11 Best Things to Do in Silves

The charming town on Silves, on the banks of the River Arade makes a good destination for those visitors to The Algarve who want to see something of the "real" Portugal and learn more about the area’s turbulent past.  With its narrow, cobbled streets and hilltop castle, the walled town centre has a distinct Medieval feel to it.  It’s easy to spend half a day here, enjoying the ambience in one of the bustling cafes on the climb up to the castle, from where you can take in some awe-inspiring views over the orange and lemon groves below.

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  • Silves Castle

    Silves' red sandstone castle, which dominates the town, was built by the Moors who held the Al-Gharb (Algarve) region from the 8th to 13th centuries.  During this time, Silves (known at the time as Xelb) became an important centre of trading and culture and was the capital of the Al-Gharb.  In the late 12th and early 13th centuries the town witnessed sieges, battles and much bloodshed as the Moors and Christians from the north fought over this strategically important site.  The Muslims were finally expelled in 1249 and from this time onwards, as the river silted up, closing off trading...


  • Silves Archaeological Museum
    Silves Archaeological Museum
    C.M. Silves

    Silves's small Archaeological Museum contains an astonishingly well-preserved Moorish well, together with archaeological findings dating right back to prehistoric times.

    Opened in 1990, the Municipal Museum of Archeology of Silves is built around the Poço-Cisterna Almóada - a 12th century well which was discovered after archaeological excavations in the 18th century. The well is now classified as a National Monument and forms the centerpiece of the museum. The museum also incorporates the city walls of the same period, thus creating not only as a museum, but a showcase of the...


  • Silves Cathedral
    Silves Cathedral
    Lacobrigo | BY-SA

    Silves' Cathedral (Sé Catedral de Silves) was built in the 13th century on the site of the Moorish Grand Mosque, just beneath the castle.  Although much of the building was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, it was rebuilt and is thought by many to provide one of The Algarve’s best examples of Gothic architecture.

    Inside there are tombs of local bishops and dignitaries, as well as tombs of some of the Crusaders who fought here against the Moors all those years ago.


  • Slide and Splash waterpark
    Slide and Splash waterpark
    Slide & Splash

    Slide & Splash is one of the Algarve's biggest and best water parks featuring a selection of water flumes, chutes, pools and aquatic fun that should appeal to all ages. Established in 1986 the park has grown to fill its sizeable site with fun-packed activities and new rides.

    The main attractions here are the big water slides and you can probably guess a little about some of them from their names; Corkscrew, Banzai, Black Hole, Plunge, Tornado, Kamikaze and the new Big Wave. Most of these involve zooming down chutes of various steepness and twisty-ness at great speed before...


  • Parque da Mina, Monchique
    Parque da Mina
    Zbigniew Rutkowski | BY-SA

    The Parque da Mina is a theme park with a genuine theme. Centered on an old iron ore mine the park provides an an entertaining view of the workings of the mine along with a range of fun activities in the surrounding park.

    On the heritage side of things you can learn about the workings of the mine, visit the medronho (moonshine) distillery and tour the 18th century manor house. There is also a nature trail through the landscaped surrounds of the Sierra de Monchique with plenty of picnic spots amongst the trees.

    The park is home to a small petting zoo with a range of animals to...


  • Aqualand - Algarve
    Aqualand - Algarve

    Aqualand is one of Europe's largest outdoor water parks and features a range of chutes and slides suitable for all ages.

    The park is home to several notable rides suitable for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers. The "Kamikaze" is the biggest slide in Portugal measuring over 100ft (36m) high it takes a mere 4 seconds to plummet to the bottom! Slightly less intimidating is the "Hydra" a more traditional water chute with a long, long corkscrew section.

    A less usual ride is the "Banzai" which sees riders hurtle down a 23m slide sitting on skim board before shooting across the...


  • Zoomarine Algarve
    Zoomarine Algarve

    Promoting conservation, environmental education and FUN! Zoomarine combines an important message with hands on shows and a huge water park.

    Located just a few kilometers from Albufeira, here you can see presentations with the parks animals. The highlight of all these has to be the dolphin show which is along the lines of those at the famous Florida Seaworld. These feature displays of amazing acrobatics and the dolphins showing off their intelligence. Not only can you watch the performance, you can swim with the dolphins, although this does require booking in advance. 



  • Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Portimao
    Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
    Olga Kositskaya

    The Roman Catholic church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) is Portimão's main parish church and still plays an active role in the heart of the local community.

    The original building was completed in 1476 in Gothic style.  Not much remains of the original structure apart from the main portal and an accompanying gargoyle.  Most of the original building was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, and later rebuilding incorporated a number of Manueline influences.

    Inside the...


  • Museu de Portimao
    Museu de Portimao

    Portimao’s award-winning museum opened in 2008 and is a good place to come to learn more of what life would have been like for those who lived in the locality throughout the ages.  The site was once a fish canning factory, and the main focus is on the industrial processes once carried out here.  The 1000 square metre main exhibition is divided into three distinct areas:

    Origin and Destiny of a Community

    This section follows the lives of those living in the Portimao and Alvor regions from Neolithic times right up until the present day.  There are...


  • Forte de Santa Catarina
    Forte de Santa Catarina
    Francisco Santos | BY-SA

    The fort of Santa Catarina was built in 17th century on the site of a 15th century defensive structure and chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was one of the various forts built around this time to protect the area from raids by pirates and privateers.

    Today it is possible to climb up a steep set of steps to walk around the battlements.  There is no museum here, but an old canon provides a quick photo opportunity and the views of the marina and the cliffs of Praia da Rocha make the hike worthwhile.


  • Caldas de Monchique
    Caldas de Monchique
    Sergei Gussev | BY-SA

    The small village of Caldas de Monchique comprises just a couple of roads in the Serra de Monchique mountains. It lies just a short distance south from the larger settlement of Monchique town.



Silves travel guide »

Silves is an attractive town with a rich history built on the banks of the River Arade. The river was navigable in historical times and represented an important link between the hinterland and the coast. The town, which is...