The sleepy little town of Silves is located in the Algarve region of Portugal just a short drive inland from Faro, around 40 miles (65km) if you are travelling by bus or taking a scenic drive in the countryside. It’s quite possibly the perfect day-trip escape.
Silves boasts one of the best-preserved castles in all of the Algarve, Castelo de Silves, as well as a Gothic cathedral and an archaeological museum.
Apart from these outstanding landmarks, Silves’ most striking feature is the rows of vivid orange rooftops that stretch across the banks of the Rio Arade.
History of Silves
All who visit will agree that Silves today looks like a fine town but let’s rewind back to its medieval heyday when it was up there with Lisbon in terms of geographical importance and grandeur. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, a Moorish settlement known as ‘Xelb’ thrived. At one stage, the Arabic-speaking population climbed to 30,000.
Sadly, little of this era of Silves survives as most of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.
Recently, authorities in Silves have been making great strides to bring the city right up to date while simultaneously celebrating its heritage.
The main attractions worth seeing in Silves include Silves Castle which is the biggest castle in the Algarve and dates back to the Islamic period in Portugal. It was originally built in the ramparts around the town during the town’s aforementioned Moorish era. It is open daily from 09:00 to 19:00.
The Cathedral Sé Velha (Old Cathedral)
This cathedral dates back to the 13th century and is made from red and white sandstone. The stunning architecture makes this a real photo opportunity.
Beaches of Silves
No visit to Silves should be considered complete without a visit to the beaches of Silves. The beaches worth driving to include Armacao de Pera, a long wide beach stretching all the way to Gale, close to Albufeira. It is a great beach for those who like taking long walks. The resort town of Albufeira is home to many small beaches while Carvoeiro is a small picturesque beach in the middle of this busy tourist town.
Benagil meanwhile is a very nice small beach which is encircled by golden rock formations and scenic cliffs.
Nearby too, the much larger town of Portimao boasts some of the best beaches in the Algarve.
Latest additions to the city include the Museum of Cork, as well as a plethora of new trendy cafés, restaurants and bars. Outdoorsy types visiting Silves can entertain themselves with golf and horse riding.
When To Go
Silves is a year round destination. Spring and summer is long and winter is short but mild. Algarve region in Portugal has the best climate in all of Portugal.
Every season has its advantages. Golf courses are open all year round in the Algarve so it’s just a case of deciding whether to play in the heat of July and August or in sunny, cooler months such as April or October.
The beaches of the Algarve can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Most beaches are not only known for their beautiful sandy bays but also for their delicious seafood restaurants.
Getting There & Around
Faro International Airport schedules flights from Lisbon and London. TAP Air Portugal as well as other international airlines serve Faro either directly or through connecting flights in Lisbon. Faro airport is located 7km (4 miles) from the city centre.
Silves has invested in its roads, improving routes for those exploring via a self-drive trip. Once you’ve left Faro airport, keep right at the roundabout until you see signs for Faro and the A22 or (IP1) motorway. The main east-west highway links the Algarve to Spain. After a 3km drive, follow the signs on the motorway to Lisbon (Lisboa), Portimao and Loulé. This will take you on the main N125, heading north, away from Faro.
After another 4.5 kilometres, change over to the left-hand lane and continue to follow signs to Loule and the A22/IP1.
After another 3.5 kilometres, join the A22 motorway to Lisbon, Portimao and Albufeira. Continue on this motorway until you see the turn for Silves. Follow this road for around five kilometers. You will then descend towards the town, seeing the town on your left.
Winter is the best time of year to experience cheap, ‘out of season’ accommodation.
Winter begins December 21st and ends on March 19th.
Do try the local seafood – it’s always fresh and much cheaper than you’ll pay at home.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and rehydrate with bottled water – temperatures in the Algarve have been known to reach the high thirties during the summer months.
The Algarve is home to at least 20 percent of all hotels, restaurants, resorts and travel agents in Portugal.
For further information about travel to Portugal, check out www.visitportugal.com.
About the Author: Fiona Hilliard writes for The Glove Box, the blog of award-winning car rental site ArgusCarHire.com. Here you’ll find news and advice about all things related to travel, from where’s the best place to pick up your Faro car hire to the best new car rental sites on the web.