The popular fishing and surfing town of Nazare on Portugal’s Silver Coast is divided into three main districts. There’s the Praia (beach), Pederneira and Sítio. During the summer months, the wide sandy beach and narrow streets of Praia are jam-packed with tourists. To be honest, this is not our favourite part of Nazaré, but when we want a break from seafood and Portuguese cuisine, it does have a lovely Indian restaurant that we go to. The Little India restaurant is located just a block back from the beach on Rua Aldriao Batalha.
Our Favourite Neighbourhood, Sitio
For us, we love the old neighbourhood of Sítio, located on top of the cliffs overlooking Praia. With its own church, museum, and main square, Sítio feels very much like a separate village on a scenic bluff. It’s a great place to visit especially out of season when the crowds have left.
Feeling energetic, you could walk the winding path up the cliff or if you’re lazy, drive up to Sítio from Praia, but it’s a lot more fun to take the funicular up the steep slope to the top.
Once at the top, there are fantastic views over Nazare town, the beach and the bay area. But it’s not just about the views in Sítio. Close to where you disembark from the funicular is the tiny chapel, Ermida da Memória. Legend has it that in 1182, a local nobleman Dom Fuas Roupinho and his horse nearly plunged off the cliff while hunting a deer and it was after his cry for help to Our Lady of Nazaré, that his horse stopped just in time. The Ermida da Memória chapel was then built in her honour. I don’t know what happened to the deer though!
Sitio’s Main Square
The main square is lined with shops, selling local trinkets, nuts and dried fruits and woolly ponchos – just what you need on a summer’s day. Here you will also find a few restaurants and a large church that was built to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims coming to visit the Ermida da Memoria.
The Traditionally Clad Women Of Nazaré
Nazaré is also well known for its traditionally dressed women. Many of whom you will see selling nuts and dried fruits on stalls in the main square of Sítio.The skirts are made with seven petticoats. Why? Seven days in a week; seven colours in a rainbow; everyone has a different answer. As well as the seven-layered skirt, they also wear rather fetching knee high socks, slippers, head scarf and chunky jewellery. I’m not entirely sure if they just dress for the tourists or it’s their usual attire.
Praia Do Norte
Sítio separates Nazaré’s calm south beach (Praia) and Praia do Norte, home to some of the world’s most massive record-breaking waves. During the summer months, the waters are relatively calm, but from October to March, Praia do Norte is famous for its big wave surfing. We are talking about waves up to 100 feet (30 metres) high!
An excellent place for viewing the waves is from the top of the old Forte de São Miguel which is now a lighthouse. The fort was built in 1577 to protect the town of Nazaré from pirate raids. Today it houses a small surf museum, featuring surfboards and videos of some of the giant waves. It also explains the science behind why Nazare attracts these giant waves. On top of the fort, next to the lighthouse is a viewing platform. At only €1 per person to enter, it’s not just an exciting place to explore, it’s also a great value.
The lighthouse is only a short 500-metre walk from Sitio’s main square, although the climb back uphill makes it feel a lot longer. It is also possible to walk down the sandy cliff path by the lighthouse to the beach itself, but don’t go too close to the water’s edge, those waves are powerful, and sadly, we do hear tales here in Portugal about people being swept away.
- Portugal Day Trip: Areia Branca Beach Town
- Castelo de Vide and Marvao, Portugal
- Photo: Azenhas do Mar, Portugal
On your way down to the fort, you’ll pass a very odd statue – a surfer dude with a deer’s head. Apparently, the figure is a fusion of Nazaré’s past and present. The legend of the deer hunter from the past with the surfing legends of today.
Top Tips For Visiting Nazare
As with visiting anywhere in Portugal, you really need comfy walking shoes. There are uneven cobblestoned streets everywhere. We noticed that the stairs down from the main church in Sítio were tricky for some visitors and the sandy path down to Praia do Norte can be somewhat slippery on the shingle.
When our friends at Clarks Shoes asked us if we wanted to try out their new Unstructured range, we thought wow, great timing as it was definitely time to say farewell to our old walking shoes. But we warned them that we wouldn’t give them a mention if we didn’t like them but we are happy to say we did. We certainly put them through the paces this week, they are really comfortable, no blisters and I didn’t fall over on the cobbled streets (makes a change!). Apparently, it’s the interior linings of the shoes that provide the soft comfort, so now you know!! Oh, and they didn’t make my feet look massive like some walking shoes – bonus!
How To Get To Nazare
Rede expressos offer a direct bus service from Lisbon. The journey time takes less than two hours and costs €12 per person.
If travelling by car, Nazaré is close to Alcobaça, Batalha, Fátima, Peniche and Óbidos and it’s only a two-hour drive from here up to Porto.
Coming from Porto on public transport, you can either take a bus or train to Coimbra and then a bus from Coimbra to Nazare. This takes just under four hours.
Where To Stay In Nazare
There are hotels and accommodation to suit all budgets. If you are planning to visit during the busy summer months or when a significant surfing event is happening, book ahead. We usually use Booking.com whenever we need accommodation.
This post was sponsored by Clarks USA.