Silves is a great place to get away from the bustle of the coast yet is still within easy reach of the seaside resorts. Particularly known for its mighty red-sandstone castle visible from many miles around, the city still wears it historical colours proudly. Silves was the capital of the Moorish kingdom of Al-Gharb (from where we get the name Algarve) for many centuries and was once the finest city in Portugal; the Arab chroniclers called it a “place of shining brightness” it was considered sumptuous and imposing and compared in grandeur with Lisbon, Seville and Córdoba. Silves’ surrounding countryside is beautiful and staying at your hilltop holiday villa with pool, you will feel not only king of the castle, but part of the scenery.
If you do want to leave the hills, a day at the beach might be a welcoming and relaxing distraction. There is so much choice! Part of the municipality of Silves are the beaches of Armação de Pêra, some are sandy coves lined by beautiful rock formations, others are wide and long, flanked by dunes. All of them have a number of good beach restaurants and lounge bars. The beaches of Carvoeiro and Ferragudo are a quick drive away and each of them is a paradise on its own.
The region of Silves dates back to pre-historic times with small settlements spread across the countryside.
Silves most likely originated from an important Phoenician trading post in the 1st millennium BC, somewhat 2km from the current city. It was given the name of ‘Cilpes’ during the Roman occupation, when the first fortifications were built. With the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Germanic invasions, Cilpes was integrated into the kingdom of the Visigoths, in the 5th century.
The main monuments of the city date from the period of Arab occupation, including the Castle, an important military fortification, one of the most beautiful and well preserved in the country, the current Cathedral and the Almohad cistern, a unique example on world scale.
More recently, Silves based a large part of its economic activity on irrigated agriculture, citrus and avocado orchards, which replaced the production of dried fruits. The production of oranges, in particular, led to the creation of the brand “Silves, Capital of the Orange”, associated with the brand “Wines of Silves”, recognized with international awards.
Silves combines tourism with heritage, culture and gastronomy and with its scenic location set along the banks of the river Arade, within its vast territory of rolling hills, it not only has become a place to visit but also to stay. There is a great variety of things to see and to do.
Obviously and probably first on the list, will be the castle (see highlighted section further down) and just below it is the cathedral (called Sé Catedral de Silves). Both are easily reached by car and are well signposted, but if you like a bit of exercise, the best way to visit is walking the steep and narrow roads of the historic centre all the way up! The cathedral is the most important Gothic construction in the Algarve with impressive ogival Gothic vaults, it was built in mid-13th-century, most likely on the remains of the old greater mosque.
A stroll on the walkway alongside the Arade river is relaxing and it provides you with views of Silves from a different perspective. There is ample parking space, a playground and a riverside café. The medieval bridge, just opposite the market hall, was the original crossing point over the river, the latter being used by trade ships in ancient times, giving Silves its high importance as capital of the Algarve.
If you are looking for a fun day out with the family, Krazy World will be a great option. It is not only a Zoo with many animals of different species, but there is also interaction with animals, water fun, amusement park, zip-line and rope climb, 18-hole minigolf, restaurant and much more. It is near Algoz, around 20 mins drive from Silves. A whole day of water fun is definitely to be had at the Slide & Splash near Lagoa/Carvoeiro, a quick 15mins drive from Silves.
The Silves area is renowned for its delicious oranges and is officially registered in the Algarve as ‘Silves, Capital da Laranja’ (Silves, Capital of the Orange). Originally brought to Portugal by the Moors, there is a lot more to know about oranges by doing one of the tours, tasting the different kinds and you can also pick your own oranges and lemons!
The Algarve is a growing and appreciated wine region and Silves has a number of good wineries which are worth a visit and a taste. Nearby, there is Quinta de Mata-Mouros or also called Convento da Nossa Senhora do Paraíso, a vineyard with over a hundred hectares, and Quinta Rosa which produces organic wines, made in the traditional way. On the other side of the city is Quinta do Francês, a lovely vineyard set within the hills between Silves and Monchique. Look for more wineries under the resort of Alvor and Porches.
If you are looking for villas in Algarve with private pool Affinity Villas offers many more destinations including Tavira, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Loule, Vilamoura, Porches, Carvoeiro, Ferragudo, Alvor and Luz.
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