What to do in Silves, Algarve, in a day

Silves has a long history dating back over a thousand years, showcasing Portugal's diverse heritage. Once a bustling Moorish capital, it has experienced numerous conquests and reconquests that have shaped its identity and left behind a collection of historical artefacts. Although most ancient buildings were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, the Moorish castle remains. Today, Silves is a tranquil and somewhat sleepy town without beaches, resulting in fewer tourists staying there. It is often visited as a day trip from nearby towns like Lagos, Alvor, Portimão, Carvoeiro or Albufeira. Check out my list of things to do in Silves!

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Walk the walls of Silves Castle  

A visit to Silves is incomplete without exploring its castle, Castelo de Silves. The castle is one of the most impressive Muslim fortifications in Portugal and the largest in the Algarve region. Constructed from red sandstone blocks and taipa, a mixture of mud and sandstone, the castle sits on the site of the 11th-century Palace of the Verandahs. Its turreted walls offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and the Citadel is protected by 11 square towers and houses two cisterns. Despite being damaged by earthquakes in the 18th century, the castle was restored in 1940 and later underwent archaeological excavations. The castle and gardens were fully restored in 2009. Visitors can walk along the walls to enjoy the views, as the castle is open seven days a week except for Christmas and New Year's Day.10 castle silves thesanetravel.comP137289011 castle silves thesanetravel.comP137289412 castle silves thesanetravel.comP1372899If you happen to be in the Algarve during the second week of August, it is a good idea to visit the annual Silves Medieval Fair, which takes place around the castle. The event showcases life during the 11th to 13th centuries, featuring participants in medieval attire, battle re-enactments, a market and a wide variety of food options.

Count the number of white storks

While exploring the town, it is evident that white storks have built nests on numerous chimneys, buildings and structures. The local farmers in Portugal value and safeguard storks as they consume small mammals, lizards, snakes and large insects. Some of the stork nests are visible from the castle walls.15 storks silves thesanetravel.comP1372895

Look at the monument to King Sancho I

At the entrance to the castle, there is a statue commemorating the Portuguese king Sancho I, who captured Silves from the Muslims in 1189. The bronze statue depicts King Sancho I in armour with a sword, holding a document in his left hand that reads: 'Sancho, by the grace of God, is the king of Portugal, of Silves and the Algarve in 1189.' Sancho I took advantage of the presence of Dutch, English and German crusaders to attack and conquer Silves. Still, Portugal could not maintain control of the city, and it was reconquered by the Arabs in 1191. In 1249, Christian armies captured the city again, and King Afonso III of Portugal officially reclaimed Silves and the Algarve from the Moors, establishing Portuguese rule.16 sancho silves thesanetravel.comP137288717 sancho silves thesanetravel.comP1372902

Pay a visit to Silves Cathedral

The cathedral, located beside Silves Castle, is constructed of red sandstone typical of the Algarve town. Originally built at the end of the 13th century on the site of a mosque, it served as the bishopric seat from the 12th century until the 16th century when the diocese was moved to Faro. The cathedral, influenced by the Gothic style of the Monastery of Batalha, underwent alterations and restorations over the years, including the addition of three chapels to the apse and a portico on the main facade. The entrance to the church is through a rococo-style side porch built in the late 18th century. Restoration work was carried out in the 18th century after the damage caused by the earthquake of 1755. During the restoration, elements such as the Gothic doorway and nave columns were preserved. The clock tower dates back to the 18th century, and the cathedral is open to visitors from Monday to Friday.22 cathedral silves thesanetravel.comP137294020 cathedral silves thesanetravel.comP137291821 cathedral silves thesanetravel.comP1372925Address:  Rua da Sé Mercy Church

Shop for handicrafts at D. Sancho Café

Silves is a town with a rich history and a thriving traditional handicraft scene. Visitors are encouraged to browse the local shops and boutiques, where skilled artisans craft intricate ceramics, beautiful tapestries and exquisite silverware. One place that can be recommended is D. Sancho Café, Bar & Handicrafts, where you can enjoy a drink, admire local handicrafts and purchase them as souvenirs.29 cafe silves thesanetravel.comP137291527 cafe silves thesanetravel.comP137290825 cafe silves thesanetravel.comP137290326 cafe silves thesanetravel.comP1372907

Address:  Largo do Castelo 2

Stroll down the cobbled streets

Explore the charming historic district and immerse yourself in its enduring beauty. The majority of the town's architecture dates back to the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, with a few older monuments scattered throughout. The narrow cobblestone streets, adorned with colourful homes, exude a nostalgic atmosphere that harkens back to earlier eras. Discover quaint alleys and secluded squares that beckon you to uncover the hidden tales that resonate within the ancient stones.31 streets silves thesanetravel.comP137294433 streets silves thesanetravel.comP137297434 streets silves thesanetravel.comP137298035 streets silves thesanetravel.comP1372985 Visitors to Silves will notice the locals' affection for cats as they wander the streets.32 streets silves thesanetravel.comP137297336 streets silves thesanetravel.comP1373006

Have a drink at Segredo Dos Mouros

Segredo dos Mouros is a highly recommended tapas bar and restaurant located near the town's popular attractions. This hidden gem, situated in the quiet street of Silves, is well worth discovering. The establishment serves a variety of dishes featuring mixed cheeses and meats, as well as authentic Portuguese products. While dining, guests can also enjoy ambient music and stunning views of Silves. Whether you are looking for a full meal, a snack or just a relaxing drink, Segredo dos Mouros provides a welcoming atmosphere to unwind.42 segredo silves thesanetravel.comP137296640 segredo silves thesanetravel.comP137296141 segredo silves thesanetravel.comP1372963 This small business prides itself on offering personalised service to its patrons and only accepts cash payments.

Address:  Travessa da Cato,13

Watch out for Algarvian chimneys

There are many buildings in Silves whose rooftops are adorned with Algarvian chimneys. These chimneys have a long history dating back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Craftsmen were responsible for creating these chimneys, with more intricate designs indicating a higher cost and reflecting the wealth status of the homeowner. It is said that stone masons would inquire about the desired number of days of work for constructing the chimney, resulting in more elaborate chimneys for those who could afford it.  As time passed, the traditional Algarvian chimney became more accessible due to mass production. While plain, whitewashed houses were common among average families, the chimney became a prominent feature, adding a touch of elegance to an otherwise simple dwelling. Many of these chimneys are now primarily decorative and do not serve their original purpose. It is not uncommon to see multiple chimneys on a roof, with only one being functional.43 chimneys silves thesanetravel.comP137295544 chimneys silves thesanetravel.comP137295745 chimneys silves thesanetravel.comP1373021

Find street art on electricity boxes

In Silves, urban art can be found on electricity boxes as part of a project promoted by the municipality. Artists Meire Gomes, Fly Pontes and Hélder José-Bambi have painted many boxes across the city to increase interest in art and enhance the urban space. Starting in 2016 the project involves painting boxes with colourful designs inspired by monuments, iconic characters, Portuguese art and architectural details from Silves and the Algarve region.50 el boxes silves thesanetravel.comP137293551 el boxes silves thesanetravel.comP137301154 el boxes silves thesanetravel.comP137303456 el boxes silves thesanetravel.comP1373075

Shop for cork items on Silves shopping street

Portugal is a leading cork producer globally, with more than 730,000 hectares of cork oak forests. The cork oak trees can live for over 250 years and yield approximately 700 kg of cork in their lifetime. The high-quality cork is extracted from the trees through meticulous manual labour. While there used to be a significant cork production in Silves, it has since closed down. However, there is still a shop called Cork Shop on a shopping street in Silves, which offers a variety of cork-made items such as purses, keychains, trivets, coin holders and jewellery in different styles and designs.59 cork silves thesanetravel.comP137305660 cork silves thesanetravel.comP137306461 cork silves thesanetravel.comP137306662 cork silves thesanetravel.comP1373067

Address:  R. Elias Garcia 29

Admire the old five-arched bridge

Spanning over the Arade River, the ancient bridge in Silves consists of five well-constructed arches and measures approximately 76 metres in length and 5 metres in width. Originally rebuilt in the 14th century on the site of an earlier bridge, it served as the primary entry point to the town until the 1960s. Due to safety concerns, the bridge is no longer in operation.64 bridge silves thesanetravel.comP1373080

Have a rest at Praça Al-Mutamid

The town of Silves has recently erected a monument in honour of Al-Mutamid and its Moorish heritage. Al-Mutamid was a prominent figure in Al-Andalus during the 11th century, known for his governance of Silves and Seville and his support of the sciences and poetry. The monument, created by sculptor António Quina, features a stone sculpture group depicting scenes of daily life in the city during Al-Mutamid's time. The figures represent Arabic people engaged in various tasks, with two seated figures observing the others.68 al mutamid silves thesanetravel.comP137310567 al mutamid silves thesanetravel.comP137309865 al mutamid silves thesanetravel.comP137309466 al mutamid silves thesanetravel.comP1373097

How to get to Silves

Although public transportation in the Algarve may not be as efficient as in other parts of Portugal, Silves is still accessible by bus from Portimão and Albufeira or by train from Lagos and Faro. The city centre is a 30-minute walk from the train station. By car, Silves is approximately 30 minutes from Albufeira, 35 minutes from Lagos, 20 minutes from Carvoeiro and about 50 minutes from Faro. It is recommended to travel by car as public transportation options are limited. The town is small and easily navigable on foot. I used Bolt services to travel from Albufeira to Silves, which was affordable and convenient. When using Bolt, a good idea is to set the castle on the hilltop as your destination and then explore the town on foot before calling a Bolt again to head back to your accommodation.

Practical information

Silves is a small town and best explored on foot. You will likely not need a full day to explore it, just a few hours. 70 map silves thesanetravel.comP1373018

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What did you think? Have you visited Algarve and Silves? I would love to hear from you, so please add your comment below.

  • Published by Anita on April 26, 2024
  • Author: Anita Sane

    Anita 03 18

    About the author
    Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, 
    travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter and Bloglovin.


    Your captivating travel blog beautifully captures the essence of Silves, Algarve, offering a delightful guide for a day filled with exploration and adventure. The picturesque travel picture instantly transports me to the enchanting streets and historic wonders of this charming destination.
    You make me long to return to Portugal. Your photos are fantastic. I would love to make friends with the cats. 🐈
    Silves looks like such a beautiful place to visit! I'd love to wander the cobbled streets and admire that lovely pottery! I'm adding it to my list! Thanks for the great guide!
    We missed a visit to Silves when in the Algarve. It looks like a great spot for a day trip.
    Great idea to go on a day trip away from the beaches to explore such a beautiful town. I love the architecture and being able to walk along cobbled streets.

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