In the South of Portugal, the region of the Algarve has everything a tourist might look for: beautiful beaches, luxury balneary stations, immense golf courses… However, coiled in the region, in between the verdant coasts and the picturesque villages, lies a hidden treasure-trove: the municipality of Loulé prides itself in its heritage and its multicultural legacy, a mix of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian cultures and architectures. This vibrant municipality is home to some of the best craftsmen in the country and local culture is honoured and celebrated in every single artistic creation. Between nature and modernity, with an impressive open-air festival and arts scene, Loulé cultivates its DNA in its daily life, and artists and locals alike will be happy to take you on a creative adventure in their colourful villages.
In the centre, the paved streets will directly take you to the open market: you will directly be engulfed in the characteristic aroma of Loulé’s culinary specialties, a distinctive scent of bread fresh from the oven, mixed with the subtler smell of dried figs. The market is among the main attractions of the village, and it also happens to host several workshops. In one of the small stalls, craftswomen will help you make your own basket or carrycot by braiding palm leaves. Further down the street, you can sew a small keychain shaped like a sardine – the Algarve is particularly known for its fishing spots, and you’ll carry a fond memory with this small souvenir. Children and adult alike are welcome to express their creativity in different workshops: children have their very own workshop, in which they can mold small figures with a dough made with figs and almonds. DIY tourists also have the opportunity to express their skills: a workshop will help you create your own ‘Taleigo’ bag, which is a traditional bag made from scraps of fabric or reused clothes, used to transport bread.
The streets are also filled with food stalls and restaurants, where chefs and cooks are looking forward to teaching you all about the local specialties and the particularity of Loulé’s food and ingredients. The very local almonds and figs dessert is such a specialty: the whole family can learn how to stuff figs with a secret mix of spices and almonds, and bake their own dessert. Dried fruit truffles are another local delicacy that you can bake and take back home in an origami box. Each season and festivity has its own dessert: do not hesitate to ask about them and learn to make them during your stay in the region.
Local agriculture, healthy food and family recipes are the three ingredients that give Mediterranean cooking its success and its rich taste: the “From the market to the kitchen” workshops successfully combine these elements to honour the tastes of the region and celebrate their uniqueness. These workshops will teach you how to stuff and cook Algarve snails, personalize your own Tiborna with homemade toasted bread and regional products.
Crafts and nature
Respect and closeness to nature are also highly significant in Loulé’s culture and traditions: you will find that most homemade products try to honour nature and the region’s direct surroundings, and that environment and our five senses hold a particular spot in the artisans’ hearts. You can learn everything about vegetable oils and their properties to make your handmade soap with unique aromas, or collect leaves, seeds, and dry fruits to decorate your candle base with elements typical from your surroundings.
You can be even closer to nature and the Algarve’s landscapes by going on a trip to a wine farm, where you can harvest grapes, taste local wine and share a meal with the farmers. In the centre of Loulé´s municipality, in Querença village, you can take a stroll with an experienced artisan that will teach you everything about the geological features of the region, and collect samples of soil or minerals that you will then transform into coloured ink. If the words “sensory painting” make your ears perk, Loulé has got you covered: a workshop is dedicated to making you feel art in a way you have never experienced before. You can paint a Portuguese fan or a more classical support, and get creative with the paint – here, paintbrushes come second, and your hands will be your main accessory.
In many a sense, this small town is unique in Portugal and truly reflects the culture and lifestyle of the Algarve. Bursting with energy and creativity, Loulé is a place of inspiration and sharing, where craftsmen and locals will welcome you and guide you in your creations and your artistic ambitions. Daily life in Loulé is rhythmed by arts and festivals, and the town never ceases to honour its vibrant heritage. It is safe to say that this town, albeit small, has everything it takes to unveil your artistic side and expand your horizons in a magical way.
– Article by Anaïs FLEURY for the Creative Tourism Network®.