Silves

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The old capital of Algarve

From a distance, Silves can be seen on the hill – the cathedral and the castle tower over the city. The first settlements of this area took place as early as the fourth century BC, when the Romans came, but there are hardly any traces left. Only among the Arabs did Silves experience its heyday – four centuries it was the capital of “al gharb” as “Xelb”. With the Moorish rulers came the almond trees, for which the area is still famous today. Between 1189 and 1242 the flourishing city became a game between the Moors and the Crusaders, culminating in a complete destruction of the city. In the 16th century, there were hardly more than 150 inhabitants, and after the great earthquake in 1755 there were hardly ten houses in Silves.

Today, Silves is a cozy town with overgrown squares, small shops and restaurants. It is in any case worth a city stroll. Most visitors to the city still come because of their historical past. The two most striking buildings in the city, the red sandstone fortress and the red-and-white cathedral, are reminiscent of the fact that this town was the most fortified and most controversial in the Algarve in the early Middle Ages. Silves was then one of the richest cities in Europe – a beautiful, flourishing city with shining minarets and bazaars overflowing with goods.

The castle can be visited, but its terrible past is now covered by flowering oleander bushes and there are regular – often musical – events held in the castle. The cistern, which contained the water consumption of an entire year, is closed forever. The architecture of the Moors, except for a few remains of the wall, can only be seen in the 65 m deep, originally Roman well of the fort. Another Moorish fountain is the center of a small, modern museum in a side street not far from the castle. The 3 m high, white-limestone Cruz de Portugal at the eastern end of the town dates from the 16th century and was declared a national monument in 1910. You can also visit the hundred-year-old water mill. The heavy millstones of Sítio dos Barreiros still grind grain grains. The lower part of the Capela de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires was supposed to have been built in order to bury the Crusaders who had fallen during the struggle against the Moors. From the original building, only the Manueline portal – everything else was rebuilt after the terrible earthquake.

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In the “Café Inglês” (English Cafe) there is live music on the terrace every Sunday (in the high season it is worth reserving in advance). There is also a charming roof terrace. With mostly jazz sounds, you can indulge yourself here very delicious culinary delights, the view over the Moorish architecture and the warm air in the former harbor city enjoy. A feast for the senses!

Every year a beer festival with concerts takes place in the middle of July. On Saturdays, the Bauernmarkt takes place around the Markthalle.

In August Silves is the site of a beautiful Medieval of the Silves. Impressions from the year 2016 can be found here. This festival lasts for over a week and is truly celebrated: you can get into the right mood at the city walls and exchange your clothes for a small obolus against the garments of the time. The Moorish history of the village will catch you quickly and charm you, so it feels like it is on every corner, as if you are making a little time trip. They also pay with clay tales (which have the same value as the euro and can be exchanged at any time), the music in the background, the knightly games – a celebration for all ages!

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