The best independent guide to Central Portugal
The best independent guide to Central Portugal
Nazaré is one of the finest beach towns of Portugal’s ‘Costa de Prata’ (Silver Coast).
The town lies on a wide sandy bay that stands in the shadow of the massive Sítio headland. Historically, this headland provided shelter for the Nazaré’s fishing fleet, with the boats moored high up on the beach, safe from the ferocity of the Atlantic Ocean.
Nazaré has responsibly grown from a minor fishing town to a popular tourist destination while still retaining its distinctive character and proud heritage. Cobbled streets can still be found along the beachfront, traditional fishermen’s houses have been converted into stylish hotels, and old women still wear traditional dresses.
In the summer months, Nazare is a bustling and vibrant holiday destination, with tourists drawn by its glorious beach and enjoyable holiday atmosphere. However, the winter attracts a wholly different type of tourist - daredevil surfers who come to surf the colossal waves that break off the Praia do Norte beach.
If you are considering a holiday to Nazare, there is a lot to love about the town and surrounding region. There are exciting activities, dramatic natural scenery and fascinating day trips. Nazaré is equally popular for day-trippers, with visitors either relaxing on the magnificent beach or discovering the many historic sites of the town.
Nazare is a fantastic tourist destination, and this guide will help you get the most from the town.
The Praia da Nazare – This vast, sandy beach is regarded as one of the best beaches on the Silver Coast. Sheltered from the strong Atlantic winds and currents, it makes the perfect spot for relaxing days or fun with the family. Behind the beach you’ll find a scenic promenade leading down to the fishing harbour.
The Sítio district – A historic and charming district of Nazare that sits at the top of the Sítio headland. The district was historically an important pilgrimage destination, and inside the Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré is a unique holy icon. This small, black wood and painted statue - known as Nossa Senhora da Nazaré - is believed to be one of the earliest carved statues of Mary and depicts her breastfeeding the Baby Jesus.
Nazaré’s waves and surfers – Nazaré is the setting for some of the world’s largest waves, which in winter can reach over 30m (100ft).
Powerful Atlantic Ocean waves are channelled through Europe’s largest underwater canyon (the Nazaré Canyon) before being expelled at its head, to create waves that are taller than most houses. In the winter, fearless surfers come to surf these colossal waves, with events attracting over 100,000 spectators.
Do note – There will be no huge waves during the summer.
The Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo – This 17th-century fort sits at the end of the Sítio headland and now houses a museum dedicated to Nazare’s extreme surfing. Inside the fort you’ll find an impressive collection of surfboards, while from the battlements providing fantastic views over the Praia do Norte.
Nazaré is one of the best holiday destinations of the Silver Coast, and is an outstanding base from which to explore the region.
As a modern resort town, it boasts a wide selection of restaurants, bars and hotels, but still retains its traditional Portuguese character.
During the summer, the town has a lively atmosphere, attracting a mix of nationalities and ages. By day there is the beautiful beach to relax on while at night there is delicious food and social bars.
Insight: The Sítio headland shelters the Praia da Nazare beach from the strong sea breezes and currents that buffer many of the other beaches within Costa de Prata region. This makes the town ideal for both family and beach focused holidays.
Nazaré offers so much more than just a beach holiday, with a variety of activities to choose from in the area. There’s surfing on the Praia do Norte, as well as boat tours and dolphin-watching trips that depart from the harbour. The Grotto do Forno de Orca cave is well worth a visit, and for those who enjoy hiking there is a scenic route that leads up to the Ermida de São Bartolomeu chapel.
From Nazaré you can also take day trips to the monasteries at Batalha and Alcobaça, the unique natural harbour at São Martinho do Porto and the pilgrimage destination of Fatima. Slightly further out you will find the fishing port of Peniche, the pretty walled town of Obidos and the pristine lagoon at Foz do Arelho.
There is a lot to see and do within the Nazaré region, and you will enjoy your time spent here.
Related articles: Batalha - Fatima - São Martinho do Porto - Obidos
Traditional fishing boats displayed along the beach front
Most day-trippers visit Nazare for the beach, but there are many unique sights that can easily fill a day of sightseeing. The typical day trip to Nazaré lasts around four hours, with this time usually divided equally between the town and the Sítio headland.
Within the town are pretty, cobbled back streets, traditional beach shops and a promenade leading down to the fishing harbour. A funicular railway connects the town to the Sítio district, and from here you can enjoy a scenic walk down to the São Miguel Arcanjo fort.
Insight: There is good public transport to Nazare, but the 100km journey between Lisbon and Nazare means it’s a bit too far to visit as a day trip when using public transport.
Below is an interactive map for a suggested day trip to Nazare. (Note: zoom in or out to see all of the points)
Sights of the day trip: 1) Barca Salva Vidas (Fishing boat display) 2) Mercado de Peixe Seco 3) Igreja de Santo António 4) Ascensor de Nazare (Funicular) 5) Miradouro do Suberco (viewpoint) 6) Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazaré 7) Ermida da Memória 8) Forte de Sao Miguel 9) Gruta do Forno de Orca (cave) 10) Praia do Norte (beach) 11) Baloiço da Ladeira swing 12) Mercado Nazaré (market) 13) Porto da Nazaré (Fishing harbour) 14) Monte de São Bartolomeu
Insight: It is a long downhill walk via the Baloiço da Ladeira (11) to the base of the hill. It could be quicker to catch the Funicular.
The Ascensor de Nazare connects the Nazare with Sítio and has a 42% gradient
The Sítio headland on a calm summers day
If you are based in Lisbon, organised tours are a great way to discover Nazaré. The long journey time by public transport from Lisbon to Nazaré means it isn’t really possible to visit the town in a single day, so an organised tour is the only realistic means.
We have worked with GetYourGuide.com over the last six years, and some of their best tours that include Nazaré are:
• A popular tour of the Nazaré region from Lisbon (€65 per person)
• A mini-van tour to Fátima, Nazaré, Óbidos and São Martinho (€60 per person)
• A van tour of Nazare, Fatima, Batalha, and Obidos (€74 per person)
• A private car tour of Nazaré, Obidos and Alcobaça (€104.50 per person)
There are three massive beaches in Nazaré; the Praia do Sul, the Praia da Nazare and the Praia do Norte.
The Praia da Nazare is the main beach of Nazaré, extending for 1.5km south from the Sítio headland to the fishing harbour. This glorious, sandy beach is within walking distance of the town’s shops, restaurants and bars. During the summer, the beach is supervised by lifeguards. As the waves, currents and winds are less strong here, Praia da Nazare makes an ideal choice for families.
The massive Praia da Nazare
On the northern side of the Sítio headland, is the Praia do Norte beach. This beach is associated with Nazare’s extreme surfing, as the surfers launch from here. The Praia do Norte is another vast beach, surrounded by pristine pine forests, but is exposed to the region’s strong sea breezes.
Insight: These huge pine forests were originally planted in the 13th century to secure the coastal sand dunes.
The Praia do Norte on a calm day
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, however a car is needed to travel here.
Nazare is a popular holiday destination, so there is high demand for accommodation during the summer season.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Nazare. By altering the date to your holiday, the map will display the current prices (Note: Zoom in or out to see more options)
The Monte de São Bartolomeu is a rocky outcrop 1.5km inland from Nazare. From its summit (156m) you can take in stunning panoramic views over the entire region.
The route and stairway up to the summit pass through tranquil pine forests, with a visit here offering a pleasant way to escape the bustle of the summertime crowds. At the top of the hill is a small chapel and an interactive view is seen below:
Nazaré has hot summers, pleasant spring and autumns, while winters are mild but can be very wet.
The weather is suitable for the beach between June and September, however being on the Atlantic coastline, there is always the chance of strong breezes, fog or rain on either side of the hot summer months.
Between October and March, the wind direction alters from the summer’s north-westerly to a westerly direction, and blows in moister laden air from the ocean. These Atlantic winter winds create powerful waves that are challenged channeled up the Nazaré Canyon, and form the 30m+ surfing waves.
Insight: The summer’s wind direction means that there are no huge waves off the Sítio headland.
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.
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.
Classic Portuguese Baroque architecture on the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazare
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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