Silves Portugal Tourism Guide
Silves is a delightful and traditional Portuguese town that makes for an enjoyable day trip from the coastal resorts of the western Algarve. The peaceful ambience of the town today does not reflect the historical importance of Silves, which during the Moors occupation of the Algarve (700-1200ad) was the defensive stronghold and capital of the region. Remnants of this glorious past can be discovered throughout Silves and include the huge red brick castle, the impregnatable walls and defensive city gates.
Today, Silves is an unhurried and charming town that is far removed from the hectic pace of life found along the coastal region of the Algarve. Silves has a lot to offer to tourists and is regarded as the best destination for a day trip from the large resort towns. This article will provide an introduction to Silves and is divided into three sections; practicalities of Silves, details of the tourist attractions and, found at the bottom of this page, travel information.
Practicalities of Silves
Why Visit Silves?
Silves is regarded as the best non-coastal, northern town of the Algarve and is a great opportunity to discover the “real” Portugal. Silves is very different from the developed resort towns and is how the Algarve was prior to the advent of mass tourism. The old walled section of Silves has remained unchanged for more than 500 years, and there is no hint of modern development through the town.
Silves is a fascinating destination, ideal for those who wishing to learn about the early history of the region. Silves was the capital of the Algarve region during the Moorish era and was a major port with boats flowing down the Arada River to the sea and then on to North Africa. This strategic importance of Silves is reflected in the sights of the town, which include the mighty castle and remains of the old solid city walls.
The main city gate in Silves
Silves as a Day Trip
Silves is ideal as a day trip as there are sufficient sights to fill a day’s sightseeing and is only a short journey from the major tourist centres of Lagos, Portimão and Albufeira. The public transport to Silves is reliable and inexpensive (see later for details) or for those visitors with a rental car there is ample carparking. For the less independent visitors, there are daily guided tours and these have the benefit of knowledgeable local guides. As all of the tourist attractions of Silves are of a historical nature children and teenagers may tire quickly of the town – especially when there are flume parks (Slide and Splash) close by in Lagoa!
It takes around 3 hours to visit all of the sights of Silves, but under the intense summer sun this is usually extended to 4-5 hours to include lunch or mid-afternoon break. Silves is a compact town and all of the historic monuments can be reached by foot but it is a steep climb from the town centre to the castle, along cobbled streets, and this may not be suitable for less mobile visitors.
A holiday to Silves
Visitors who are touring the Algarve may wish to spend one or two night in Silves, as the town has a pleasant, relaxed ambience that is very different from the hectic coastal towns. Silves is not suited for families or young couples for a holiday destination as it is over 15km to the nearest beach and can feel remote from the buzz and excitement of the Algarve. Silves may appeal to the more mature visitor seeking a very calm holiday but in general we would recommend Tavira, Alvor or Praia de Luz over Silves.
The Arade River and the Ponte Romana in Silves
Silves or Loulé?
Silves and Loulé are popular day trips for visitors who are based within the central Algarve region. Both are historic and provide a glimpse into normal Portuguese daily life but the towns are very different and will appeal to different tourists. Loulé is a much larger, bustling city that offers better shops and has a lively daily market. Silves has more character and charm with an extensive history and impressive tourist attractions. In our opinion, Silves is the better destination for a day trip.
Tourist Attractions of Silves
What’s the Best Tourist Attraction of Silves?
The best tourist attraction of Silves is the imposing and impressive red brick castle that dominates the skyline. The castle originates from the Moorish era and was used to defend the fertile lands of the Algarve and important trade routes. Within the castle there have been extensive archaeological excavations while from the battlements there are wonderful views over the town. Certain visitors may wonder how the castle has remained in such a preserved state but this was due to a major “restoration” project that was performed during the 1940s.
What’s the best Hidden gem of Silves?
The best sight of Silves, which is not discussed in any guide book, is the stunning view over Silves from the hills that overlook the town. The best vantage point is from the road which leads to the train station – the road which crosses the Ponte Romana Bridge. From this vantage point the beauty of Silves can be clearly seen, with rolling countryside, the cooling waters of the Arada River and the distinctively coloured castle high above the town.
The wonderful views over Silves
What’s the best activity of Silves?
Arriving in Silves via the traditional fishing boats that sail down the Arada River from Portimão. These tours depart from the harbour in Portimão provide 2-3 hours in Silves before returning to Portimão.
The best activity in Silves is embracing the café culture of Portugal where locals spend hours socialising over a cup of extremely strong coffee during the heat of the mid-day.
Travel to Silves
The simplest method to travel to Silves is via rental car, Silves has a large car park to the south west of the town and is just a short walk to the historic centre. Never try driving in central Silves as the roads are a maze of narrow streets not designed for modern traffic.
Visitors without a rental car can easily visit Silves as there are good bus and train connections. Public transport is very cheap in Portugal but always check local timetables before planning a day trip as some bus routes have limited services, especially on Sundays.
Bus is the recommended means of travel to Silves for tourist based in Portimão, Praia da Rocha, Lagoa and Albufeira while the train is suggested means of travel from Lagos or Faro. There is a direct bus service from Albufeira to Silves (45min, €4.10), which departs from the main bus station of Albufeira. The Portimão bus departs from the Avenue Guanaré (next to the harbour) and takes a tedious 1h10min as it passes through the town of Lagoa. For the latest bus timetables please see the Eva bus website:
The Algarve railway follows a bizarre westerly route and does not connect close to any of the major towns, the only towns it actually stops in are Faro and Lago – the two termini of the railway. Silves train station is located 2km south of the town, and the walk to the historic centre is not great, as it follows a major road with limited footpaths and steep hills. For the train timetable please visit the CP (Combio de Portugal) website: