Things to do in Silves, 2-day Itinerary

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.

Day 1

Morning: Castelo de Silves

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.

Silves Cathedral

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.

Silves Archeological Museum

From 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.

Silves Municipal Market

After touring the museum, head towards the riverside and stop by the Silves Municipal Market. Inside, you’ll find food stalls selling fish, vegetables and plenty of fruit.

Morning - Silves Tour Map

Afternoon: Wine tasting

Spend 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 over Silves.

Armação de Pêra

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.

Looking 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.

Afternoon - Silves Tour Map

Day 2- 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.

São Bartolomeu de Messines

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.

Afternoon: São Marcos da Serra

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 caves.

  • Portimão: Portimão is known for its busy marina and lively nightlife scene. But there are also beaches to explore here, like Praia da Rocha, one of the most popular beaches in the region.

  • Monchique: 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.

  • Aljezur: If you’re looking for a calm village on the west coast, don’t miss Aljezur. This whitewashed village has a small old town, a castle and a string of beautiful wild beaches.

  • 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.

Top things to do with kids in Silves

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.

If 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.

Where to eat in Silves

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.

  • Café Inglês: This picturesque café offers privileged views of the town’s castle. It is the ideal place for a coffee and homemade cakes.

  • O Barradas: Set on the outskirts of Silves, this restaurant is known for its delicious traditional Portuguese cuisine, including grilled meats and seafood dishes, all made with local ingredients.

  • 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.

Where to stay in Silves

  • 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.

  • Casa Riad Yasmin: This affordable bed and breakfast is right in the town centre. It offers a mix of double and triple rooms with private bathrooms. There is also an indoor swimming pool and a terrace.

Best golf courses near Silves

There are several golf courses near Silves, where you can practise your swing. These include the following:

  • Silves Golf Course: This is the closest golf course to Silves, just a few minutes drive from the town centre. It's a challenging course that offers great views of the surrounding countryside.

  • Amendoeira Golf 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.

  • Pestana Golf Resort: This luxury golf resort offers two 18-hole golf courses - Pinta and Gramacho.

  • Morgado Golf Course: Located about 20 minutes drive from Silves, this golf course offers a challenging layout with wide fairways and plenty of water hazards.

Best time to visit Silves

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.

Silves Festivals

  • 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.

  • Festa da Cerveja: Around June, Silves hosts its annual beer festival. The party takes place at the Praça Al-Muthamid, and includes street food stalls and live music.

  • 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.

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