This post is also available in: Dutch

Latest update: 22 May 2024

When I think of the Algarve, I think of the beaches with the cliffs that change from yellow to gold with the sun’s position. But a little behind those beautiful beaches are many lovely villages and towns. Loulé, for example. Best known for the Saturday market, but there is more to do in Loulé!

Discover small-scaled Loulé

Admittedly, Loulé, in the east of the Algarve, is not nearly as cute as Tavira, for example. But it does have enough fun parts and a few sights to keep you busy for a day. I think the area around the market hall is the best and most lively. The area invites you to spend lazy hours having drinks at the cafes. You can also easily walk to the castle and shopping street from here.

Loulé was once inhabited by the Romans, and then the Moors came. The town’s history is still visible. For example, visit the Arab baths and view the special market hall. In this article, I would like to show you what you can do in Loulé.

The Saturday market of Loulé

My expectations for the weekly market on Saturday are high because I read everywhere that I should not miss the Saturday market. So, I plan to visit Loulé to experience the market. And well, it’s pretty disappointing. The rain doesn’t help, but it’s mainly fruit and vegetable stalls. I had understood that it would be a farmers’ market with a very extensive offering. And I also expected it to be bigger. Maybe there are more stalls in the summer? Or maybe the rain kept the people away? If not, I don’t really understand the enthusiasm about the Loulé Saturday market.

So, if you are in the area, you should definitely visit the Saturday market. But if the travel time is long, I would simply skip it.

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Unique market hall of Loulé

The Saturday market takes place around the market hall. The market hall itself is open every day except Sunday. Inside, you will find fresh and dried fish, vegetables, meat, and other food stuff, as well as ceramics and wicker. And there are several places where you can eat something. I recommend Pira Cevicheria. They make delicious ceviche. Besides that on, you will find a lot of other cafes and restaurants around the market hall.

Also, make sure you admire the market hall from the outside because it is a unique building.

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See Loulé Castle

The castle of Loulé is centuries old and is no longer complete. But it’s still worth visiting! You can see the Castelo de Loulé for less than €2 (in 2023). From the entrance, you can visit the small museum with objects from thousands of years ago, walk on the castle walls, and climb the towers. You’ll have seen it all in half an hour. Be sure to walk around the back on the outside because that’s where you have the best view of the castle walls and towers.

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Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Hermitage

Diagonally opposite the castle is perhaps the best hidden and smallest attraction in Loulé. It is a small chapel with typical Portuguese tiles and an altar. Visit duration: 1 minute. But while you’re there, you should definitely do this in Loulé.

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Loulé Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição

Shopping in Loulé

You can go shopping in Rua 5 de Outubro. You’ll find shoe, leather, souvenir shops, and more. They are mainly local stores, not so much chain stores. In the summer, cloths are stretched over parts of the street to protect you from the scorching sun.

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Visit the Arab baths

You can’t actually bathe here, buth the Arab baths of Loulé are very interesting to visit. The museum is free and very modern in design, but the baths themselves are centuries old. Screens have been placed on the balcony along the Hammam ruins, bringing the remains to life. As you move back and forth across the screen, the space is filled with animations so that you can better understand what it must have looked like in its heyday.

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Loulé Arab Baths

Drink coffee with a pastel de nata at Café Calcinha

Of course, you can get coffee and a pastel de nata almost anywhere, but in Loulé, it is nice to do that in a pretty unique café. Café Calcinha is almost a hundred years old and was a replica of a Brazilian coffee shop in 1928. The interior, with real Brazilian wood, is Art Deco and is the only one of its kind in Loulé. It has a chic vibe that makes you feel like you’re in the 1920s.

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Wine tasting in Loulé

The vineyards of Quinta da Tôr are located on the outskirts of Loulé. I’m unfamiliar with Portuguese wines, so I think doing a wine tasting is fun. We got on a tour; coincidentally, harvest had just occurred. It’s so lovely to see how the grapes are processed. The guide mentions the founder repeatedly: Mister Mayo. I only discovered later that she said Mario. Too bad, I thought Mister Mayo was funny. The tour lasts about half an hour, and then we can sit on the beautiful terrace.

The tours at Quinta da Tôr are a well-oiled machine. My spot is indicated with a sign with my name, and the pace is good. So this is not a visit to a small, cute winery, but a lot more professional. My best friend and I booked the ‘oaky tasting’. For us, the wines are all on the sweet side, but we do have a great time. The view is fantastic, and you can use the luxurious swimming pool if you like.

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Food tips in Loulé

Pira Cevicheria

I already mentioned this one: Pira Cevicheria. This place is located in the market hall and specializes in ceviche. What is ceviche? It is a fish dish from South America (very popular in Peru, for example) in which the fish is cooked in a sour marinade. And that is really tasty. Try it out!

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Bar Colheira Fresca

There are many outdoor cafes near the market hall. I go to Bar Colheira Fresca because they have tapas, and I find the outdoor seating super cute. The older gentleman behind the bar is very hospitable and helpful. The tapas are reasonably priced, and the portions are large. And there are many local choices on the menu. How about Portuguese sausage in bread with egg? It’s very fatty, greasy and (therefore) tasty.

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This is not actually a restaurant tip in Loulé, but a warning. I really wish I could give a raving review, but my dinner was a bit disappointing. And it’s important to me that I’m honest about it on my blog. So yes, my dining experience at Oliwander’s was a bit weird. Upon entering, we asked the waiter if we could sit on the rooftop terrace, and he acted very difficult: we had to wait, he didn’t speak that much, and we were confused. So we thought the place was packed or something. But his colleague welcomed us to the terrace when we exited the elevator. Our reserved table was ready, and one other couple was dining, so we didn’t get the difficulty downstairs. Anyway, it’s a beautiful roof terrace with a mix of pretty chairs and plastic or wicker chairs. Too bad it is just a bit too windy for a colder evening, but we persevere.

Oliwander’s initially seems like a more chic restaurant, but the staff wears their own beach outfit with an apron. The first waiter remains unfriendly, and everything seems too much to him. The second waiter makes up for a lot, but it takes forever before we can order, and then another 45 minutes before we get our food. The food is great, but we’re over this experience now. And it’s not just us: our neighbors are served the wrong dishes, and things go wrong again with the drinks. I hope this was just a bad night for the restaurant because it does have potential. So consider this a little warning, not a no-go.

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Free parking in Loulé, Algarve

You probably won’t find free parking directly in the center. However, you can often leave your car at a loading and unloading location to load or unload your luggage, for example. So try to park your car for free in one of these parking lots: option 1, option 2, option 3. These parking options in Loulé are within walking distance (although you may want to drop your luggage at your hotel first).

If you are still looking for a rental car, I recommend Sunny Cars or EasyTerra. If you rent a car here, you can arrange all insurance at once to ensure you are adequately insured.

Hotel tip in Loulé: Loulé Coureto Hostel

Are you looking for an affordable hotel? The Loulé Coureto Hostel has private rooms. It is a large building where you can easily get lost. There is a communal living room and a roof terrace. Unfortunately, it is not that atmospheric, but it is nice to catch your breath somewhere after a day of exploring Loulé. The private rooms are neat and compact but feel a bit stuffy because they are below street level (but with a window!). The hotel provides a bottle of water and local sweets, and you can make a cup of coffee in the hallway.

Breakfast is included, and it is surprisingly tasty. A cheerful lady makes your egg or pancake on order, and the buffet has many different things. The Loulé Coureto Hostel is centrally located, so you can easily set out to explore Loulé.

Check the availability.
Would you prefer another option? Casa Beny 1897 and Loulé Jardim Hotel are also nice!

Loulé Coureto Hostel

More Portugal inspiration?

  • Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.com and Campspace. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. Try WithLocals for experiences with Portuguese locals. Book your ‘free’ walking tours with Freetour.com or GuruWalks, and try bike tours with Baja Bikes.
  • Attractions and museums. Interested in a 5% discount on museums and other attractions? Use this discount code at Tiqets: KIMOPREIS22
  • Car rental. If you want to compare prices, check out Discover Cars or Rental Cars.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! Be sure to check out Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Guidebooks. I love paper guidebooks to flip through. Buy them at Amazon.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.   
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? Maybe Expedia or CheapOair has a good option.
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Train and Bus Travel to Portugal with Busbud. And reserve buses and trains on the go with 12Go or Omio.
  • Yoga retreat. Or maybe treat yourself to a yoga retreat in Portugal.

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