Loulé is a city in the district of Faro (Algarve) and one of the commercial centres of the southernmost region of continental Portugal. The famous holiday destinations Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura, which form part of the renowned "Golden Triangle", are located in this municipality (concelho), as is the seaside city of Quarteira.
The first traces of human occupation in the Loulé (/[loˈlɛ]/, loh-LEH) area date back to the Stone Age. In excavations on a low plain in Vilamoura the ruins of a Roman settlement of considerable size, the Cerro da Vila were found. Other remains found in the Almancil area suggest that during that time, 'garum', a flavouring and preservative based on fish, widely used in ancient Rome was being produced.
The region experienced its golden period with the conquest by the Moors in the middle of the 7th century. The remnants of the massive castle and the historic centre of Loulé bear witness to that era. After years of work, in 2013 archaeologists completed the excavations of Islamic Baths in the historic centre of the city that are noteworthy for being unique in Portugal.
After the reconquest of Loulé by the Knights of Santiago, King D. Afonso III granted a charter to the village in 1266 and then elevated Loulé to a town. As did the whole country, Loulé also flourished as a result of the Discoveries, with the riches being imported from the four corners of the world of the Portuguese Empire. The devastating earthquake of 1755 brought this development to a halt.
Since the discovery of the Algarve as a tourist region in the second half of the 20th century, Loulé has benefitted from a revival of economic growth thanks to the holiday resorts of Almancil, Quarteira and Vilamoura. In the south-east is the Ria Formosa National Park.
Quinta do Lago is one of the most famous golfing resorts in Europe, a large development with expensive villas built around four championship golf courses with a good beach nearby.
Vilamoura is covered in depth in the Quarteira article. Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo are covered here.
The city of Loulé, flanked by hills, is situated in the Barrocal, a fertile landscape between the coast and the mountains. The national road EN125 and the A22 motorway are only a few kilometers south of Loulé. The nearest train station of the Linha do Algarve is situated in Quatro Estradas a few km outside the city. Access by bus is more convenient: EVA Transportes operates a bus terminal in the city centre and links Loulé to many other places in the Algarve, to Lisbon and to Seville in Spain.
- Loulé: Municipal market hall – one of the landmarks of the Algarve
- Loulé: Castelo – remnants of the small castle in the historic old Town. Contains a museum. Entry €1.62
- Loulé: Nossa Senhora de Piedade – pilgrimage church on hilltop overlooking the town
- Loulé: Banhos Islâmicos – Islamic bath (hamman), dating back to the Moorish period. Located in town centre
- Loulé: Espirito Santo Convent – from the 16th century, near the castle
- Loulé: hermitage Nossa Senhora da Conceição – a 17th-century single-nave hermitage built in chão style located in town centre.
- Almancil: Igreja de São Lourenço – baroque church completely decorated with tiles
- Alte: Springs – Fonte Pequena and Fonte Grande of the Ribeira de Alte
- 1 Ria Formosa Natural Park (Parque Natural da Ria Formosa). the most important wetland in southern Portugal, streching along the coast of five municipalities from Vale do Lobo eastward. The spit, lagune, many small lakes, marshlands, small streams and pine woodland. There are also semi-urban areas, such as the resort Quinta do Lago, and there is agriculture and aqvaculture, salt extraction, and even some industry. Just follow a trail into the more pristine areas if you don't like the human interactions with the nature. Birdwatching is excellent. .
- Golf: For golfers, the outskirts of Almancil and Quarteira represent paradise: Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura have 13 excellent golf courses between them. Several have already hosted international tournaments such as the Portugal Open and the Portugal Masters.
- Beaches: On the coast of the municipality of Loulé, between Faro and Vilamoura, there are endless sandy beaches, set against the backdrop of the dune landscape of the Ria Formosa, and further west are magnificent and vividly coloured rugged sandstone cliffs. Much of the beach is on a spit, Ilha de Faro, a straight dune between the sea and the lagune inside. It can be reached by land from Vale do Lobo, by a long wooden walkway from Quinta do Lago or by road from Faro.
- Hinterland: Loulé is the ideal starting point to discover the lesser known inland areas of the Algarve. The villages of Alte, Querença Salir and Tôr as well as the surrounding scenic landscape between the mountains and fertile Barrocal are well worth a visit at anytime of the year.
There has been a market in Loulé since the middle ages. The Municipal Market, an icon of the city, was built late last century in an architectural style incorporating classic elements of Moorish design. On Saturdays, local farmers and those from the Alentejo come and sell their produce here and create a vibrant atmosphere for shoppers and tourists. If you want to learn more about this country you should take a wander round the crowded side streets surrounding the market.
There is a completely different market scene that also takes place every Saturday near the exit from Loulé in the direction of Boliqueime: Located at the base of the church Nossa Senhora da Piedade in front of the ruins of the convent of Sto. Antonio street vendors from all over the Algarve gather to sell many goods but especially textiles and leather products. Here, "haggling” is standard practice!
Despite the structural changes in the retail sector and the emergence of more and more supermarkets on the outskirts of towns, the center of Loulé retains a lively environment of small old fashioned shops that make shopping an event. An industrial zone at the western exit of Loulé has been established and is occupied by a large number of professional company offices: workshops, craftsmen, and service providers.
There are several good restaurants in Vale do Lobo, including one with a Michelin star.
- 1 Alambique, Sitio do Corgo da Zorra, Almancil (Estrada de Vale do Lobo a Quinta do Lago, Dunas/Garrão roundabout), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 18:30–00:00. Traditional Portuguese and international cuisine including grilled dishes. Good cooking according to Guide Michelin. Splurge.
- 2 Casa do Lago, Roundabout 6, Av. Ayrton Senna de Silva, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 10:00-17:00. Famous for shellfish, and grilled lobster. Outdoor terrace, pool and fire pit. Mains €20-30.
- 3 Gigi's, Quinta do Lago Beach, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mar-Nov: daily 12:30–16:30. On the sand dunes, the wooden house sits on a stretch of white sand and offers idyllic views of Ria Formosa National Park.
- 4 Gusto by Heinz Beck, Estrada da Quinta do Lago, Almancil (at the Conrad Algarve Hotel), ☏ . W–Su 19:00–22:00, closed M Tu. Michelin-starred Mediterranean cuisine with Nordic decor. €85-140.
- 5 Restaurante Monte da Eira, Monte da Eira, EN396, Clareanes, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu–Sa 12:30–14:15 & 19:00–22:00, Su 12:30–14:15, closed M. Traditional Portuguese cuisine and the charm of a former quinta.
Quinta do Lago
Café and nightlife in the Bougainvillea Centre: two bars and a nightclub
Vale do Lobo
Nightspot with nightclub, restaurants and bars at the Praca.
- 1 Encosta do Lago Resort Club, Avenida Ayrton Senna da Silva, Quinta Do Lago, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2 Quinta do Lago Hotel, Rua Quinta do Lago 1, Quinta do Lago, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
|Routes through Loulé|
|Lisbon ← Albufeira ←||W E||→ Tavira → Huelva|