Family excursion around Lisbon: Palmela and the Parque Natural da Arrábida

6 years ago - Julie D.

Wild nature, beaches, medieval castles and local specialties: a day in the Parque natural da Arrábida

Just a short drive south of Lisbon, on the other side of the Tagus estuary, is the Natural Park of Arrábida (Parque Natural da Arrábida). At the edge of the park, we discover with delight the small medieval town of Palmela.

When children are bored, it is time to flee the city, if only for one day. About forty kilometers from Lisbon is the Natural Park of Arrábida, ideal for an excursion. Beaches of fine sand, small intimate coves, hiking in the natural park, gastronomic stopovers, festivals, castles and historical ruins: the region of the Serra de Arrábida is a discreet jewel that can be visited during all seasons, slowly, on the lookout for good addresses hidden at the turn of a country road.

Windmill in the park of Arrabida

The Parque Natural de Arrábida

The Natural Park of Arrábida was created in 1976 to preserve its fauna and flora, threatened by urban development. Indeed, we are still in the great outskirts of Lisbon - and yet we suddenly find ourselves in a haven of greenery with magnificent landscapes, wild cliffs and reliefs covered with forests. The park can be reached by car, and on foot, of course.
By car, take the N379-1 or the N10-4 to take in the breathtaking views that are available to the view all along the route. Esplanades are arranged here and there along the road to allow parking.

If you are lucky you may even spot dolphins in the turquoise waters of the bay and in the natural reserve of the Rio Sado estuary.

Some areas of the park are accessible only by an authorized guide. Contact the park management (PNAr) in Setúbal.

Parque Natural de  Arrábida – Praça da República – 2900-587 SETÚBAL – +351 265 541 140 –

The Parque de Arrabida by boat

The beaches of this natural park

The park of Arrábida hides several paradisiacal beaches. From the long strip of white sand to the little creek, there is something for everyone. It is best to leave the car on one of the paying car parks and descend to the beach along trails scented with the plants of the garrigue. The most accessible are the beach of Figueirinha and the beach of Creiro, but do not neglect the beach of the Galapos and that of the Galapinhos.

In Portinho de Arrábida, above the beach of Creiro, do not miss the Oceanographic Museum, located in the Fort Santa Maria.

Horse riding in the Natural Park of Arrábida

Palmela and the Natural Park of Arrábida can also be discovered along with a horse or cart ride, with Rotas Terra Una. Confirmed horse riders will be able to undertake a more ambitious hike. Rotas Terra Una offers day trips (Serra do Louro, 7am), as well as a one - week Dolphin Bay Trail program, Arrábida: the trail winds through pine and cork oak forests, with breathtaking views over the Baie des Dauphins.

Rotas Terra Una – Casal Sto. Isidro, Serra do Louro, 2950-131 Palmela – (+ 351) 212 333 019 –

Street scene in Palmela

Palmela: medieval castle and festivals

The small town of Palmela, ten kilometers from Setúbal, is a pleasant medieval village that knows how to live. A Roman consul, Aulius Cornelius Palma, gave it its name. It is home to the Castelo de Palmela, now a member of the Pousadas de Portugal network. The castle is open to the public and houses the municipal museum; the hotel's restaurant serves delicious lunch, with a menu of local specialties and wines.

From the top of its promontory, the eagle's nest of Palmela Castle dominates the Serra da Arrábida. The site has been occupied since the Neolithic times and has seen Romans, Iberians and Moors succeed one another after conquests and reconquests. The first fortress worthy of the name, in the 8th century, is the work of the Moors in full expansion in the Iberian peninsula. Fiercely contested, destroyed and then rebuilt and enlarged, it passes and passes again from the hands of the Moors to those of the Christian armies throughout the 12th century, before the Arabs were definitively expelled in 1212.

The castle is still the scene of other dark episodes: A battle against the armies of Castile and imprisonment of the bishop of Évora for treason, before becoming the residence of a religious order. Expelled in 1834, the monks left a superb cloister in which one enjoys strolling in the cool shade of the thick pillars of stone. The ruins of the medieval walls and ramparts bristling with towers are an ideal setting for a stopover on the route of this day trip around Lisbon. In clear weather, you can also see the capital from the ramparts of the castle.

Castle of Palmela

Palmela can also be visited during the many festivals that animate it, from the beginning of spring to the end of summer.

The agapes begin with the Festival of Cheese, Bread and Wine (Festa de Queijo, Paô e Vinho, late March-early April). They continue in June with the Palmela Wine Jazz Festival: over a weekend, we savor the "tasty and creative alliance of wine and music" (see the program of the edition 2017). At the end of the summer, the harvest festival, the Festa da Vindimas (end of August - beginning of September) takes place. Among the attractions, the traditional pressing of the grapes, the election of a queen, processions and fanfares, fireworks, a cowhide race and of course many opportunities to taste the wines of the region. Finally, during the third week of September the medieval festivals take place. Feira Medieval de Palmela offers everything you'd expect: knights' jousts, demonstrations of raptors, medieval dances, concerts, acrobats, jugglers and boaters ... (here along the video of the festivities of 2017 and the record of the 2017 edition of the festival)

Mercadinhos of local arts and crafts

At the foot of the castle, in the city itself, the Mercadinhos are held throughout the high season, from May to October: these "small markets" organized every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, offer local arts and crafts.

Wine tasting at Casa Mãe da Rota dos Vinhos

On a pleasant wooded plot of the historic center of Palmela is the Casa Mãe da Rota dos Vinhos. This old wine cellar has become the starting point of the Setúbal wine route. You can taste wines, cheeses, honey, pastries such as Pastel de Moscatel, as well as ice cream with surprising flavors of local fruits: apple, pear, peach or muscat grape. The local products shop also acts as a tourist office and allows you to book tours and excursions.
Casa da Rota dos Vinhos - Largo São João Baptista 1, 2950-214 Palmela - +351 21 233 4398 - every day from 10 am to 7 pm except Sundays from 1 pm to 7 pm, closed on public holidays.

How to get to Palmela

Exit Lisbon following the direction of Setubal / Cascais / A2 / A5. Take the Setubal exit/ Almada and continue on the A2. Merge onto the IP7. Leave the A2 / IP7 at exit 4, and take the N252 towards Palmela / Montijo. At the exit of the highway, take the EM 532 to finish arriving at Palmela.