Silves’ regional prominence began in the 11th century when the Moors conquered the town. Giving it the name of Xelb, they constructed lavish palaces and created a cultural centre of learning for the whole Iberian Peninsular. Prior to its decline as a port due to silt build-up in its river, Silves was once the capital of the entire Algarve region. It traces its history back to 1,000 BC, and the Romans later found its location and resources much to their liking. During the 11th century, the Moors took and fortified the city, renaming it Xelb and building opulent palaces with the intent of creating a cultural center for the entire Iberian peninsula. Silves castle, a red sandstone fortress of Moorish design and décor is replete with beautiful gardens and statuary.
Beyond the Silves Castle, the town has some of the most intact remnants of its Moorish past. Many of the Moors underground water reservoirs are still used today. Much of the town’s culture is related to historical and archeological pursuits, and there is a museum, the Museu Arquelogico (constructed above the largest, Moorish cistern, no less), that displays prehistoric articles found around the region. The Ponte Romana, a Roman bridge over the Rio Arade is a testament to its Roman occupiers, and numerous Christian monuments can be found throughout town, including a granite cross to the northeast of the city.
While Silves is connected to its past, its people find the present suitable, and Silves nightlife is hopping – it is a beach town, after all, and you can find plenty to do in the way of eating and drinking after a day of soaking up the sun. In fact, Silves has become in recent years a popular winter destination due to its mild climate.