Though hardly a classic beauty, the thriving port town of Setúbal (shtoo-bahl) makes a terrific base for exploring the region’s natural assets. Top of the must-do list is a cruise to the marshy wetlands of the Sado estuary, the splashy playground of bottlenose dolphins, flocks of white storks (spring and summer), and wintering flamingos that make the water fizz like pink champagne. You can hike or bike along the dramatic, pine-brushed coastline of Parque Natural da Arrábida, or simply soak up rays on nearby sandy beaches.
Back in town, it’s worth taking a stroll through the squares in the pedestrianised old town and clambering up to the hilltop fortress for views over the estuary. The fish reeled the Romans to Setúbal in 412, so it’s no surprise that seafood here is delicious. On Avenida Luísa Todi, locals happily while away hours polishing off enormous platters of choco frito and carafes of white wine.
Most sights are within easy walking distance of the pedestrianised centre. The bus station is about 150m north of the centre; the main train station is 700m north of the centre. Frequent ferries shuttle across the Rio Sado to the Tróia peninsula from terminals around Doca do Comércio.