For a wonderful day away from the hustle and bustle of the Algarve Coast - head inland to the medieval town of Silves. As the ancient capitol of the Algarve, history abounds in this small town. Under Moorish rule in the 9th to 12th centuries this was a thriving port town along the Rio Arade. Over time as the river filled in, trade began to fade and the city declined in importance. Today, you can still explore the well preserved red Moorish castle that stands watch over the city, view the medieval walls that still surround the town and just enjoy a slice of authentic Portuguese life. Below is how we spent a day wandering and enjoying the relaxed pace of beautiful Silves.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SILVES OLD TOWN & PONTE DE SILVES
Arriving to Silves, spend some time just wandering the quaint streets, enjoy the views, stop for a glass of wine at one of the cafes and take in the sights. One of the first sights we saw was the Roman Bridge or Ponte de Silves, that crosses the Rio Arade. Although the bridge has been dated from around 1439 and not from Roman times, it is believed that a Roman bridge existed in this location from an early date and the name 'Roman Bridge' just stuck as newer bridges were constructed on this site. From here, walk along the river and then head into town and enjoy the cobblestone clad streets and numerous shops, restaurants and cafes.
TURRET OF THE CITY GATE
As we continued exploring we came across an imposing red gate/wall - this was the Turret of the City Gate or Torreão da Porta da Cidade and dates back to 12th or 13th century. Today, the gate is the only surviving gate of four that used to surround the city. Built during the Moorish rule, this gate is similar to those you would see in Morocco and is built with the same red sandstone that the Silves Castle and Silves Cathedral is built with. Today a lovely flower and tree lined plaza sits outside of this gate and provides a nice place for letting the little ones get out and run around a bit - our 2 year son even made a new Portuguese friend and had great time kicking the soccer ball around the square.
After passing thru the Turret of the City Gate, you will shortly come to the Silves Cathedral or Sé Catedral de Silves. First built in the 13th century, this cathedral was built on the site of a Moorish mosque. Much of the cathedral though was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and was rebuilt to what is seen today. Today, the Silves Cathedral is considered the finest example of a Gothic cathedral in the Algarve region and is well worth a visit.
As the top site to visit in Silves, we spent a large amount of our time in Silves visiting the wonderful Silves Castle or Castelo de Silves. First built in the 7th century, the red sandstone castle that dominates the town skyline today was actually re-built in the 12th century by the Moors who controlled this region from the 8th to 13th century. It was during this time that Silves (known as Xelb under the Moors) was the capitol of the Algarve or Al-Gharb region and was the site of numerous battles and seiges as the Moors and the Christians fought over the region. The castle was first taken in 1189 by King Sancho I of Portugal (1185–1211) , only to lose the castle back to the Moors in 1191. The castle finally fell to the Christians in 1249 under the reign of Alfonso III of Portugal (1210-1279). Under the Christian rule, the river silted up over time and the town began to decline in importance. Today the Silves Castle is the best preserved medieval castle in Portugal.
DINNER AT ART-ASKA LOUNGE CAFFE
For dinner we came across a wonderful restaurant called Art'Aska Lounge Caffe located along the river waterfront and absolutely loved the delicious cuisine offered here. Along with the Portuguese Vino Verde, we ordered an assortment of Portuguese cheese and meats and sardine topped bruschetta. This turned out to be one of our most enjoyable dinners while visiting Portugal.
Interested in planning your own trip to Silves, Portugal? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!
One Day in Silves: Roman Bridge, Silves Town Centre, Silves Cathedral, Silves Castle, plan on about 3-4 hours in Silves.