A colorful sister city to polished, cosmopolitan Lisbon, Setúbal lacks the tourist hordes of the capital but has plenty to offer the visitor. Along with its famous fresh fish and seafood—notably choco frito (fried cuttlefish)—the city has a lively cultural scene and is the starting point for dolphin-spotting trips out into the Sado Estuary.

At the mouth of the Sado River, Setúbal is the country's third-largest port and one of its oldest cities. A significant industrial town in Roman times, it became one again during Portugal's Age of Discovery and took off during the 19th century. The center remains an attractive blend of medieval and modern, and you could spend a day here strolling cobbled pedestrian streets that open onto pretty café-lined squares and lingering in sites like the handsome Igreja de Jesus. Start at the tourist office, which is built atop Roman ruins discovered during a construction project; inside, you'll be standing above and peering down through the glass floor into a 5th-century fish-processing room. Near the port, an agreeable clutter of boats and warehouses is fronted by gardens, where you can stock up for a picnic at a huge indoor fish-and-produce market (Tuesday–Sunday 7–2).

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