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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Loule

Loule, Portugal

Holidays to Algarve evoke images of families playing on sandy beaches against a backdrop of limestone cliffs. Rock pools wait to be explored under the beating sun and restaurants serve fish caught only hours before by local fishermen. Just half an hour away from Faro airport is Loulé, a traditional Portuguese market town with an unhurried atmosphere. If you want to experience authentic Portugal, Loulé is the place to go. Locals flock to the Arabic inspired market to pick up their weekly shopping, and the town is geared towards its Portuguese inhabitants before tourists.

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Shop till you drop

Your Loulé holiday won't be complete without a trip to Mercado Municipal de Loulé. This Arabian style building is home to family-run stalls selling local produce including vegetables, fish and souvenirs. It's open every day except for Sunday.

If you're there on a Saturday morning, the gypsy market at the end of Rua da Nossa is well worth a visit. With over 100 stalls selling everything from ceramics to leather goods, you can happily haggle over your holiday souvenirs then pop to the Mercado Municipal de Loulé and spend your savings on some delicious local cuisine.

Quick Tips

  • Roman Catholic
  • Euro
  • Portuguese
  • GMT - None

Feed your cultured soul

Loulé is crammed with historic buildings and landmarks that will satisfy the most fervent of history buffs. Start in the town's old centre and see the impressive castle with its arched gateway and imposing towers. There's also a museum where you can learn about the town's history and see artefacts from local archaeological digs. Wander through the cobbled alleyways where you'll come across Igreja de São Clemente, a 13th-century church with an art gallery and the pretty Jardim dos Amuados which used to be a Moorish cemetery.

Just outside Loulé is Igreja de São Lourenço de Almancil, a magnificent Baroque church with wall to wall azulejos (blue and white tiles) depicting the life of St Lawrence.

Visit vibrant Vilamoura

Add a zap of energy to your Loulé holiday with a visit to Vilamoura, a buzzing resort in stark contrast to Loulé's laid-back atmosphere. Families will love spending time on the sands of Praia da Falésia, and its red cliffs or whizzing down the slides in Slide and Splash, one of the best water parks in the Algarve. Couples can wander hand in hand around the upmarket marina, a natural harbour packed with every kind of boat from luxury yachts to speedboats. Pop into a swanky bar for a refreshing drink before booking onto a dolphin tour or boat trip.

If you've got your party hat on, head to the marina for early evening drinks then move onto the best-known nightclub in Portugal, Kadoc. It's a magnet for Europe's top DJ's who play the latest tunes to revellers filling the dance floor.

Grab your golf bag and get swinging

Portugal is well known for being a golfer's paradise and your holiday in Loulé provides the perfect location to hit those fairways. Try out a different club every day. Don't forget your handicap certificate for playing on championship courses like the Old Course, the second oldest course in the Algarve. Try the 27-hole Vila Sol Golf Course where you can practice your game amongst every known hazard in the golfing world.

Don't worry if you've never played before, you'll soon be putting like Seve Ballesteros after a few lessons from the club professionals. When you're done, relive those birdie chances over a cold one at the 19th hole.

Explore the great outdoors

Loulé's surrounding countryside lends itself to a whole host of different outdoor activities. Take a trip from nearby Faro to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, an important ecological centre where twitchers can train their binoculars on around 20,000 birds. Keep an eye out for chameleons, seahorses and the odd Portuguese Water Dog, a breed native to the Algarve.

Head for the hills on horseback from Loulé or try a gentle trek along the cliff tops or beach paths in Vilamoura. It's a great way to see the scenery of this beautiful country. Get off the beaten track on an adrenaline inducing 4x4 jeep safari. Bump along narrow trails and learn about the history of the area from experienced guides.

For a town without mass tourism at its heart, a holiday to Loulé certainly has a lot to offer holidaymakers. The people are friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious, and the weather is perfect for outdoor living. Don't forget suntan lotion and a sun hat as summer temperatures sizzle in the high 20's. Don't bother bringing your pac-a-mac as rain is as scarce as Cristiano Ronaldo missing a penalty.