Silves – Algarve – Portugal
Welcome to Silves Uncovered! Your guide to Silves holidays!
Welcome to Silves Uncovered! Your tourist guide to holidays in Silves, in central Algarve, Portugal. Get all you need to know about the historic town, its accommodation, restaurants, bars, shops, things to do and in fact, all things Silves Uncovered!
Silves is an enchanting town littered with orange and lemon trees, sitting on the banks of the Arade River (“Rio Arade”). There is history everywhere you look in Silves, to remind you of its affluent and bold past as a Moorish capital (“Xelb”).The importance of Silves lay in the fact that it was the main access to the inland areas of the Algarve because of its river location, although the river is now too silted up for large vessels to use.
The most prominent monument is Castelo de Silves, which is now the best preserved castle in the Algarve. The castle and the Cathedral beside it are the first buildings you see as you approach Silves, as they sit on the hilltop above the town.
The castle offers spectacular views from the battlements. It has eleven towers, two of which are barbicans, and thick walls that enclose an area of 12,000m². Four of the towers, modified at the time of reconstruction work in 14/15th centuries have gothic doorways.
The castle once sheltered the old Moorish ‘alcáçova’ which was the residence of the lord of the city. Not much remains of the defensive walls and towers which protected Silves, but one of the four gates remains and is the ‘Torreão da Porta da Cidade’ (The turret of the City Gate). Inside the tower are two rooms and annexes which now house the Municipal Library.
Sé de Silves (Cathedral of Silves) one of the Algarve’s few remaining gothic monuments with ancient tombs, sits alongside the castle and a network of narrow, cobbled streets take you down into the town.
Another impressive sight is the ‘Cruz de Portugal’ (the Cross of Portugal), a 3m tall limestone cross dating from the 15th or 16th century, just to the right of the roundabout that leads to the castle at the eastern end of the river front. There is also a regional history museum Musueu Municipal de Arquelógia (Municipal Archaeological Museum).
Silves has a very pretty central square, Praça do Municipio, with palms and flowers, beautiful gardens, and a newly paved river front which leads you to the swimming pool and beyond. If you would like to improve your fitness a little there is an exercise area near the pool with ‘Life Trail Wellness Stations’ – an outdoor ‘play area’ for adults. What a great idea, especially in the fabulous climate of the Algarve.
The municipal market building is on the main street opposite the river, and along this same street are numerous cafés with outside seating offering lovely river views. Within the town, there are cobbled streets, cafés and shops, some beautiful buildings from the times when Silves was a rich merchant’s town and remnants of the old walls, including the tower which now houses the municipal library.
Silves is the perfect place to visit – very relaxed with history in abundance! Although the castle sits on the hill, it is still right in the heart of Silves, with the Cathedral right next door and cafés and houses around and in between.
There are some boat trips from Portimão to Silves along the Rio Arade, which give a short time (just over an hour) in Silves before returning whilst the tide is still high enough for the boats to make the return journey.
Silves is an ideal place for that truly relaxed holiday – a good selection of places to wine and dine, interesting historic places to visit and in the beautiful inland Algarve where you can walk and explore to your heart’s content. Like so many places in the Algarve, Silves has made improvements to it’s road layout and general presentation of the town, so that it remains that wonderfully picturesque Algarve town but allows the important areas to look their best.
Silves is not far from the coast, so you can have the best of both worlds – a place in the country and days at the seaside – if you wish! It is also ideally placed for those family fun things like water parks (Slide and Splash at Lagoa is only a short drive away), a visit to the zoo (Zoo Lagos isn’t far and their ‘monkey islands’ are brilliant!) or a day at Algarve Shopping mall at Guia, near Albufeira. (There are couches in the sunshine for the menfolk and a food hall with restaurants and fast food outlets!). Another great day out is at Zoomarine oceanarium, again at Guia. Take your swimsuits as there are outside pools as well as the dolphins, sea lions and birds of prey shows.