From the heart of the city to the outskirts, passing through the rural areas of the municipality, through the mountains, the river or the estuary, there are points of interest at every corner, at every step, at every turn of the pedal. There is a whole world to discover on foot or by car, bike or boat. These are only some suggestions, because you need to discover the charms of this region for yourself!
In Setúbal’s Historic Centre, every street, building, façade, pavement and balcony is part of the city’s history.
Here, the past dates back to the Phoenician and Roman periods, but a trip around the centre is more than a history lesson; it’s also a walk around an open shopping area.
Five minutes from the Bocage Square, at the heart of the city’s historic centre, you will find the Convent of Jesus, listed as a National Monument, which houses the Setúbal Museum. Another point of interest is the Church of Jesus, considered to be the oldest hall church in Portugal.
From the convent, head towards the Bocage Square, a starting point to really discover the centre. Here, the 21st century lives closely alongside Roman and Medieval legacies.
Surrounded by open-air terraces, the Church of St. Julian has a rich Manueline portico in which figures that were carved in stone about 500 years ago overlook the sale of traditional artisan crafts.
The old tourist information office has a glass floor which reveals an old Roman fish salting factory. Nowadays, it offers nature tourism, gastronomy and wine tourism activities that take place around the Arrábida.
Close by, in Santa Maria Square, you’ll find the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace, which stands next to the Corpo Santo House/Baroque Museum . As you head towards Luísa Todi Avenue, don’t forget to admire the Casa do Leão (House of the Lion).
The Downtown area lies just behind Luísa Todi Avenue and is also worth visiting. There is so much more to enjoy, and Setúbal invites you to discover these places at your own pace.
Arrábida and Beaches
Listed as a Natural Park, the mountains give you the opportunity to be at one with Nature and to bathe in the crystal blue waters of the fine sandy beaches that spread over the foothills facing the Atlantic.
Figueirinha, awarded with a Blue Flag year after year for over a decade, is the best and most popular beach among visitors. There are small refuges and real enclaves hidden in the silhouette of the mountains, such as Galapos and Galapinhos – voted Europe’s most beautiful beach in 2017 – which entice those who seek the tranquillity of more isolated beaches. Along the way, in front of Creiro beach, the striking “Pedra da Anicha” (Anicha Rock) emerges out of the water and offers refuge to different marine species, which is why it was listed as a Zoological Reserve. On land, history lovers may choose to visit Creiro’s archaeological site, displaying remnants of an industrial Roman salt fishing plant.
On the way to Portinho da Arrábida – one of the “7 Natural Wonders of Portugal” -, you’ll find “Lapa de Santa Margarida” (the Cave of St. Margaret), which you can access by going down a long flight of steps that winds down to sea level. The earliest traces of humans in the mountains, dating back to the Lower Palaeolithic, were found in this area.
Climbing the mountain, the panoramic road overlooks breathtaking landscapes. Several natural viewpoints appear as if out of nowhere in between the curves of the Arrábida, making you want to get out the car and take in the views.
At the heart of the mountains lies the Arrábida Convent, whose white exterior has been standing amongst the lush green slopes since 1542.
On the way back to Setúbal, be sure to stop at the viewpoints along the road across the top of the mountains.
From the 15th century onwards, Azeitão gained prestige as noble families started to move in. The “quintas” (farms), palaces and fountains that spread throughout this territory are testimony to these times.
Today, Azeitão stands out for its bucolic peace, the relevance of history present in every building, the friendliness of its inhabitants and, particularly, the gastronomic experiences it offers.
We recommend you walk across the towns, as this gives you the opportunity to experience the leisurely pace of the countryside.
Vila Fresca de Azeitão is known for its well-kept streets and houses decorated with flowers, as well as for its traditional artisan craft workshops and its fountain. The Church of St. Simon is also worth a visit, showcasing a rich 17th-century tile heritage. The wall next to it is one of the limits of Quinta da Bacalhôa, where the palace with the same name is located.
Heading towards Vila Nogueira, the Palace of the Dukes of Aveiro, the Church of St. Lawrence, the Pasmados Fountain and the José Maria da Fonseca winery house-museum are definitely worth visiting. But the true charm of the village is in the streets that smell like the countryside, with several traditional artisan shops, namely of tinwork, decorating the routes with the products on sale.
The República Square, best known as Rossio, where we find the statue honouring the poet and pedagogue of Azeitão, Sebastião da Gama, is a pleasant leisure space shaded by tall sycamore trees.
Lose yourself in the streets, for example in the quiet Aldeia Rica Street, where an intense smell of flower inebriates the senses. Visit one of the patisseries and taste the traditional sweet pastries, among which the “tortas” (rolled lemon sponge cakes) and “esses” (cinnamon biscuits) stand out.
Mourisca and the Sado Estuary
A good starting point to discover the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve is the Mourisca Tide Mill which is an ancient testimony to how humans adapted nature’s forces to their own advantage.
It is essential to have a car for this route, but remember that there are companies who offer various other leisure activities in the estuary.
The bottlenose dolphin community is one of the highlights of these tourist companies, which organize different trips down the river to watch one of the few sedentary dolphin communities in the world.
As you head back towards the Tide Mill’s access route, follow National Road 10 to Pontal de Musgos, where you can catch a glimpse of the vast area of the estuary.
The flora and fauna are some of the major points of interest, and you’ll also have the opportunity to see, depending on the season, black-winged stilts, flamingos, western marsh harriers or white storks.
The many salt pans in the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve are testimony to the importance that the salt extraction industry once had in the area.
This area stands out due to its ecological richness and variety, which is why it is worth setting out on an adventure to explore its trails and small roads.