Setúbal is home to postcard beaches where dolphins live, a rich gastronomy (it is the Portuguese capital of grilled fish), and a beautiful historic center where to go for a walk at the end of the day – aren’t these what most people look for in a week’s vacation?
For Randomtrip, moreover, Setúbal is a special city: it was where Inês was born and where she lived the first years of her life. She returns to her mother’s house, to one of her favorite beaches in the world and to the mountain range where she grew up, Serra da Arrábida, whenever she can.
This guide is written by a Setubalense who loves to get lost and feel like a tourist in her homeland. Here you will find the best beaches where you can swim, the best restaurants where you can eat a good grilled fish and taste the fried choco frito, and the best places to sleep in the jewel of the Sado river.
- Basic facts for traveling to Setúbal
- When to visit Setúbal: beach months
- How many days to spend in Setúbal
- Things to see and do in Setúbal
- Map of Setúbal
- The best beaches of Setúbal and Serra da Arrábida
- Arrábida sightseeing: by car, boat, or on foot
- Traffic restrictions in Arrábida in Summer
- Parking in Arrábida: prices, parking lots, and limitations in the summertime
- Downtown and Baixa de Setúbal: squares, museums, markets, and lookout points
- Surroundings of Setúbal: beaches and charming villages
- Serra da Arrábida Curiosities
- Where to sleep in Setúbal
- Where to sleep near Setúbal
- Where to eat in Setúbal
- How to get to Setúbal from Lisbon
- Rent a car in Portugal
- How much does it cost to travel to Setúbal
- Recommendations for enjoying Setúbal and the Arrábida Natural Park and its beaches
- Liked our guide? Save money and support us!
Basic facts for traveling to Setúbal
Less than an hour away from Lisbon, Setúbal is located in a privileged environment between the natural park of Arrábida with its paradisiacal beaches and the Sado river estuary with its dolphins and its biodiversity ideal for bird watching. The estuary separates it from the peninsula of Tróia. It is also known for its incredible beaches of fresh water: although they may look like Caribbean waters, don’t forget that you are in Portugal. Apart from being a beach jewel, it is also known for its good restaurants, and for its grilled fish and its specialty of choco frito (fried cuttlefish), reasons that have earned it a special place on the Portuguese tourist map in recent years.
Population: 123,000 (in 2021)
Daily budget: From 60€/day per person (approx.) for a one week trip. More budget information here.
Weather: The climate varies in the summer months (Min 18º Max 30º) and winter (Min 7º Max 18º); best time to visit is between May and September to enjoy the beaches. Learn more about when to go here.
Accommodation: The best area to stay in Setúbal is near Avenida Luísa Todi, its central artery. This way you will be close to the historic center with its restaurants and terraces, the beaches of Arrábida and the ferry to cross to Tróia. We recommend a few places where to sleep here.
Duration: Minimum one weekend. Ideal 1 week to enjoy the beaches and surroundings.
Flights: There are many flights to Lisbon, the closest airport to Setubal. We recommend you to use flight comparators such as Skyscanner and Kiwi and be flexible with dates. We tell you how to get to Setúbal by car or by public transport from Lisbon here.
Transportation: The best option is to rent a car to move around freely, although you can easily get around the city on foot and reach the most secluded beaches of the Serra da Arrábida with a mix of public transport and your feet. More info here.
Time zone: UTC +1. The time in Setúbal (Portugal) is one hour less than in Spain.
When to visit Setúbal: beach months
Setúbal is a beach town, this is undeniable. Therefore, the best months to visit it are when the weather is nice enough to go to the beach, from May to September being the peak between July and August.
During the autumn and winter months, between October and March, temperatures are usually below 18º, with a minimum of 7º at night and a maximum of 18º during the day (although it is not uncommon to be surprised by a few warmer afternoons in autumn). The coldest month is January.
During the months of Spring and Summer, between April and September, temperatures usually vary from 22º in April to reach an average temperature of 27º from June onwards. The minimum does not usually drop below 18º. There are days in July and August when the thermometer can reach 30º or more. In the evenings, even at the peak of summer, there is always a sea breeze that cools, so it is advisable to wear a sweater for the summer nights of Setúbal.
One of the main activities to do in Setubal is dolphin watching in the Sado Estuary, book the tour here
How many days to spend in Setúbal
If you plan to go to Setúbal for a long weekend you will not regret it. But if you want to enjoy the beaches and surrounding villages, ideally you should have 5 or more days. Therefore, we recommend that you dedicate a minimum of 3 days, and ideally a week.
Things to see and do in Setúbal
Although beaches are one of the main attractions in Setubal, there is more to discover in this amazing city. After a few good swims, there is a beautiful historical center to stroll through, fauna to observe in its estuary and nearby rural towns. Here is a list of everything you can do and you will realize that in one week you will not be able to cover it all.
Map of Setúbal
Here you can see a Google Maps map with all the places recommended in this guide: beaches, villages, restaurants… By clicking on the top left you can see the legend, and you can take the map with you on your smartphone, with Google Maps, to be useful during your trip to Setúbal.
The best beaches of Setúbal and Serra da Arrábida
Here is a list with descriptions and photos of the beaches of Arrábida, so you can choose which one to visit and enjoy every day. We have listed them by order from Setúbal and, in our opinion, they are better as they get farther away from the city so we recommend you to go all the way to the end…
During the summer months (mid June to mid September) there are limitations for the circulation of cars and parking in a part of the Serra da Arrábida. We detail it here.
We start with Albarquel beach which has the great advantage of being easily reachable on foot from downtown Setúbal. It is the first beach that you will find when you enter the Serra da Arrábida, it has a big sand area and, although it is not one of our favorites, we can already glimpse the color of the water that Arrábida promises.
On the way from Albarquel beach to Figueirinha beach through the Serra da Arrábida, you will pass through several places full of curiosities which we tell you about below in the section Serra da Arrábida Curiosities.
We arrive at Figueirinha beach, the most family-oriented beach. This beach takes us back to the childhood memories of many people from Setubal: here we used to come in the mornings with the summer camps or the free time centers for the little ones. The thing is that it is still like this today, so do not be surprised that during the week, in summer, groups of girls and boys dressed in different colors flood the sand and water at the same time. On weekends the same thing, but with their families.
It has very good access, paid parking, showers, cafés, security, and surveillance. The water here is usually a couple of degrees warmer than the next beaches. The big sand area (the largest in the national park) the calm sea and an area where trees invite you to use their shade complete the ideal scenario. In short, an ideal beach that meets all the requirements for families with children.
Pay attention because the tunnels that you will find in the Arrábida Mountains to get to Figueirinha have art inside!
As we go down the stairs leading to Galapos Beach we find ourselves with a cove protected from the wind thanks to the mountains, with an intense turquoise color of the water and fine white sand that even makes us feel out of Portuguese land and on the beaches of Galapagos, but the freshness when entering the water quickly reminds us where we are.
It is recommended to bring snorkel goggles because here it starts to be easier to spot marine species in the crystalline waters of Arrábida. It is not a beach where you can enjoy the mountain range in solitude, as it is very appealing to many people because it has vigilance. But the fact that it has no parking and its access involves going down several stairs, inhibits more people than Figueirinha. During the summer, due to the traffic restrictions, it is not possible to reach it by car.
Right next to the Galapos beach, we arrived at the beach that was chosen as the best beach in Europe in 2017 by the European Best Destinations website: Galapinhos Beach. It has the same wind protection that its neighbor and the same crystalline waters but since the access is not by stairs but by a dirt path with some inclination, it is less crowded (at low tide you can walk from one to the other). The scenery is incredible and invites you to take a dip (almost always a cool one, of course).
As with the previous one, during the summer, due to the traffic restrictions, it is not possible to reach it by car.
Although not strictly a secret, Coelhos beach (in English, Rabbit Beach) is the one that remains wilder on this coast and it is never crowded. Perhaps it is because the directions to get there are not very clear: on the road after Galapinhos there is a sign asking not to leave trash that marks the beginning of the steep 10-minute trail. Upon arrival, a piece of paradise in the shape of a shell of fine sand surrounded by greenery and transparent waters. It has no surveillance or parking but enjoying it in peace is guaranteed. At low tide it is possible to walk to the coves of Anicha and Monte Branco and Creiro beach.
Like the previous one, during the summer, because of the traffic restrictions is not possible to reach it by car.
Anicha and Monte Branco coves
These coves of clear water with tiny sandy beaches interspersed with rocks are located between Coelhos and Creiro and are ideal for those who are looking for solitude. Right in front of the emblematic “Pedra de Anicha”, the 40-meter-long island is considered a zoological reserve, located in the middle of the sea, giving the coast of Arrábida more personality. It is common to practice scuba diving, so if you like to dive, you know where a lot of biodiversity can be found.
Our beach of choice in Arrábida, where Inês returns whenever she can to recharge her batteries at any time of the year: Creiro Beach. It is not one of the wildest, far from it, but its super large sandy area with small coves on the left, the Portinho de Arrábida on the right where to go for lunch (which is reached by walking a short trail), and the “Pedra de Anicha” in front of give it a special charm. It has paid parking (4 € per vehicle, all day, although it fills up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays), surveillance, and a restaurant on the beach itself, which makes it one of the busiest in the area. Note, it has no bathrooms but the restaurant allows the use of theirs if you buy something.
Portinho da Arrábida
We can say that this tiny fishing village is “the” postcard of Arrábida: a bay surrounded by the green of the mountains, a long beach with white sands and infinite shades of blue in the water. The beach of Portinho de Arrábida is so beautiful that in 2010 it was considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
There is so much biodiversity around here that it is common to practice scuba diving but beware that spearfishing is forbidden because the seabed here is also a Natural Reserve and thank goodness for that! If you want to enjoy a good grilled fish there are a couple of restaurants next to the half a dozen accommodations in the village, we tell you more in the section Where to Eat in Setúbal. Although it is temporarily closed at the time of writing this post, you can also find here the Oceanographic Museum (in the old Fort of Santa Maria de Arrábida) where the collection is composed of various marine species from the nature reserve.
It is not always possible to enjoy this beach because it disappears when the tide rises. That’s right, to enjoy this small cove in peace and quiet, you have to go to Pilotos Beach at low tide. To get there you have to go down the stairs after the iron gate before the Fort of Santa Maria de Arrábida, just before reaching Portinho de Arrábida.
The Alpertuche beach is a very small beach which, like the previous one, it is recommended to visit at low tide, since at high tide the sandy area disappears. Even so, it is worth a visit. It is sheltered by The green of the mountains and although it does not have much sand, it is beautiful with the light reflecting on the wet stones sculpted by the sea. Next to the access to reach it, a dirt path 100 meters from the junction to turn to Portinho de Arrábida on the road (before the Hydrographic Museum) there is a ruined big house. Construction in the Serra da Arrábida was prohibited in 1976.
In Arrábida, on the way to Sesimbra (which we will talk about later), we find Penedos Beach also known as Praia do Infierno (Hell’s Beach). No hell there actually, as in this small cove of generous sand you have reached paradise.
Arrábida sightseeing: by car, boat, or on foot
If you don’t feel like walking, we recommend you to go around the mountain range by car/motorbike and contemplate the views of the mountains along 25 kilometers, interspersed by the sea stopping at the viewpoints of Antenas, Norte, Portinho da Arrábida or Conventos, among others.
This last one is our favorite viewpoint, the one of the beautiful Convent of Nossa Senhora da Arrábida, former refuge of Franciscan friars founded in 1542 (if you want to visit it, you will have to call first at +351212197628).
To make this route, take into account the limitations of circulation in the natural park in summer (which we will talk about in the next point). These viewpoints can also be accessed in summer, you just have to go along the road further inland inside the natural park. The easiest way is to open our map or the Google Maps links in the previous paragraphs to see directly the route to get there.
If you are in Lisbon, you can also book directly this day trip to Arrábida that includes views (of the Serra da Arrábida and Palmela Castle), swimming on the beach of Portinho de Arrábida food at the beautiful Sesimbra (which we will also tell you more about later) and wine tasting in Azeitão and Palmela. Before returning to Lisbon, you are entitled to one last stop at Cristo Rei to enjoy the views of the Tagus and the 25 de Abril Bridge.
Book the day trip to Arrábida here.
If you prefer a one-day tour of Arrábida with more adventure riding on a Jeep and with the possibility of seeing dolphins on the Sado River with a boat ride included, this is a great option
Hire the Jeep Safari + Boat Trip here.
If you love to get lost in nature on foot, there are several hiking trails in which to get into the intricacies of the Serra da Arrábida. We highlight the “Serra de São Luis“(8 kms), the “Moinhos” (13 km), or the “Serra de São Filipe” (5 kms).
To get information about the existing network of trails, take advantage of your visit to the “Forte de São Filipe” or the “Casa da Baía” in Baixa de Setúbal (we talk about both of them below) where they will inform you about this and other adventure tourism in the region. Also in the “Outão Caravan Ecopark” on the way from Albarquel to Figueirinha before the Secil cement factory, they will inform you about these hiking trails in the Serra da Arrábida.
Here you have more information about hiking trails in Arrábida (in Portuguese)
If you choose to do one of these routes through the mountains, do not forget to always follow the marked trail and protect and respect the fauna and flora that you find. In this section, we give you a few suggestions and recommendations.
Traffic restrictions in Arrábida in Summer
IMPORTANT! If you visit Setúbal and its beaches in the summer, the “Car-free Arrábida” program limits the circulation and parking of cars between mid-June and mid-September in part of the Serra da Arrábida: between Figueirinha Beach and Creiro Beach (between the second tunnel of Figueirinha and the parking lot of Creiro) between 07h and 20h. Traffic is also limited on the same dates between the short road that goes from “Casa do Gaiato” in Arrábida and “Portinho da Arrábida” between 07h and 19h, as well as the small road to access Albarquel beach between 07h and 20h.
That is, during the dates with restrictions, you won’t be able to reach Albarquel, Galapos, Galapinhos and Coelhos beaches by car, nor Portinho da Arrábida. You will be able to reach Figueirinha and Creiro beaches (as well as the beaches after Creiro) by car, although the parking spaces fill up quickly so you better be there soon in the morning.
You can check the latest information regarding the restrictions in the official local government site (in Portuguese)
Here you have a map where you can see it easier, visually. The sections in red are the ones that are closed for cars during the summer, but you can use all the rest (if you want to go from Setúbal to Creiro, you will have to go by the inner road (the one with the viewpoints) and then go back by the other road to the beaches, until the point where it is cut, where you can go down to the parking):
Here is also a simple map (pending update):
This means that to get to the beaches of Galapinhos, Galapos, and Coelhos which are located between these extremes, on these dates, you have 3 options:
- Get up early and park your car in the Figueirinha or Creiro parking lot very early to find a space (at 10 am in the morning in summer there is usually no more space in one or the other). More info on where to park is in the next section. Then you can stay in Figueirinha or Creiro or walk to Galapinhos, Galapos, and Coelhos.
- Leave the car in Setúbal or SECIL (not available in 2022) and take the bus that leaves Setúbal and goes all the way from Figueirinha to Creiro and vice versa, stopping at Galapos and Galapinhos beaches (get off here if you want to walk to Coelhos beach). These buses leave every 30 minutes between 09:20h and 19:20h and cost 2,60€ each way (1,55€ if you use the Zapping card). Check the official information in the local official site, with timetables, stops and prices (point “3. TRANSPORTE PÚBLICO PARA AS PRAIAS”)
- Motorcycles, there are no limitations for motorcycles, only for cars.
- Use taxi/Uber and similar, as they are allowed to use the restricted roads to take/get passengers.
- Walking or cycling: winning the splash with the effort of your legs
Parking in Arrábida: prices, parking lots, and limitations in the summertime
Although until a few years ago, especially in summer, cars parked on the sides of the road that runs along the beaches (which led to the limitations we have just mentioned), parking at Arrábida is limited in summer to the following locations:
- SECIL parking (not available in 2022): free, 180 spaces. Buses to the rest of the beaches leave from here
- Parking Figueirinha: paid parking with 240 spaces. The price is per hour, half day or full day, and varies according to the month.
- Parking Creiro: paid parking, 200 parking spaces. It has some spaces closer to the beach (down the road) and the rest (most of them) before that descent, on the main road. The price is 4 €, regardless of the hours or day.
You have them all in the interactive map above, but here is a screenshot in case you want to locate them more quickly (SECIL parking not available in 2022):
These parking lots tend to fill up in summer, especially on holidays and weekends. So if you are going to visit these incredible beaches on a Sunday, you better get up early to find a parking space. You can find out about the number of sites available in real-time of the parking lots of SECIL y Figueirinha with the Praias da Arrábida official app (Android only)
Downtown and Baixa de Setúbal: squares, museums, markets, and lookout points
In the center of Setúbal there is a mixture of traditional stores (unfortunately fewer each year) and modern stores in its narrow streets with the smell, taste, and decoration of the sea
From the old quarters of Troino (the oldest neighborhood in the city) to that of the Fontainhas (with its grilled fish terraces), passing through the main artery of the city, the long avenue Luisa Todi and the heart in Praça do Bocage, the “Baixa de Setúbal” is ideal for a walk at sunset, after a day at the beach. Here is a list of what you can’t miss, although the best thing you can do is just wander around here:
Praça do Bocage
The square that is the neuralgic center of Setubal pays homage to the Setubalense poet Manuel María Barbosa du Bocage whose statue presides from the top over the network of narrow streets that end here, in a Portuguese road square with gardens where you can taste a good Setúbal moscatel wine in one of its terraces.
Apart from the terraces, in this square, you will find the Igreja de São Julião (in baroque style after its reconstruction following the 1755 earthquake), the Setúbal Municipal Chamber building (where you will find the tourist information office), and the Setúbal House of Culture, a space that hosts a variety of artistic events and exhibitions (you can see the programming here)
At the end of the square, he is watched by his nymph, his muse: Marília, sitting in a fountain in front of him.
Luisa Todi Avenue (or Luiza Todi)
The main artery of Setúbal has its name in honor of the lyric Sadina singer: Luisa Todi was a famous Portuguese mezzo-soprano. It is on this avenue where several restaurants with grilled fish and choco frito (the famous Leo do Petisco and Casa de Santiago) can be found, the beautiful Casa da Baía (a center for tourism promotion), the Livramento market (one of the best markets in the world, according to USA Today), the Luisa Todi Municipal Forum (where Setubalenses attend concerts and theater plays), the José Afonso Auditorium, stores and museums (the ones we told you about later in this guide).
The mural “O Rapaz dos Passarinhos”, on the José Afonso Auditorium is already an icon of Avenida Luísa Todi. It is based on a 1930’s photograph of a boy who sold birds (and happily got to see “his” live mural from the top of his 90 years old). The photograph was taken by Américo, the well-known Setubalense photographer who best captured Setúbal and whose photographs you can appreciate in the Photographic Archive at Casa Bocage.
In the Casa da Baía, an old restored 18th century house that catches your eye when you stroll along Luisa Todi Avenue, you can find tourist information about the city. For example, here they will tell you more information about activities and walks that you can do in the Serra da Arrábida.
Also here you can visit the Interpretative Center of the Sado Estuary Roaz (dolphin), enjoy its cozy restaurant or buy a souvenir in the gourmet store with regional products. During the summer it has a very lively agenda, the Nights of the bay!
Casa da Baía’s opening hours: from Monday to Sunday from 09:00 to 23:45.
Sado Estuary Interpretative Center Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 09:30 to 20:00. Free admission.
It is also at the end of avenue Luisa Todi where the road that climbs up to the Serra da Arrábida and its beaches starts, and it is here where we recommend you to stay overnight, we tell you about it in the section Where to Sleep in Setúbal.
It is no coincidence that in 2016 “USA Today” named it as one of the best markets in the world, next to one in the city of Tokyo and another one in Brooklyn. This beautiful market with more than 140 years of existence and more than 300 stalls (seafood and fresh fish, bread, Serra da Arrábida cheeses, fruit, and vegetables) is ideal for you to buy local products. It is in the middle of Avenida Luisa Todi.
The tile panel features more than 5000 pieces and was recently restored:
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Sunday from 07:00 to 14:00. Closed Mondays and holidays.
Largo da Ribeira Velha
Largo da Ribeira Velha (known locally as Largo do Dr. Francisco Soveral) is a square with several restaurants and terraces of colorful buildings that is usually very lively, especially in summer.
Convento de Jesús
One of the setubalenses architectural pearls, the Church of Jesus was built in 1491 by Diogo de Boitaca (if you have been to Lisbon you may be familiar with this name because it is the same of the impressive Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) and is one of the first examples of Portuguese Manueline style. Its interior is well worth a visit to see its incredible cloister and the spiral columns in the shape of a rope made of Arrábida marble.
The city’s beach: Praia da Saúde
If you want to take a dip without leaving the city, there is a beach in the center of Setúbal, the “Health Beach“(Praia da Saúde). Although it has no comparison with those of the Serra da Arrábida, it is ideal for those who can not or do not want to climb up to the mountains.
Port and promenade
Setúbal was and still is a fishing port and it is precisely the port of Setúbal (and all the people who make it up) responsible for the fact that the city has become the portuguese capital of fresh grilled fish. Well, that and the technique of the people who grill the fish from Setubal, some of them also fishermen.
Strolling along Setúbal’s promenade is a great plan in itself, listening to the seagulls or the bathers returning from Tróia.
Miradouro de São Sebastião
It is worth leaving Avenida Luisa Todi to go up to the San Sebastião viewpoint, one of the viewpoints with the most beautiful views of the city. From here you will be able to contemplate the city bathed by the Sado river up to the Troia peninsula. You can stay as long as you want taking pictures from this viewpoint dressed in tiles, the trees will shade you.
If after the views you feel like a culture plan, next door is the Casa de Bocage and Photographic Archive Américo Ribeiro, a gallery in the poet’s house where you can contemplate some photographs from the most important photographer of Setubal, more information in the following section of Museums.
Jardim Multissensorial das Energias (Multisensorial Garden of Energies)
If you have gone to the São Sebastião viewpoint to contemplate the views, take the opportunity to go back down to Avenida Luisa Todi through the Multisensory Garden of Energies (about 10 minutes walk from the viewpoint), where you will also have views of Setubal.
This garden is an educational project that seeks to raise awareness among the youngest (and not only) about the importance of renewable energies and energy efficiency. For this purpose, it has six units (each representing one kind of renewable energy – biomass, geothermal, oceanic, solar, hydro, and wind) that stimulate the senses (through color, aromas, textures, and sounds) of those who pass by. In addition, the energy consumed in this garden is totally renewable and produced right there, thanks to a wind power station that was installed, an ideal place to go with the kids!
Forte de São Filipe
A must in Setúbal is to climb up to the fortress of Castelo de São Filipe and enjoy the most incredible views of the city. The bay of Setúbal in all its splendor and the immensity of the blue until you lose sight of it.
The chapel inside the Fortress is very beautiful, all of it is covered with blue and white tiles, and although the Pousada remains closed at the time of writing this post, its terrace is still open, making it a privileged place to have a drink. The fortress of S. Filipe was classified as a National Monument in 1933.
If you are in the mood for a more cultural plan, we suggest seven museums in the sadine city:
- Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography
Museum dedicated to the archaeological finds in the Setúbal region from the Paleolithic period to the Roman period. It also has a section dedicated to the regional ethnography of traditions, artisanal fishing, agriculture, livestock breeding, shipbuilding, weaving, and folk art. Its library, with a well-documented collection, includes more than 10,000 volumes on the Sadine region.
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Saturday from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 14:00 and 17:30. Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and Saturdays in August. Free admission.
- Casa d’Avenida
Casa d’Avenida is a space for artistic production and diffusion. Of Pombaline architecture and with a balcony overlooking the Sado River, its intention is to make new and not-so-new artists visible, to host shows, parties, concerts, and poetry recitals. It includes an art gallery and cafeteria.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 09:00 to 20:00. Free admission. Check the events on its Facebook.
- Municipal Gallery of Banco de Portugal
Since 2013, it has been a recovered and adapted space that functions as a municipal gallery and hosts cultural events, mainly exhibitions. The beautiful building of Arnaldo Adães Bermudes shows influences of the art nouveau and was the representation of the Bank of Portugal in Setúbal between 1917 and 1994. Here it is possible to get to know some of the works of famous Portuguese painters.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 11:00 to 14:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00. Saturdays, from 11:00 to 13:00 h and from 14:00 to 18:00 h. Sundays on open in the afternoon. Closed Mondays and holidays. Price 1,50€/person.
- House of Culture
In the middle of Praça do Bocage, the city’s central square, this center hosts cultural events, from exhibits, book presentations, debates, and exhibitions.
Opening hours: Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays: 10h00-22h00; Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 10h00-01h00. Closed on Mondays. Free admission.
- Casa Bocage and Américo Ribeiro Photographic Archive
Next to the San Sebastián viewpoint, in the network of beautiful narrow streets of Setubal, you will find this gallery in the ancient home of the most famous Setubalense poet: Bocage.
The Américo Ribeiro Municipal Archive of Photography is located in the same building. Américo Ribeiro is none other than Setúbal’s most important photographer. He was born in 1906 and until his death in 1992 he collected more than 10,000 photographic images. Some of his black-and-white photographs are authentic paintings, others are jewels of art that allow us to decipher Setubalense behaviors, traditions, and customs in the 20th century.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9h00-12h00 and 13h30-17h00; Saturday: 15h00-19h00. Closed on Sundays. Free admission.
- Baroque Museum (Casa do Corpo Santo)
This museum is located in a palace of the XVII-XVIII century, the former headquarters of the Brotherhood of Navigators, shipowners, and fishermen of Setúbal. It is in the heart of the historic center, next to the Church of Santa Maria. Even if you’re not a fan of baroque art, it’s worth going inside to see its interior lined with blue tiles illustrating the aristocratic daily life of yesteryear. In addition, it pays homage to the maritime history of Setúbal with a permanent exhibition of more than 100 nautical science instruments.
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Saturday from 9h00 to 12h30 and from 14h00 to 17h30. Sunday and Monday is closed. Price 1,50€/person.
- Michel Giacometti Labor Museum
Located in a former fish cannery that operated until 1971, this museum, inaugurated in 1995, has two permanent exhibits: one of industrial machinery related to the canning and fish lithography industries (“The canning industry: from the cannery to the can”) and another ethnographic exhibition about agricultural tools and implements collected under the guidance and supervision of Michel Giacometti.
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm; Saturdays from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm (in winter from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm). Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and holidays (open on Sundays in winter). Price 1,50€/person.
Even if these are the essentials to know in a walk through the center of the city, we tell you again that the best thing to do is to get lost in its narrow streets of colorful buildings, where the old blends with the Setúbal of today.
A curiosity: Portuguese in Setúbal has a very characteristic accent. The Setubalense accent, known as “charroco”, is still heard in the streets, but if you don’t want to miss it, going to the bairro de Troino (Troino neighborhood, the fishermen’s quarter) is a safe bet. This accent is characterized by emphasizing a lot the “r” in the words and aspirating some letters. For example, “sardinha” would be “sarrrdinha” and “amiga“, “miga“.
Surroundings of Setúbal: beaches and charming villages
If you visit for a week to enjoy the beaches of Setúbal and its gastronomy, you will also have time to explore its surroundings. In this section, we include some points that are real pearls of the region.
Mourisca and the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve
Located in the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve, the “Moinho de Maré da Mourisca” (Mourisca Tide Mill) is located in an area of marshes and salt marshes and it is an ideal plan for bird watching lovers.
The Mourisca estate is a very attractive area, rich in a variety of species and privileged for bird watching and ornithology. The Sado Estuary is a nesting, resting, or hibernating place for several birds, such as storks, flamingos y ducks and the spawning, development, and growth of various fishes and of the roaz (bottlenose dolphin). It is also an ideal area to make some hiking routes like Mourisca route and Montado route.
The “Moinho da Maré da Mourisca” is one of the four known mills of the Sado estuary and, until a few decades ago, operated with eight molars simultaneously. There are guided tours of the mill building, boat trips on the Sado estuary, workshops, and thematic exhibitions. It also has a cafe and a store with regional products.
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Sunday from 10h00 to 17h00. Monday closed.
Sesimbra and Ribeira do Cavalo beach
Our favorite villa in the surrounding area of Setúbal, Sesimbra, has a special charm. Its promenade has two beaches, although it looks like only one, Playa Oro on the left and Playa California on the right. It is not usually possible to enjoy this beach with much tranquility in summer (the more to the right the better) because it tends to have a lot of movement of local people but at the same time it is what gives it personality.
If Setúbal has the reputation as the Portuguese capital of grilled fish, Sesimbra has the fish and seafood from the same waters and very good restaurants. So, if you are craving fresh and good seafood, it’s a good place for it. The restaurant Rodinhas had good seafood at a good price but we haven’t been going for a few years.
If you are looking for more peace and quiet, go to a beach pearl that since its discovery has been considered one of the most beautiful beaches of Portugal: Ribeira do Cavalo beach. It is the first of the wild beaches west of Sesimbra and has a very extensive sandy area. Of course, the paradise has to be won, and getting there is not easy. After parking next to the Club Naval you have to walk for half an hour through wild terrain (2.5 km) until you reach the beach.
Cape Espichel and its Sanctuary
Cape Espichel is located in the westernmost point of the Sesimbra’s coastline, and we think it’s a great plan to end the day here at sunset after a few dips, don’t you?
You may be familiar with Cabo da Roca, the westernmost tip of the European continent, and Cabo Espichel, further away from the tourist routes, may come as a surprise. Here, apart from the natural beauty, you will find legends, a lighthouse, a hermitage, a shrine, and even a dinosaur footprint!!
At about 12 km from Sesimbra, the architectural ensemble of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cape Espichel (also known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pedra Mua) was built on a steep cliff of Cape Espichel in the 18th century.
Legend has it that on the steep cliff at the tip of Cape Espichel, to the west of the church is the Hermitage of Memory, a small temple implanted in the place where the Virgin Mary appeared. In fact, the wooden ceiling of the temple has an oil painting depicting the Assumption of the Virgin.
The first wilderness beach after Cape Espichel is the Porto de Baleeira Beach, also known as Paradise Beach. This bay is very popular for diving baptisms and if you arrive when the tide is high, you will run out of sand. If you prefer an extensive sandy beach where you will always have room for your towel, the nearby Meco Beach never fails.
Palmela and its castle
At the beginning of the guide, we told you that this region was not only about the sea and the beaches, but also about enchanted villas, right? Welcome to Palmela! Only 9 km from Setúbal inland and among the hills of Serra da Arrábida you will find the village of Palmela and its castle in a privileged position to enjoy a few days of spectacular views.
It is a medieval defensive fortress, successively conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt by Arab and Christian troops, where in 1172 the warrior friars of the military order of Santiago de la Espada lived, founding the convent that exists inside. At present, this fortress is a national monument that houses a Pousada and also several stalls with regional products and handicrafts for visitors.
Azeitão and its typical wines, cheeses, and sweets
And we still haven’t talked about something very important: Setúbal is a wine region! Sweet white or red wines, of the caste muscatel Setúbal and red muscat, but not only, also young rosé, sparkling and red wines of great complexity with the Castelão grape variety, known as ‘Periquita’. It is clear that the Setúbal area is also ideal for wine lovers.
The villages of Vila Nogueira de Azeitão and Vila Fresca de Azeitão, known as “Azeitão”, are 12 km from Palmela and Setúbal. Here the protagonism is in the tiles, the delicious Azeitão cheese (with strong aroma and flavor), the Azeitão cakes (one of the most famous sweets in the country), and, of course, wine!
Towards Palmela there is another winery owned by an enterprising woman with very good wine: Casa Ermelinda Freitas.
Is there anything better than a good wine accompanied by good cheese and a delicious dessert to finish?
Cross the sado using the ferry to Tróia and explore the beaches of Alentejo.
A great plan to do one of the days that you are in Setúbal is to cross the Sado river by ferry boat to the Troia peninsula. The trip takes about 15 minutes and, with luck, you will be able to see roazes, the setubalense dolphins.
The ferry boat, known locally as “sapo” (toad) because of its green color, makes the trip from Setúbal to the Troia peninsula.
Upon arrival, you can enjoy the incredible beaches of Troia or, if you take the car on the ferry boat, you can go further south and discover some of what are, in our opinion, the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. From Troia to Sines you will find Europe’s largest sandy beach, 45 km where you can lay your towel!, which make being in solitude possible even at the peak of August!
f you are up for it, in this other post we tell you where are the best beaches of Alentejo and the Costa Vicentina and in this other one the itinerary we did during a week exploring the area by camper.
Serra da Arrábida Curiosities
Apart from its beauty, this mountain range hides secrets and curiosities. Here we tell you some of them.
On the way between Albarquel beach and Figuerinha beach through the Serra da Arrábida, you will pass by a picnic area with tables, where many families gather on weekends, called “Comenda“. On the seashore stands, imposing, the “Comenda Palace“. This 26-room mansion was designed in the early 20th century by the Portuguese architect Raul Lino (also the architect of the beautiful Tivoli Theater in Lisbon).
This small palace hides a story: here, Jackie Kennedy took refuge in her mourning after the JFK assassination. Apparently, Jackie’s sister, Princess Lee Radziwill, had already vacationed here, even with her close friend Truman Capote, and recommended this oasis of marine peace. After being for sale since the death of its last owner, in 2009, and speculation about its fate (it was shuffled for example its transformation into a boutique hotel) it was sold for 50 million euros to a couple of millionaires who prefer to remain anonymous. The palace has had Cultural Heritage status since 2017.
On this same route through the mountains before arriving at Figueirinha you will also pass through a gray industrial stain that does not blend in with the landscape: the Secil-Outão cement factory, an “aberration” created in 1904. The operation of this factory has the people of Setubal divided between the environmental damage and the number of jobs that would be lost with its closure. Precisely because of pressure from environmental organizations, in 2003 Secil created the Environmental Accompaniment Commission of Outão (C.A.M.), which aims to accompany the environmental and social performance of the factory to make it as “sustainable” as possible…
Another curiosity of Arrábida (and also on this road) is that you will pass through a Fortress made hospital: the Orthopedic Hospital Santiago do Outão (Inês’ father worked there for a few years). The fortification of the watchtower was built in 1390 at the time of João I of Portugal, and it is one of the oldest maritime fortifications in the country. The fort was built in 1572 during the reign of Sebastião I of Portugal but it was not until the reign of Carlos I of Portugal that the queen D. Maria Amélia de Orleans (his wife) ordered, in 1900, that the fort be used as a tuberculosis sanatorium given the beneficial climate of the area. In 1909 the Sanatorium was converted into an Orthopedic Hospital (due to the drastic decrease of tuberculosis cases) until today, still housing in its facilities the Outão Lighthouse.
Where to sleep in Setúbal
Setúbal is a city with a wide range of accommodations, the important thing is that you choose something according to your needs and your wallet. We recommend you stay near Praça do Bocage and Avenida Luisa Todiso that you can walk back home after a good dinner with wine from Setubal.
- DuplexduBocage: one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Praça do Bocage
- 6/4 de Sado: rooms and suites in the main artery of the city, Luisa Todi Ave.
- Casa Postigo do Cais: house in Travessa Postigo do Cais, with a terrace.
- For a whim: Quinta de São Filipe, villas and suites with sea and Arrábida mountain views
Find more accommodations in Setúbal here
Where to sleep near Setúbal
In all the surrounding villas that we mentioned before you can also spend a night if you want. Here are a few recommendations that we like very much.
Where to sleep in Sesimbra
Staying in the picturesque village of Sesimbra is another excellent option. A beautiful small beach and many gastronomic options where to dine in front of the sea. Sesimbra is also known for its grilled fish and seafood.
- Casinha do Pescador: 1-bedroom apartment with sofa bed in the living room and breathtaking views of Sesimbra
- Sesimbra Mar Apartmento: 3-bedroom beachfront apartment with balcony and sea view
- For a whim: Cali Luxury Suites Bed & Breakfast: suites overlooking the sea, the mountains or the city. A dream to wake up here.
- Inês stayed there a few years ago and loved it: the Sesimbra Hotel&Spa includes an infinity pool overlooking the sea, an amazing buffet breakfast, and giant, comfortable rooms.
Find more accommodations in Sesimbra here
Where to sleep in Palmela
If sleeping with a view of the illuminated castle is in your plans for a romantic night, pay attention to this list. If you prefer something more cheaper, there are also options:
- Roteiro dos Moinhos: houses and chalets on the windmill route, 1km from Palmela
- Porta da Arrábida Hostel & Suites: for all wallets: hostel with bunk beds or cozy suites overlooking Palmela Castle.
- For a whim: If instead of views of the castle, you prefer to sleep in it, go to the Pousada Castelo de Palmela: the inn has rooms or suites in the very Castle of Palmela with panoramic views of the Palmela countryside.
- Solar Santo Antonio: idea for large groups, villas from 13 to 25 people.
Find more accommodations in Palmela here
Where to sleep in Azeitão
Azeitão, land of wine, mountains, tiles, cheese and pastries. Maybe one night here is not enough, better a weekend. Besides, there are so coquettish accommodations with views….:
- YMCA Camp Alambre Bungalows: independent bungalows from 2 to 4 persons
- Casa do Pinhal: very cozy apartment with 1 bedroom and sofa bed in the living room
- A Casa do Lagar: deluxe rooms with balcony
- For a whim: Arrábida Mountain House, a 5-bedroom house overlooking the Arrábida mountain range.
Find more accommodations in Azeitão here
Where to eat in Setúbal
As we have already mentioned, Setúbal’s gastronomy will delight fish and seafood lovers. It is not that it does not have good meat dishes, which it does, but in this city, the protagonist is the sea and at the tables of its restaurants as well. Fresh grilled fish, fish cataplanas, and fried cuttlefish are the most popular dishes of excellence in Setúbal and the ones we recommend you try.
To eat good grilled fish:
- O Miguel, near the river (Av. José Mourinho): it is not one of the cheapest but the quality is very good. Everything here is delicious, from the seafood starters to the grilled fish.
- Ribeirinha do Sado (Av. Luisa Todi): more economical than the previous one and very famous among local people
To eat a good fried choco frito:
- Leo do Petisco (Av. Luisa Todi): the king of Setúbal’s fried choco, the batter has an incredible spicy touch. Due to its fame, it tends to fill up early…
- Casa de Santiago (Av.Luisa Todi): In our opinion, it is not as tasty but it is not bad to go if the Leo is very crowded.
To eat a good cataplana:
¿What is a cataplana? you may be wondering. A cataplana is a casserole with an original spherical shape consisting of two parts joined by a hinged shaft in which food can be cooked, mainly fish and seafood. The food is steamed inside. For example, the fish is usually accompanied by potatoes and these take the rich flavor of the same fish, seafood, tomato, bell pepper, or other spices that are thrown in. Delicious.
- Novo 10 (Av. Luisa Todi): a mythical restaurant on Luisa Todi Avenue. The cataplanas and rice dishes are delicious.
To give yourself a whim:
- Champanheria (Av. Luisa Todi): to eat delicious fresh oysters as an appetizer.
- Xtoria (R. Guilherme Gomes Fernandes) by Rita Neto, winner of the first edition of Masterchef Portugal, which we still don’t know.
- Vela Branca (Albarquel Urban Park): the rice with wreckfish and the açorda (typical dish made with breadcrumbs) are delicious. The best: the views of the Sado River, the Atlantic, and Troia.
Good pastry and ice cream shops for breakfast or snacks:
For a drink with a view:
For those of you who are not fish lovers and prefer meat dishes (it is also very tasty here because we are already close to Alentejo, the land of rich meat and sausages):
Dishes that you will have to try, apart from the ones mentioned above:
- Ameijôas à Bulhão Pato (clams in typical sauce with onion and coriander)
- Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams, sounds weird but it’s delicious)
- Salada de Polvo (octopus salad, fresh and tasty)
How to get to Setúbal from Lisbon
There are 3 ways to getting to Setúbal from Lisbon, by train, by bus or by car.
- By train: the one we like the most. The Fertagus train (known as the bridge train) crosses the 25 de Abril bridge and the views of Lisbon and the Tagus river from the train are spectacular. In addition, the trip takes less than an hour regardless of traffic time, there are several trains a day in both directions (Lisbon-Setubal or Setubal-Lisbon) and it is very punctual. The other advantage is that you can always go on the train even at rush hour, the worst that can happen is that you have to stand for part of the journey (which does not happen on the bus as you may have to wait for the next one). There are four Fertagus train stations in Lisbon (Roma-Areeiro, Entrecampos, Sete Rios, and Campolide) and one in Setúbal. Check the Fertagus train schedule here as it varies on weekdays and weekends/holidays.
If you arrive in Lisbon by air, you are at the airport and you want to go to Setúbal by this train, take the Lisbon subway at the airport station: red line (Oriente line) to “Alameda” station, then change to the green line (direction Telheiras) to “Roma” station and go to “Roma Areeiro” train station. Here you can take the Fertagus train to Setúbal.
- By bus: There are two bus lines that run Lisbon-Setúbal and Setúbal-Lisbon several times a day and over both bridges that cross the Tagus. Depending on where you are in Lisbon, one or the other will be more convenient (there is only one station in Setúbal). Bus 562 makes the route Lisbon Oriente – Setúbal (via Vasco da Gama bridge, the bus leaves from Oriente station), and the bus “Rede Expresos” makes the route Sete Rios – Setúbal (via 25 de Abril bridge, the bus leaves from Sete Rios station). The route via “Vasco da Gama” (A12 – 54 km) may be a little longer than the “25 de Abril” bridge (A2 – 49 km) but usually has less traffic at rush hour. The disadvantage of the bus compared to the train is this: you depend on the traffic on the road and at rush hour you can run out of seats.
If you are coming from Lisbon airport, the ideal is to take the red metro line (Oriente line) from the“Aeroporto” station to the “Oriente” station and then take the bus to Setúbal, via Vasco da Gama Bridge.
- Car or Motorbike: If you come with your own or rented car or motorcycle you will have to go by one of the two bridges that cross the Tagus to get to Setubal, just like by bus. You can cross the famous red bridge that resembles the one in San Francisco: the 25 de Abril bridge and its incredible views of Lisbon (more advisable if it is not rush hour, 17h-19h on weekdays and weekends mornings and afternoons with good weather) by the A2 highway for 49 km until you reach Setúbal. If you are closer to “Oriente” and Parque das Nações, you can also opt for the Vasco da Gama bridge, the second longest bridge in Europe (more than 12 km built for the Expo’98), and go south on the A12 freeway for 54 km to Setubal. More info on tolls is in the following section: Rent a car in Portugal.
Rent a car in Portugal
We normally compare prices from different rental car companies in websites like DiscoverCars, always checking carefully what the rental terms are in each company (excess, what is covered by the insurance, fuel policy, reviews…) and not only the price.
Some tips for rent a car in Portugal:
- Fuel is significantly more expensive than in Spain, take this into account when calculating your budget for the trip.
- For tolls you have two options:
- Hire the Via Verde device. All rental companies offer it, although you have to pay per day and it is not always worth it.
- Not hiring the Via Verde device: in that case, you will have to go through the manual lines and pay. The problem is that there is a type of toll in Portugal that does not have a manual payment option (they are arches that have cameras and Via Verde detectors). If you do not hire the device and go through one of them, you will have to pay afterward. You can do it in person at the CTT (Correos) offices in Portugal or online.
- Insurance: Most rental companies’ base price includes insurance with excess, but you can pay extra to lower or eliminate the excess. Check well which option you choose.
- Driving in Portugal is, in our opinion, more reckless than in Spain, especially on secondary roads. Drive cautiously and if someone is behind you in a hurry, let them pass.
If you are considering renting a motorcycle, you should know that we do it with Cooltra.
How much does it cost to travel to Setúbal
Budgets are always something that depends a lot on how you travel, how much you want/can spend, and what level of comfort you are looking for.
Budget for travel to Setúbal (7 days – one week)
- Lunch/dinner : 350€: 25 per lunch/dinner for two (50 per day)
- Accomodation*: 490€ (70€ per night, private room with private bathroom for 2)
- Parking in Arrábida: 16€ (4€ per day per vehicle)
- TOTAL**: about 850€ (120€ per day) for 2 (i.e. 60€/person)
*If you choose cheaper accommodations in advance or choose self-catering accommodation, it can also be cheaper. As we say, this budget is an estimate.
This budget assumes that you have a car and you come to Setúbal with it. If you don’t have a car or you fly to Lisbon and rent a car in Portugal, add this approximately to your budget:
- Car rental (8 days)*: 180€ (22€ per day)
- Fuel: 56€ (8€ per day)
Recommendations for enjoying Setúbal and the Arrábida Natural Park and its beaches
- Protect and respect the fauna and flora of the Arrábida Natural Park.
- Respect others. Don’t play your music loud on the beach (if you want to listen to music, wear headphones), don’t leave trash, don’t throw cigarette butts, etc.
- Use reef friendly sunscreen, i.e., that does not contain chemicals that harm corals, without oxybenzone, and that has not been tested on animals, likethis one orthis one.
- In some beaches of this coast occasionally bathing can be dangerous, due to strong currents. Do not be brave.
- If you are also going to do a hiking route through the Serra da Arrábida:
- Follow an existing route along the marked trails: outside of this route is not allowed as you may cause irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the Serra.
- If you are going to enjoy the route alone, let your family and friends know your route and the estimated time of arrival.
- Choose comfortable clothing and footwear, always: a raincoat and a flashlight are always a good idea.
- Take your first-aid kit, including medicine for motion sickness (such as biodramina), antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medication (and a probiotic to recover more quickly), antihistamines, painkillers, and antipyretics.
- Always travel with travel insurance: medical expenses, theft, or problems with your plane on a trip can mean a lot of money, so the ideal is to take out travel insurance. We always use IATI and we recommend it.If you purchase your insurance through this link you have a 5% discount.
Whatever you do, be responsible with the place you are in and with the people you may encounter there as well.
This guide to Setubal would not have been the same without my mother’s contribution. Cecília (Cila or Cilinha for family and friends), is a beautiful woman inside and outside, a lover of walks in the Serra da Arrábida where she tries to escape to every Sunday, of the good gastronomy of Setubal (she has a gift for making magic with ingredients), of the life of her neighborhood (one of the oldest in Setúbal) and of its people.
After leaving the land of her birth, Mozambique, in Setúbal she built a life, put down roots, and gave wings to my sister Sara and me, Inês. Now, as she often says, she feels almost more of this land than of any other, after all this is where she has already spent most of her life (although the dream of setting foot together in her Mozambican land is still there).
This guide is for you, Mummy. Obrigada, por tudo.
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