Located on Portugal’s Silver Coast in Central Portugal, Nazare is one of Portugal’s most quaint fishing towns. You might have only heard of it in the last decade due to the likes of surfer Garrett McNamara. Nazare, Portugal is home to the largest surfable waves on the planet! However, way before the rest of the world found out about Nazare, the Portuguese had been living and traveling to this unique surfing mecca.
But surfing is not all that Nazare has to offer. From the colorful fishing boats and local traditional market to breathtaking viewpoints and Catholic buildings, Nazare welcomes thousands of tourists every year. Let’s take a look at the 7 best things to do in Nazare, Portugal, for our favorite activities in this picturesque fishing village.
1. Spot some of the best waves in the world
Nazare is home to the largest surfable waves on the planet, particularly Praia do Norte. Fun fact, Garrett McNamara actually discovered and surged on the biggest wave in the world in Nazare. Therefore, keep in mind that most of these waves are not for beginner surfers. However, regardless of your ability, you can always opt to just observe these magnificent waves. Better safe than sorry!
The season for big waves in Nazare runs between October and March during winter in Portugal. They say that you should stay at least two weeks in Nazare to catch at least one day of huge waves. You can check out the waves in real-time via live webcams so you do not miss them.
The best place to spot these huge waves is in sitio da Nazare, right next to the lighthouse. This is also a safe place to observe the waves. Make sure not to go down to the beach at these times, as tourists have drowned before doing so.
2. Take the funicular for a breathtaking view
Nazare boasts a beautiful funicular trip. This is like a modernized 19th-century train that connects downtown and sitio, the uptown of Nazare. You can walk between these two main areas, but for the best view of Nazare, we recommend the funicular.
The funicular of Nazare runs every 15 minutes and is 318 meters long. You will get views of the town, beach, and the vast Atlantic ocean. When you get o sitio, we recommend walking around the square and streets, offering cute stores with hand-crafted souvenirs. There is also a range of seafood restaurants you should not miss.
3. Visit the enchanting Matriz da Pederneira church
Located in the center of Nazare, a stunning 16th-century church, also known as the church of the Nossa Senhora das Areias, this beautiful building looks similar to other Portuguese churches on the outside. However, when you walk inside, you get to witness the unique and rich architecture of this Catholic church. An altar stands in the middle of the church in gilded gold, with other gold accents throughout the building. The wood ceiling provides a beautiful contrast with patterned tiles with green, blue, and yellow colors.
4. Explore the Nazare market
There is no better place to experience the authentic atmosphere of a seaside town than at the local market. The Mercado Municipal de Nazare boasts a lively and inviting environment featuring colorful stalls of all kinds. From organic vegetables and fresh fish to Portuguese pastries, this place is bound to call your name. We recommend looking for the iconic Pastel de Nata and perhaps purchasing some codfish to cook at home.
A great thing about the Nazare market and most traditional Portuguese markets, in general, is that they are mostly frequented by locals. You will be buying products sourced and made by the locals of Nazare. If you are looking to avoid a tourist trap, this is the place to be, not some glorified food court.
5. Find the best viewpoints
Nazare’s exclusive location on the coast makes for some mindblowing views. This next activity in Nazare is actually free! Head to one of Nazare’s miradouros, the Portuguese word for viewpoint. A miradouro is a sort of terrace built to let you take in the view, with many featuring seating for resting.
Our favorite viewpoint in Nazare is Miradouro do Suberco, located on top of a hill at the corner of O Sitio, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the beach below. This viewpoint is probably the most famous in Nazare and is 110 meters high.
Another miradouro worth visiting in Nazare is Miradouro da Pederneira, located in Pederneria, near the Matriz da Pederneira church. This viewpoint provides views over the fishing town of downtown Nazare, as well as the Atlantic Ocean.
This last recommendation is not an official viewpoint in the Portuguese sense, but it also provides a gorgeous view. The Sao Miguel Arcanjo Fort was built in the 16th century to protect the locals of Nazare from pirates.
Centuries later, a beacon was built on the fort to guide fishermen and boats. This beam is still working today, and you can visit the fort! However, our favorite part of this historic building is that it has one of the best views over Nazare and the ocean.
6. Discover a 14th-century Sanctuary
Located on the hilltop of O Sitio, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare was built to pay homage to Nossa Senhora da Nazare as a Marian shrine. Founded in the 14th century, the sanctuary is considered the first of its kind in Portugal. On September 8 of each year, a religious festival is held at the sanctuary, with hundreds of locals and tourists gathering to celebrate.
Throughout the centuries, the sanctuary underwent various renovations, with the last major change being made in the 19th century. The inside of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare features Portuguese azulejo tiles all over, alluding to the Bible, as well as a beautiful high altar made of a golden-toned altarpiece with marble.
Nazare is the starting point of several day trips close by! We recommend taking a full-day private tour that goes to the following nearby towns and cities: Alcobaca, Batalha, Fatima, and Tomar. This particular tour is organized by a couple of locals for the perfect day. You can even customize the tour if there are other particular places you would rather go to!
You will stop at various iconic spots, including the Monastery of Alcobaca, the Sanctuary of Fatima, Tomar Castle, Batalha Monastery, and more. It’s nearly impossible to see all these spots by public transport in one day. Rather than renting an expensive car and going out on your own, having experienced guides provides a more personalized and interesting experience.