’s open six days a week (closed on Sundays), from 7am to 3pm, but the fish merchants pack up as soon as they’ve sold their catch.
Alternative – Buy some delicacies
The market stalls at the front end have somehow managed to turn fine local produce into ‘gourmet delicacies’.
What makes Loulé’s municipal market into the Covent Garden of the Algarve is probably a combination of fancy packaging, nice lighting and adding half a euro to the prices.
Still, a great place to buy presents for foodies or splurge on yummy souvenirs. Even for people with dietary requirements; the fig & almond sweets, for example, also come in a gluten free option.
Explore the old town
Halfway through the market hall, turn right and you’ll find yourself in the old town. There are routes taking you past all the attractions and points of interest (look for the signs of the footsteps), but we’d recommend just taking a stroll through the small cobbled streets and narrow alleyways that make up the historic centre. After all, getting lost (which you will) is half the fun. There are white sheets hanging over the streets so you won’t get a heatstroke.
Admire the convent
Convents boring? Not in Loulé! They’ve even added a bar to the place. Ok, to be fair it isn’t a convent anymore. The Convento do Espírito Santo is a former monastery turned into a private university and art gallery. At the time of visiting the photo exhibition displayed on the walls was ‘Beyond White’ by Filipe da Palma. Recommended.
Alternative – Visit the church of Nossa Senhora de Piedade
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this weird dome shaped building was a research centre. Or a ginormous beehive. Or maybe a spaceship building site. It isn’t.
It’s a church located outside Loulé, on the road towards Boliqueime. At Easter, this is the starting point for a religious procession into town.
Shop & stroll
At Teresa’s Pottery you can buy individually handcrafted products: ‘No two pieces are alike, because everyone deserves an original’. During our visit, Teresa was calmly painting oranges onto a bowl, as she’s been doing since 1987: “People like the pottery with oranges, it reminds them of the sun in the Algarve.” Concentrated, but with a smile and a steady right hand she added dark green veins to the leaves with quick paint strokes. Painting a big bowl only takes her about an hour, but then she’s had quite a lot of experience. “It takes a little bit of talent and loads and loads of practice!”
Largo D. Pedro I, 15, 8100-694 Loulé
Alternative – Wild at Art
What do tinned sardines, soap and earrings have in common? They can all be found at Wild at Art, which displays art from local Portuguese artists and produce sourced from all over the country.
The gallery looks like a museum, but everything’s for sale. From the whitewashed cabinet in the corner to the horse head made of textile handing on the wall. (Which, in case you’re interested, costs €390. The rabbit head next to it is just as bizarre, but cheaper).
Rua 5 de Outubro 86, 8100-662, Loulé
Alternative – Casa Alentejana
Want to taste the flavours of the Alentejo region, but don’t fancy the drive all the way up there? Head to Casa Alentejana where they sell everything from bread to porco preto and from wine to liquor.
Beware: they also sell a few products from the Algarve. The lady behind the counter knows exactly what comes from which region and is very happy to help and explain.
Rua D. Nuno Alvares Pereira 20, 8100-662, Loulé
Have a rest in the garden
Done with shopping? Chill out in the Jardim dos Amuados (Garden of Sulks) which is located next to the Main Church of Loulé in the old town centre. A long time ago this garden used to be an Arab cemetery. Now, without gravestones, it is still very peaceful. There’s a giant palm tree in the middle of the small garden and from the back, the western part of Loulé can be seen, with the sea and the hills in the distance.
Climb the castle
O castelo, the castle of Loulé, dates back to the 13th century and the main walls that remain are still impressive. From the top of the castle you’ll be able to overlook the town. Want to see for yourself? Cost of a ticket is € 1.62 and includes entry to the tiny museum. Just don’t come on Sundays or Mondays as it’ll be closed.
Chill out at the fountains
Feeling hot, hot, hot after a day of walking around in Loulé? We dare you to cool off by walking through the fountains at the Largo de São Francisco. There are shops nearby selling towels if the sun doesn’t shine enough to dry you up.
Alternative – Find out how dried fruits are made
Always wanted to know how carob beans are grinded? Or how figs are harvested?
Visit the museum of dried fruits and find out.
Beware: it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Rua Gil Vicente 14, 8100-697 Loulé
Go for a drive in the countryside
Had enough of the city? Get your car. The beaches of Quarteira and Vilamoura aren’t that far away. But drive north instead of south, and you’ll end up in the rugged countryside. The N396 towards Querenca, for example, waves through the hills and snakes past a variety of trees – a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of town. Those with a 4WV are in luck as there are various turnoffs leading to exciting dirt roads that are accessible by four wheel drive only.
Hang out in style
The motto hanging on the walls of the small caffé & lounge bar Poeta? ‘If nothing goes right, go left.’ Reason enough to pay it a visit. The décor, an indescribable mix of antique wooden chairs, green lamps, empty photo lists and a Hello Kitty blow up swim aid, is also cool. Add to this the fact that it’s located in the middle of Loulé old town and that they hold regular stand-up comedy and poetry nights, and you’ve found yourself a place to celebrate the night.
Rua Vice Almirante dos Cândidos Reis nº 19, Loulé
See original article in Enjoy the Algarve magazine October 2015