The best independent guide to Central Portugal
The best independent guide to Central Portugal
Nazare is one of the finest beach resorts in Portugal, and is an outstanding destination for a holiday. The town is situated on a wide bay of golden sands and stands in the shadow of the towering Sítio headland.
Historically, this headland provided shelter for the fishing fleet and the boats were moored high up on the sands, safe from the ferocity of the ocean.
Today, fishing has succumbed to tourism, but Nazare is proud of its heritage, and the town has lost little of its character. Cobbled streets lead from the beachfront, fishermen’s houses have been converted into stylish hotels, and old women still wear traditional dress.
The view of Nazare from Miradouro do Suberco viewpoint
In the summer months, Nazare is a bustling and vibrant holiday destination, which attracts a diversity of nationalities and range of ages.
The winter draws a wholly different type of tourist, daredevil surfers, who come to surf the colossal waves that break off the Praia do Norte beach.
For a holiday there is a lot to love about Nazare: there is delicious sea food, beautiful scenery and a social holiday atmosphere. As a day trip, Nazare is as equally appealing, combining historic monuments with a glorious beach. This article will provide an introduction to Nazare.
In the winter huge waves break off the Forte de Sao Miguel headland, but in the summer the seas are much calmer
Highlights for a day trip to Nazare
• The spectacular view from the Miradouro do Suberco
• The Sao Miguel Fort, a homage to the extreme surfing at the Praia do Norte
• The Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazare church and its unique statue of Mary
• Dining on freshly caught fish, in a restaurant that overlooks the ocean
• Strolling along the Avenida da Republica, the beach promenade of Nazare
Highlights for a holiday to Nazare
• A day trip to Batalha, the location of Portugal’s grandest religious building
• A trip to Sao Martinho do Porto, and it’s unusual sheltered bay
• A visit the gothic monastery of Alcobaça
• Kayaking along the Sítio headland
• Eating a Bola de Berlim cake while relaxing on the wonderful Praia da Nazare beach
• The lively peak season nightlife
One of Nazare’s main attractions is that it is a multi-cultured and multi-aged destination, which is suitable for all. In the lively seafood restaurants, sun-burnt tourists and Portuguese families can be found eating together, while later the bars are filled with a mix of European languages.
The summer season tends to attract a younger crowd and families, and the low season is popular with more mature tourists and visitors touring Portugal.
Our opinion: WeI would happily recommend Nazare to my younger party-loving sister or my more mature parents; all will love Nazare.
Traditional fishing boats displayed along the beach front
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Nazare, and by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices:
Nazare is a historic and charming town which makes for an enjoyable day trip, and there are sufficient sights to fill a days sightseeing.
Below is an interactive map for our suggested tour of Nazare, which is 7.5km and will take 4 hours to fully see. The Sitio headland is connected to the town by a funicular, which is number 4 on the route.
Sights along the tour: 1) Fishing boat display 2) Open air drying and market 3) Santo António church 4) Ascensor de Nazare (Funicular) 5) Miradouro do Suberco (viewpoint) 6) Nossa Senhora da Nazaré church 7) Memória chapel 8) Saint Miguel Arcanjo Fort and lighthouse 9) Forno de Orca cave 10) Praia do Norte (beach) 11) Nazaré market
The Ascensor de Nazare connects the Nazare with Sítio and has a 42% gradient
There are three massive beaches at Nazaré; the Praia do Sul, the Praia da Nazare and the Praia do Norte.
The Praia da Nazare is a glorious beach and extends for 1.5km between the harbour to the Sítio headland. The beach boasts a vast expanse of soft golden sands and clean sea waters. The towering Sítio headland shelters the beach from the strong sea breezes and the powerful waves, making it a good destination for families and a relaxing day on the beach. The beach has a host of water activities, including stand up paddleboards, kayaks and jet-skis (hired from the harbour).
The massive Praia da Nazare
On the northern side of the Sítio headland, is the Praia do Norte famed for incredible (wintertime) surfing waves. This magnificent beach extends for many kilometres and has a beautiful, natural setting, with almost no tourist development. In the winter, the winds, currents and the under-sea geology combine to form colossal 30m high waves, which roll onto the Praia do Norte.
To the south of Nazaré is the little-visited Praia do Sul (south beach). This beach lies between the harbour and the mouth of the Rio Alcobaça, and is always much quieter than the Praia da Nazare. South of the Rio Alcobaça is the deserted beach of Praia de São Gião, but it is difficult to travel to from Nazare.
The Praia do Norte on a calm day
The village of Sítio da Nazare and the Sítio headland contain the prominent tourist attractions of Nazare, and is the area to explore on a day trip. Sítio da Nazare is located at the top of Monte Sítio and the village has a pretty historic centre along with wonderful views of the coastline.
At the centre of Sítio is the grand baroque Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazare church, which houses an ancient statue of the Virgin Mary. This small statue is unique, as it is a Black Madonna feeding baby Jesus. The statue is believed to have been carved in Nazareth (Israel), and its arrival in Nazare (Portugal) gave the town its name.
Classic Portuguese Baroque architecture on the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazare
At the western tip of the Sítio headland is the Farol da Nazare lighthouse and the Miguel Arcanjo Fort. This area is all about extreme surfing and the Praia do Norte waves. Inside the fort are informative exhibits about the surfing culture of the region, and including surfboards and pictures of the extreme surfing.
Surf boards in a national monument, it can only be at the Praia do Norte
Nazare is an ideal holiday destination if you want more than just beaches and good weather for your holiday. Within the surrounding region are many interesting towns, including Batalha, Alcobaça, Sao Martinho do Porto, Leiria and Peniche. All of these towns can be reached using public transport.
Slightly further away is the pilgrimage destination of Fatima and the charming walled town of Obidos. With a rental car, the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros nature park can be explored along with the pristine coastline north of Nazare.
Related articles: Batalha gudie - Obidos guide - Sao Martinho do Porto
Nazare is a good destination for a family holiday, and the town is popular with Portuguese families. Nazare has not been overrun by drink-fuelled tourism as has happened with the major resort towns of the Algarve (Albufeira, Lagos and Praia da Rocha), and at the height of the summer there is an equal mix of families and couples.
Nazare has added the benefit of being a large town with many facilities and a good selection of shops. The Portuguese are very accommodating of children, who will be welcomed in all restaurants and hotels. An activity popular with families is the Norpark waterpark, close to the Praia do Norte , which is open during the summer season.
Some of the world’s highest waves are found between the Sítio headland and the southern section of the Praia do Norte beach. There are a number of factors which give rise to the giant waves:
• A deep marine trench that extends from the shoreline and channels the water
• A southernly current along the Praia do Norte
• Two wave directions that are angled together at different depths/speeds
• Winter swells and winds
These factors combine to create colossal waves but are limited to a very narrow stretch of sea. The highest surfed wave was by Garrett McNamara in January 2013 and had a height of 100 feet (30m). Respect.
Nazare is a highly regarded holiday destination that is popular with both Portuguese and foreign visitors. In the summer hotels sell-out, the vast beach will be crowded, and reservations are needed for the best restaurants. The town will feel crowded and hectic, but this is no different to the Algarve or any other Europe holiday destination.
If you are planning a summer holiday to Nazare, always book your accommodation as far-in-advance as possible, as the town will sell-out. This is especially true for 2021 as Portugal is experiencing a massive growth within tourism, and demand for accommodation will outstrip supply.
There is nothing the Portuguese enjoy more during a long day on the beach, than a Bola de Berlim. This delicious custard filled doughnuts were traditionally sold by old women who would wander along the beach, while the sticky mess of sugar and custard from eating them could be washed off in the sea. The old women can no longer sell them (hygiene laws), but there are two shops on the beach promenade which sell them.
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