Silves is a peaceful city
right in the middle of the southern Algarve. Before Faro, Silves was the
official capital of the region, and it is considered one of the oldest
places in Portugal. You can reach it by car, bus, train, and even by
boat from the nearby city of Portimão.
History lives and breathes in
Silves, on the walls of its medieval castle, in its Gothic Cathedral
and in the old Roman bridge that crosses over the Arade River. Each of
these historical monuments is a memory of the civilisations that have
passed through Silves in the past. Below are the best things to do in
Silves, including festivals and day trip suggestions.
The first thing you’ll
spot when arriving in Silves is the castle. Established by the Moors,
it is considered the best-preserved castle in the Algarve. The
fortification stands out with its red-stone walls perched high above a
hill overlooking the town. From here, you can see the maze of terracotta
roofs leading down to the Arade River and the white Roman bridge
standing over its calming waters.
Right next to
the castle is the Silves Cathedral. Originally built as a mosque, it was
converted to a cathedral after the Christian Reconquest in the Algarve.
The cathedral has an impressive façade with a mix of white plastered
walls and red sandstone, the same material used in the castle’s walls.
The interior is just as stunning as it combines Gothic, Medieval and
Baroque architecture all under one roof.
the cathedral, you can walk to the Silves Archeological Museum. The
museum features an impressive collection of archaeological finds
discovered around the region, ranging from prehistory to the 17th
century. Its main attraction is a big Moorish well sitting in the middle
of the museum. Other items worth checking include ceramics from the
Islamic period and funerary tracks from the Iron Age.
the afternoon touring the local winery, Convento do Paraíso. Set on an
old farm known as Quinta de Mata Mouros, Convento do Paraíso uses
traditional and modern methods to produce their delicious local wine.
The vineyard is spread over 12 hectares and offers an incredible view
Drive down to Armação de Pêra to
explore the beaches of Silves. Stop by the Praia de Armação de Pêra, a
small sandy beach surrounded by modern apartment blocks and a promenade
filled with lively bars and restaurants. Follow the promenade, and
you’ll end up at the fortress of Armação de Pêra. Formerly used to
protect the town from pirate attacks, today the fortress is a great
place to admire the sea views without getting your feet on the sand.
out, you can see the dunes of Praia Grande, one of the longest beaches
in the Algarve. The beach is bordered by two stunning wetlands, the
Alcantarilha stream on the West and the Lake Salgados on the East. It is
the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Day trip to São Bartolomeu de Messines and São Marcos da Serra
Morning: Arade Dam
From the coast of Armação de Pêra to the mountain ranges of Serra do
Caldeirão in the north, there is a lot to explore in Silves. More than a
water reservoir, the Arade dam is a great viewpoint where you can
admire the rural landscape around you.
Continue to São Bartolomeu de Messines, a
small village in the northeast of Silves that borders with the Alentejo
region. It’s hard to imagine that the vast green scenery of Messines is
only half an hour away from the ocean. As you approach the town, you’ll
notice a series of small chapels displaying similar façades to the
Silves Cathedral with its red and white walls.
Start your tour at the
Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Saúde. Then, walk to the chapel of São
Sebastião and finish near the square with the main church of São
Bartolomeu de Messines. Near the church, there are some cafés and
restaurants where you can stop for a drink or a bite to eat.
After lunch, get back on the road towards São Marcos da Serra. On the
way there, stop by the Funcho Dam to take in the views of the nearby
mountains. Once you reach the village, be sure to visit the parish
church. The 16th-century whitewashed building features a mix of
Manueline and Baroque elements.
Around the village, you’ll also spot
many ornamented chimneys above the terracotta roofs. However, it’s near
the church that you’ll see the largest of them all. The chimney is a
memory of the Moorish occupation in the Algarve and a remarkable piece
of architecture that deserves a capture.
Day 2 - São Bartolomeu de Messines and São Marcos da Serra Tour Map
Day trips from Silves
Lagos: About half an hour west of Silves is Lagos, a charming coastal
town known for its paradisiacal beaches. Wander around the old town,
visit Praia do Camilo or take a boat trip to explore the surrounding sea
Head 30 minutes north, and you’ll reach Monchique, a peaceful village
amid the mountains. If you enjoy nature, this is the place for you. The
town offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and birdwatching.
Sagres: From Silves, it
takes around one hour to reach Sagres, the westernmost point of the
Algarve, known for its surfing scene. While you’re here, you can tour
the Fortaleza de Sagres, join a surf class, or simply take in the views
from the cliffs.
There are many family-friendly sights in Silves. Kids will enjoy
climbing up to the town’s castle and learning more about the region’s
history. Another place worth visiting is the Archaeological Museum,
which holds items that date back to prehistory.
The nearby river offers the perfect opportunity for a boat trip, but you can also take a scenic walk along the banks.
you’re in the mood for the beach, drive to Portimão, where you’ll find
the infamous Praia da Rocha. Other nearby attractions include the Slide
& Splash waterpark and the Sand City sculpture theme park.
The cuisine in Silves reflects the region’s landscape, which combines
the mountains and the coast. You can sample anything from game dishes
like boar and rabbit to seafood stews like cataplana and caldeirada.
Another famous dish is the Arroz de Lingueirão, a rice dish cooked with
razor clams, tomato, onion, and garlic. As for pastries, there are many
almond-based treats like Dom Rodrigo and Morgado. The area is also
renowned for its oranges, and visitors can tour the local orange grooves
by following the Rota da Laranja. Below are some of the best places to
eat in and near Silves:
Marisqueira Rui: Only a few steps away from
Silves market, there is one of the best seafood restaurants in the
Algarve, Marisqueira Rui. Here, you can savour a variety of fresh fish
and seafood, including shrimp, clams, lobster, crab and much more.
Ocean: Inside the luxurious Vila Vita Parc in Porches is this
two-Michelin-starred restaurant. The menu was curated by the Austrian
Chef Hans Neuner, who was considered Portugal’s Chef of the Year in 2009
and 2012. Get a seat near the window for the best ocean views.
Morgado do Quintão: A 10-minute drive from Silves is this famous
Algarve winery. More than wine tastings, they also offer accommodation.
The main house can welcome up to 12 people, while the cottages can take
up to 8 people. Guests also have access to a swimming pool, gardens and a
fully equipped kitchen.
Mosaiko 5 Suites: This guesthouse
stands out with its colourful tiled walls and stone arches. It is right
in the centre of town, meaning you can walk to all the major
attractions. Most rooms offer city views.
Resort: Located in Alcantarilha, this resort has three remarkable golf
courses, one of them designed by Sir Nick Faldo, a professional English
golfer that was once number 1 on the Official Golf Ranking.
The best time to visit Silves is around late spring and early
summer. The weather is pleasant enough for a walk, with temperatures
ranging between 20°C to 25°C. If you want to hit the beaches, you can
come around July and August. This is also the season of many local
festivals, like the Feira Medieval. Bear in mind that this is the
busiest time, so you will encounter some crowds and accommodation prices
will be higher.
Festival da Caldeirada e do Mar: At the end of May, Armação de Pêra
celebrates the caldeirada, a traditional seafood stew from the Algarve.
Local restaurants come together to showcase this local dish, and there
is usually a presentation at the local market, followed by a concert.
Feira Medieval de Silves: In August, the medieval fair takes over Silves, recreating the age of the Christian Reconquest and occupying the streets with jugglers, dancers, acrobats and snake charmers dressed in Medieval attire. This annual festival is one of the largest summer events in the Algarve and draws visitors from all around the world to Silves.