This is the English version of my blog GDAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). I'm still working on it. English is not my native language.
Castles! Castles and more castles. As a History lover, visiting them is one of my key interests when traveling in Europe. Portugal features some of the best, and among them is the fascinating Silves Castle.
It is this castle that you will discover now with me. The virtual tour brings lots of photos and tips for your real-life visit (at the end, a link leads to extra photos).
Get ready for another adventure in the Algarve (south of Portugal).
In Silves’ historic centre…
Living in the Algarve makes me wish to visit Silves every year. At least once per year, in August, when the city promotes the famous Silves Medieval Fair.
The historic centre offers visitors a memorable day. The best of the tour starts when we cross the Old Town Gate (Portas da Cidade de Silves). We then follow up through narrow streets, sometimes witnessing an archaeological work. If lucky, especially in hot days, we will see storks as a show apart.
We walk in front of important points, such as the Silves Cathedral. We can then appreciate the curious Al-Tannur pottery shop. Further up, a few steps from the Café Inglês Restaurant, where I usually rest and eat pizzas, we arrive at Silves Castle. A castle in the highest part of all that zone, as high as castles were built, for safety reasons.
Take a deep breath. You’re about to witness what is considered by many people to be the best example of Islamic military constructions in Portugal.
Damas, can you say something about the history of the castle before we start the visit?
Sure. But in a very brief way.
A little bit of history
If we could go back even further in time, before the construction of Silves Castle, we would find a fortification there, probably built by the Romans or the Visigoths. Can you understand how fascinating that is?
But the story of our visit begins in the eighth century, with the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula by the Muslims. In the following centuries, the Silves region developed greatly and reached its peak. It thus became the target of greed of Muslim princes, and consequently the arena of bloody disputes.
Disputes continued in the Christian Reconquest phase. In 1189, under the command of King D. Sancho I, with the aid of the Crusaders, the Portuguese armies attacked Silves relentlessly, with a wide variety of war machines. People surrendered and were brutally sacked, with many deaths even after surrender.
Only two years later, the Muslims counterattacked and managed to retake the region. In 1242, there was a frustrated rematch of the knights of the Order of Santiago. Only in 1253, under the reign of D. Afonso III, the village of Silves and its castle returned to the hands of Portugal.
Imagine now the battles, the blood spilled there. All the pain. Today, we visit the area in peace and feel amazed. In other words, what was once a site of terror is now a place for tourism. This is evolution.
Currently, the castle is not in better condition because it has also been a victim of nature. Portugal has trembled with earthquakes throughout history.
The exterior of the castle
The castle is visible from many points of Silves (remember that it is in the highest site of the zone).
The closer we get to the walls, the bigger the thrills. At times like this, my imagination goes beyond the clouds. I visualize the workers building that marvel of engineering and architecture. Oh, wait. I see other inhabitants in their routines … feeling the past in such intense concentration that I can almost touch someone passing by. I can even smell their food.
Suddenly, the preserved walls grow right in front of us. Huge. They intimidate us but at the same time make an irresistible invitation to a visit.
A few steps from the main entrance, pay attention to a big bronze statue. It is tradition for tourists to take pictures there.
The statue is a tribute to D. Sancho I — the one who appeared in the section “A little bit of history.”
Interesting, Glauco. And I can see that he holds a letter. Can you please show it closer?
You just ask and I obey.
Now … it’s time for you to enter the castle with me!
Inside the walls
Before exploring the interior, we cross a wide covered area that gives access to the ticket sales point.
Finally, we cross a glass door to enjoy the best of the day.
Walls at open sky imediatelly greet us. We can — and should — climb them to feel deeper emotions and to get amazing views up there.
One of the highlights is the remains of constructions inside. They appear a few steps after that glass door, right in front of you, and extend a few meters along the wall.
It is worth noting the traces of huge cisterns for water and silos for food. Together, cisterns and silos could keep the population in there for a long time, making it more resistant to attacks. (It is believed that one of the cisterns was once an ancient Roman well, used for copper exploration.)
Enjoy now this series of photos:
As you walk along the top of the walls, pay attention to a small room where several items found in local excavations are exposed. There are pots, jars, amphorae, spearheads, etc.
Finally, at the bottom, further down, to the left, locate a bar. It can be your salvation during the visit (I explain this below).
Oh, Damas, what an eagerness to see all this in person!
Great! But now I have some tips and warnings.
Warnings and tips for your visit
Pay special attention if your visit happens in the Summer. Temperatures easily reach 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) in the Algarve. And Silves is even hotter compared to the entire region.
I recommend sunscreen, sunglasses and head protection. Remember: It’s an open-air visit.
The bar mentioned above will be paradise to appease your thirst. Take the opportunity to sit, relax, contemplate. After all, how many times in life do you sit down to eat and drink inside a castle?
Rains require thousands of times more attention for those who climb the walls. The walls are slippery, and there is no handrail or other support for the visitor to lean on. In fact, even without rain it is necessary to be very careful. Every year, tourists die in Portugal as a result of falls in places like this. The main cause of distraction are moments of selfies.
Silves Medieval Fair
Silves Castle is part of the annual Silves Medieval Fair (August). Stay tuned out for this. The visit during this time is sensational.
Timetable and prices
Silves Castle opens every day except Christmas and New Year.
From 2 January to 31 May, it opens to the public from 9h to 17h30. In June, from 9h to 19h. 1 July to 31 August, from 9h to 22h. 1 September to 15 October, from 9h to 20h. 16 October to 31 December, from 9h to 17h30. Last entry permitted 30 minutes before closing time.
The ticket costs 2,80€. Children and visitors over 65 years have a 50% discount.
I’ve never seen the castle full of tourists. Most likely, you will have a quiet visit. (The truth is that Silves does not invest in its own tourist potential.)
(Remember: prices and opening times can change at any time.)
To make your life easier, find Silves Castle directly on Google Maps.
Interested in seeing more photos I took at Silves Castle? Great. Follow HERE to visit an album I created in my Google Photos.