According to legend, Set˙bal was founded by Tubal, the son of Cain. Today, it's an industrious fishing city and the country's third largest port. Away from the industrial sprawl there's an attractive old town with pedestrian streets and squares filled with shops and cafes. Off the main square ("Praša do Bocage," named after a local 18th century poet described by William Beckford as "perhaps the most original poet ever created by God"), is the 16th century Church of Saint Julian. It has fine 18th century tiled panels and gilded altar decorations, but the town's architectural treasure is the striking 15th century Gothic Church of Jesus.
Designed by the same architect as Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery, it is recognized as the earliest example of Manueline architecture, and Hans Christian Andersen described it as "one of the most beautiful small churches I have ever seen."
Of particular interest are the flamboyant doorway, the main chapel, and six extraordinary stone pillars shaped like coils of rope. In the Gothic cloisters of the church is the City Museum, with remarkable 16th century paintings of the life of Christ, antique tiles and coins, and a rich collection of ecclesiastical gold and silver.
Another noteworthy church is the 13th century Church of Santa Maria da Graša at the east end of the old town, with carved and gilded altars from the 16th and 17th centuries.
There's also an exceptional pousada in town, located in a star-shaped 16th century fort on a hill overlooking the port. It can be fascinating to watch the harbor from here as the brightly painted boats arrive in the morning loaded with fish and as fishermen mend their nets. Also worthwhile is visiting the lively fish auction.
Opposite the city is Troia, an immense strip of fine sand well connected by a ferry departing from the port. The northern end of the peninsula is heavily developed and includes an exceptional 18-hole golf course by Robert Trent Jones Sr. On the southern end there are miles of glorious empty beaches, great stretches of dunes, and a pine forest. In the springtime there is an event of international status, the Troia International Film Festival.
Nearby is Cetobriga, the remains of what started as a Celtic village and eventually became a Roman town that was destroyed by a tidal wave in the 5th century. Excavations have revealed scant ruins of tanks, thermal spas, and the remains of a temple decorated with frescoes.
East of Set˙bal is the Sado estuary, an extensive reserve with a diverse bird life of over 100 species throughout the year. Worth looking out for are the flamingos and the white storks. Set˙bal's tourism office can provide details of organized tours, as well as for watching bottle-nosed dolphins in their natural habitat.á
North of Set˙bal is PALMELA, a small hill town with a 12th century fortress that in its day was a splendid example of medieval military architecture. It is now a luxury pousada with fantastic views all around.
Set˙bal can be reached by buses departing from Lisbon's Praša de Espanha, with a journey time of around one hour.
Courtesy of golisbon
Pictures of Setubal
The land belonging to the municipality has been occupied by man since pre-historic times, intensively so as from the Iron Age and under Roman occupation the population was to increase even further. Roman Setubal, from the 1 st to the 4th centuries AD, was an important urban and economic centre, involved particularly in the fish salting business.
In this connection, it was provided with a complex industrial network along both banks of the river Sado, including Troia. The Barbarian and, later, the Moorish invasions led to the decadence of the industry, with the Moors settling one the higher parts overlooking the surroundings, such as Palmela, in sheltered ports such, as Alcacer do Sal, or in fertile valleys, such as those to be found in Azeitao.
When the region was retaken and following the establishment of the Order of Santiago da Espada (Saint James of the Sword) at Palmela, Setubal was peopled once again and it was grant - ed its first charter in 1249. In the 14th century, during the reigns of kings Afonso IV and Pedro, its boundaries were established and the first walls of the town were built In 1458, king Alfonso V set off from Setubal to conquer the Moroccan stronghold of Alcacer Seguer and, in 1514, king Manuel reconfirmed the towns charter.
During the events of 1580, when the Castilian monarchy took over the Portuguese throne, Setubal was to lend support to D. Antonio, the prior of Crato, and it was besieged by the Castilian troops under the duke of Alba. Filipe II visited Setubal two years later and ordered the construction of the Sao Filipe Fortress.
The economic and social development seen in the 19th century was to transform Setubal into one of the country's most important industrial and commercial centres, and it was raised to city status in 1860. The Barreiro-Setubal railway line was inaugurated in 1861 and gas lighting was introduced to the city's streets in 1863. Setubal was promoted to District Capital in 1926.
Setubal has long appeared to be well suited to being an important industrial complex. The fact is that since Roman times it has found in salt and in the sea the wealth that has made it flourish. The city has been enriched with Manueline style architecture and very varied tile- work, and it is noted for its churches and chapels set in an urban layout of the medieval age.
The Arrabida Hills, where the soil has been used to produce the famous muscatel grapes, stretch out along the southern coast of the Setubal peninsula as far as Sesimbra, peaking at a height of 500 metres. Rare vegetation and many kinds of fauna and flora are protected within the Arrabida Nature Park, the ancient paradise of an order of friars who built a convent here.
The enchanting little beaches of Galapos and Portinho da Arrabida are much sought after during the summer. A school of porpoise lives in the river Sado to the delight of visitors, a visit to Vila Nogueira de Azeitao and to Vila Fresca is a must.
The Arrabida landscape is unique as far as the Portuguese coast is concerned, forming an enclave of enchanting spots and Mediterranean tones right in the middle of hundreds of kilometres of Atlantic beaches. The Arrabida Nature Park, covering an area of about 26,700 acres, forms part of the Arrabida Hills which peak at a height of some 500 metres, forming a natural altar from which one can view the extraordinary beauty of its horizons over land and ocean.
The natural and landscape value of the Arrabida Nature Park is enormous. The Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea) is outstanding among its rare and diversified native flora that fully warrants the three absolute reserves, access to which is forbidden: Mata do Solitario, the Mata do Vidal and the Mata Coberta.
Of its fauna, which used to include wolves, wild boar and deer, mention is made of the wild cat, the badger, the weasel and the fox, while in the air one can see Bonelli's eagles, kestrels, eagle owls and barn owls.
HERITAGE AZE ITAO
The various towns and villages amaze visitors for the richness of their palaces, estates and manor houses, or for the picturesque streets and squares in which the scent of flowers and the tranquillity of the houses and of the fountains, with their remarkable sculpture, paint a canvas of harmonious hues.
Azeitao seems to come out of the pages of a novel that you can't put down for the surprises that are provided in every page. There are two significant landmarks of Portuguese Renaissance architecture at VIla Fresca, with the added attraction that they are open to visitors -Quinta das Torres, with its inn, restaurant and tea-room, and Quinta da Bacalhoa, with its magnificent gardens.
The architectural heritage of Azeitao also stands out at the churches of Sao Lourenco, with its 18th century tiles and a most beautiful majolica panel dating from the fifteen hundreds, and of Sao Simao, built in 1570, peculiar in that the portal is at the east end, instead of at the west as was customary.
A land that extends an invitation to contemplation, Azeitao witnessed the birth of prodigies who expressed themselves in various art forms, such as Sebastiao da Gama, considered to be its greatest poet, to whom Azeitao dedicated a museum at Vila Nogueira, which, in addition to housing the collections of the writer and pedagogue, is provided with an exhibition gallery.
The knowledge handed down by the master craftsmen to their apprentices can be found at workshops making ceramics, tiles and metal artefacts that can be bought during visits, sometimes requiring advance booking. This legacy can also be found at the Azeitao Jumble Fair held on the second Sunday of each month.
GASTRONOMY THE SEA AND THE HILLS
First of all, the fish: fresh, most fresh, almost jumping straight from the sea to the tempting tables of Setubals excellent restaurants. Try the seafood soup, the fish stew, and the cuttlefish with beans, the fried cuttlefish, the stuffed stone bass, and charcoal grilled monkfish on the spit or the Costa Azul shellfish dish. One of the gastronomic jewels of the municipality of Setubal is the delicious Azeitao cheese.
The recipe dates back to the early 19th century, when a cheese maker from the Beira Baixa taught the shepherds in the Seulbal region the secret of making ewe's milk cheese. The flora of the Arrabida pastureland and a species of thistle used as a starter to separate the curds from the whey lend this famous cheese its own particular flavour.
Azeitao is also noted for its confectionery; particularly its small Swiss rolls and the rather curious S-shaped biscuits called "Esses", and for the unusual quality of its honey. Its excellent sweet Muscatel wine also warrants a special word.
The embrace of the ocean waters at the foot of the Arrabida Hills opened to Setubal the doors of the exclusive Most Beautiful Bays of the World Club. Just thirty bays belong to this club, including San Francisco in the United States and Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands.
This distinction has increased the fame of the beaches of fine sand and clear blue waters, with their ideal conditions for water sports such as canoeing, sailing, wind-surfing, water-skiing, angling and diving. The municipality provides several alter- natives for active and nature tourism, including visits to the Arrabida Nature Park and the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, with their focus on fauna, flora and buildings, part of the latter linked with older industrial activities, helping visitors to become acquainted with local history.
Contact with the Sado porpoise is one of the most fascinating gifts provided by Setubal Bay. Companies organise river trips for visitors to view the colony resident in the estuary. The Sao Filipe Fort, concluded in 1600, where a Pousada is now located, constitutes a fine mirador overlooking this entire landscape, imposing and delicate at one and the same time, the birthplace of dishes rich in fish and shellfish to be enjoyed along the city's sunny esplanades.
Courtesy of Regiao de Turismo de Costa Azul.
There is a late 15th/early 16th century monument in Largo de Jesus that was ordered by the governess of king Manuel I and built under the direction of Master Boitaca: the Convent of Jesus. In the church the ceiling is divided into three unequal but harmonious parts.
The tiles date from the seventeen hundreds and use was made of Arrabida breccia, a stone of reddish- pinkish hues providing a fine ornamental effect. The chancel opens out in a triumphant arch decorated in the Manueline style. The stained glass of the main window and the 14 panels of the old retable are kept in the Museum where there are several valuable artistic collections.
In addition to the excellent goldsmithery there is a gallery of 16th century paintings open to the public, with its famous "Setubal Primitives". Setubal is a major fishing port and its fish-auction and the quay provide a lively scene every morning with the arrival of the trawlers laden with sardines, horse-mackerel and other kinds of fish caught off the coast during the night.
The gaily-coloured boats, the cries of the fishermen and the bustle of the auction contribute to the beating of the heart of the city, a city that has always lived together with the sea and the river. A visit to the Livramento Municipal market is essential and here one can admire one of theácountry's best fish markets.