Loulé is an interesting town some 16km to the north of Faro, the capital of the district of the same name and is an important rural, administrative and active market town. The landmark church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, a modern dome shaped building reminiscent of a space ship which can easily be seen on a hill, just to the west of the town, from the A22 motorway. It is a large town with all the usual amenities you would expect to find - a great selection of shops, numerous banks, art galleries, swimming pools and sports pavilion to name but a few!
Loulé is famous for it's Saturday morning gipsy market (at the end of Rua da nossa Senhora da Piedade) and exudes a fair-like atmosphere. It also has a really good daily market in the Arabian style market hall on Praça da República - open every morning except Sunday.
Visit Loulé at Carnival time - Loulé Carnival is one of the biggest events in Loulé and is famous across the Algarve. It takes places in February (over 3 days, the 3rd day being Shrove Tuesday) and is a truly colourful affair with music and dancing and general partying; reminiscent of Brasilian carnivals, when people come from all over the Algarve to watch the processions and join in with the party as everyone takes to the streets! The centre of Loulé (Avenida José da Costa Mealha) is shut off for the carnival and it costs a few euros for entrancenormally February, the fun doesn't quite rival that in Rio de Janeiro, but people from all over the Algarve converge on the town for a couple of days of float and fancy-dress parades, general high-spirits and a most important event of the year. If you want to explore the rest of Loulé, do it first! It is also traditional at carnival time across the Algarve for people to throw 'water bombs' and eggs- so be warned! It is worth arriving early as the procession generally starts at 3.00pm
At Easter time there is also a religious 'Festival of the Sovereign Mother', patron saint of Loulé, which again attracts people from all over the country.
As you stroll around the narrow, cobbled streets, you will come across dimly lit workshops, you will find artisans beating copper, stitching leather or selling wrought iron, cane furniture, basketwork or embroidered goods. Loule is best known for it's coppersmiths as they make a wide range of pots and pans including the 'cataplana' a pan made of two halves that are clipped together when cooking.
Entering Loulé from the south west there is a roundabout with a statue of 2 cyclists - turn to the left and the road will go past a Modelo supermarket and on towards the Nossa Senhora da Piedade Church. The road to the right leads to the centre and as it goes up the hill, just before traffic lights at the top, there is an archway through the old walls on the left which leads through to Largo da Matriz.
In the middle of this small square is the main church of Loulé, Igreja de S.Clemente and to the left of the square is a small, peaceful garden, Jardim dos Amuados (Garden of Sulks), which is an ancient Arab cemetery
From the back of the church follow Rua Matriz, turn left and you will arrive at the market building - you can't miss it! Make sure you get here in a morning, while it's open as the selection of produce is excellent - there are all sorts of treats to tempt you apart from all the fresh fruit and veg!
Loulé castle 13th/14th century built on an area previously settled by the Romans, is just a short distance down the road from the market on the left hand side. From this approach it isn't very obvious that it is the castle as, through the arched gateway, you see the whitewashed walls of the 'alcaidaria' which was the living quarters for the castle commander and his garrison surrounding a small courtyard and no visible signs of the castle walls. Across the courtyard lies the municipal museum, next door to which are some steps leading up to the remaining section of the castle walls.
The three remaining grey stone towers and short walkway between them are well preserved and apart from getting a great view of Loulé does also give a taste of the historical heritage of the Algarve. A little further along the street from the castle is the Convent of Espírito Santo which also houses the municipal art gallery. There are also lots of cafés and shops in the criss-crossing network of cobbled alleys and streets and plenty of places to sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by!
The origin of the church dates back to the second half of the thirteenth century. It was probably ordered by the Archbishop of Braga, Don. Joã Viegas who, in 1251 ordered the dominican monks to build various temples in the Algarve. In the sixteenth century some side chapels were added and five alter panels.
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