Loulé is a traditional Portuguese market town in Central Algarve in Portugal. The small town is located a bit inland from the coast and is an excellent day trip destination from Faro and Albufeira.
Even though most visitors do not stay overnight in Loulé, there are still many things to do in Loulé Portugal. Some highlights include an Arabian-inspired covered market, the region’s best flea market, an ancient castle, many churches and handicraft stores around the old town.
In this post, I’ll show you how to get to Loulé from Albufeira and Faro and how you can spend half or a full day in Loulé Portugal.
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What you need to know before visiting spending a day in Loulé Portugal
Before you start your Loulé day trip, take a look at some of these useful travel tips first:
- The best day to visit Loulé is Saturday since both Loulé Saturday Market and the Gypsy Market are open on Saturdays only.
- I recommend starting your Loulé day trip early. Try to arrive in Loulé by 9:00 am so you can comfortably follow my Loulé itinerary.
- The best way to see Loulé is on foot as the town is quite small.
- Use GoogleMaps app to navigate around Loulé.
- Bring cash for purchases at the farmer’s market and Gypsy market.
- Time your visit with these Loulé Festivities:
- Carnival of Loulé – the oldest carnival in Portugal (3 days at the end of February)
- Festa de Mãe Soberana – a procession to honour Nossa Senhora da Piedade (late April)
How to get to Loulé Portugal
Even though Loulé is one of the most charming towns in Central Algarve, most visitors do not actually stay in Loulé. But rather, most visitors will visit Loulé from neighbouring towns like Albufeira or Faro.
Day trip from Albufeira to Loulé
There are 3 options to travel from Albufeira to Loulé: train, bus, and private minibus.
But to be honest, the train option from Albufeira to Loulé is too complicated: it involves a bus, a train then another bus and a lot of waiting time in between. So there really are only two good options.
The most direct way to travel from Albufeira to Loulé is to join a half-day tour to Loulé. The tour is actually just a private minibus transfer from Albufeira to Loulé. And it is only available on Saturday.
The tour company will pick up passengers from hotels around Albufeira before 9 am and drop them off in Loulé Old Town at 9:30 am. Then at 12:30 pm, passengers are picked up at the same spot and returned to their hotels in Albufeira.
If you take the bus from Albufeira to Loulé, catch the 8:00 am bus so you can have a proper day in Loulé.
- Vamus Bus 10: from Terminal Rodoviário de Albufeira to Terminal Rodoviário Loulé
- Time: 45 minutes
- Cost: €4.55 one way, €9.10 return
- Check the bus schedule below
Day trip from Faro to Loulé
Vamus bus 10 travels from Albufeira to Faro and stops in Loulé on the way. This means that visitors from Faro can take the same bus in the reverse direction from Faro to Loulé.
Or the better option is to take Vamus bus 59, which travels from Faro to Loulé (and stops at Mar Shopping Algarve). Catch the 8:10 so you can be there before 9 am.
- Vamus Bus 59: from Terminal Rodoviário Faro to Terminal Rodoviário Loulé
- Time: 40 minutes
- Cost: €3.50 one way, €7.00 return
- Check the bus schedule below
Best things to do in Loulé: day trip itinerary
There are many things to do in Loulé but you can see them all within half a day when you follow my efficient 1-day itinerary.
All you have to do is follow the numbered red pins on the interactive map and read the descriptions below.
Are you ready for your Loulé day trip? Let’s go!
1. See different food vendors at Loulé Saturday Market
The quiet town of Loulé comes alive on Saturday mornings when many food vendors set up their stalls around Mercado Municipal de Loulé. This farmer’s market only opens on Saturdays and is one of the biggest outdoor markets in the area.
I walked around and looked at each vendor and found many local specialties like bacalhau (cod), cheese, piri piri sauce, cured meats, bread, olive oil, honey and other Portuguese treats. And of course you can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers too.
People from all over Central Algarve go to Loulé to pick up the freshest produce every Saturday. It’s a local’s favourite! Maybe you can buy something too?
Address: N270, Loulé | Hours: 7:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturdays only
2. Visit the famous Mercado Municipal de Loulé
One of the best highlights of the Loulé day trip has to be Mercado Municipal de Loulé (Loulé Municipal Market), the largest covered market in southern Portugal.
The market was built in the early 20th century in a Moorish-inspired architecture that featured four pavilions with four gates. Many restoration were done throughout the years and in 2007, the market reopened with all the upgrades to reflect current hygiene and safety requirements.
When you visit the Loulé Municipal Market today, you can find many family-run stalls selling produce, fish, foods, locally sourced products and gifts around the perimeter. And there are several coffee shops and cafes where you can get a coffee and a snack.
This is considered to be the centrepiece of Loulé. You definitely need to spend a bit of time here.
Address: R. José Fernandes Guerreiro 34, Loulé | Hours: 7:00 am to 10:30 pm Monday to Saturday; 9:30 am to 10:30 pm on Sundays
Before you continue your Loulé day trip, have some food and coffee first.
I had a latté and a pasteis de nata at Bean 17 Coffee and more, which is located at Mercado Municipal de Loulé but it has its own entrance. I quite liked the cute coffee shop.
There is also another coffee shop inside the market called A Praça.
And if these cafes are super busy (because it does get pretty busy on Saturday mornings), there are several cafes on Rua Almeida Garrett. Check out L’Atelier Gourmet or O Postigo.
Address: R. Ataide de Oliveira 11-1, Loulé | Hours: 9:30 am to 2:30 pm Tuesday to Friday; 8:30 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays (Closed Mondays and Sundays)
3, 4, & 5. Meander through the small streets of Loulé Old Town
After a good breakfast, roam around the narrow cobbled alleys around the market. It might feel like a maze because the streets go all over the place but that’s the fun part!
And many of these streets have small shops, cafes and restaurants, especially on Rua Almeida Garrett, which I previously mentioned.
Also look out for the Loulé Tunnel and Arco do Pinto (Pinto Arch). These are just some of the amazing things you will see in Loulé Old Town.
Address: Old Town, Loulé
6. See Moorish architectural details at Igreja Matriz de São Clemente
After meandering the narrow streets of Loulé, you will arrive at Igreja Matriz de São Clemente (Church of San Clemente).
This 13th-century Gothic church has a plain whitewashed exterior and a simple Gothic portal. But what is interesting is that you can still see some of the Arab architecture in this church because it was built over an ancient mosque. Take a look at the bell tower – it was originally a minaret.
Address: Largo da Igreja Matriz 19, Loulé | Hours: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm Tuesday to Saturday (Closed temporarily)
7. Wander around Antigo Convento do Espírito Santo
Antigo Convento de Espírito Santo (Convent of the Holy Spirit) was occupied by the Franciscan Friars of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and was a place for the female community at the end of the 17th century.
Since the earthquake of 1755, the complex was repaid and a neoclassical cloister was added. Then it was turned into a theatre and private residences.
Through all the repairs and conversions, the convent and the cloister remained. There is also a municipal art gallery and a 45m Araucaria (Norfolk Island Pine) tree in the middle of the cloister.
Address: Rua Vice Almirante Cândido dos Reis, Loulé | Hours: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Tuesday to Friday; 9:30 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays (closed Mondays and Sundays)
8. Look inside Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
I almost missed this small church until I saw a crowd at the entrance. That’s when I realized this is Ermida Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição).
Built in the 17th century, the single-nave church has a very simple and clean facade. But when you go inside, there is an elaborate gold Baroque altarpiece with an image of Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
And adjacent to the gilded altar, the two walls are covered with blue-and-white azulejos tiles from floor to ceiling showing scenes of the Virgin Mary’s life. Wow! Just wow!
Address: Rua Dom Paio Peres Correia, Loulé | Hours: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Tuesday to Friday; 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Saturdays (Closed Mondays and Sundays)
9. Visit Loulé Museum and Castelo de Loulé
First, check out the Roman and Bronze Age artifacts discovered in the Loulé region in the Loulé Museum. There are two rooms on the ground floor.
Then roam around Castelo de Loulé (Loulé Castle) and explore the upper floors and three towers. The castle itself went through several transformations as it was first built by the Romans, fortified by the Moors, and changed further when different rulers wanted to expand the castle.
However, Loulé Castle was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1755. What you see today is what was restored in the 1940s.
Address: Rua Dom Paio Correia, 17, Loulé | Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday to Friday; 9:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays; closed Sundays | Admission: €1.62
10. Walk through Rua 5 de Outubro
Perhaps one of the most charming streets in Loulé is Rua 5 de Outubro (October 5th Street). It is the main pedestrian street in Loulé and this is where you can find cute boutique shops and alfresco cafes.
And take note of the pretty calçada Portuguesa (Portuguese pavement). This is a typical characteristic of a pedestrian street in Portugal where small pieces of stone are arranged in a pattern.
For now, walk through the street from east to west. You can come back later on to do a bit of shopping.
Address: Rua 5 de Outubro, Loulé
11. See the Baroque altarpiece at Igreja de São Francisco
Don’t just walk by Igreja de São Francisco (St. Francis Church), an 18th-century church with a pristine white exterior. There is a beautiful Baroque altarpiece in gilded carving made by the master carver, João Amado.
Unfortunately, the church was closed on the day I went. And I can’t find the hours of operations anywhere. So if you have a chance to look inside, let me know what you think.
Address: Largo São Francisco 13, Loulé | Hours: ?
12. See the latest cultural event at Convento de Santo António
Convento de Santo António (Convent of Santo Antonio) was built in the 16th century to replace a previous convent. But it closed after the church suffered damages from the earthquake of 1755. Part of the church is restored but the church has been closed since 1834.
In 1984, it became part of the Property of Public Interest and is currently used for different cultural events.
There isn’t too much inside the church except for an altar space where you can see the original interior walls. The rest of the church was transformed into an art gallery at the time of my visit (May 2022).
But I would still encourage you to peek inside the old church. It’s absolutely free!
Address: Rua de Nossa Senhora da Piedade, Loulé | Hours: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm Tuesday to Friday; 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Saturdays (closed Mondays and Sundays)
13. Hike up to Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Piedade
Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Piedade) consists of a simple chapel built in 1553 and a big dome church built later on in the 20th century.
But what’s more important is the Roccoco altarpiece with the image of Nossa Senhora da Piedade as the chapel has become an integral part of the pilgrimage.
And since the 16th century, annual festivities have been held to honour Nossa Senhora da Piedade or Mãe Soberana (Sovereign Mother). The yearly event, Festa de Mãe Soberana, includes a procession in honour of the town’s patron saint. The annual event is held in late April.
Walk into the dome chapel and see the voluminous church. And don’t miss the panoramic view of Loulé. You can see the whole town and the Gypsy Market from above, which is the next stop for this Loulé itinerary.
Address: R. Padre José António Nobre Duarte, Loulé | Hours: 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays)
14. Look at different knick-knacks at Gypsy Saturday Market
On Saturdays, many vendors set up temporary stalls at the Gypsy Market. There are literally rows and rows of vendors in a dusty parking lot selling many items like clothing, shoes, accessories, Portuguese souvenirs, etc. The quality is so so but everything is pretty cheap.
If buying knick-knacks is not your thing, this flea market has several food trucks. You can get snacks like donuts and bifana (sliced pork) sandwiches.
Address: Rua de Nossa Senhora da Piedade, Loulé | Hours: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm Saturdays only
15. See Duarte Pacheco’s Monument in Parque Municipal de Loulé
On the way back to the Old Town, take a short detour to Parque Municipal de Loulé and see Duarte Pacheco’s Monument.
The 17m tall stone monument was built in 1953 to commemorate Duarte Pacheco (1900 – 1943), a native Loulé citizen who was an electrical engineer by training and served several public positions in different ministries.
The pillar has 18 panels in low relief and each panel represents his life’s work.
Address: Parque Municipal de Loulé, Av. 25 de Abril 33, Loulé
16. Shop around Loulé Old Town
I always put the shopping option at the end of the itinerary so you don’t have to carry all your purchases with you all day.
And in Loulé, you might just buy a few things because there are many boutique stores selling locally made products like ceramics, clothing and accessories, and so much more.
The majority of the stores are on Rua 5 de Outubro, around Mercado Municipal de Loulé and all the small streets in between.
These are some of the shops in Loulé that really caught my eye:
- Martina – they sell the nicest clothes, accessories, bags, jewellery, pottery, etc. (This is their old location. The new location is not on Google Map yet but it’s at R. José Fernandes Guerreiro 39).
- Teresa’s Pottery – a really cute shop selling Portuguese ceramics.
- Nouri – the store has so many ceramic bowls, cups, plates, etc.
- Custódio Mealha Silva – look for traditional Portuguese souvenirs in this local craft store.
Other things to do in Loulé during the week
If you are going to Loulé during the week, you can take a guided tour 230m beneath the city of Loulé and see the rock formation in a salt mine during a 2-hour tour under the city.
It would be cool to include the salt mine tour on a Saturday but this tour is only available from Monday to Friday at 9:30 am, 11 am, 2:30 pm and 4:00 pm.
So if you are going on a weekday, you can first follow my itinerary and then join this salt mine tour in the afternoon.
Are you ready to take a half (or full) day trip to Loulé Portugal?
I hope so! I really enjoyed my time in Loulé. The town itself is so quaint and walkable. You can spend half a day to see everything or you can take your time and spend the entire day in this charming town.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about travelling to Loulé or anything else about the quaint little town.
Thank you for reading my Loulé Portugal post
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