Setúbal – Portugal’s maritime city in detail

The sights of Setubal, one of the main ports of Portugal

Setúbal (Portugal) is a small picturesque city located on the Atlantic coast. It is an important port of the country with a developed industry. However, every year thousands of tourists come here to admire the nature, taste exotic fish and seafood, as well as to get acquainted with the rich cultural and historical heritage of Setubal.

The port city of Setubal, Portugal

Photo: Setúbal, Portugal

General Information

The city is the center of the municipality of Setúbal, with a population of 122,500. Setúbal is located on the peninsula of the same name, at the mouth of the River Sado, and covers an area of 170.5 square kilometres.

The coat of arms of Setubal

The Romans were the first to settle in what is now Portugal, a ruined military camp and salt works being reminders of their presence in Setubal. Salt was used as currency at the height of the Roman Empire and factories were vigorously built in Setubal to extract and process the white currency. Different kinds of fish were fished and salted and pottery was produced.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Setubal fell into decline and after some time came into the possession of the Portuguese monarch, Afonso Henriques. In the 14th century, the city was fortified against pirates, and three centuries later St. Philip’s Fortress was built. By this time, the seafaring industry was in full swing in Setubal. In 1755 an earthquake completely destroyed the settlement, but it was quickly rebuilt.

What to see in Setubal?

The city is located in an area with an amazing climate, Setúbal borders the National Park and is adjacent to the River Sado. Tourists are attracted by the ancient, narrow streets, the small houses, the antique stores and the picturesque green gardens. In Setubal there is a harmonious coexistence of architectural and historical attractions – monuments of different cultures and eras.

An interesting fact! Flocks of dolphins swim into the Garden and you can enjoy a stunning spectacle in the evenings.

Santa Maria de Graça Cathedral

It was built in the 13th century, and in the 16th century the building was reconstructed and decorated with unique tiles. The temple stands on Via Santa Maria next to the Baroque Museum. From the outside the building looks elegant and rather massive. The edges of the cathedral are fortified by bell towers and the entrance is decorated with a colonnade. The inside rooms are decorated with exclusive ceramic tiles made in the 18th century and gold carvings.

  • Address: Largo Santa Maria;
  • From September 16 to May 31, the church is open daily from 9 am to 8 pm; from June 1 to September 15, the cathedral can be visited from 9 am to 10 pm.

The entrance portal to the Monastery of Jesus

Another important landmark of Setubal. The building, made in Gothic style, attracts visitors to the city with amazingly exquisite columns of pink stone.

The temple is located in the northern part of Setubal and was built over 500 years ago. The funds for construction were donated by the monarch João II. Four years later, the king died before the construction work was finished, but King Manuel I continued to supervise the construction of the church. Five years after construction began, nuns were already living in the church. In the main chapel of the convent is the tomb of the founder of the shrine, Giusta Rodríguez Pereira.

Monastery of Jesus and the cross in the center of Jesus Square

Next to the temple is the square of Jesus – this area was given to the monastery in the 16th century by the king’s illegitimate son, Jorge de Lancastrom. In the center of the square there is a cross.

Inside, the walls of the temple are decorated with tiles depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. At the monastery there is a gallery with a collection of local artists from the 15th and 16th centuries.

  • Address: R. Acácio Barradas 2, 2900-197 Setubal, Portugal.
  • Opening hours: Tuesdays and Weddays 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, break 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm.
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One of the most picturesque attractions of Setubal (Portugal), which locals and tourists call the pearl of the city. A huge park area (11 thousand hectares of land + 5 thousand hectares of sea) is located 40 km from the capital of Portugal between Setubal and Sesimbra.

Serra da Arriba National Park

Interesting fact! Arriba means “holy place of prayer”.

16th century Franciscan monastery

The park is remarkable above all for the amazing Mediterranean vegetation that adorns the hills, the close proximity of the ocean and the bright sunshine. It is also a place with a great variety of fauna species: about 650 identified invertebrates, namely 106 spiders, 445 beetles, 61 butterflies, 37 ants. Arrabida, an area with few trees and open sea winds is not very rich for nesting birds, but becomes especially important in late summer, during the migration.

The highest point offers a gorgeous panoramic view – the flat surface and the Atlantic Ocean. In the southern part of the hill a monastery was built in the 16th century, today it is a branch of the Oceanographic Museum.

The Portinho da Arrábida bay is the main destination for all tourists. They come here to relax on the beach, do some diving. There are other beaches on the territory of the natural attraction.

Useful tip: At the beach you can rent a boat and take a trip along the coast.

Along the coastline there are cafes and restaurants where you can eat, and there are also places for picnics.

Pay attention! See here which beach near Lisbon is the best to visit.

Make sure you have time to visit this market. You can find it near the Luis Todi square. It is a surprisingly atmospheric place where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, pastries, and of course fish and seafood.

Mercado do Livramento Market

The market area is divided into thematic rows, each marked by a corresponding sculpture. Most of the fish species represented in this place of trade, you did not even know.

Tiles in the Mercado do Livramento Market

The traditional Portuguese tiles deserve special attention – they are more than two hundred years old.

  • It is best to come to the market in the morning, when there is the most food on the stalls;
  • There is a clean toilet on the premises;
  • The Mercado do Livramento is closed on Mondays and open from 7 to 14 on the rest of the days;
  • There is a coffee shop and cafe in the market area.

On a side note! Find out where to eat well in Lisbon in this article.

Central Avenue Luisa Todi

A wide, well-kept avenue, buried in greenery. Its pedestrian part is bordered on both sides by roads. For walks is best in the evening, but if you can stand the heat, you can walk around during the day, sit in the shade of trees, eat in a restaurant or a cafe, look at the stores, admire the sculptures. The avenue looks more like a park than a typical city street. There is a paid parking lot next to the avenue.

Castel Sant Filipe

The attraction is located on an elevated site in the upper part of Setubal. Construction work began at the end of the 16th century, when the country was ruled by the monarch Philip I. The fortress has an unusual architecture – the shape of a five-pointed star. It was believed that this shape would most effectively protect the settlement from attacks by enemies and pirates.

Inside the castle walls are decorated with 18th century tiles, painted by the famous Portuguese master. After the catastrophe of 1755 the fortress was restored and is included in the list of national monuments. Today there is a hotel on its territory. Travelers say it is worth a visit for the view of Setubal.

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Opening hours are Tuesdays-Hursdays and Sundays from 10 to 18, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 to 20, and Mondays off.

How to get to Setubal from Lisbon

The main airport of the country is in Lisbon, so most tourists go to Setubal from the capital. There are several ways to get to Setubal.

Rede Expressos Bus

Buses leave from Lisboa Sete Rios station. The travel time is about 45 minutes. The ticket price is 6 euros. Flights are at approximately 1 hour intervals, with the first flight at 7:30 and the last one at 19:30. The buses go to Setubal on the carrier Rede Expressos. To purchase tickets and view the current schedule, visit www.rede-expressos.pt.

The place of departure is the Sete-Rios station. Travel time is about 55 minutes. Ticket price from 3 to 5 euros. Frequency of departure – every hour, starting at 5:49 am. To Setubal there are comfortable double-decker Fertagus trains. you can buy tickets online at www.fertagus.pt/en.

How to get around Lisbon by metro, see here.

Boarding the ferry from the Terreiro do Paço marina

The ferry is a great travel option if you are planning a sightseeing tour to Setaboel and live in the capital. Lisbon has three piers where the ferries depart from, but towards Setubal the transport only runs from Terreiro do Paço (Terreiro do Paço) or Praça do Comércio (Praça do Comércio) pier.

The journey time is about one hour and the ticket price is from 3 to 6 euros. Ferries depart from the pier every 20 minutes, go to Barreiro, here you must change to the train that goes to Setubal. Trains leave every quarter of an hour, the trip takes about 30 minutes.

The most comfortable, but not the cheapest way to get from the capital to Setubal is to book a transfer. In this case you will be met directly at the airport or will be brought to the hotel. The trip will cost about 30-40 Euros.

Advice! On the way to or from Lisbon you can visit the Freeport outlet, one of the best shopping places in the Portuguese capital.

The trip by car takes about 35 minutes and you have to drive a little over 49.5 km. The cost of the trip is from 6 to 10 euros.

All prices on the page are for October 2020.

Weather and climate

Air temperature in Setubal

A warm Atlantic current shapes the weather in Setubal. It has a warm, comfortable climate.

During the winter, the average daytime temperature is +10°C, while in the summer the temperature ranges from +25°C to +33°C. The rainiest weather is in the spring and fall. The least rainfall is from May to September. During this period, the weather is most favorable to visit Setubal – the heat is almost not felt, because there is a refreshing breeze from the ocean.

Water temperature in Setubal

As for the water temperature, it is quite low, only +17 ° C, the Atlantic Ocean on the western coast of Portugal is noticeably colder than the Mediterranean Sea.

Interesting facts

  1. According to USA Today, Portugal’s Mercado do Livramento was one of the best markets in the world in 2015. It is always clean, smells fresh, and prices are much lower than in supermarkets.
  2. The city has its own official website: https://visitsetubal.com.
  3. Setúbal is often called the most “delicious” city in Portugal.

Setúbal (Portugal) will not leave anyone indifferent. It’s enough to walk its streets to feel the centuries-old history. Here peacefully coexist ancient buildings and modern buildings, perfectly smooth sidewalk and old cobblestone, stylish hotels and old factories. Don’t miss out on the restaurants and cafes of Setubal and try the local specialties and fine wines of Portugal.

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The Portuguese city of Setubal in detail

Setúbal is interesting with its architectural monuments, wine and excellent beaches nearby, the city is full of greenery and there are several nature reserves in the vicinity.

Setúbal is a city and seaport and the center of the municipality of the same name in the Lisbon region. Setúbal is located 30 km from the capital of Portugal, on the coast of the homonymous peninsula at the mouth of the River Sadú. The city has a population of 90 thousand and the entire municipality has a population of 120 thousand.

Town Hall Square in the city center

Features of the city

Setubal is surrounded by mountains and several natural reserves. The medieval appearance of the city is combined with modern buildings and many green areas decorated with flowerbeds and fountains. Setúbal’s climate is quite comfortable, with mild winters and moderately hot summers. Precipitation in the form of rain falls in early spring and fall. The best months to visit Setubal are from May to September.

When selecting a hotel in Setubal, I searched among the top ten hotels in the world according to reviews on bookings. I searched for hotels in the medium price segment, excluding hostels and expensive hotels. The Rio Art Hotel (Avenida Luísa Todi, 117) and Hotel Solaris (Praça Marquês de Pombal, 12) seemed the most acceptable. The first appealed to our guests with a glass of wine, but its location close to the train stations tipped the scale in favor of the other Hotel Solaris. A single room there costs 65 EUR per night.

View of the historic part of the city from the bay

A pleasant gastronomic feature of Setubal is dishes made of freshly caught fish. The specialty Caldeiradou (“Cuttlefish in Setubal”) is prepared in all restaurants. The best is said to be in the inexpensive O Rei do Choco Frito at Avenida Luísa Todi 98. Another popular restaurant is Retiro de Algodeia (Estrada da Algodeia 30).

Setúbal, like Porto, is also famous for wine. We are talking about the sweet fortified drink Moscatel. There are several family wineries in the city. They organize tours and wine tastings. You have to sign up for it two days before the event.

Old Town

In the village of Azeitão, 10 km from Setúbal, there are the cellars of the Jose Maria de Fonseca winery, founded in 1834. In the winery store you can buy the famous wines – Moscatel de Setubal, Optimum, Periquita, Perquita Classico, Primum. There are also sold cakes Azeitão, jams, honey, cheeses and spices, which are popular among the locals. Book this excursion even earlier, a week in advance.

Entertainment

Due to its proximity to the ocean, in Setubal you can see dolphins swimming in the river in the evenings every day to get fish. The spectacle can be seen not only from the waterfront, but also from the ferry going to the Troy Peninsula. During my trip there, I saw them up close.

A popular attraction in Setubal is a 2.5-hour walk on a schooner built in the middle of the last century. After leaving the calm waters of the bay, the ship floats on the ocean waves for some time. There were no dolphins this time. They apparently felt it was enough for me to see them up close once.

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The local Bull Fight Show is not a Spanish bullfight, where an unfortunate animal is chased and killed by several homo sapiens. In Portugal, man and bull compete one-on-one under equal conditions. Portuguese forcados, unlike matadors, enter the arena unarmed and the bull stays alive.

Church of St. Julian on the central square

Cathedrals and Temples

Setúbal’s parish church on Praca do Bocage square bears the name of the early Christian St. Julian (Anazarva). The first religious building on the site dates back to the 13th century. The Manueline style portals of the building, which was reconstructed at the beginning of the 16th century, have been preserved. There followed two earthquake restorations after the 16th century and the Lisbon disaster in 1755. The Igreja de Sao Juliao had Mannerist and Baroque components.

The Church of Santa Maria da Graça was built in the 16th century. It is located in a maze of narrow streets and is not very visible. The address is Terreiro Santa Maria, 415. The building is flanked by bell towers and the entrance is decorated with columns. The interior of the Igreja de Santa Maria da Graca is more impressive. It has a beautiful altar with wood carvings, a painted ceiling, and walls covered with azulejo panels.

Monastery

The Convent of Jesus Bom Jesus was built at the end of the 15th century in the Manuelino architectural style. The walls of the monastery are decorated with narrow rope-like columns made of limestone with a pink tint. The main part of the monastery is the church of Igreja de Jesus. Its interior consists of a single nave with two side aisles. The apse is decorated with azulejo scenes of the earthly life of the Virgin Mary. The cross, which was there in the nineteenth century, was moved to the center of the Plaza de Jesus.

In the roofed gallery of the monastery is the Art Gallery of Setúbal. It displays the 14 panels that formerly adorned the altar of the Church of Jesus as well as paintings by medieval Portuguese primitivist artists.

The inside courtyard of the church

Not far from Setubal, on Cape Espichel, on a rocky cliff, is the Church of Our Lady – Nossa Senhora do Cabo. According to legend, the Virgin Mary emerged from the water and climbed up the slope to this very spot.

The quay and the view of the port

Architecture and urban monuments

Setúbal is proud of its famous natives, the poet Manuel Bocaje and the opera singer Luisa Todi. In the main town square, named after the 18th-century satirical poet, there is a 12-meter monument with a 2-meter statue of him. The poet lived on Rua Sao Domingos Street next to the square. In Praca do Bocage square there is also the church of St. Julian.

A beautiful avenue is named in honor of the singer, who flourished at the end of the 18th century. It features a fountain with symbolic sculptures of the Earth, Sea and Poetry and an original white stone composition of a bust of Luisa Todi, surrounded on both sides by curved benches with notes depicted on them.

View of the city from the fortress

The defensive fortress Estrada de Sao Felipe is named after the 16th-century king of Portugal who ordered its construction. From above the contours of the structure resemble a five-pointed star. In the 18th century the walls of the cappella inside the fort were decorated with the famous Portuguese azulejo tiles. There is now a 4-star Pousada hotel in the fortress. It is known for the fact that all its hotels are located in ancient castles and houses. From the top of the fortress you have an impressive view of the city.

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Fort Santiago do Utan is located on the north bank of the Sado River. The original 14th-century watchtower was later supplemented by a fortress wall and lighthouse. The Forte de Santiago do Outao was for a time a prison and then, at the end of the 19th century, a royal summer residence. The climatic conditions of the fort, surrounded by the Sierra da Arrábida mountain range, proved very favorable for the treatment of bone diseases. That is why at the beginning of the 20th century, after the reconstruction, a sanatorium was opened here. A few years later it was converted into an orthopedic hospital, which is still in operation today.

View of Praia da Figueirinha beach

Beaches

Despite its location on the oceanfront, the city itself is not considered a beach resort. A few kilometers away on the Troia Peninsula are the beautiful beaches of the Arrábida National Park, protected from the winds by the surrounding mountains. Note, however, that the temperature of the Atlantic water is much colder than the Mediterranean. The top five beaches in Arrábida are:

  • Portinho da Arrábida;
  • Praia da Figueirinha;
  • Praia de Galápos;
  • Praia dos Galapinhos (recognized in 2017 as the best in Europe);
  • Praia dos Coelhos.

From Setubal to the beaches of Arrábida you can take the municipal bus for 0,5 EUR. From 9:00 am to 8:00 pm buses leave every 30 minutes. Another option is the bus 751, which reaches Outão (near Praia da Figueirinha).

Setubal

The bay of the Troia Peninsula, in whose lagoon Setúbal is located, is called the most beautiful on the planet. The picture you see is very impressive indeed.

Troia is a perfectly equipped beach resort with first class hotels, tennis courts, golf courses, fish restaurants. The 28-kilometer long beach line is surrounded by a pine forest. From the seafront of Setubal to the pier of Troy can be reached by a small ferry in just 15 minutes. Directly to the beaches you have to walk over a wooden bridge.

Mount Arrábida

Protected areas and parks

The Arrábida National Park, founded in 1976, covers 108 km² of hilly land on the north bank of the Sadu River, between Setubal and the village of Sesimbra. The vegetation – pines, cypresses, evergreen shrubs, and the microclimate of the park are reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Some relict plants in enclosed areas can only be viewed when accompanied by park staff.

In addition to the walks and bathing on the beaches mentioned above, the park offers activities such as diving, cave climbing, and mountain climbing. The highest point of the park, the Serra Arrabida, is 500 meters above sea level. The Forte Nossa Senhora do Arrabida, near Portinho beach, has an oceanography museum.

Scheme of the reserve and the city surroundings

The Estuario do Sado Natural Reserve covers an area of more than 23 hectares. The name Sado Estuary Natural Reserve indicates its location.

The Natural Reserve of Lakes Santo Andre and Sancha is ornithological. The Natural Reserve of Lakes Santo Andre and Sancha is designed to protect the nesting sites of waterfowl and is a migratory point on the migratory route of birds from Europe to Africa.

The Natural Monument of Pedreira do Avelino at Cape Ispicel near Sesimbra was declared a protected area at the end of the 20th century. Traces of Jurassic herbivorous dinosaurs were found at the Natural Monument of Pedreira do Avelino.

Azulejo in Forte San Felipe

Conclusion

It turns out that Troy, and what a Troy it is, is not only for the Greeks. Beaches, wine, dolphins – there will be something to talk about when you meet Jose Mourinho. Are you surprised? The Manchester United coach was born in Setubal.

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