Saturday, June 1, 2013

A guide to the popular resort of Loulé

Ten miles north-west of Faro and just seven from the beach at Quarteira, Loulé was established in Roman times and an important centre even by the middle ages, boasting the Algarve’s only medieval fair. Today it is a prosperous and cultured modern town, with all shops, banks, museums and sports facilities, and as a result many northern Europeans are now buying property in Loulé.

The town centre retains its ancient churches and even an Arab cemetery inside old fortified walls. A short walk from the Igreja de San Clemente church along the Rua Matriz, arrives at Loulé’s large daily produce market in an Arabian-style building, a memorable centre-point from which to explore, and worth finding early for its range of fresh food.

Cafés and bars are plentiful in the town, giving pleasant locations from which to enjoy the bustle of activity in the network of cobbled streets and footways.

The municipal museum is central too, close to the beautiful remainder of Loulé Castle. The stone towers are evocative and a small fee provides fine views from the castellated tops, across the town. Over the road, the Convent of Espirito Santo houses a public gallery.

Loulé’s principle thoroughfare is the Avenida José da Costa Mealha, well supplied with parking, seating and kiosks for food and drinks. This is the venue for Loulé’s annual carnival, an occasion drawing visitors from across the Algarve. The Avenida is closed off, so parking needs to be found before the 3pm start.

Taking place over three days, the last being Shrove Tuesday (21st February 2012), the carnival sees the local people really enjoying their chance to party in style. But be warned: the practice of hurling eggs and water-bombs is popular on this holiday when ‘anything goes’.

Elaborate floats carrying musicians and dancers, some in extravagant costumes, others wearing nothing but paint, bring a loud, colourful and creative atmosphere to the little town.

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