Is Loulé worth visiting?

is Loule worth visiting Portugal

Many visitors to the Algarve skip the town of Loulé because it’s not near the beach. Tourists flock to Quarteira and Vilamora, but they don’t realise that they could well be missing the best that the Algarve has to offer! Loulé is a Portuguese town just around 20 minutes from the coast. It is accessible by taxi from Faro airport. Loulé will give you the feel of a traditional Portuguese town, while still within proximity of the beaches and water parks. Today, let’s answer your question ‘is Loulé worth visiting?’

How to get to Loulé

You will probably need to drive or get a taxi to Loulé from Faro, Quarteira or Faro airport. It’s only 20-25 minutes from Faro airport to Loulé in a cab and you should expect to pay around €16-25 for an Uber and slightly more for a traditional taxi that you get from the airport taxi rank (around 30-40€ after midnight).

Do not…..I repeat….DO NOT….try to get to Loulé by train from Faro. Loulé train station is about 5-10 minites drive from Loule itself and it’s not possible to walk to Loulé station to the town itself. It would be about 1h 40mins to walk from Loulé station to Loulé town and it is all uphill. If you are arriving in Faro or Faro airport and travelling to Loulé then it makes sense to just get a taxi all the way to Loulé.

It may be worth going to the station if you have a connecting train from further afield, but remember that you will need to book a taxi for that last bit of distance between the station and the city centre. You can use the Uber app, it works well in many parts of the Algarve and Faro/Loulé are serviced by Ubers. You might find it difficult to get Ubers from the airport late at night.

Loule train station Algarve
Loulé train station Algarve

Is Loulé worth visiting?

So, is Loulé worth visiting? Yes, it absolutely is! I love Loulé, it’s one of my favourite cities in the Algarve. In fact, I would probably put it at the top of my list. The market is fantastic and the historical centre is vibrant and authentic, with colourful houses that are traditionally Portuguese. This makes a nice change from the bland apartment blocks that you often see along the coast of the Algarve. Loulé has some great sightseeing (more about that later) and fantastic restaurants. It’s also got a fantastic main shopping street with good clothes, shoes and jewellery shops. Oh, and one more thing – Loulé has fantastic sunsets!

Is Loulé worth visiting? Sunset
Is Loulé worth visiting?

Of course, Loulé hasn’t got the beach, but if you were staying in Loulé and craving a beach day this is easily doable as it’s 20 minutes drive from Quarteira. Saying that, if you are coming on holiday to Portugal for the beach and booze, you can probably skip Loulé. It’s not the classic ‘Brit’s abroad’ holiday destination, but much more Portuguese. Maybe that’s why I like it so much!

When to go to Loulé

Loulé is a fantastic place to visit all year round. As it’s in the Algarve, you get decent weather with sunshine around 9-10 months of the year.

December to February are probably the months that you want to avoid, because that’s when the weather is the worst. But saying that, we’ve been in December before and still been able to eat outside! Loulé also puts on great displays and lights at Christmas.

I would avoid August as it is the hottest and most crowded months in Loulé. Although it is not as touristy as the coastal areas, it does still get a lot of visitors for both day trips and those who stay over.

May and September are probably the best months to visit Loulé, as the weather will be perfect and it won’t be too crowded.

Also, consider the festivals in Loulé and weather or not you wish to attend these. There is a Carnival and a music festival (Festival Med) in Loulé every year. We were there for Festival Med in 2022 And it was a great atmosphere, although sometimes quite busy in the restaurants.

Where to Stay in Loulé

Whenever I go to Loulé, I always love to stay at Loulé Jardim Hotel. It is centrally located with everything that you need to see (castle included) just a few minutes walk away. It’s close to one of my favourite restaurants as well Churrasqueira Angolana. The staff are really helpful and make you feel at home. The facilities include free WIFI, en suite rooms, a swimming pool (roof comes down in the summer) and a gorgeous all you can eat breakfast.

where to stay in Loule le Jardim hotel
Where to stay in Loulé – Loulé Jardim Hotel

Pros of Loulé

Loulé offers fantastic weather for most of the year and has a great atmosphere with plenty to do. In terms of sightseeing there is a castle, several interesting churches and a great historical centre with colourful architecture. It also has one of the best market halls in the Algarve.

Arco da Graça Loule Algarve
Arco da Graça – Loule, Algarve

Loulé is Accessible from Faro

Loulé is accessible being just 20-25 minutes drive away from Faro by taxi. It is well positioned for visiting surrounding areas – you can travel by many destinations from faro by train.
Loulé has an amazing market

It has a Walkable Town Centre

The historical centre of Loulé is all walkable, and relatively flat (a rare luxury in Portugal!). Once you get there, you don’t really need a car. For travelling further afield you can use Ubers to get to the train station. There are also tour operators that will pick you up from your hotel.

Igreja de São Francisco Loule
Igreja de São Francisco Loule

Sightseeing in Loulé

The main things to do in Loulé include Loulé castle, several amazing Churches (one hidden Church) and the Mercado.

Arco da Graça – This gothic arch is a famous monument of Loulé and is a remaining arch of the Convento da Graça Church. This convent Church was used by Franciscan monks until the year 1580, when it was handed over to the order of Saint Augustine and ‘Nossa Senhora de Graça’.

Igreja Matriz de São Clemente – This church originates from the second half of the 13th century and some later chapels were added in the 16th century. Sadly it suffered during the Lisbon earthquake (1755). Igreja Matriz de São Clemente is a Gothic Church and considered a national monument.

Igreja de São Francisco – This beautiful, small church is in the heart of Loulé, with a Baroque Altar Piece. This Church looks gorgeous lit up at night. Tourists can visit for Mass but Sunday masses are usually standing room only (image above).

Capela de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Chapel – I refer to this as the hidden church, as it is extremely small and blends into the usual architecture of the city un-noticably. It’s an 18th Century single nave Church with an impressive golden altar and gorgeous blue and white Azulejos (Portuguese tiles) that depict the life of the virgin Mary.

Castelo de Loulé – The Castle of Loulé was originally a Moorish castle that was reconstructed in the 13th Century. It is well worth paying to go inside as there is a fantastic view of the city from the castle walls and there is an interesting museum with old Moorish artifacts. There is also a glass section in the floor where you can see down to the original Moorish ruins.

Loule Castle Algarve

Convento de Santo António – This convent is now used as a location for cultural events and so consider booking tickets if there is something interesting on during your time in Loulé. Sadly, part of the Church was also damaged during the great earthquake of 1755.

Engineer Duarte Pacheco’s Monument in Parque Municipal de Loulé – This is located to the North of the main historical centre in Parque Municipal de Loulé. This 17 meter tall monument was built in 1953 to remember Duarte Pacheco, the famous electrical engineer from Loulé (1900 – 1943).

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Piedade – This is a short hike (approx 25 mins) up to a Chapel built in 1553 and a 20th Century dome Church. It has become a central place of pilgrimage due to it’s Roccoco altarpiece with the image of Nossa Senhora da Piedade and it also offers a stunning panoramic view of Loulé.

If you are willing to jump in an Uber to see another amazing Church, head to Almancil to see the Church of São Lourenço. It’s 15 minutes in a cab or 45 minutes by bus (bus number 9 in the direction of Albufeira). This Church dates back tot he 18th Century and is one of the best examples of Azulejos in the whole of Portugal. It is ticketed for visitors and you won’t be able to take photographs inside the Church, but you can buy postcards.

Loulé is a great place for shopping!

The Mercado of Loulé is well known across the region of the Algarve. It was built in the 20th Century and was inspired by Moorish architecture with domes and four gates.

Loule Mercado
Loulé Mercado (adorned with signage for festival Med!)

You can buy local handicrafts, pottery and food inside the Mercado. There is a traditional fish market at the far end! Also, the Mercado is simply a great place to hang out, with its tapas bars, a cafe, beers and ice cream from 8100 Gelato.

Inside Loule Mercado

Also make sure that you take a stroll down Rua 5 de Outubro, Loulé’s pedestrianised main shopping street. It’s full of jewellers, shoe shops and clothing boutiques with unique pieces and excellent customer service. Oh and it has a ‘Lanidor’ (one of my favorite clothing shops in Portugal!) Remember to look down at the beautiful calçadas (traditional Portuguese cobbled pavements).

Loulé has Great Restaurants and is a fantastic place to eat Fish

There are some great places to eat and drink in Loulé. Some of my favourites include Churrasqueira Angolana and Restaurante Flôr da Praça.

  • Restaurante Flôr da Praça – Located near to the Mercado, Restaurante Flôr da Praça has some gorgeous authentic dishes including Octopus salad and Cachaço De Porco Preto (an Alentejo speciality). It’s great value for money as well – view the menu here.
  • Churrasqueira Angolana – Speciality barbeque with excellent meat and fish. Try the flame grilled monkfish or cuttlefish! It gets very busy quite early, so you need to book in advance.
  • A Tia Bia – If you have access to a car, the 25 minute journey North to Tia Bia is well worth it. They serve traditional meals such as game, goat and wild boar with migas (a starchy side dish traditionally made from bread crumbs)
  • Praça Central – Well located on the main street leading up from the market, and a great place for cheap and tasty lunches. They have tosta mixta (ham and cheese toastie), pasteis de bacalhau, pizza and tapas.
  • Hamburgueria da Baixa – If all you want is a nice tasty burger then head over to Hamburgueria da Baixa. I love the classic Portuguese style burger served with an egg.

Day trips from Loulé

there are some great day trips that are easy to do from Loulé. You can book local guides particularly for Silves and Salir. But there are also great ones to do by train from faro airport.
Here are some of my favourites…

  • Silves – A beautiful town in the Algarve overlooked by phenomenal castle (be prepared for more uphill walking!). You can also see Silves Cathedral and Porta da Cidade.
  • Salir – Another village in the Algarve that is famous for it’s castle (an Almohad fortress) and also has two Churches.
  • Quarteira – Quarteira is perfect for a beach day. They have sun beds and parasols to rent as well as a beach hut where you can get a massage.
  • Sao bras de Aportel – A village famous for it’s low white washed buildings, main Church, cultural centre and former Episcopal Palace.
  • Tavira – This is one of my favourite towns in the Algarve, other than Loulé. The castle ruin is one of the most picturesque in Portugal. There is a gorgeous view from the Roman bridge and Tavira has a very pretty historical centre.
highlights of Portugal Tavira castle
Tavira, Algarve

Cons of Loulé

There are a few minor downsides to Loulé, one of the main ones being that the train station is not in the city centre and it not being by the beach. It’s also got a few issues with slippy streets and cold accommodation during the winter. But overall, the cons are pretty minor.

The Train station not in the Town Centre

if you don’t have a car and want to travel extensively then you might find yourself getting quite annoyed that the train station is not in the city centre. Ok, it’s only a 5-10 minute taxi ride away, but it’s not walkable and a little inconvenient. If you want to do regular day trips around the region, you may be better staying in faro which has a train station that’s walking from the city centre.

Loulé is not right by the beach

Loulé is 20-25 minutes inland and so there is no beach and there aren’t any beach front hotels. If it’s a beach holiday that you are looking for then Loulé won’t be for you.

Slippy Pavements in the Rain

it doesn’t rain very often but when it does, the pavements can be dangerously slippy. My mom slipped quite badly near the market in the rain and it put us out a few days while she recovered. Thankfully it wasn’t too serious, but it could have been. Walk with caution when it’s raining.

colourful buildings and calcadas Loule Algarve
Colourful buildings and Calçadas Portuguesa – Loulé, Algarve

Cold at night in Winter

it can also be quite cold at night in winter in Loulé, as many of the buildings lack central heating. If you are particular cold, ask your host for an electric heater. Most accommodations supply them.

Beware of the Strong Summer Sun

beware of the summer sun as it may not feel that powerful, but it is. Be prepared with sun hat and sun screen in the peak summer season (June July and August). Also take a refillable water bottle and stay hydrated.

Overall verdict – is Loulé worth visiting?

Overall, Is Loulé worth visiting? I’m sure that you will be convinced by now that Loulé is absolutely worth visiting. It’s very Portuguese and is a great example of a traditional Algarvian town. Whether you want to visit for a day trip or stay in Loulé for a week or more, depends on what you are looking for from a holiday. Stay on the coast and do a day trip to Algarve if you prefer to be on the beach. Stay in Loulé for a few days or even longer if you want your holiday to be more about local food, history and culture.

Further Reading on Portugal

I totally love Portugal – it’s my second home now – and I’ve done a great deal of articles on the Algarve and also northern Portugal as well. If you enjoyed my article on ‘Is Loulé worth visiting?’ and want to find out more, I hope that you will also enjoy these blogs….