A day trip to Setúbal will give you a taste of the southern Portugal vibe just an hour outside of Lisbon.
Some people may know Setúbal as the birthplace of 18th-century poet Bocage and world-famous soccer coach José Mourinho (the self-proclaimed “special one” who coached major league teams like Porto Futebol Clube, Real Madrid, and Manchester United). But it’s also known for its natural beauty, a peculiar accent, and a famous fish dish.
Sound good? We think so, too. Here’s how to make the most of a day trip to Setúbal, from attractions to food and more.
What to See and Do in Setúbal
Setúbal is that kind of city where every corner is attractive, so you won’t miss out if you just choose to explore the narrow streets. This way, you can admire the local architecture, take a walk on the avenue by the sea, or take a selfie with the human-like cuttlefish statue just steps away from the Casa de Santiago restaurant.
If, however, you’d rather see some of the iconic spots that put Setúbal on the map,, here’s what you can’t miss.
Museu do Trabalho Michel Giacometti
One of the top attractions in the museum is the old grocery store (mercearia), which is not a recreation. The interior of the store was donated to the museum and is now on display.
Before leaving, or before entering the museum, check the view over the bay from the tile-decorated viewpoint outside.
Museu do Barroco (Baroque Museum)
This museum dedicated to the 18th-century architectural style is set in a building from that same time period. It brings together all of the Baroque period’s signature elements: blue and white glazed tiles (azulejos), ceiling frescoes and gilded carved wood.
In the summer, this white-sand peninsula on the Sado River estuary is a popular beach destination. Ferries just for passengers or for passengers and cars depart from downtown every 35 minutes in the spring and the summer.
In addition to laying on the beach with a view to the Serra da Arrábida natural park, you can also book a boat tour for a chance to spot the resident families of dolphins. They are one of the three dolphin colonies in Europe living in an estuary.
Serra da Arrábida
Unless you feel like taking a two-hour hike, it’s best to include Serra da Arrábida on your day trip to Setúbal only if you’re driving. One of just 13 natural parks in Portugal, this mountain range is famous for its natural beauty and the clear-water beach of Portinho da Arrábida.
Where and What to Eat in Setúbal
There’s one dish the city by the Sado River is famous for: choco frito (strips of deep-fried cuttlefish), preferably served with a side of French fries. If you’re not adventurous when it comes to tasting new dishes, or if you prefer a lighter meal, you can never go wrong with grilled fresh fish.
Casa Santiago serves the best choco frito in the city, so expect to wait a while for a table. As with all typical Portuguese restaurants during lunch hour, service is fast, so you won’t have to wait in line for too long.
How to Get from Lisbon to Setúbal
If you prefer taking public transportation instead of driving, the most sustainable way to travel from Lisbon to Setúbal is to take the Fertagus train from Entrecampos and get off at the last stop. From the Setúbal train station to the city center, it’s about a 15-minute walk. A one-way ticket costs €4.55 per passenger, the trip lasts around an hour and trains depart hourly.
When it comes to flexibility, though, driving to Setúbal might be a better option, especially if you want to visit Serra da Arrábida.
Insider’s tip: If you don’t mind making transfers on public transportation, it’s faster to take the ferry across the Tagus River from Terreiro do Paço to Barreiro (departs every 30 minutes, off-peak hours). From there, take the CP train that leaves every 30 minutes from outside the boat station. Get off at Praça do Quebedo station, right in the heart of Setúbal. You can top-off your Viva Card instead of buying separate tickets. In total, a one-way trip (ferry + train) will cost you €4.65.