Silves has a number of excellent restaurants, but dining on the roof terrace of Café Inglês on a starlit summer evening is difficult to beat in terms of atmosphere, food and the wonderful view over the Arade valley. This beautiful old city of narrow steeply winding streets and leafy whispering esplanades exhibits a unique and magical charm, beneath which lies a rich and turbulent history.
Only the impressive Moorish castle surviving on the summit of the hill on the north bank of the Arade from which the oldest part of the town descends as far as the river edge and a few vestiges of battlement wall, hint at the former importance of Silves as a sometime medieval capital of the Islamic Algarve.
A fleet of Crusaders, bound for Palestine and the Third Crusade, helped King D. Sancho I of Portugal conquer the city after a gruelling and bloodthirsty siege during the summer of 1189. However, the Moors were not willing to relinquish one of their most prized cities so easily and, about 2 ½ years later it was re-conquered for Islam and remained in Moorish hands until its definitive conquest for Christendom in 1248.
Close to the castle and a little lower down is Silves’ gothic cathedral, built on the site of the old grand mosque and completed probably in the 13th century. Although along with the rest of the city it suffered substantial damage during the 1755 earthquake and subsequently underwent an extensive rebuilding operation, the Cathedral still retains much of its gothic character.
Places of interest in Silves
Castle: This splendid Moorish fortress, one of the finest in Portugal, is open daily July-Aug 9:00am - 8pm and Sept-June 9:00am - 5:30pm, there is a small entrance fee.
Cathedral (Sé): Located just below the Castle – Mon-Fri from 8:30am - 6:30pm, Sunday open between mass – free entrance.
Igreja da Misericórdia: 16th century church opposite the Cathedral main entrance with Manueline doorway, Renaissance altarpiece and 17th century paintings. Frequently the venue for classical music evenings. Mon-Fri 9:30am - 1:00pm and 2:00 - 5:30pm – free entrance.
Archaeological Museum: Constructed around a medieval Islamic well and recently renovated and extended, with translations in English. Mon-Sat 9:00am - 6:00pm.