The inland town of Silves makes a good destination for day-trippers from pretty well anywhere on the western Algarve. With its charming cobbled streets surrounded by orange and lemon trees, the historic town centre is dominated by a well-preserved medieval castle. Sipping a coffee in one of the small, traditional cafes, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of The Algarve's coastal resorts.
By car- Hiring a car is probably the best way to get here, giving you the opportunity to take in the sights at your own pace and explore the surrounding countryside. If you’ve got children, a stop-off at Krazy World Zoo on the way might help keep them cheerful for the rest of the day. Assuming you don’t get caught up in holiday traffic, the journey from Lagos or Albufeira can be done in around 35 minutes, with Faro about 50 minutes away. Once in Silves, there’s a large car park on the south-western edge of town and from here it’s not too, long a walk to reach the historic centre. Everywhere you’ll want to visit in Silves can be reached by foot, although the climb up the castle needs to be taken gently in the heat of a summer afternoon. Don’t try to bring a car into the Old Town-the streets are far too narrow.
By public transport- If you’re reliant on public transport, from Portimao or Albufeira the bus is the best way to get to Silves. If you’re coming from Faro or Lagos, then you’ll have to rely on the trains, although a taxi ride from the train station, which is 2 kilometres out of town, is recommended, to save your feet for the hike up to the castle.
Details of train and bus timetables can be found at:
http://eva-bus.com/index.php?lang=uk (bus timetable)
You’ll certainly want to spend some time strolling around the narrow, cobbled streets that wind their way up to the Fortaleza (castle). This is a good place to stop off for a coffee or hunt through the souvenir shops and small art galleries for that special something to bring home. Look out for white storks nesting amongst the red rooftops. If you’re here in the evening you’ll find plenty of bars and cafes offering live music, adding to the charm and atmosphere. Get here early on a Saturday morning to experience the sights and sounds of the local farmer’s market.
The red sandstone Fortaleza is a must on anybody’s itinerary. This was once a Moorish stronghold and saw more than its fair share of bloodshed during the 12th and 13th centuries. It’s cheap to get into and once inside you’re able to explore the ruins and battlements for stunning panoramic views for miles around. If you’re here in August you might be lucky enough to catch the week-long medieval fair, with its street food and entertainments.
Below the castle, Se Cathedral is also worth exploring, and its whitewashed exterior makes a picturesque contrast to the red brick of the Fortaleza and citadel walls. Inside, look out for the tombs of Crusaders, who fought to regain the town from the Moors who occupied the area from the 8th to 13th centuries. The cathedral is built on the site of the former Grand Mosque.
There’s a small archaeological museum to be found on Rua da Porta de Loule where you can see an extraordinarily well-preserved Moorish well amongst other local finds. If it’s too hot to spend all day exploring, or if you’re here out of season and are caught out by the weather, Silves has a good indoor swimming centre close to the River Arade. Golfers might want to try out the Pestana Silves golf course just outside town.
Where to eat
Café Ingles at the top of the hill, by the castle is a lively venue offering home-cooked food accompanied by live music at the weekends. There are also good restaurants and cafes along the riverfront where you’ll find something for all tastes. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit special, then you might like to take a look at the menu for O Barradas, known in the area for its good food, ambience and great service.