Quietly hidden amidst the rolling hills of the Algarve along the banks of the slow-flowing Arade river, with its peaceful atmosphere, Silves Algarve is one of the best locations in the Algarve to still experience authentic Portuguese culture. It has that contagious relaxed pace of life that will instantly throw you in a good holiday mood. You could easily spend your days just wandering through the cobbled streets, drinking a good Portuguese coffee in one of the many typical local cafés or sipping a wine from a terrace watching Portuguese life pass by.
Only in August, during the Medieval Festival, you are reminded of the glorious times when Silves was the capital of the Algarve, a major defensive stronghold and an important trading centre. During the ten days of the Feira Medieval, the rich and turbulant history of the city at the Moorish times is played by actors while the old city centre is transformed in the vibrant town it once used to be.
You can find all you need in Silves, three large supermarkets, a post-office, and enough to keep you busy if you like.
What to do in Silves?
The castle of Silves, dating from 7th century, though the red brick fortifications were built in the 12th century, stands proudly on top of the hill, overlooking the town and offering wide views of the surrounding orchards. It is one of the best preserved Moorish castles of the Algarve and definitely worth a visit. It often hosts musical events during summertime, so it is worth checking out the program.
Close to the castle of Silves. stands the Sé or Cathedral, built in 1189 on the site of where the Moors had built a mosque. Its architecture is mainly Gothic, and as such, one of the finest religious monuments in the south of Portugal from that era, worth a visit.
If you wish to dive more into the history of Silves, Silves Archeological Museum, constructed around a cistern dating back from the 12th century, has a number of objects from the pre-historic period until the 12th century.
Every Saturday morning, all locals sell their produce in the streets surrounding the market hall. It’s a great time to really feel the Portuguese culture and to buy fresh and cheap vegetables and fruits.
What do do around Silves?
- For a wine-tour with tasting, go to Quinta do Frances (12 km) or Quinta dos Vales (9km).
- Those who wish to play golf on a quiet course can try the 18-hole Silves Golf course, only 10 km away. Or drive a little further for the better known courses, like Amendoeira Golf Resort or Pestana Golf Course.
- A great way to experience the Arade river and its beautiful surrounding is the boat trip from Silves to Portimão (or the other way round) on a traditional fishing boat.
- Just outside Silves is the Country Riding Centre where you can arrange horse riding. They cater to all levels, so no worries if you’re a novice. There is nothing more wonderful than exploring the beautiful countryside from the back of a horse.
Where to eat and drink?
Silves has a good choice of restaurants for all budgets. If you want to dine in quality with carefully selected organic fish and meat, and seasonal fruit, drive a little out of town towards Lagoa, to Palmeirinha, and you will find O Barrados on your right.
Fish restaurant Marisqueria Rui is widely known in the Algarve and popular with the locals. It gets busy in the summer, be sure to come on time!
For those looking for some entertainment, go to Café Ingles on Friday or Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, they have live music to cheer up the meals. The beautiful setting near the castle makes it a great spot for a coffee, lunch or dinner.
For some more nightly entertainment with tapas, try Art’aska Lounge Caffe. They often host bands and have a weekly jam session on Sunday evening.
The ones who wish to have a meal for good value, go to Churrasqueria Valdemar, next to the market hall. They only serve chicken (with or without piri-piri) and chips with salad (though you can also get grilled fish), but the quality is excellent and your wallet will be happy.
Where to swim?
Silves has its own, very good indoor municipal swimming pool if you want to do some serious swimming. It is cheap and often very quiet if you avoid the afternoon, when all children’s swimming lessons take place, and it also has a gym and a sauna to keep you fit during your holiday in the Algarve.
If you long for the sea, Silves is only a twenty minute drive away from the closest beaches of Lagoa (Carvoeiro, Marinha, Carvalho, Ferragudo…), but you will be so happy after a day of busy tourist vibes to go back to the relative quietness of Silves.
A hidden gem is Sitio das Fontes, a ten-minute drive from Silves towards Estômbar. Those natural pools with fresh water overlooking the Arade river is a great place to have a refreshing dive, popular with locals, but undiscovered by the tourists.
For the families, you can have a day at Slide and Splash, this widely popular waterpark at only fifteen minutes driving from Silves. It will keep the kids happy, and you can lounge in one of the green spaces where you can rent a parasol and a lounger.
For those who like it more adventurous, drive a little towards Messines, and take the turn to Barragem do Arade, a huge artificial dam where you can enter at any place that you will find where your car can get close. A great sensation of swimming in a gigantic pool surrounded only by nature, often with no one around.
This article about Silves, has been brought to you by Algarve Housing, for unique villas in the Algarve.