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Silves: Portugal’s Off the Beaten Path Algarve Town

Few places in the Algarve can really be called “Off the Beaten Path,” but Silves still fits the bill (for now!). Not that many people have heard of it, and even less will visit. It doesn’t have the flashy cliffs, caves, or even a beach at all, but it does have loads of charm and history.

Castle of Silves Portugal in red stone above a lush green hill

Let’s see if I can convince you to add a non-beach town to your dream beach vacation!

I will just add the disclaimer that nowhere in the Algarve is truly devoid of tourists these days, so even in January we were not alone!

Is Silves Worth Visiting?

We were pleasantly surprised by the little town of Silves! It is definitely worth visiting if you are in the Algarve, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.

Silves Castle at the end of a cobbled street, past a cafe

If you are looking for off season sunshine and don’t care about being super close to the beach, I would recommend staying in Silves. It’s super charming!

Where is Silves in Portugal?

Silves is slightly inland from the sea, just north of the city of Portimao. It is a pretty convenient day trip from most of the Algarve’s beach towns.

Silves on a map in relation to other Algarve towns like Lagos, Portimao, and Albufeira.

To Silves by car:

  • Portimao – 25 minutes
  • Lagos – 45 minutes
  • Albufeira – 40 minutes
  • Faro – 1 hr 15 minutes

You may also be able to use a rideshare app like Uber or Bolt from Portimao/Ferragudo if you don’t have a car.

Parking in Silves

There is plenty of free street parking in Silves, as well as a parking lot beside the castle. In January the lot was free (and pretty full) but there was a booth there, so I’m not sure if it is free year-round.

Cars in a gravel parking lot in Silves Portugal in the Algarve.

There are also parking lots at the bottom of the hill. In the summer you may want to park down here to save some stress.

How Much Time Do You Need in Silves

There are only a few things to do in Silves. I recommend seeing the castle at a minimum, which will take you about 45 minutes if you walk through quickly.

A more pleasant visit would be about 1.5 – 2 hours for the castle with plenty of time for pictures and a nice lunch, followed by 1.5 hours to the museum and back on foot.

If you plan to spend 3 – 4 hours in Silves, that would be plenty of time.

Things to Do in Silves

Speaking of things to do: Let’s go over them!

A small girl looks out over a railing onto a treed square. A pink tile building pokes through the trees on the far side.
Silves, Portugal

Walk the Cobblestone Streets

Silves is a very charming town! Park your car and make your way on foot to the castle and musem. You will walk through adorable cobblestone streets and past colorful little houses.

A colorful street in Silves

There is a square with a fountain – Praça do Município:

Praça do Município in Silves. The town square with islamic influenced smal building, red walls, and a blue fountain
Praça do Município

…and the beautiful archway of the original city gates that you should also pass by.

The original stone gates in Silves with a huge archway
Portas da Cidade de Silves

Explore the Castle

If you had never heard of Silves, the sight of it would pique your interest. The castle is a beautiful dark red stone, and sits right on top of the hill surrounded by the town.

Silves brick tower with knight statue in front and child with play knight toys beside it

Our whole family agrees that it is our favorite castle that we’ve visited. It’s the perfect size to get around quickly, even if you take your time. It isn’t at all overwhelming, but there are great views and enough to see.

Walk the Castle Walls

The main thing to do inside the castle is to walk around the walls. You can climb in and out of the old towers and look out over the surrounding hills.

Silves Castle with the outside reflecting on an open door

Along the way they have a few exhibits of artifacts and art.

Wander the Ancient Ruins

Some of the castle grounds have been excavated, revealing ancient walls beneath our feet. You can walk through the ruins and read about what grand houses and palaces they believe once stood here.

Ruins faded into the background with a placard in front.

There is also an ancient cistern you can look down into.

Another water storage area, which actually served the town until the 1980’s, is currently home to an exhibit about the Iberian Lynx.

Iberian Lynx exhibit in the water storage facility inside Silves Castle

Cafe Castelo de Silves

Inside the castle is an incredibly peaceful and laid back vibe, with a restaurant surrounded by water and a mini garden.

The castelo de silves cafe features a pond and garden inside the castle walls

The restaurant food and drinks that we ordered were all exceptional, which is pretty rare at touristy little cafes like this!

Try their homemade orange blossom iced tea:

Empty glass of orange blossom iced tea with ice cubes still present, orange, a sprig of rosemary, and a lavender bloom

…and the traditional dried tuna.

Traditional dried tuna on a mediterranean salad at the silves castle cafe

Prices were quite normal. The specialty beverages were a little pricey (4+ Euros for the iced tea) but sandwiches and toasties were reasonable (4-6 Euros) and they also had big kebab wraps for 9 Euros.

The restaurant accepts card.

Castle Facilities

There are clean (free!) flush toilets behind the restaurant. They had soap and toilet paper when we were there. (If you know, you know.)

Ramp leading to a building labelled WC

Castle Entrance Tickets

Entrance to the castle as of 2024 was only 2.80 Euros and kids are free!

There is a combo ticket available for the castle and museum, which makes the museum half price.

For the price of entry, I would happily just sit in the cafe for a few hours. It really is a lovely spot.

The red brick castle entrance in Silves where the ticket office is.

Visit the Archaeological Museum

When I was chatting with my hair stylist from Silves he mentioned that you should never ever dig if you own a property in Silves: “You know the museum? That was someone’s house, but he started digging.”

Lucky for us he did, because the museum in Silves is one of the best archaeological museums in the Algarve. It not only contains many artifacts from neolithic to medieval times, but is also built over ancient ruins.

A large oblong object from the Silves museum.

The museum isn’t huge, but it is laid out in a few floors and feels like the perfect size for a casual museum-goer.

The museum is closed on Mondays during the off season. Entrance is 2.10 Euros for adults and 1.05 for kids. There is a combo ticket available for the castle and museum, which makes the museum half price.

Final Thoughts on the Town of Silves

Silves is an often missed town in the Algarve with serious charm. It has a super relaxed atmosphere, and was probably the best day trip that we made in the area.

Pink Building in Silves

If you want to get somewhere off the beaten path, Silves still works in 2024!

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