By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]
In this monthly travel feature, Paulo Silvestre takes readers on a guided tour of the best places to visit in Portugal. Paulo provides inside information and useful tips to assist you in planning relaxing trips and enjoyable days out. You’ll discover the best of Portugal and enjoy celebrating its unique culture! Paulo holds a degree in Media Studies and his hobbies include playing in a band.
THE CITY of Silves was conquered by Abd-al-Aziz in 713 BC and remained under Islamic power until half way through the 12th century. King Dom Sancho I, assisted by the Crusaders travelling to the Holy Land, recaptured the city in 1189.
Silves occupies a total area of 687 square kilometres and is home to around 34,000 inhabitants. In territorial terms, it’s the second biggest borough in the Algarve and one of the region’s most important tourist spots, not only due to its history, but also because of the area’s cultural, social and economical developments which promise a bright future for the tourism industry.
Due to its dominant location, Silves became one of the principal fortified areas. Highlighting the top of the city are the red walls of the impressive castle, one of the favourite places to visit in Silves. The castle offers incredible views over the city and the surrounding countryside, making it a very romantic setting.
Upon leaving the castle, go down the stairs and turn left down Rua do Castelo, walk alongside the wall which encloses a garden area and then down Escadas de Diogo Manuel. You will find yourself in Rua Cândido dos Reis, which runs eastwards and is lined by early 20th century buildings, reflective of the early beginnings of the cork industry. Also dating back to that time is Fábrica do Inglês, a former cork factory which has been restored and transformed into a cultural and leisure centre. You can enjoy theatre, music and dance productions, as well as exhibitions, and there is also the opportunity to visit the centre’s own cork museum.
Besides these pleasant places, the best way to start your visit to the city is by going to Silves market in the morning. You will enjoy the aroma of the fruit, vegetables and fresh fish at this crowded, noisy but charming venue where you can buy everything you need to cook a delicious meal.
Then look for Rua José Estevão, near the eastern entrance of the market. Walk along the street and admire the 19th century buildings from the beginning of the city’s industrial age. Follow along Rua 5 de Outubro and walk up until you reach Largo do Município near the Câmara. There you can visit the Municipal Archaeological Museum, which is home to one of the most remarkable and recent archaeological finds, dating back to the 12th century. Also take a look at Igreja da Misericórdia and marvel at its unique Manueline style door.
Silves, with its terraces, minarets, the façade of the Arabic palaces and streets complete with bazaars, make the city a great attraction for all visitors.
Walking on foot over the hills around the city, you will see flourishing orchards of almond, orange and fig trees.
Continue straight ahead to the Arade river and you will find the Ponte Velha (Old Bridge), another landmark. Try the Ponte Romana restaurant where you can enjoy a nice evening with a good meal. Sometimes there are live music performances which offer great entertainment and a lively atmosphere.
At the heart of the area’s traditional gastronomy is a type of potato soup, cooked to an ancient recipe and served with mint and home-made bread. You can also find papas de milho or grizéus à algarvia (pea broth) served with sausage, bacon and eggs. If you prefer fish, try bacalhau abafado or carapaus alimados, or perhaps some tasty rabbit.
When it comes to dessert, bolo real, morgado de Silves, doce de ovos and meias luas are the city’s traditional sweets. But if you like fruit, the Algarve’s oranges are too good to miss!
Relax and enjoy Silves – I’m sure you won’t regret it!
Paulo Silvestre can be contacted by emailing [email protected]