The best time to see things really bustling in this market town (you’ll come across many as you explore the Algarve!) is mid-Saturday morning. The outskirts of the town are modern, so head for the centre of the old town, where there is plenty of on- and off-street parking – very reasonably priced and some free.
Some of the roads in the centre are lined with trees and shaded benches and the old part of town features picturesque cobbled alleys and odd-looking buildings. From the well-stocked ‘Modelo’ supermarket’s car park, there is a spectacular view over the valley to the hilltop, space-age church the locals call “Mae Soberana” (Sovereign Mother).
The steps of Loules covered market
The central market area has interesting mock Moorish architecture. If you’re not an authority, the pinkish domes are nevertheless impressive. The covered market should be on any visitor’s itinerary. It offers a glimpse into the old Algarve and has areas where artisans work, making it somewhat special and different. The picturesque cobbled street called Rua 9 de Abril houses craft workshops, where authentic artisans turn out useful items like pots and pans.
Some excellent photo opportunities can be had in the lovely cobbled Rua Garcia de Horta, with its charming houses. There is welcome shade to be enjoyed during the midday sun under the fronded palms in the Jardim dos Amuados (“Garden of the Sulkers” more or less).
Loule offers a museum of modern art and, just to the West of the town, jutting out of a hilltop, is the futuristic, landmark church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (also known as Mae Soberana), which has plenty of wow! factor, aside from fabulous views both out to sea and inland. The great white dome of the main church is visible from miles around, resembling an observatory apart from the crowning cross and adjacent chapel.