"Xelb" Top 5 Page for this destination Silves by Balam

Silves Travel Guide: 121 reviews and 363 photos

Silves is probably the Algarve's most enticing inland town and was once the Moorish Capital of the Algarve (al-Gharb). It was called Xelb by the moors and had a population which was 3 times the current one. Under the Moors, Silves was a thriving port and a place of great grandeur; it has been described in many contemporary accounts as being "of shining brightness". It was also famed for its artistic community and in the 10thC it was considered to be culturally more important than Grenada which was then the leading Moorish city in Spain. Its greatness lasted until 1189 when Sancho I arrived at the head of an army of Crusaders, and Silves permanently fell to the Christian forces in 1249. Over the next few centuries the gradual Silting up of the Rio Arade ended Silves role as a port and one of the great Cultural centres of Iberia

Moorish Silves

The town of Silves is surrounded by Orange groves and dominated by a fantastic Red Moorish castle but as with much of the Algarve many fine buildings were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake which ravaged the Algarve but it is today a pleasant market town with busy cobbled streets some interesting shops and pleasant restaurants.
Some fine Historic buildings do exist and most impressive of all is the castle with its Irregular polygonal shape and Keep, with 3 towers and 7 wall sections which are topped by merlons. Currently a lot of Archaeological work has been carried out in an around the castle and Gardens and although it was due for completion in 2006 which is now only now nearly finished. Another fine piece of history and a reminder of the Roman occupation is the Ponte Romana, a fine strong bridge over the Rio Arade below the city walls; it was rebuilt from the original in the 15th Century.
Silves has a fine Cathedral which is situated just below the Castle. It was built on the site of the Grand Mosque and was the Algarve's most important Church between 1242 and 1577, when the Bishopric was moved to Faro after Silves lost its role as a major port. The Cathedral has Gothic towers and a somewhat rigid military appearance. It was damaged in the earthquake but the exterior has been restored since, the interior is not as impressive as the exterior would lead you to believe due to some poor restoration but the walls are lined with the tombs of Bishops and Crusaders who died while taking Silves back from the Moors.

Despite being Inland Silves is home to what is probably one of the Algarve's best seafood restaurants. Restaurante Marisqueira Rui, is very popular with both locals and tourists so you will have to get there early to guarantee a table at busy times of the year and in the evenings more or less all year.

  • Last visit to Silves: Nov 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (14)

Comments (8)

  • Maurizioago's Profile Photo
    Jan 8, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Good page. Ciao!

  • Myfanwe's Profile Photo
    Oct 28, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    Oh my God that Piri Piri really does look LUSH !! XX

  • SOLODANCER's Profile Photo
    Jul 19, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Gareth, funny I've eaten at Restaurant Rui when I visited Silves. Small world, what memory. Thanks for these wonderful Algarve tips. Too lazy to do mine. One day. Cheers.

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    Excellent page on Silves with great photos! The Red Castle and the Cathedral seems to be interesting attractions to explore. Thanks for sharing. ~ho & pang

  • sihi's Profile Photo
    Jun 6, 2008 at 4:32 PM

    Nice page and tips of this picturesque town!! Greetings

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Mar 3, 2008 at 1:44 PM

    I only went to the beer festival here = I did see the lovely Cathedral but this was all pre VT & I missed a lot :(

  • Feb 18, 2008 at 11:17 AM

    Another beautiful page

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    What delightful photographs, travelogue, and narrative information. I especially enjoyed the introduction and reading about the red castle.

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