About Silves Castle
Silves Castle (Castelo de Silves) is an imposing Moorish stronghold which defended this once thriving Moorish settlement in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Following the re-conquest by Christian forces in 1242, Silves Castle was altered and renovated, this work continuing throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Silves Castle history
Situated overlooking the town below Silves Castle is considered the best preserved of the Moorish castles in Portugal.
Silves Castle was probably built, on the site of late Roman or Visigothic fortifications from the 4th/5th centuries, during the Moorish occupation, which started around 715, and was part of the city walls that surrounded the town.
The Moors who held the Al-Gharb (Algarve) region from the 8th to 13th centuries. During this time, Silves became an important centre of trading and culture and was the capital of the Al-Gharb. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries the town witnessed sieges, battles and much bloodshed as the Moors and Christians from the north fought over this strategically important site.
The castle was built out of large, red sandstone blocks and taipa; a Moorish mixture of mud and sandstone that hardens out like stone.
There were two entrances to the castle grounds; the main gate defended by two towers and a so-called ‘traitors-gate’. This was situated close to a projecting tower which served as a keep, in the northern wall, but was bricked up during one of the restorations. Four of the towers which were modified at the time of reconstruction work carried out in the 14th/15th century, have gothic doorways, vaulted halls and stones bearing the marks of medieval masons.
Silves Castle today
Today, Silves Castle is a great remnant of what would have been a powerful Moorish settlement. There are some remains of the buildings which were once housed within the walls of Silves Castle and of the Roman fortification on which it was built, mostly in the form of excavated foundations that visitors can wander around. A couple of cisterns from these periods also remain. However, the highlights of Silves Castle are its well preserved defensive walls, turrets and gates.
Silves Castle also features as one of our top visitor attractions in Portugal.
Getting to Silves Castle
The town is situated on a hill above the Arade River. Silves Castle is located on the top of the hill.
Silves train station lies just over a mile outside the town. There is a connecting bus, but it’s worth walking, allowing the town and its fortress to appear slowly as you emerge from the wooded hills.