Nazaré is a coastal town located in the central part of Portugal, a region known as Beira Litoral. It comprises 3 main areas - Pederneira, Sítio da Nazaré and Praia da Nazaré - and other smaller and more recent neighbourhoods.
In Nazaré there is an undeniable connection to the ocean. During a long time fishing and its related industries were the main income source and Nazaré was also a summer holiday destination because of the chilled vibe and nice beaches. However, this tendency shifted when the bombs of Praia do Norte became known worldwide and winter became the prime time to visit Nazaré.
This odd mix ageneates a cool and laidback atmosphere and has put Nazaré in the map when it comes to tourism.
Vila da Praia and Sítio da Nazaré
Vila da Praia is how we refer to the lower part of town, which ends up at Praia da Nazaré. When the weather is nice, this is where everyone heads to for a dip in the ocean and stock on vitamin D. When in Vila da Praia i's interesting to get lost around the most typical streets, venture to the local market and try some of the traditional cafes and restaurants. The northern edge of the beach is sheltered by a very tall cliff that gives access to the area known as Sítio da Nazaré. It's quieter, more picturesque and the views from the top are a stunner. The best one is from the lighthouse, after crossing the fort that dates back to the 16th century. From that natural promontory it's possible to gaze at both praia da Nazaré and praia do Norte.
Big Waves of Praia do Norte
Portugal has kind of a reputation when it comes to surf and there are lots of top-notch surfing spots across the country. However, winter means surfers are looking for the big ones and when it comes to size, no other place beats praia do Norte, in Nazaré. When the experts announce the swell it's going to be big, international big wave surfers from all over the world venture to Praia do Norte in the hopes of riding excellent waves and breaking the current record - a wave with 24,38 meters surfed by the Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa in 2018. Between November and February, the overall atmosphere is vibrant and revolves around surf since this sport has put Nazaré on the map, greatly due to McNamara's admiration for this little fishermen town.
From the sea to the shore
Before the tourism boom, Nazaré was a quiet town and the local economy relied essentially on fishing. Nowadays this connection is still present and there's a marked tradition related to the sea and the fishing heritage.
For instance it's visible in the traditional garments - the fishermen shirt and cap, and their wives colourful skirts. Men used warm clothes that allowed them to work. Women had the habit of waiting for their husbands and sons at the beach, so they used the skirts to cover themselves, the top ones to protect the head and shoulders and the others to cover the legs.
Another proof of this link to the sea is, naturally, the typical food and cooking techniques. One of them is drying fish, a tradition with over 3 centuries that was very common in this area. The explanation is simple - during winter the seas were too rough and men were unable to go fishing, so back in the days when there was no other way to preserve food, women dried fish doing the hotter months. When it comes to the plate, fish and seafood are a constant and most restaurants focus on the catch of the day. One of the most typical dishes is caldeirada nazarena, a fish stew made with a tomato base and served with potatoes. Picture coastal comfort food and it's exactly it.
These are only some of the reasons why Nazaré deserves a visit, not only during Winter, but in every different season. Plus, there is a lot to do and visit in the surrounding area: Serra de Aire e Candeeiros is a Natural Park that hides the biggest limestone plains in the country, Fátima's sanctuary is a very important religious site and Batalha and Alcobaça monasteries are both UNESCO World Heritage. Watch the video we shot across Beiras to fully understand the variety this region has to offer.
If you need help planning an escape in Portugal and are interested in having a mix, let us know and we'll come up with the itinerary, suggest great places to be based at and also recommend unique experiences that allow you to trully discover ou country.