In the below article, you will not only learn about all the great things to do in Setubal and Toria Penisula. You will also get totally convinced that you should stay for more than just one day!
Setubal is often overlooked as a day trip from Lisbon. But it so shouldn’t. In fact, Setubal together with Troia Peninsula is such a great town that it deserves more than a day trip from Lisbon. There is many great things to do in Setubal you would not be able to fit it all in a day.
I originally planned to include Setubal in my ‘day trips from Lisbon’ post, but after visiting, I decided to dedicate a separate article to Setubal. There are so many great things to do in Setubal that I would happily spend not only a few days there but actually settle for good! Do you want to know why? Stick around 🙂
So how long should you stay in Setubal?
With Setubal being only an hour away from Lisbon, you could easily make it a day trip. However, there are so many great things to do in Setubal, which includes visiting Troia Penisula, that I would definitely recommend staying at least a couple of nights.
I have heard various opinions about Setubal, so I decided to take this trip and make my own mind.
As I walked out of the train station, I wasn’t very impressed and actually got very worried that I have just wasted a precious day. What appeared in front of me was just a regular town with blocks of flats and busy streets – just a usual residential Portuguese town.
But I didn’t give up. I decided that as I’m already here, I might make the most of the day and go exploring. I am so glad I did. As I turned left from the train station (you will see signs for the town centre), after around 15 minutes of a stroll, I got totally surprised
I found myself in the centre of one of the most charming towns I have ever visited.
Colourful buildings, cobbled streets, hanging ornaments and decorations, a plethora of small cafes and restaurants, fountains and cute parks and local folks going about their lives oblivious to the world out there.
I loved it!
Setubal is a fishing town that lies at the opening of the river Sado, on the coast just below Lisbon. On the opposite side stretches the sandy Troia Peninsula, which protects Setubal from the often violent Atlantic Ocean.
Under the sands of Troia lies the ancient Roman town of Cetobriga, which, once a prosperous fishing and fish-salting town, was wiped out by an earthquake and the consequent tidal wave in the 5th century.
The remnants of this ancient town can be visited today.
Setubal is a historical city that was served as a royal residence during the reign of King John II towards the end of the 15th century. Unfortunately, the majority of the historical buildings of Setúbal were almost completely destroyed in the disastrous Lisbon earthquake in 1755. The buildings that have survived the earthquake and can be still viewed today is the Monastery of Jesus and Castelo de São Filipe.
Thruout the 20th century, the city has maintained extensive industrial growth and became the most important centre of Portugal’s fishing industry, particularly sardines.
Today, tourism is one of the city’s most recognised resources given beautiful natural conditions with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Sado River on the other and spectacular Arrábida National Park offering unspoiled nature and tranquil beaches.
If you would like to take advantage of everything that this area offers, one day will not be enough!
How to get to Setubal from Lisbon
The best, cheapest, fastest and most fun way to get to Setubal from Lisbon is by taking a ferry across the river to Barreiro and then taking a train to Setubal town. Take the ferry from Lisbon Terreiro do Paço terminal (not the Cais do Sodre). The ferry leaves every half an hour, and Barreiro is the only possible destination from this terminal.
Once you arrived at the Barreiro ferry terminal, you will see a train station directly to your left. The train journey is around 40 minutes, and trains also leave every half an hour. The great thing about this way of getting to Setubal is that you will be able to use your Viva Viagem card.
Depending on the connection, the whole journey should not last more than an hour and 15 minutes and costs just under €5.
You can also take a direct train from Lisbon Roma-Areeiro station. This is a private train (Fertagus company) also stopping at Entrecampos and Campolide, and it will take you on a journey over the bridge. You will arrive in Setubal in just under an hour. The one-way ticket will cost you €4.55.
There are frequent busses going from Lisbon to Setubal. You can take one either from either Sete Rios or Gare do Oriente. Busses are operated by a TST carrier, take around one hour, and the fare is around €4.5 one way which can be purchased from the driver. Although in theory, the journey time is similar to those by train or ferry – Lisbon can suffer from heavy traffic, therefore, the arrival time cannot be guaranteed.
Great things to do in Setubal
Stroll down the streets of Old Town / Things to do in Setubal
Even if you won’t find the time to do anything else, strolling down the streets of the town centre is one of the top things to do in Setubal. I was so surprised once I found myself surrounded by colourful buildings, hanging colourful decorations and charming little restaurants and cafes.
I genuinely didn’t expect it.
There are loads of interesting shops with souvenirs and vintage and boho clothing (something for the ladies!), quirky coffee shops and I also found it hard to choose a restaurant for my dinner as there were so many!
Search for interesting murals and street art
Setubal is a city of surprises. For such an inconspicuous town it has so much to offer.
As you will walk around the town you will find very cool and interesting street art with works of artists like Odeith.
Setubal is a surprising artistic town and it has a bit of a hippy/boho feel to it! I loved just walking around and discovering all the faces of this town. Discovering hidden faces of the town is one of the best things to do in Setubal.
If you are into art you will also find a few interesting museums around the town including the Municipal Gallery of the Old Banco de Portugal and Casa do Corpo Santo.
Visit Setubal's bustling Fish Market - Mercado do Livramento
Even you are not intending on buying a fish Setubal’s Fishmarket is a great place to visit for its atmosphere, azulejo tiles and funny statues standing in the alleys.
It is said that Setubal houses one of the best fish markets in the world so once you are there it would be a shame not to visit.
Inaugurated in 1930 and housed in the pink-painted building, this market boasts not only a plethora of fish selection but also unique architecture with cast-iron columns, large panels of tiles inside representing the region’s long history.
You can also purchase other items such as vegetables, fruits, dairy products, bread, and sweets.
Walk up to the Forte de São Filipe.
It is around 25 minutes of an uphill walk towards the Forte de São Filipe, but it’s so worth it. The views from the Castle are spectacular, and you will be able to get a drink and other refreshments once you arrived at the top.
You can also visit the Castle itself, which is one of the only two ancient buildings that survived the big earthquake of 1755. The Castelo de São Filipe, more often called a fortress, played a tactical role in strengthening the defence line of the Portuguese coast, attacked by pirates from northern Europe and Africa. Visit the official website here for current opening times.
Take a boat ride and explore the Troia Penisula
Visiting Troia Penisula is hands down the best thing to do in Setubal. I was amazed by how beautiful and peaceful this place was!
On the bank of Troia Penisula, you’ll find one of the most widespread beaches in Portugal, 18km long in fact. The incredible thing about Troia and its beaches is how secluded it is. There are plenty of hotels and residential renting properties at the Marina waterfront, yet there will always be a big stretch of the sand you will be able to claim for yourself.
This place is a true tranquil paradise.
The soft and golden sands extend all the way to the horizon. With the crystal clear waters of the sea on one side and the lush forest on the other, the opportunities for activities are endless. Swimming, sunbathing, hiking, kayaking, watersports and dolphin watching – all possible here. At the beautiful marina, you will find a casino and few very nice bars and restaurants.
This place is just perfect!
At the southern tip of the peninsula, you will find a small village of Comporta, which is considered to be one of Portugal’s most elegant resorts and recently called an ‘eco-chic’ getaway in Portugal. The Praia da Comporta beach, with its pastel-striped beach huts, wild white dunes protected by law and powerful surf, attracts celebrities from around the world as well as surfers, families, and locals.
You can take a boat from Setubal Marina to get to Troia Penisula. The ticket costs €7.5 one way, and the return is free of charge. It only takes around 15 minutes to get to the other side, so even if you are visiting Setubal just for a day – this trip can be easily accomplished.
Troia Penisula is also where you will find remainings of the ancient town of Cetobriga dating back to the 1st Century and are amongst the most important archaeological remains.
The moment I stepped from the boat and took a walk towards the beaches I knew that together with Setubal, Troia Penisula could be my place on the earth.
Watch Dolphins in their natural Habitat
Dolphin watching is one of the things to do in Setubal that the town is most famous for.
Sado River inlet, found south of the city, is one of the very few places in the world where pods of dolphins can be found in the river environment – the famous roaz-corvineiro dolphins from Setúbal.
Around 29 dolphins live in this area, and the chance to see the wild dolphin colony in the Sado River is exceptionally high. It is one of the most popular and best things to do in Setubal.
You can book a catamaran trip to see those fantastic creatures in a non-invasive and fully sustainable way. All those companies work according to strict rules that dictate how much time they can spend tracking these amazing animals.
You can book your tour with one of the companies based at Troia or Setubal, or you can also book online here.
Eat Choco Frito washed by excellent Portuease wine
As much as any Portuguese city, Setúbal’s cuisine is abundant in seafood and fish produce. And fish doesn’t get any fresher than that in Setubal. You will find Portuguese trademark dishes like grilled sardines, mackerel or bass.
Yet what Setubal is most famous for is a Choco Frito dish. Buttered and deep-fried cuttlefish is usually served with French fries, lemon and mayonnaise. I simply couldn’t resist it – being a seafood enthusiast myself.
I had mine at the ‘Sem Horas’ restaurant right in the town centre. I chose this place at random based on the number of diners and general vibe (it’s a wine bar as well – hello!). I was not disappointed – the service was excellent and the Choco Frito delicious! I highly recommend this place!
Explore and hike Arrábida Natural Park
Exploring and hiking around Arrábida Natural Park is definitely something you could do if you decided to stay in Setubal for longer than one day. This is not only one of the best things to do in Setubal but also what adds to the perfection of the area.
Serra da Arrábida Natural Park is a paradise on earth, and apart from lush forests and fantastic hiking opportunities, it also offers centennial castles and stunning and secluded beaches.
Serra da Arrábida has been a natural park since 1976 and covers area of 10 521 hectare. Along park’s coast you can discover various beautiful beaches, namly – Figueirinha, Galápos, Galapinhos and Creiro beaches (Portinho da Arrábida).
One of the sites worth visiting within the borders of the park is Castelo de Palmela which was Built by the Moors in the 9th Century.
Avid hikers can take on an expedition to the Serra do Risco, the highest cliff on mainland Portugal, 380 metres above the Atlantic and offering breathtaking scenery. This trail is a beautiful hike.
I think you can now understand why I fell in love with Setubal and Troia Penisula and decided to dedicate a whole separate article to it.
Not only the fact that there are so many amazing things to do in Setubal, but the astonishing beauty of the region and a slightly bohemian feel is what makes it a paradise on earth.
If you visit – please let me know your thoughts. I would like to know if you also fell in love with Setubal and Troia Peninsula. And if you visit in the future – you might find me there 🙂
Portugal Know before You Go – Important Information and Travel Tips
- Currency – Euro
- Language – Portuguese but English is widely spoken (don’t take it for granted though, it’s always good to learn few basic terms)
- Power plugs and sockets – Type F (European). The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
- Driving – on the right-hand side.
- Climate and Weather – Portugal enjoys a warm climate with wet winters, dry and sunny summers, and the highest temperatures averaging above 25C. There are, however, distinct differences when it comes to climate within the length of the country. Porto has a mild, oceanic climate and is colder than Lisbon and the Algarve. The average temperature in winter is about 14ºC, and in summer around 25ºC. But still, in the summer, it can quite easily reach above 30ºC and drop to between 5 and 0ºC in winter.
- Most popular supermarkets – Continente Bom Dia, Pingo Doce, Minipreco and Spar.
- Remember about the Travel Insurance. I recommend SafetyWing especially for those nomads and long term travellers among us. No need to specify the destination nor the duration of travel. And you can cancel at any time.
- For accommodation search, I recommend Bookings.com and Hostel World. Although a dorm room is not always the option especially these days, however, I still prefer to stay in a hostel as I get to meet and befriend other travellers. Most of the time I book a small private room in a hostel. This is my preferred form of accommodation. But on both websites, you will be able to find anything from a dorm room bed to a self-catering apartment for the best prices.