When readers asked me ‘where else to go near Lisbon’, I would always send them further away, as it ‘felt too close’. But I was wrong. Less than an hour south of Portugal’s capital, you will find an absolutely stunning part of the country: the Setubal Peninsula.
As I was born and raised in Lisbon, I was obviously aware of the Setubal Peninsula area: throughout my childhood, my parents actually owned second homes near Sesimbra, they loved taking us out for grilled red mullet lunches and to visit the market in Setubal. I remember breakfasts in Azeitao growing up. And lots of cheese. I remember the occasional beach day at Figueirinha. And obviously the ferry from Setubal to Troia. Our first sips of cold Moscatel. Nowadays, we always try to squeeze in a beach day at Comporta.
I had never really thought about its wines (it is the second largest producing region of Portugal) or actually going there and staying at the Setubal Peninsula for a few days (because we would be back home in under an hour).
So if you are planning to visit Portugal, namely Lisbon, consider spending a few nights at the Setubal Peninsula (plural), as you really will really enjoy it.
For context, I was invited and compensated by the Setúbal Peninsula Regional Vine and Wine Commission to visit the area for 4 days and I shared the trip experience live on my social media channels. You can find the Instagram post here and the trip’s highlights saved here.
Day 1 at Setubal Peninsula
We flew in from Malaga (as we are now the proud owners of a Summer home around Sotogrande in Spain) and we drove straight from Lisbon Airport to Vila Nogueira de Azeitao, which took under an hour.
Before wine, it was time for one of the most important meals in Portugal: breakfast. Pastelaria Cego was our first stop and it was memorable as it showcased one of the best Portuguese dessert combinations: eggs and sugar. And delicious coffee, of course.
It was time for our first tasting – so we quickly drove to Bacalhoa (a few minutes away). It is a very well known winery across Portugal – and also known for its owner’s extraordinary private art collection (the largest in Portugal). But we were there for one thing, as you can imagine.
We were unable to book a private tour and tasting on this occasion, and we felt we failed to grasp the essence of this winery, as we were walked around it in quite a large group and had very limited commentary about the wine (plenty about the art) during the actual tour. I felt it was a shame as they really missed an opportunity – but I am glad to report that things got much better after this first tasting.
Our next stop was the exact opposite: ASL Tome, a small family-ran winery and we had the place all to ourselves. We were driven all the way to the Cascalheira vineyards, where we stretched our legs and enjoyed a lovely rustic picnic lunch in a very rural setting, tasted and enjoyed their wines.
We then headed to our hotel so we could check in and our little one could nap.
Luxury accommodation in this part of the world is limited (maybe perhaps due to its proximity to Lisbon) – so I reached out to my readers to ask where I should stay. This region stretches all the way to Comporta (which is very well known and home to more than a handful of new luxury hotels), but as we were focusing on the wine offering of the area, it made more sense to stay in a more central location – minutes outside the regional capital, Setubal.
Casa Palmela is the place to stay, and because my sister and family was joining us later during this trip, we rented one of their villas, which also gave us more flexibility and privacy as well.
After a few hours of downtime, we left towards a very special place for me and my family: the seaside town of Sesimbra, where literally I spend my childhood weekends (and I had not been back to in… decades).
Some things were so different – whereas others were exactly the same. We were visiting midweek off season, so it was very different from every other time I had visited – but it did feel special.
We were really looking forward to having dinner at O Zagaia, which is a really modern restaurant and we managed to start with some excellent wine, a Breijinho da Costa white (which really was interesting as its vineyards are by the sea). Sadly, there was a power cut which seemed to be quick but after half an hour, we were told that it would take hours as it was something serious. My local knowledge came in handy as I was quickly able to call Ribamar and book a table for within 10 minutes as they had a generator – restaurants and businesses were affected and obviously there would not be enough tables for everyone.
We had a wonderful meal – we had our first taste of Azeitao cheese of the trip. This is one of the region’s most famous products – and my favourite cheese in the world. It’s runny and punchy and makes any meal special. It is a DOP cheese, meaning that it is made in a certain way and can only be produced in a particular area (just like wines).
We had a 45 minute drive back to the hotel and had an early night.
Day 2 at Setubal Peninsula
We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and made our way to Palmela, one of the better known tows of the Setubal Region. On our (very carefully) curated itinerary, our first stop was the Casa Mae da Rota dos Vinhos, which would be the ‘Wine Tourism Board information centre’. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – but we ended up spending there twice the time we thought we would, and it is absolutely worth a visit if you go to the area.
First, it is a shop – so you have probably one of the best showcases of locally produced wine, where you really have most producers. But it also has delicious coffee and the most incredible moscatel pasteis de nata.
I have worked with the Setúbal Peninsula Regional Vine and Wine Commission and they have produced a Beginners Guide to Peninsula de Setubal Wines, which you can find here on the blog. We tried to provide as much useful information as possible.
You can also book to join special wine tasting events and experiences like the picnic we enjoyed the previous day. Have a look at their website before you go, as we found it very helpful.
A short drive away (our drives were mostly 20 minutes), we found the lovely Quinta do Piloto. I had first tasted one of its wines at Chef Nuno Mendes’ fantastic restaurant Lisboeta (in London) and when I was working with the organisers picking which wineries to choose, it was the one on top of my list.
This is where we also got reacquainted with Moscatel, which is the region’s pride and joy. A wonderful sweet delight which is the perfect aperitif or digestive (depending on the type). We found many ways and times of the day to enjoy this lovely (and incredibly priced) wine, and have compiled a list of where you can buy it in England.
But this really was just an aperitif. Fifteen minutes later we arrived back at Vila Nogueira de Azeitao (where we had started our exploration of the area the morning before) and headed to a proper lunch (with a fair bit of wine pairing), at The Wine Corner, owned by Jose Maria da Fonseca, one of the most renowned wine makers in the area.
I thought the restaurant and the concept was phenomenal and I loved how they combined the modern bits with the traditional bits. It really was excellent.
Our afternoon was spent with the team at Jose Maria da Fonseca, where we enjoyed a really interesting tour of the cellars (so much history there), the family museum, followed by a really interesting tasting (which covered all their flagship wines and, of course, moscatel).
If you are wondering, the bottom photo on the right is… is the water and fresh juice the JMF team prepared for our daughter, alongside colouring books and crayons. You don’t get this everywhere.
We went back to our hotel, Casa Palmela, for a little nap (all of us)! Our 3 bedroom villa was well appointed (and we thought the hotel grounds were beautiful) – but also felt the service was fairly green.
For dinner, we made our way towards Arrabida, which is probably one of the most iconic areas of the Setubal Peninsula, home to a beautiful coastline (which obviously affects the wine in a very unique way).
Dinner (and pre dinner drinks) took place at our local favourite restaurant, O Farol, which is worth a visit any time of the year. We enjoyed a little Moscatel first, and then a wonderful seafood meal. Bookings are absolutely essential.
Day 3 at Setubal Peninsula
Our final tasting and winery visit was to Casa Ermelinda Freitas. I had heard about this wine maker but didn’t really know much about it – and was very interesting as it was founded by a female (absolutely unheard of) and how much it has grown since.
We enjoyed our private tour around the estate (one cool little detail was the fact that the family’s original home – which really was not that big – was preserved and it still sits at the heart of the property. Humble beginnings, as they said).
For lunch, we headed to Miguel, in Setubal, where we were met by my sister and her lovely family. We were to spend the rest of the trip together, which was truly special.
We visited in June and were a bit unlucky with the weather – but we got some special sunshine for the afternoon!
The plan was to do a wine tasting sunset cruise (but it got cancelled because of the predicted weather), but we managed to get a few spots in a catamaran and absolutely loved our little cruise. The boat stopped in Troia (we did not get out, but you could) and then just enjoyed being by the sea. All of us. Together.
We ended the afternoon by having a little wander about town and made a little stop at the Casa da Baia, which is Setubal’s main tourism information centre. I don’t usually bother with ‘tourism information centres’, but these were something else… we obviously had to have some wonderful local cakes and, obviously, Moscatel. This time around, we had it with tonic (try it, it is amazing).
We went back to the hotel to freshen up before returning to Setubal for dinner – the hotel is called Casa Palmela, but it is in Setubal, so it really was not far.
I had never had dinner in Setubal before – because we would spend the day and then head back to Lisbon. We were surprised with how modern the docklands area was (and having had lunch there earlier in the day, you couldn’t really tell what would happen by night).
Dinner was at Xtoria and was excellent. It is a Michelin Big Gourmand restaurant and as they say, Setubal is more than just ‘fried cuttlefish and grilled fish’.
Day 4 at Peninsula de Setubal
On our final day, we literally spent the morning at the hotel trying to guess what the weather would do. Would it be sunny? If so, could we go to the beach?
We called people who were at Comporta and Arrabida. Why? We had planned to go to Sublime Comporta Beach Club for lunch, but a 90 minute drive without a reassurance of sun wasn’t working for us. A call to the lovely people at O Farol confirmed that there was sun… but no sunloungers yet, as ‘the season’ did not start until a week later (one of those Portuguese laws no one really understands).
So we did go to the beach and just about managed to park (this is absolutely the downside of the Arrabida beaches – and this was off season) – but had a good 20 minute walk to and from the restaurant, which now, as I am writing this in England (pouring with rain), I do not mind one bit.
Well, I don’t know how else to put this: we loved every minute of our trip in the Setubal Peninsula. We ate so well, we drank so well…. we truly enjoyed our time in the area (and obviously I have been back since).
I hope this article encourages you to visit this part of Portugal when you next visit Lisbon and if you are curious about its wonderful wines, have a little read here.
Until the next time.