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48 Hours in Setúbal

Surrounded by mountains and sea, this seaside city has it all: Roman ruins, stunning beaches, great wine and magnificent food.

Photo by Alexandre Contador on Unsplash

Blessed with sun-kissed beaches, including the renowned Praia da Figueirinha, and surrounded by the lush beauty of the Arrábida Natural Park, Setúbal is a haven for nature lovers and beach enthusiasts alike. Beyond its scenic landscapes, Setúbal boasts a rich cultural tapestry, evident in its historic landmarks like the São Filipe Castle and the Mercado do Livramento, where locals and visitors mingle amidst colorful stalls bursting with fresh produce and seafood. Indulge in the region's culinary delights, savoring the world-famous local delicacy, fried cuttlefish, and sampling the exquisite wines produced in the nearby Peninsula de Setúbal wine region. With its blend of natural splendor, cultural heritage, and gastronomic delights, Setúbal promises an unforgettable experience for those seeking to immerse themselves in the authentic essence of Portugal.


18h00: São Filipe Fortress

Begin your exploration at São Filipe Fortress, built on the orders of Philip II of Spain (Philip I of Portugal), who personally witnessed the laying of the cornerstone of the new fortification in 1582. The fort is free to enter, and it is nice to wander around, a military structure from the 16th century, as well as the tile-covered Joanine chapel. Finally, take a drink at the Fort's cafeteria and terrace, which provides one of the best views over the city, the Sado River, the Arrábida Mountain Range, and Tróia. Service operates from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. between Sunday and Thursday and closes at midnight on Friday and Saturday. The tourist information office operates every day from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

19h30: Historic center

From there, walk downhill to the city's historic center (about 20mins), stopping first at the enchanting Bairro do Troino. Wander through its quaint alleys and colorful facades, immersing yourself in its rich history and vibrant atmosphere and taking an opportunity step back in time at Mercearia Confiança do Troino. Continue your exploration to the Pelourinho de Setúbal, where the symbol of justice stands proudly amidst the charming cobblestone streets, a testament to the city's past. Stroll towards the elegant Chafariz do Sapal, a historic fountain that once served as a vital water source for the community. Follow the path to Avenida Luísa Todi, the bustling avenue adorned with shops and cafes, exuding a delightful blend of old-world charm and modern vibrancy. Pause at Praça do Bocage, named after the renowned poet, Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage, and soak in the lively ambiance of this central square. Conclude your journey at the magnificent Convent of Jesus, an architectural masterpiece finished in 1496.

21h00: Xtória Restaurant

Nestled amidst the cobbled streets of the port area, Xtória, which has been recognised as a Bib Gourmand by Michelin Guide (read what they had to say about it here), offers a delightful fusion of traditional Portuguese flavors with modern twists, curated by its talented chefs. The menu showcases an array of fresh seafood delicacies sourced from the nearby waters of the Atlantic Ocean, alongside mouthwatering meat dishes and vegetarian options, ensuring a culinary experience to satisfy every palate. Guests are treated to impeccable service and warm hospitality in Xtoria's stylish and welcoming atmosphere, where every visit promises an unforgettable gastronomic journey.


10h00: Livramento Market

Nestled in the heart of the city, this historic market has been a cornerstone of Setúbal's culinary scene for generations. Wander through its colorful aisles, where vendors proudly display an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, cheeses, and artisanal products, sourced from the surrounding land and sea. The market's lively ambiance, infused with the sounds of vendors hawking their goods and locals engaging in animated conversations, offers a truly immersive experience into the region's vibrant food culture. Whether browsing for ingredients to create a culinary masterpiece or simply soaking in the sights and sounds of this bustling marketplace, Livramento Market promises an authentic taste of Setúbal's rich gastronomic heritage.

12h00: Roman ruins of Creiro

Take the scenic road that winds its way through the breathtaking landscapes of Arrábida Natural Park, and marvel at the rugged cliffs, lush forests, and pristine beaches that characterize this coastal paradise. Pause along the way to soak in panoramic vistas of the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the verdant expanse of the park. After immersing yourself in the natural splendor of Arrábida, venture off the beaten path for a short stop at the intriguing Creiro Roman Ruins. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the sea, these ancient ruins offer a glimpse into the region's rich history, with remnants of walls and structures dating back to Roman times. As you wander through the ruins, you'll be transported back in time, imagining the lives of those who once inhabited this historic site.

13h00: O Farol Restaurant

Open since 1985, O Farol serves Portuguese seafood classics, from small plates to main courses, right on the beach. Start with succulent clams "à Bulhão Pato", garlic prawns, octopus salad, or tuna muxama, which is dried tuna that is to fish what cured ham would be to pork. O Farol also serves excellent fresh seafood, such as crabs and prawns, as well as more complex hot dishes including grilled fish, seafood rice dishes, and pasta-based dishes. Try the grouper and prawn pasta or the cantaril pasta. If, despite being by the beach, you have a craving for meat, we recommend Barrosã beef, or pork Alentejo-style, a typical dish from the Alentejo region, with pork marinated in sweet paprika and served with clams and fries. To finish, O Farol has great homemade desserts and an extensive selection of wines to pair with the excellent meal that we are sure will be served here.

16h00: Galapagos and Galapinhos Beaches

Galapagos and Galapinhos Beaches, distinguished as Europe's best beach in 2017 by Brussels-based Europe's Best Destinations, epitomize the untouched beauty of Portugal's coastline. Accessible via a picturesque hike through lush Mediterranean vegetation, these secluded gems boast crystal-clear waters, golden sands, and dramatic cliffs that create an idyllic setting for relaxation and exploration. Galapagos Beach enchants visitors with its calm waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling, while Galapinhos Beach captivates with its rugged charm and panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Whether basking in the sun, embarking on coastal walks, or simply marveling at the natural wonders, a visit to Galapagos and Galapinhos Beaches promises an unforgettable escape into paradise.

20h00: Odespois

After a blissful day at the beach, there's nothing quite like winding down with a delightful array of tapas in town. At Ódespois, there are tapas inspired by Spain, but made with local products. The wines are, of course, also from Setúbal region. Inspired by the pintxos tradition in Spain, owner Susana Adanjo decided to share her passion for wine with customers. You can try a glass of wine from the selection, which is divided into zones between the Douro, Alentejo and Península de Setúbal, for €2.30, or muscatel for €2, but as this establishment works with products from all over the country, the glass of Port wine (€2.30) has not been forgotten. Susana says that the beers Franziskaner (€3.50 for 35 centiliters and €4.75 for 50 centiliters) and Stella Artois (€2.50 for 25 centiliters and €3.95 for 50 centiliters) were chosen because they are ideal for drinking while tasting the pintxos.

21h00: Oficina do Peixe

Recognisable by the teal colour on the outside. The decor was inspired by the old fishing workshops and is undoubtedly a winning feature. The couple Rita and Fábio, who work in the catering industry and he is a fisherman, promise fish from "boat to table". At the Oficina do Peixe restaurant, all you have to do is choose from the window display. "Cataplana de cherne", "Açorda de lavagante" and "Salmonetes com molho de seus fígados" are already successful dishes among the proposals. Setúbal's "signature dish", fried cuttlefish, is served with cuttlefish roe and homemade sauce. Average price €45.


10h00: Dolphin Watching

Dolphin watching in Setúbal offers a magical opportunity to encounter these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Several tour operators in Setúbal provide unforgettable excursions, taking visitors on exhilarating boat rides through the Sado Estuary in search of playful dolphins. Departure times for these tours often vary depending on the season, with morning and afternoon options available. Prices typically range from €25 to €40 per person, depending on the duration and included amenities. As you glide along the tranquil waters, expert guides provide fascinating insights into the local marine ecosystem and the behaviors of the resident dolphin population. With luck, guests may witness acrobatic displays and playful antics as dolphins frolic alongside the boat, creating unforgettable memories of this enchanting experience amidst the scenic beauty of Setúbal's coastline.

13h00: Peixoco

Located near the Fishermen's Dock, Peixoco is the labour of love of Portuguese-French couple, André Lucas and Constance Bauer, who have created a menu that is simultaneously simple and sophisticated. From the menu, designed for small sized portions and, therefore, for sharing, stand out the creamy cuttlefish croquettes with smoked mayonnaise and paprika (€3.50), smoked swordfish with blinis, crème fraîche, and chives (€8.50), mackerel toasts with coriander pesto and chili (€6.10), or white fish ceviche with tiger milk, sweet potato puree, red onion, chili peppers, and coriander (€11.90). Seasonality, of course, is one of the priorities that define the menu, as well as the preference for local products. Among the most innovative dishes, we find the fish sausage that accompanies mashed potatoes, difficult to cook, but absolutely unexpected.

15h00: Sado Estuary Bottlenose-Dolphin Interpretive Center

At Casa da Baía – Tourism Promotion Center, since June 5, 2018, the Sado Estuary Bottlenose Interpretive Center, a project by the Municipality of Setúbal, created with the support of the Ministry of the Environment, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests and Troia Natura. The Interpretive Center aims to increase knowledge about the cetacean community residing in the Sado and was conceived in a permanent exhibition format, with several interactive panels and tables.

16h00: Albarquel Park

At the foot of the Arrábida mountain range with a stunning view of the Sado River estuary, this idyllic park offers visitors the perfect to digest a big lunch and unwind in nature's embrace. With shaded pathways, picnic areas, and playgrounds, it's a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, a family outing, or a relaxing afternoon picnic. Adventure seekers can also indulge in water sports like kayaking or paddleboarding, taking advantage of the park's proximity to the river.

17h00: Ostras sobre Rodas ("Oysters on Wheels")

Ostras Sobre Rodas (Oysters on Wheels) is an environmentally friendly food truck that is 100% self-sustainable, with solar energy being its only source of power. In this food truck overlooking the sea, you can eat the best oysters from the Setúbal region served fresh. The oysters come from two producers in the Sado estuary and they are opened "fresh and alive" in front of the customers. The tasting menu with three units and a glass of wine (red, white, or rosé) is ideal to start. However, those unfamiliar with the flavor can season the oysters with lime, vinaigrette, or tabasco and order a cheese board and bread to satisfy the stomach. Those taking the occasion more seriously often order sparkling wine by the glass and by the bottle and toast on the small riverside terrace. The perfect ending to a perfect weekend!

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