What most visitors to Lisbon don’t know is that just south of the Tagus river and across the 25 de Abril Bridge lies Setúbal, a beautiful seaside city famed for its own incredible gastronomy, a sweet and internationally acclaimed moscatel wine and your secret gateway to a hidden, natural paradise!
While Setúbal is primarily known as an industrial city, it’s stunning location amongst the Serra da Arrábida and Tróia Peninsula actually makes it the perfect base to see some of Portugal’s best-untouched beaches and most dramatic coastlines.
Nature lovers get ready to fall in love as you hike along the Parque Natural da Arrábida, tourists prepare to be amazed at the flock of bottlenose dolphins at the Sado estuary and foodies, you’re in for a gastronomic adventure with amazing seafood dishes that will tantalise your taste buds.
Read on and see why you really need to start planning your next trip to Setúbal!
Where’s Setúbal in Portugal?
Setúbal is located just 32km south of Lisbon and the best part is that it’s only one train ride away too, with trains departing from Roma-Areeiro station in Lisbon (passing by Entrecampos, Sete Rios and Campolide stations) to Setúbal.
The train ride takes just over 1hr and spectacularly crosses the Tagus River through the in famous 25 de Abril Bridge. Alternatively, you can also catch a bus from Praça Espanha or drive over to Setúbal from Lisbon, which will take you just 30 minutes by car.
What type of cuisine is typical for Setúbal?
Setúbal is a fishing city so naturally, you’re going to find that most of the traditional dishes are indeed, fish based.
Food lovers brace yourselves because this city really, really knows how to cook delicious fish and proof of this can be seen in 2011 when the grilled sardine of Setúbal was voted as one of the “7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy!”
While you should definitely try the grilled sardines of Setúbal, there’s also a wide variety of other great traditional fish dishes to try and we’d definitely recommend the carapaus manteiga (butter mackerel), linguado (sole), cherne (Atlantic wreckfish or stone bass) and garoupa (grouper) just to name a few.
Delicious grilled fish is not all that Setúbal is known for though, it’s also famous for a wide range of seafood dishes such as choco frito (fried cuttlefish), caldeirada or the “stew of the sea”, feijoadas (bean stews), saladas (salads) made with choco (cuttlefish), polvo (octopus) and massadas de peixe (fish stews with pasta).
Above all, Setúbal is probably most known for the dishes that feature the local eel, which you can try prepared in stews or simply fried.
For meat lovers there’s also a great variety of dishes to sample like cabidela de galinha (chicken stewed in its own blood with rice), arroz de pato (baked duck risotto with sausage), ensopado de borrego (lamb stew), lombinhos de porco com açorda (pork medallions with “bread soup”) and a good cozido à portuguesa (Portuguese stew).
While you can definitely spend more than enough time eating your way through Setúbal, there are still so many charming things to see and do.
Here are some of the best locations you must see on your visit:
• Arrábida Natural Park – is located next to the sea, between Setúbal and the fishing town of Sesimbra and has natural beauty you have to see to believe – where the crystal clear waters blend with the stunning greenery of the mountains surrounding it. Figueirinha, Galápos and the Portinho da Arrábida are all found at the park and contribute to its unique, unspoilt beauty.
• Monastery of Jesus of Setúbal – is a historical building in the downtown of Setúbal, which served a monastery of Poor Clare nuns. It is one of the first buildings in the Manueline style, the Portuguese version of late Gothic and dates as far back as the 1490s. The azulejos in here are a must see!
• Mercado do Livramento – is located in Avenida Luisa Todi and it’s worth the visit just to see the incredible variety of fresh fish and seafood displayed. Built in 1930, its columns are made out of forged iron and features some beautiful original azulejos.
• Fortress São Filipe – dates as back as the 14th century and has breathtaking views looking towards the ocean and over the city. It’s located in Estrada do Castelo de São Filipe.
• Avenida Luísa Todi – the main avenue of Setúbal and with its multiple bars, restaurants and green spaces, it’s the perfect place to visit on a beautiful sunny day.
• Praça de Bocage – is the main square of Setúbal and it’s situated at the heart of the city. It’s a truly historical place and the central statue dates as far back as 1871. Take a seat in the terrace of a local café and enjoy the prime viewing location of watching the life of the city pass by!
• Albarquel Urban Park – is an amazing park by the beach. Ideal for a leisurely walk in the sunshine or just to take a break and enjoy some nature in the city!
Truly one of the best things to see is the area’s stunning beaches. For a little slice of paradise, I’ve listed the top beaches you have to see while visiting Setúbal:
Considered by many the most beautiful beach in the whole of Portugal. From the crystal clear waters to the picturesque green mountain backdrop, you’ll forget where you are as you’re completely immersed in nature. With basically no man-made structures in sight and no cars allowed in the area, Portinho da Arrábida is the reason why many go to Setúbal in the first place.
Is located near Portinho da Arrábida and was considered the best beach in Europe in 2017 by the website European Best Destinations. If you’re planning to visit, the beach is also located in the no-car zone so you’ll need to trek a little bit to get there – trust me, it’s worth it!
Is the new hotspot in Setúbal as it’s the last beach where you can drive to and extends over a large stretch of sand, which at low tide stretches outwards to form a sandbank and creates a type of cove ideal for windsurfing?
The Tróia beach is one of the most beautiful coastlines of Portugal, which boasts a 13km stretch of pristine sands, crystal clear waters and pine forested sand dunes.
Is the closest beach to the town of Setúbal. A lovely stretch of golden sand with great views across the calm waters of the Sado estuary to the Troia Peninsula.