"Xelb" Top 5 Page for this destination Silves by Balam
Silves Travel Guide: 111 reviews and 313 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
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.
You can buy great roasted chestnuts from street vendor's in Silves. more travel advice
Silves is a great place to see many wild birds and probably the most impresive of these birds is the Stork, Building... more travel advice
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- "Kingdom of the Algarve"
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