Nazare is a charming coastal town brimming with beaches, seafood restaurants and lookouts with superb ocean views.
Before it became a tourist destination, the town relied mostly on fishing. Even today, you can still see local women selling dried fish along the waterfront and boats resting in the sand.
Summer brings the crowds of sunbathers, but for most of the year, Nazaré is a surfers paradise. Its huge waves keep making headlines, with surfers riding waves of nearly 30 metres at Praia do Norte.
Beyond its beaches, Nazaré also contains some historical monuments and a lively food market. Whether you’re coming for the surf or just for a relaxing day trip from Lisbon, here’s what you can’t miss in Nazaré.
When visiting Nazaré, you must stop by the beach. There are two main beaches in Nazaré: Praia da Nazaré and Praia do Norte.
Praia da Nazaré is a long sandy stretch in the centre, lined with shops and seafood restaurants. Its golden sands attract many locals and tourists, who come here for a swim or to practise watersports like surf or bodyboard. As you walk around the beach, you’ll stumble upon traditional fishing boats and ladies selling dried fish assembled on racks.
Further north is the Praia do Norte, a meeting spot for surfers. Unlike Praia da Nazare, this isn’t a supervised beach, and there are few businesses around, so it feels a bit more secluded. The beach is mostly famous for its giant waves which draw brave surfers from all corners of the globe. It was here that Garrett McNamara surfed one of the largest waves in the world. The size of the waves is a result of an underwater ravine in Nazaré combined with strong winds and currents. The waves are smaller in the summer, but the wind makes it hard to relax here, for that it’s best to head to Praia da Nazaré.
A few steps from Praia da Nazaré is the lively Municipal Market. Here you’ll find stands with fresh produce, from fruits and vegetables to cheese and quality seafood. As you walk inside, local sellers will tempt you with their colourful display of ingredients. Some women, even dress up with the “seven skirts” attire, which is typical of Nazaré. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth visiting the market and take in the colours and the scents. It’s only open in the morning, so make sure to head there before lunchtime.
Nazare is the land of surf, so there’s no better place to learn this watersport than here. Unless you’re an expert surfer, you won’t be catching the massive waves at Praia do Norte, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t surf here. There are other beaches with smaller waves that provide many surfing opportunities for beginners. The Nazaré Surf School offers private and group lessons that range from €25 to €60 per person. You can even book packages with 5 or 10 lessons or a mini surf trip with lunch included.
High above the beach of Nazare, you’ll find o Sítio, a neighbourhood set on a promontory featuring incredible sea views. You can climb here, but the best way to reach it is to hop on the Nazaré Funicular. Originally designed by Raul Mesnie du Ponsard, one of Gustave Eiffel’s students, this transport has been running since 1889. At first, it used a steam machine, but now it’s all electric. You can catch it at Rua do Elevador and the ticket costs around €1.50 each way.
Once you’re up in Sítio, you should visit the church of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. The church was founded in the 14th century, but it was expanded in the 17th century to welcome more pilgrims. Even today this is the site of many religious events, like the Procession in honour of Nossa Senhora da Nazare on the 8th of September. Next to the church is a tiny chapel known as Ermida da Memória. Make sure to step inside to admire its stunning tiled walls.
On the edge of the cliff, 110 metres above sea level, is the Miradouro do Suberco. This lookout point offers spectacular views over the beach and the sea below you. Come here at the end of the day to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets on the coast of Nazaré.
Standing on a rocky cliff, the São Miguel Arcanjo fort is the best place to capture the giant waves at Praia do Norte. The building dates back to the 16th century, and it was initially created by King Sebastião to protect Nazaré from foreign invaders. The French army took over for a while, but the locals managed to kick them out. By the 20th century, it lost its military purpose, and a lighthouse was added to support the fishing activities. As Nazare became a popular surfing destination, the fort turned into a viewing platform for surf lovers and curious visitors. Inside, there’s an interpretative centre explaining the phenomenon of the waves in Nazaré, as well as the Surfer’s Wall, a small exhibit featuring boards from national and international surfers.
If you’re visiting Nazaré by car, you can stop by the Monastery of Saint Mary of Cós. Located 16km away in the village of Cós, this monument dates back to 1670. It’s a bit run down on the outside, but the interior is still well preserved, featuring a golden altar, tiled walls and stunning painted ceilings.