Castelo Vista
Place: Silves
Photo: José Manuel
Photo: José Manuel

Silves was the capital of the ancient Arab kingdom of Algarve, and its most important city. That era gave it a stately outline, the epitome of which is its red-hued castle, inviting exploration.

Considered the most beautiful military monument from Islamic Portugal, this castle is also the largest in the Algarve. Its towers and walls perch on a Serra de Monchique hill, so it could monitor and defend the territory, and today are excellent viewpoints over these fertile fields covered with orange trees around the River Arade. It was erected by the Arabs, probably on an ancient 4th/5th century Roman fort. Two further walls also surrounded the settlement, of which only a few sections have survived. Inside you can see the ancient Arab citadel and two water tanks, one of which, it is said, is linked to the river.

Silves was conquered from the Moors in 1189 by King Sancho I, but they were only finally expelled in 1242 under King Afonso III. The ancient great Mosque, now transformed into the Cathedral, is thought to date from this time, and is one of the most important churches in the Algarve, begun in the Gothic style and completed in the Baroque period. It is opposite the castle and, like it, was built in the red Silves sandstone.

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