The best guide to Setubal
Palmela is a traditional Portuguese town that is situated high in the hills of the Serra da Arrabida. From this commanding position stands the Castelo de Palmela, a mighty fortification as well as the historic religious centre for the Order of Santiago. Below the castle, cobbled streets meander down the steep hill, through the charming historic centre of Palmela.
The anceint Castelo de Palmela
The region surrounding Palmela is a major wine producing region, and Palmela is a great destination to begin a tour of the wineries and vineyards of Azeitão. Those tourists with a rental car could combine a day trip to Palmela with a visit to the stunning scenery of the Serra da Arrabida, the port of Setubal or the wineries of Azeitão.
This article will provide a guide for a day trip to Palmela and includes a suggested 1-day itinerary, sights of the region and travel details from Lisbon and Setubal.
Palmela is far from the normal tourist routes, and part of the attraction of the town is visiting somewhere completely different. This lack of tourism is surprising, considering how close Palmela is Lisbon, and that the Castelo de Palmela is an outstanding tourist attraction. The town of Palmela has a charming (if semi-delipidated) Portuguese appeal, which very closely resembles Evora.
Apart from the Castelo de Palmela, there are only a few other minor sights and the whole town (including the castle) can be fully discovered in 2-3 hours. Visitors using public transport should only consider Palmela as a short-day trip. A rental car allows to explore the region, which has a lot to see (see details later on).
The Praça Duque de Palmela
The following details a suggested 1-day itinerary to Palmela, which uses public transport (bus). For transport details please see later in the article.
• Arrive at Palmela by bus, the bus station of Palmela is at the base of the hill of the town (GPS 38.57033, -8.90531) but it’s location still provides wonderful views north to Lisbon.
• On the walk uphill you pass the Xavier Santana Vinhos winery, which produces fine wines of which the Setubal region is renowned for.
• To reach the historic centre, walk up the Rua Contra Jaime Afreixo street, this is a steep uphill cobbled street with a mixture of traditional houses and delipidated buildings.
• The first major sight is the Praça Duque de Palmela, and at the centre of this small plaza is the 17th-century pillory, which was restored in 1907.
• The Praça Duque plaza leads to the Câmara Municipal de Palmela, the town hall of the town.
• Opposite the town hall is Palmela’s most important church, the Igreja de São Pedro de Palmela. This 16th-century Baroque church has beautiful azulejos tile paintings depicting the life of Saint Peter.
The Igreja de São Pedro de Palmela
• The route to the castle passes the Miradouro Municipal de Palmela viewpoint (GPS 38.56713, -8.89853).
• The medieval castle is the highlight of any day trip to Palmela and sights within the castle include:
* The gothic Igreja de Santiago, the religious centre for the Order of Santiago
* The convent which has been transformed into an atmospheric Pousada hotel
* The ruins of the Igreja de Santa Maria
* The three levels of walls and battlements, which is unique for Portuguese castles of this era as there are no moats.
* The wonderful views from the battlements of the Serra da Arrabida
The view over Setubal from the castle
• Once finished in the castle stroll back to the base of the hill through the forested park of the Venâncio Ribeiro da Costa park
• Visit the Casa Mãe da Rota de Vinhos, a centre detailing wine production of the Setubal region (and a chance to sample the wines). The Casa Mãe is in the Largo de Sao Joao Baptista (GPS 38.57139, -8.90262).
A rental car provides access to a range of different activities, and enjoyable activities include:
• Drive through the Serra da Arrabida, along the scenic N379 which climbs to the top of the hills and has views both north and south (GPS 38.48991, -8.979331).
• The Serra da Arrabida is popular for hiking with many paths around the Convento da Arrábida. Another short walk, with a fantastic viewpoint is to the Brecha da Arrábida from the car park at the western end of the N379 (GPS: 38.46017, -9.01018)
• The Portinho da Arrábida coastline contains some of Portugal’s finest beaches and includes the Praia do Creiro, Praia da Figueirinha and the Praia dos Galapinhos beaches.
• The Setubal region is famous for its Moscatel wines and the town of Azeitão is a centre for its production (see next section)
• The day trip could visit Setubal, and for a guide to day trip to Setubal please click here.
• Sesimbra could be visited and is a pretty fishing and resort town that is popular with Portuguese tourists, for a guide please click here.
• At the western edge of the Setubal Peninsula is the Cabo Espichel. This barren and wild headland is formed of massive cliffs that are pounded by huge Atlantic waves and was once an important pilgrimage destination.
A day trip to Palmela could be combined with a wine tasting tour of the vineyards of the Setubal region. Some of the best producers and wine cellars are:
• José Maria da Fonseca (famed for their Moscatel wine) (GPS 38.51821, -9.01528)
• Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal (GPS: 38.52187, -9.01506)
• Quinta de Alcube (historic family run vineyard) (GPS: 38.53037, -8.97256)
Note: Portuguese drink driving limits are very strict, if you are the driver never drink.
Palmela is connected to Lisbon by the 565 express bus service, which is operated by the TST bus company. The route departs Lisbon from the Oriente bus station, which is located in the Parque das Nações district and is connected to the red metro line. A single costs €3.95 and the ticket is purchased from the driver. The latest timetable can be seen on the TST website:
(link opens new tab)
The views from the battlements over the Alentejo region
Palmela is an enjoyable half-day excursion from Setubal and is connected by a regular bus service provided by TST. The best route is the 768 bus and the timetable can be seen on the TST website:
The bus departs from the Setubal bus station and the journey takes 30 minutes.