Silves – the complete guide (2019)
Silves is the perfect town in the Algarve to explore for a day trip. Walking in this unique town with its cobbled streets makes you believe that time has stopped. The town is famous for having the most well preserved castle of the Algarve. Silves was once the capital of the Algarve and the town stands out because of its Arabic architecture. Every year during summer, the town hosts a famous medieval festival and attracts a lot of visitors. After reading this article, you will be the tour guide when visiting Silves.
Watch the highlights of Silves in HD
The town of Silves looks very pretty, especially seen from above. Curious? Then watch the short video below.
You won’t be hungry in Silves. There are many good restaurants around, serving mostly Portuguese food. Below you can find our favourites ones.
- O Barradas. This restaurant serves locally sourced, traditional Portuguese food. Their meat and fish are both delicious. The service is good. Great home-produced wine as well.
- Restaurante Marisqueira Rui. Great Portuguese restaurant in Silves. Especially their fish and seafood are amazing. This restaurant can be quite busy, so it is recommended to make a reservation.
- Churrasqueira Valdemar. If you like grilled food, this is your place. The food is cooked on a barbecue in full view. Wonderful chicken piri piri. Prices are very reasonable as well.
What to see
The old town
The centre of Silves consists of many beautiful cobbled streets. There is a small square with the town hall and a turret. When walking around the old town you will find plenty of shops selling local products and handicrafts. There are also several bars and restaurants in the old town. Please note that Silves is built on a hill. Walking around Silves can thus be quite tiring. The best is to wear runners or sandals when exploring the town by foot.
Castle of Silves
The Castle of Silves is a castle from the Moorish era. It is the most famous landmark of Silves and attracts many tourists each year. The castle was built between the 8th and 13th century and has been restored in the 20th century. It is the best preserved castle in the Algarve. The castle is situated on the highest part of the town and was used to defend the whole population of Silves in war time. After all, Silves was once the capital of the Algarve.
The castle is a nice place to walk around. And if you are interested in history, you will absolutely love it. Inside the castle there is a beautiful garden. There is also a cafe, so you can have a drink. Visiting the castle is highly recommended. The entrance fee is € 2,80.
From the castle you can enjoy the beautiful panoramic views over Silves and its surroundings. Back in the days, having a good overview of the area was of strategic importance. Thus you can understand the reason why the castle was built on top of this hill.
There is a Gothic cathedral in Silves, called Sé de Silves. It was built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque. It was heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1755, but since then it has been rebuilt. Nowadays, this cathedral is considered by many to be the most important Gothic building in the Algarve. The cathedral is situated on the upper part of Silves. This is quite a steep climb from the bottom part of the town. It costs € 1,50 to enter the cathedral. If you are interested in religious buildings or in architecture, this cathedral is definitely worth a visit.
Near the castle and the Silves Cathedral is an archaeological museum (in Portuguese: Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves). It exhibits Roman, Phoenician, Moorish and prehistoric materials. The centerpiece of the museum is a nicely preserved Arabian well (15 metres deep) with a staircase. The staircase was actually only found a few decades ago. Although the museum is very informative, the information is mostly displayed in Portuguese. Still, this museum is well worth a visit. You can for example buy a combined entrance ticket with the castle.
There is a Roman bridge (in Portuguese: Ponte de Silves) above the Arade river. The bridge stems from the 14th century and is part of the cultural identity of Silves. It has been classified as a monument of public interest. The bridge is for pedestrians only. Cars have to use another bridge to cross the river.
Cruz de Portugal
Near the cemetery of Silves you can find the Cruz de Portugal. This is a Gothic cross of about 3 metres in height. It dates back to the 15th or 16th century. This beautiful stone cross represents the Crucification of Christ on one side and the Descent from the Cross on the other. It is made out of a type of limestone, which does not exist in the region.
Barragem do Arade
The Barragem do Arade is one of the main water reservoirs of the Algarve. The water level is approximately 46 metres above ground level. The dam within the reservoir also produces electricity. You will have a great view over the water and the surrounding countryside. The area is ideal for having a picnic and taking a walk. Very peaceful. It is a different side of the Algarve, but worth visiting. Located 15 minutes from Silves by car. When approaching the reservoir, make sure to take the left hand fork in the road to get there. The other road is not recommended.
Quinta do Francês (wine tour)
About a 15 minute drive from the town of Silves you can find a winery called Quinta do Francês. They produce their own red wine, white wine and rosé. Quinta do Francês produces about 60.000 litres a year. They offer a guided wine tour, where they will tell you about the process of making wine. At the end of the tour is the wine tasting, which is the most fun part. The wine tour is a nice experience and highly recommended. You have to make a reservation in advance.
Mr Frutas (citrus fruits tour)
About a 12 minute drive from Silves, there is a citrus fruit farm called Mr Frutas. They grow different varieties of oranges, lemons and grapefruits. Mr Frutas also gives tours of the farm, where you will learn about the process of growing citrus fruit. The tours are given by the owner. After the tour you will go home with many beautiful and juicy oranges. It is a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Within the municipality of Silves you can find the small village of Alcantarilha. The name Alcantarilha has an Arabian origin, meaning ‘small bridge’. In the Parish Church of the village you can find a Bones Chapel (in Portuguese: Capela dos Ossos). This chapel is decorated with human skulls and bones.
When you are visiting the Algarve in August, then the medieval festival in Silves is one special experience not to be missed. The streets around the castle turn into a medieval market place. People dress in medieval costumes and you will find traditional food and drinks. Also you will find entertainment from the Middle Ages on the street. The festival lasts for 9 days, and Silves is the perfect town to hold this festival. Entrance is about € 2. The Medieval festival is quite popular and it can get quite busy. However, it is a unique experience and highly recommended.
The area of Silves is great for spending a couple of days. If you wish to stay in the area, there are several options. You won’t find five star hotels here, but you can find several guest houses in the town and holiday homes in the surrounding countryside. Below you can find our favourite hotels in Silves.
- Morgado do Quintão. This holiday home in the countryside is surrounded by olive and fig trees. Very spacious. There is an outdoor swimming pool and there are barbecue facilities. It is a great place to relax with the whole family.
- Ponte Romana. This guest house has comfortable rooms with a nice view. The owner is very friendly and the breakfast with fresh orange juice is very good. Located near the river, in the centre of Silves.
- Vila Sodré Guest House. This guest house offers great value for money. Rooms are clean and comfortable. There is a swimming pool and they also have a wine cellar with many wines. You can cook your own meals in the shared kitchen if you want.
After the busy summer season of last year, we recommend to book your hotel now, as it will probably sell out. Below you can find a map with the location of hotels in Silves. By changing the date of your holiday, the map will show you the current prices.
Armação de Pêra beach
Within the municipality of Silves, you can find the village of Armação de Pêra. This village is famous for having a great beach: the beach of Armação de Pêra. The beach has two completely different sections:
- The rocky coast with high cliffs and some beautiful small beaches (from Armação de Pêra towards the west).
- A 5 kilometre long sandy beach from Armação de Pêra towards the east. This part is great for long beach walks.
Armação was founded as a fishing village (the name Armação means tuna fishing base). Like in Albufeira, the fishing harbour is on the beach. When you walk around here, you can see many colourful fishing boats.
Silves is a great town to spend a day or two. There are also some great excursions in the area. If you want, you can take a guided tour of Silves and its castle. A guide can tell you much more about the region and its history. However, there is much more to see in the region. For example, you could explore the westcoast of the Algarve, including the historic town of Sagres. Below you can find our favourite excursions near Silves.
Silves – general information
Silves is a municipality in the Algarve. The municipality has around 37.000 inhabitants, of which around 11.000 live in the town of Silves. The town is about 15 kilometres northeast of Portimão and 65 kilometers from Faro Airport. The best way to get to Silves is by car. Although there is public transport by bus, the buses do not run very frequently. There is a train station 2 kilometres south of the town. When you do go by public transport, make sure you check the timetable beforehand. Since Silves is quite a small town, it is the perfect place to visit for a day trip. When you approach Silves, the first thing you will see are some Roman structures, plus the castle and the cathedral on top of the hill. Also you will notice that the town of Silves is surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Silves is situated near the Arade river. This river was very important in the development of Silves as a town in the Middle Ages. Silves is a town with a long history and is one of the oldest towns of the Algarve. During the Moorish era, Silves was the capital of the Algarve and was called Xelb. The town is quite different from the touristic resort towns in the Algarve. In a way, this is how the Algarve was before mass tourism. You can still feel this when visiting the town. Silves has a medieval atmosphere and visiting the town in a way feels like going back into time. The streets are narrow and cobbled. Also, everything is quite colourful.
The municipality of Silves consists of 6 different civil parishes (freguesias):
- Alcantarilha e Pêra
- Algoz e Tunes
- Armação de Pêra
- São Bartolomeu de Messines
- São Marcos da Serra
The most beautiful sight of the town is from across the hills, which overlook Silves. Here you can see the orange trees of the countryside, with the picturesque town in the background. To get to there, cross the Roman bridge and follow the road in the direction of the train station.