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Setubal travel guide, Portugal

Setubal is a busy port and an important fishing center that is not ashamed of its history and origins.

The city polarizes its tourists: some admire the rugged character and fascinating sights, while others look slightly derogatory at the rugged side of the city. Still, Setubal deserves a day trip from Lisbon. And who knows, you might even want to stay longer.

Setubal has always had a close relationship with the sea. This is particularly evident along the restored promenade, which includes the colorful fishing port, a popular city park and the ferry to the Tróia peninsula.

A maze of narrow streets, hidden plazas, family-run shops and Portugal's largest fish market await you in the charming city center.

Setubal is primarily an industrial city, but it is located in the middle of a beautiful region. In the east lies the impressive Serra da Arrabida, in the north the historic Palmela and in the south the beach paradise par excellence, the Tróia peninsula.

Setubal may not be your ordinary vacation destination. However, there is plenty to see within the city and region. This article will give you an overview of this fascinating city.
Related articles:Tróia peninsula - Travel guide to Sesimbra - Serra da Arrabida

The waterfront in Setubal

Praça de Bocage, Setubal

Brief overview of Setubal, Portugal

Top things to do and see in Setubal

• Hike up to Fortaleza de Sao Filipe. There you have a stunning panoramic view of the city.
• Visit the Mercado do Livramento, one of the best food markets in Portugal.
• Stroll the cobblestone streets of the beautiful old town.
• Join a dolphin watching tour. A herd of dolphins lives in the mouth of the Sado.
• Enjoy fresh fish or the local specialty Choco frito (fried squid) in one of the many fish restaurants around the harbor.

The ferry between Setubal and Troia across the Sado Estuary

The best things to do in the Setubal region

• Drive along the spectacular Estrada de Escarpa, which runs through the Serra da Arrabida.
• Try different Muscat wines from one of the wineries in Azeitão.
• Take the ferry to the Tróia peninsula and enjoy the beautiful beaches.
• Relax at Praia do Creiro with turquoise water, golden sand and a beautiful natural landscape.
• Visit the lovely Sesimbra resort and Cabo Espichel headland.
• Hike or cycle the challenging trails of the Serra da Arrabida.

Serra da Arrabida

A day trip to Setubal?

Most vacationers visit Setubal as part of a day trip from Lisbon or Sesimbra. The city is ideally suited for this. Setubal offers a variety of different leisure activities and historical monuments. The atmosphere in the city is completely different from that in dynamic Lisbon or peaceful Sesimbra.

Setubal is the ideal destination to immerse yourself in the typical everyday life of the Portuguese - either at the lively Mercado do Livramento, in the cozy cafés of Praça Bocage or in the fish restaurants around the harbor. In addition, Setubal has the advantage that it is off the usual tourist routes. The city is never overrun by tourist crowds from coaches. You won't find any overpriced tuk-tuk rides here either.

On a typical day trip to Setubal you will visit the market, the old town, the waterfront, the fishing port and the castle. The drive from Lisbon to Setubal is not a big hurdle. There is a direct, inexpensive train connection between the two cities (or by bus from Sesimbra).

Below is an interactive map with a recommended route for a day trip to Setubal. Our tour starts and ends at the train station.

Sights along the route: 1) Igreja de Santa Maria da Graça 2) Bocage Square 3) Mosteiro de Jesus 4) Mercado do Livramento 5) Forte de Sao Filipe 6) Parque Urbano da Albarquel (optional) 7) Doca de Pesca 8) Jardim Engenheiro Luís da Fonseca 9) Portal Historico de Setúbal

Colorful fishing boats in the harbor

Praia da Saúde

You can't expect a pristine beach resort or a spruced-up tourist town on a Setubal vacation. However, if you are looking for a somewhat different vacation spot, you've come to the right place.

Setubal is the ideal base for exploring the region. Thanks to numerous day trip destinations, you can easily spend a week's vacation here. Many travelers visit Setubal as part of a round trip or as a second holiday destination (e.g. Lisbon and Setubal or Cascais and Setubal).

The city has a good standard of accommodation and tourist facilities, but it cannot compete with the famous holiday resorts or Lisbon. Groceries, restaurants and bars offer exceptional value for money.

This is not least due to the fact that Setubal is primarily a travel destination for the Portuguese. For a vacation in Setubal, we recommend renting a car so that you can explore Arrabida, Troy and Azeitão unhindered.

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Convento de Jesus

The Fortaleza de Sao Filipe

Who is a visit to Setubal suitable for?

A vacation in Setubal is best suited for mature guests or those looking for a real Portuguese experience. The city doesn't have so much to offer families. These are better off in Sesimbra, Cascais or Troy.

However, as a day trip, Setubal is a worthwhile destination for a wide audience. Basically, once you've seen and enjoyed Sintra and Cascais, Setubal is the next logical destination. A visit to the city gives you an authentic insight into the diversity of the region. Setubal is very different from Sintra and Cascais.

The Fortaleza de Sao Filipe

The best tourist attraction in Setubal is the Fortaleza de Sao Filipe. From the battlements of the massive fortress you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the region. The castle dates back to 1580, when King Philip II decided by decree that a fortress should be built to protect the Sado estuary from pirates and other invaders.

The layout of the fortress is irregularly shaped like a star. The walls should withstand even strong cannon attacks. The castle is high above the city. Most of the visitors come here because of the overwhelming view.

View from the top of the Fortaleza de Sao Filipe

Municipality of Setúbal

The Mercado do Livramento is one of the best food markets in Portugal. In the market hall, numerous traders offer fresh products, local handicrafts and lots of fish. The fish market exudes a somewhat chaotic and very lively atmosphere. Traders and fish women offer their goods for loudly experienced early risers for sale.

The fish is as fresh as it can be. He was only pulled out of the sea the night before. It often ends up on a plate in one of the excellent fish restaurants in the harbor district. The best time to visit the market is early in the morning. All fish is sold by lunchtime and the traders close their stalls.

Mercado do Livramento, Portugal's busiest market hall

In the summer months, numerous Portuguese pass through Setubal on their way to the Tróia peninsula. The deep sandbar separates the Sado Estuary from the Atlantic Ocean and offers pristine beaches. It is exceptionally well developed for tourism. The main target group is the super-rich.

The city of Troia is a glamorous holiday resort with five-star hotels, gourmet restaurants and even its own casino. It forms the exact opposite of Setubal. The heavenly beaches of Troia can be reached by ferry from Setubal. Please click here for a guide to Troy.
Related articles:The Tróia peninsula

The eastern side of the Tróia peninsula is a haven for wildlife.

Setubal, Sesimbra or Costa da Caparica?

Setubal, Sesimbra and Costa da Caparica are three popular travel destinations on the Setubal Peninsula. Costa da Caparica is a modern holiday resort, Setubal is a bustling port city and Sesimbra is a wonderful Portuguese holiday destination. In general, if you want to spend a day at the beach from Lisbon, visit Costa da Caparica.

If you want to spend your vacation in one of the three places, choose Sesimbra. For a bit of variety or a day trip, we recommend Setubal. Setubal is a fascinating city, but not your usual vacation spot. The Serra da Arrabida is also easily accessible from Sesimbra. Please click here for a travel guide for a day trip to Setubal.

Our best travel guides for Sesimbra and Setubal

Sesimbra

Lovely town right on the beach and very popular with the Portuguese

Setubal

Busy fishing port and a piece of real Portugal

Serra da Arrábida

Impressive mountains and picturesque beaches

Costa da Caparica

A beautiful 26 km long sandy beach

Lagoa de Albufeira

Untouched lagoon and beach - almost unknown to tourists

Fonte da Telha

Magical beach and characterful fishing village

The Tróia peninsula

Magnificent monastery and site of the most important battle in Portugal

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