It can be tough to imagine what the Algarve looked like before the bars, sun-loungers and tourist shops arrived. But if you want to take a step back in time, then the pretty town of Silves is a must-see holiday destination. Silves is very different to the touristy resorts that are spread along the Algarve coast. You’ll struggle to come across a glitzy, modern hotel here. It’s a town full of history, which is perfect for couples or older holidaymakers. You’ll be immediately taken by how beautiful Silves is. A well-maintained copper-coloured castle looks down on a town surrounded by orange and lemon trees on the banks of the Arade River.
Silves’ history dates back thousands of years and you’ll find evidence of the Romans at the town’s bridge of Ponte Romana. But most of the landmarks in Silves date back to the middle ages, particularly the impressive Castelo de Silves fort which is the main attraction to see. If that whets your appetite, then you can learn more about the area by visiting Silves’ Archaeological Museum. There are exhibits here dating back to the Stone Age.
A holiday to Silves is not all about history though. There’s plenty of opportunities to relax. If you hire a car, then you can reach the coast in a jiffy. The beaches around Armacao or Praia da Rocha are perfect for a day working on your tan. Foodies will also love a holiday to Silves. Apart from the delicious restaurants in Silves itself, you can go wine tasting in the nearby historic town of Lagoa.
If you’re looking to take part in outdoor activities during your holiday to Silves, then the bustling harbour town of Portimao is a great place to start. You can have a go at golf, horse riding, mountain biking, go-kart racing and water sports here. Portimao is also excellent if you’re on the lookout for some souvenirs. There’s a handful of shops around Portimao’s marina, but tons more at the retail outlets and shopping centres on the outskirts of the town.
Head to Lagoa if you’re keen to sample a drop of the local tipple. Lagoa is famous for the quality of the wines it produces. It’s easy to organise a spot of wine-tasting or a guided tour of some of the local vineyards. Aside from the vino, Lagoa is a charming city for a day trip. It’s full of whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and old churches.
The hillside village of Porches is picture-postcard pretty. Like Silves, it’s crammed with multi-coloured houses surrounded by vineyards and orange trees. If you’re looking to inject a spot of romance into your holiday, then a sunset dinner in Porches is just the job. Porches is well known for its pottery. You’ll come across plenty of workshops as you wander along the cobbled streets. They’re perfect for snagging a souvenir.
Silves’ most well-known attraction dates back to the seventh century, although the well-preserved red castle walls on the show today stem from 500 years later. That was when fighting was at its height between the Christian crusaders and African Moors. You can get a look at some of the clever methods used in the castle to survive a siege. Even if you’re no history buff, the views over Silves from the castle make the visit worthwhile.
The Arade River is the major waterway linking Silves with Portimao on the coast. Many boat trips run every day exploring this 40-mile stretch of water. It’s a great way of sitting back, relaxing and getting a glimpse of the nearby countryside and wildlife.
Silves really comes to life during a 10-day Medieval Festival in August. With the castle in the background, the whole town steps back in time to the middle ages. You’ll see knights and princesses around almost every street corner, as the locals dress up in period costume. Jugglers, acrobats and minstrels fill the town centre, while there’s stalls selling traditional food and handicrafts.
Beaches in Silves
You’ve got a choice of beaches to visit in Silves - both of which are equally popular. There’s a fantastic stretch of sand to the south east in Armacao, while to the south-west lies Praia da Rocha. Loads of sun loungers are available on Armacao’s beach and you can even explore rock pools when the tide is out. Praia da Rocha, meanwhile, is only a mile away from Portimao and is particularly eye-catching, with red sandstone cliffs backing the golden sands.
It’s not just delicious fish and seafood on offer in the Algarve. If you head inland from the coast, there’s plenty of traditional hearty meat dishes to sample. Why not try wild boar, Ensopado de Borrego - a tasty lamb stew with bread - or if you’re very brave, snails cooked in beer. All of them go down a treat when washed down with a glass or two of Lagoa’s red wine.
Restaurants in Silves
One of the highlights of a holiday to Silves is sampling the local grub at one of the town’s excellent restaurants. These are not touristy eateries, so you’re almost certain to get authentic, high-quality food. Just as good, you’ll almost certainly get great value for money after leaving the tourist trail.
A holiday to the Algarve does not have to be all about soaking up the sun on the beach. When you book a trip to Silves, you’ll dive head first into the region’s history, food and culture. If you get a day or two when you fancy relaxing, then it’s only a short drive to the coast. The hassle-free way of reaching Silves is by booking your trip with easyJet holidays. You’ll even save some money by booking a hotel and flight together with easyJet holidays. Check out our other Algarve destination guides for further inspiration.