Nazaré: Portugal’s Most Picturesque Fishing Village

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Nazaré is blessed with a beautiful sandy beach, a deep-seated culture and a picturesque old town. It seems to have been created for those seeking a quiet vacation in a delightfully authentic fishing town in Portugal. Nazaré is named after a statue of the Virgin Mary which was brought from Nazareth by a monk in the 4th century.

Nazaré is 126 km north of Lisbon, close to Alcobaca in central Portugal. The town has three distinct districts: the beach; Sitio, high above the main town and Pederneira.

The long stretch of deep sandy beach is pounded by the Atlantic surf. Colorful Phoenician-style fishing boats are drawn up on the sand with their curved prows and painted decorations. The black eye painted on the bow is a superstitious relic believed to watch out for dangers and avert storms. It can also seen on fishing boats as far distant as Singapore and Goa. The fishermen in Nazaré still wear the traditional costumes of check shirts and trousers. They are often part of the beach scene, drying their fish in the sun or repairing their nets. Local women in Nazaré can be seen wearing colorful dresses with layers of petticoats beneath.

 

Nazaré is unique among other Portuguese towns as it lacks the grandiose architecture and historical treasures of other cities. However, the gentle pace and atmosphere of times gone by and the traditional way of life make this a wonderful place to visit, relax and unwind.

Things to Do in Nazaré

The long sandy beach at Nazaré provides plenty of things to do including long walks along the water’s edge, fishing from the shore, surfing and sunbathing.

The town of Nazaré has some interesting sites. On one side of the town square is the 17th century Nossa Senhora da Nazaré Church with its lovely baroque-style twin belfries. As is typical in Portuguese churches there are many 18th century tiles painted with biblical scenes. The statue of Our Lady of Nazareth rests here and is carried at the front of the traditional procession each September. A more down-to-earth attraction is the Casa Museo do Pescador on Rua Sousa Lobo. This traditional cottage shows a typical home of a fisherman and his family in the 20th century. Inside is a small museum of household items and objects of local interest.

One of the most popular things to do in Nazaré is to ride the funicular up the steep cliff to Sitio which stands 360 feet (110m) above the main town with stunning views in all directions. Sitio has many legends including one surrounding the impressive Capela da Memoria Chapel. It was said to have been built in the 12th century to commemorate a miracle – while pursuing a deer, a nobleman was saved from falling over a cliff in the mist when the Virgin Mary stopped his horse just in time. Visitors can follow the story in detail on the hand painted tiles in the quiet chapel. Outside the church there is a pillar inscribed to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s visit after his voyage to India.

Local Food and Drink

Nazaré has plenty of cafés and restaurants along the seafront. The local specialty is fish and the catch of the day can be any of a number of varieties of locally caught fish. The Caldeirada á Nazarena is a rich fish-based stew with plenty of locally grown ingredients.

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