The town of Silves, in Portugal’s Algarve region, has been inhabited since paleolithic times. Links to the past are found throughout the fortified town, from the imposing Moorish castle to the Roman bridge and the cathedral, which was originally built as a grand mosque before being converted into a church in the 13th century.
In the late Middle Ages, Silves was of strategic importance and changed hands between Christian and Muslim rulers several times. Although nowadays the town has a sleepy feel, there’s plenty to see for visitors, especially those with a passion for the past. Aside from the historical buildings, Silves boasts many restaurants, cafés, and boutiques selling local products.
Guided Algarve tours with experienced local guides are available for those interested in learning more about Silves’ history, or anyone simply wanting a convenient way to explore the region. Most tours also visit the spa town of Caldas de Monchique and head up Mt. Foia for spectacular views.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Silves, with its ancient links, is a must for history buffs.
- Entry to Silves castle is via paid ticket.
- Silves’ old town has some steep cobbled streets that may not be suitable for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Silves is located 9 miles (15 kilometers) inland from the popular resort of Portimão. Access is via car or public transport; buses and trains link SIlves to Portimão, Lagos, and Faro.
When to Get There
The Algarve region is busiest in summer, when many people head here on vacation—but bear in mind that inland towns can get very hot on summer days. That said, Portugal has a relatively mild climate, which makes it pleasant to visit Silves year-round.
Visit the Beaches Around Portimão
A short drive south of Silves, Portimão has some of the Algarve’s best-loved beaches. The picturesque Rock Beach (Praia da Rocha) is always popular with visitors in the summer months, while the huge Three Brothers Beach (Praia dos Três Irmãos) has room to spare.