Friday, August 17, 2018
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With its pleasant climate and great natural beauty, Nazaré is home to some of Portugal’s oldest fishing traditions.

Nazaré is a small coastal town in Leiria which is very popular with tourists.  nazare beach

The town has 3 distinct areas, Praia (lower area near to the beach with market and many restaurants and shops), Sítio (on the cliff tops overlooking the beach which the main church can be found) and Pederneira (higher ground overlooking the beach, traditionally a fishing village).

Nazaré is blessed with a magnificent beach, great views and of course hospitable locals. The seven colourful skirts worn by Nazaré women have been worn since the times when they used to wait for their husbands to return from the day’s fishing trip. You still see women in these today, and they are not all just costumes. But today the town is defined more by the waves that attract surfers and body-boarders and the beautiful underwater landscapes that attract divers.

Get to know Nazaré by strolling through the narrow streets that run perpendicular to the beach, trying out some of the many restaurants serving a variety of seafood, freshly grilled fish and the tasty Caldeirada (a mixed fish and seafood stew with potatoes, tomato and onion). At the end of the afternoon you can enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee in one of the many beach-front bars and watch the sun setting over the sea whilst you wait for the lights to flicker on and the lively nightlife to begin.

The lovely cove is protected by high cliffs, on top of which you will find the Sítio da Nazaré – reachable by a funicular railway. This is the old town and in the centre of the square is the Church of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. This is a rich, baroque building, with splendid tiles (azulejos) on its interior walls. In the summertime the square outside is a full of people buying dried fruit and nuts from the many traditionally dressed women, in their ‘7 snazare fish dryingkirts’ costumes.

Beach and Surf

Nazaré is considered by many to be the best beach in Portugal, with the clean, white sandy cove settled between the headland and cliffs of Pedro de Guilhim and the harbour/marina to the south. You will find beach huts and loungers for hire as well as football and volleyball pitches. The new and old mix very well in Nazaré, further down the south of the beach you will find women drying Anchovies on large drying racks, in the traditional way.

The other beach is North Beach (Praia Norte) which is to the north of the headland and open to all the Atlantic waves. It was here in 2011 that Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara surfed a record breaking giant wave estimated to be 27m (90 feet) high at North Canyon. The North beach area is moving up the world rankings of the best extreme surfing beaches. It is not for the beginners but fantastic to watch from the cliff tops.

You will find lots of water sport shops and centres closer to the harbour, for scuba diving, windsurfing, kite surfing, you can go fishing from the harbour too.

History

Praia

The beach of Nazaré is relatively new, until the 17th century the sea occupied most of the area where the houses and beach stand today. In the 17th century the sea retreated leaving the bay uncovered.

The first references of fishing here are from 1643, but not until the start of the 19th century did people start to live in the new beach are. Until then, the fishermen lived, mainly, in the upper parts – Sítio and Pederneira – due to the constant attacks of Algerian and Dutch pirates making the beach a very unsafe place.

Nazaré was first known as a seaside resort in the middle of the 19th century. Its natural beauty and typical characteristics drew the visitors. Fishing, fish transformation and its sale were the main activities of the population during most of the 20th century. The construction of the new Harbour, in the 1980s, changed and improved the fishermen’s living conditions, and encouraged leisure boats to the town.  nazare praia norte

Sítio

Sítio, on the top of the cliffs, has been a place of religion and pilgrimage since the 12th century, associated with the legend of Our Lady of Nazaré. Sítio began to develop only in the middle of the 17th century and had a significant growth in the following century.

The installation of a Funicular railway linking “ Praia" to “Sítio”, in 1889, caused a population increase as well as more tourist visits. Sitio is also accessible by car or by climbing the steps from the beach.

The Suberco Belvedere, at 110 meters high, offers the visitor one of the most beautiful sea views of Portugal.

Pederneira

This part of the town has been a fishing village since the 12th century, it was once called “Seno Petronero” which means Gulf of Pederneira. The village developed, at the end of the 15th century, with the arrival of fishermen from the nearby seaport of Paredes, which was destroyed by the silting up of its harbour.

Pederneira was one of the most important seaports of the lands of the Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça. During the golden age of the Portuguese Discoveries – 15th and 16th centuries – it was one the most active shipbuilding yards and shipping ports of the kingdom. Many of the crew for the Indian discovery boats came from here. The development of Sítio and the progressive draw back of the sea due to the silting up of the gulf, and the formation of the new beach, led to the decline of Pederneira in the end of the 18th century as the people moved to the new bay.

Nowadays, Pederneira is a residential area, peaceful and pleasant; an attentive place to view the sea and of the beach bellow, guardian of past memories. 

How to get there

You can get to Nazaré by train on the Linha do Oeste, a regional line which runs from Figueira da Foz to Lisbon. The closest station is Valado dos Frades (6 km away from Nazaré).
By road, take junction 22 (N 8-4/IC9) off the A8 motorway. There is lots of car parking around the Market (GPS 39o35’51”N, 9o04’10”W)
The municipal holiday is September 8th with the Festas da Nossa Senhora de Nazaré a religious festival with processions, bullfights, fireworks, folk dancing. There is usually a fair and music of various types until the early hours.

The Tourism office (Post do Tourismo) is run by the council and can be found on Avenida Manuel Remígio at the Centro Cultural da Nazaré (Edif. Antiga Lota). Tel: (00351) 262 561 194, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.