Setúbal in Portugal’s Wine Country

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Setúbal is a sizeable city just 40km south of Lisbon. It is situated on the Sado river estuary and is awash with history dating back to Roman times. With its protected natural harbour it was once a major port for the sardine and fishing industry. With the decline of this trade, Setúbal is now successfully promoting itself as a delightful holiday destination with beautiful beaches, unspoilt natural surroundings, the Arrabida Natural Park and its colony of appealing dophins!

The city has charming pedestrianized streets, fountains, squares and gardens giving it a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. On the opposite bank of the Sado river is the Troia peninsula where a new resort is being created. Somewhere beneath the fine sands the Roman town of Cetobriga lies partially buried. An earthquake and tidal wave in the 5th century destroyed the town in an instant but some of the excavated remains can be toured.

Things to Do in Setúbal

There are a several points of interest and a variety of things to do in Setúbal with something for everyone. Take a stroll around the town and discover the Monastery of Jesus, the town’s main historical monument. The church dates back to the 15th century and was one of the first buildings to be built in Manueline style, an opulent decorative style of architecture enhanced by the pink marble stone. The adjoining monastery houses an impressive collection of 16th century paintings and religious artifacts.

The Sao Juliao Church, located in the Praça de Bocage, is the main church of the city and dates back almost 800 years. Damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1755, the restoration included decorating the interior in baroque style. The resulting gilded columns, beautiful altar painting by Pedro Alexandrino and ceramic tile decorations make this a real must-see for art-lovers.

One of Portugal’s unique features is the use of “azulejos” which are painted tiles which create a decorative scene. The chapel inside the Fort of Sao Felipe contains a fine azulejo collection, made in the 1700s by one of the master tile makers in his day, Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes. With its 16th century antique furniture and breathtaking views across the bay, the castle is a beautiful place to visit and is now a Pousada de Portugal or luxury hotel of Portugal.

The beaches are the main attraction for things to do around Setúbal during the day. They offer long stretches of white sand and deep blue waters. The coastline of the natural park is where the unspoilt Arrabida Beach can be enjoyed. Galapos Beach is another beautiful beach nearby which looks out over the small local boats moored in the shallow waters.

A trip to the north of Setúbal should include the historic town of Palmela with its hill-top castle. Views from here stretch as far as Lisbon to the northwest and the wine-producing Alentejo region. For those wanting to visit the wineries and sample the local produce, the small village of Quinta do Bacalhau and the famous wine cellars of José Maria de Fonseca are both within easy reach from Setúbal.

With the development of this coast for tourism, many golf courses have sprung up to cater for visitors who want to golf in the sunshine. The Pennink at nearby Aroeira is considered one of the best golf courses in Europe.

Local Food and Wine in Setúbal

Setúbal DOC is famous for its fortified sweet muscatel wine which must be sampled. It is the perfect finish to a meal of fresh local seafood and sweet desserts.

Most of the wines are matured for decades with the “Setúbal Apoteca” being laid down for 50 years! The cheaper muscatel wines are about 6 years old and have a full-bodied silky sweet flavour.

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