This Portuguese town is renowned for its massive waves and is full of history, culture, and natural beauty.
Whether you're coming to catch some monster waves or simply to explore, you'll find the best things to do in Nazaré are as diverse as the city itself. From its spectacular coastline to its bustling local markets, there are many things to see in Nazaré that'll make your trip unforgettable. Read on to discover the places we at The Frugal Expat think offer a little something for everyone.
1. Praia da Nazare
Let's kick things off with Praia da Nazaré, a must-visit if you find yourself in the area. Why? Well, for starters, it's a surfer's dream, and If you've heard of big waves in Nazaré, you know this is where they happen. The beach is a knockout even if you're not into surfing in Nazaré.
This isn't just a strip of sand; it's like a mini-town on the coast. You've got families hanging out, friends catching up, and a whole line of shops and restaurants just steps away from the sand. It's the perfect blend of chill and busy.
But wait, there’s more. Nazaré's beach has two levels. The lower part is your go-to for sunbathing, while the upper part, called ‘Sítio,' gives you a whole new village to explore. And if you're a fan of seeing things from above, just take the funicular up to ‘Sítio' for an incredible view.
So, whether it's the big waves, the sun-soaked sands, or the buzzing boardwalk that gets you going, Praia da Nazaré's got you covered. Trust us, you’ll want to stick around for more. Ready for what's next?
2. Praia do Norte
Whether you ride or love watching the waves, Praia do Norte is a must-see spectacle. This beach has put Nazaré on the global map, thanks to its record-breaking biggest waves in the world.
The lighthouse perched on the cliff is more than just a picturesque backdrop; it's a vantage point for incredible views. However, getting back up from the beach can be strenuous. Good news: there are beach “taxis” that'll carry you back up the hill for a modest 2 euros.
Visitors rave about the clean sand and stunning waters, even recommending the local food spots for a seaside snack. But if you're planning a swim, think again. This beach is beautiful but treacherous, with rough waters and strong currents better suited for surfers than swimmers.
In winter, the scene ramps up a notch. That's when the world's elite surfers flock here to challenge the monstrous waves and perhaps even set a new world record. The waves peak between November and December, making it a seasonal must-see. Whether you're watching from the clifftop or down at sea level, the sheer force of these waves is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
3. Miradouro do Suberco
Looking for a view that takes your breath away? Make your way to Miradouro do Suberco in the upper part of Nazaré. Trust us, this one's a knockout. Practically all roads up here lead to this viewpoint, and once you arrive, you'll see why it's a must-visit. You'll get panoramic sights of the lower city and its main beaches from your high-up perch on a cliff. Be careful if you've got a fear of heights, as it's a long way down, and the cliff edge is pretty close.
Getting to the square is easy. You can take a funicular, drive up, or hike it if you're adventurous. Once you're there, you'll agree it's a spot of unmatched charm. If the old Kodak company were still around, they'd mark this as a “picture point.” This place is where Nazaré's iconic beaches—the big-wave haven of Praia do Norte and the cliff-protected southern beach—come together in one jaw-dropping vista.
4. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazare
If you find yourself in Nazaré, make time for the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré, an enchanting sanctuary perched on the hilltop known as O Sitio. It's not just a stop on your Nazaré to-do list; it's a soul-soothing experience.
Walk up the almost circular steps and be welcomed by the sight of this charming church. Despite its humble exterior, inside, you'll find stunning woodwork, vibrant pictorial tiles, and a beautifully crafted wooden statue of the Virgin Mary with her child. The locals say it was made by St. Joseph himself, adding an extra layer of awe to your visit.
But the church is more than its interior beauty; its location provides a fantastic panoramic view over Nazaré down to Peniche. Perfect for those snapshot moments. After soaking in the tranquility and marveling at the historical details—did we mention it was founded in the 14th century by King Ferdinand?—step outside to the square, bustling with cafes and restaurants. Grab a cool drink, maybe a snack, and admire the church from a comfy seat outdoors.
So, if you're in the area, an hour or two at this historic yet peaceful church is well worth it. It's not just about ticking off another tourist attraction; it's about enjoying Nazaré's rich history and vibrant culture.
5. Mercado Municipal de Nazare
A visit to Nazaré isn't complete without checking out the Mercado Municipal. This isn't just another market catering to tourists; it's where the locals go, which means it's the real deal.
Step inside, and the smell of fresh produce immediately hits you. The fruit and veggie section offers various quality options at reasonable prices. One of the best things here is the bread, as a wide variety of loaves taste like heaven. You're sure to find your new favorite.
A seafood haven awaits you upstairs, with the day's freshest catch on display. Whether you're a seafood lover or not, it's worth checking out as plenty of meats, cheeses, and nuts are also up for grabs.
Need a break? The market has a few cafes to grab an excellent coffee and pastry.
6. Rent a Bike
Looking to explore Nazaré without breaking a sweat? E-Motion Bikes offers top-quality e-bikes that are smooth and easy to ride. Forget the jerky transitions you might find with other bikes; these e-bikes are about a seamless experience.
The e-bike is more than just a bike; it's your passport to freedom in Nazaré. Use it to hit the bike trail to the north, far from the hustle and bustle of cars. You can easily cruise through scenic routes and even take detours to hidden spots. Do you have a beach you want to check out? Zip on over without breaking a sweat.
If you're up for a fun and easy way to see Nazaré, hop on an e-bike from E-Motion, as it's a game-changer.
7. Ladeira Swing (Baloiço da Ladeira)
If you find yourself in Nazaré's highland Sítio neighborhood, the Ladeira Swing is a must-see experience that feels like a slice of paradise. Making its debut in the challenging year of 2020, this unique spot stands as a heartfelt nod to the awe-inspiring surroundings and the local community's friendly vibe.
Let the swing carry you up, and be swept away by the panoramic scenery of the endless Atlantic, Nazaré's iconic beach, adventurous surfers, and charming white houses aligned like pearls. The scene is a feast for the eyes and soul.
And if you're wondering how special this spot is, look up. The words “It was love at first sight” are etched on the swing, capturing this serene location's magic. It's a place to pause, enjoy the ride, and take a moment to appreciate life's simple joys.
8. Fish Drying and Boats
In Nazaré, you can experience a unique piece of local history at the Fish Drying Museum. Located on the beach, the museum showcases the age-old practice of fish drying. Fish are filleted, brined, and then hung on wooden frames in the sun, just as they've been for hundreds of years. Additionally, you'll see traditional fishing boats on display, offering a deeper look into the town's fishing heritage.
Though Nazaré is now known for its massive waves, it started as a humble fishing village, and this museum captures that essence. It's not just a tourist attraction but a living tradition that continues to be a part of the local community.
9. Ermida da Memória
Ermida da Memória is a charming small chapel on a cliff in Nazaré, offering historical significance and stunning views. Thought to be one of the oldest buildings in the town, the chapel was originally a cave that later became a religious site. It's particularly famous for its legend involving a horseman named D. Fuas, who was saved from falling off the cliff by a miracle attributed to Nossa Senhora da Nazare. The interior is adorned with old, blue Portuguese tiles from the 18th century, adding to its rustic charm. Entry is free, and the visit is quick but memorable. When you're there, take a moment to notice that the chapel is carved into a rock ledge, blending history and nature seamlessly.
10. Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré
The Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré is a must-see when visiting Sítio, the upper part of Nazaré. This well-maintained church is more like a monastery dedicated to Our Lady of Nazareth. Entry is free, and the interior, particularly the altar, is stunningly cared for. The church has a unique, tall choir with three independent balconies and a beautiful pipe organ. However, accessibility for wheelchair users is limited due to around 20 stairs leading to the interior.
Located near the entrance to Farolim, the spot known for gigantic waves and surfers, the church is also close to bars, cafes, and souvenir shops. Plus, it's near a bandstand in a square that offers an amazing view of Nazaré beach. You can easily reach the church via the funicular.
11. Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo
The Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo is a must-visit spot in Nazaré, offering stunning views of Praia do Norte's massive waves and the city itself. This small fort features a lighthouse and is a hotspot for surf enthusiasts, who can watch competitions from a great vantage point. Inside the fort, there's a museum showcasing surfboards from famous surfers worldwide.
Admission is just 1 euro, and children under 10 get in free, although space is limited and there might be a wait. A jacket is advised as it can get windy. Besides the great views, you'll also find surfboard exhibits, photos, and info from the Hydrographic Institute. It's probably the best place to soak in Nazaré's scenery.
12. Dine at one of the Local Restaurants
There are two Nazaré restaurants that we recommend you should try.
First up is Pangeia Restaurante, where the octopus trilogy is the talk of the town. This place isn't just about food; it's an experience. Imagine enjoying a top-notch meal while looking out over the ocean. And it's not just the stunning views; the service is impeccable. Garlic and chili prawns, puff pastry dessert, and a trio of octopus are all standouts here. People who've dined here couldn't speak highly enough of their food here.
The second must-visit spot is Taverna “do 8 ó 80”, where you'll get the best meal in Portugal—or, say, those lucky enough to dine here. Everything is drool-worthy, whether the Beef Carpaccio, sea bass with shrimp, or steak. Also, the shrimp risotto has been deemed the best meal of many a vacation. Top it off with excellent service and a view of the ocean, and you're in for a meal to remember.
Whether you're a foodie or just someone looking to grab a delicious meal, Nazaré's top-rated restaurants should be on your list of the best things to do in Nazaré.
So, whether you're up for riding monster waves or simply chilling by the beach with some tasty seafood, Nazaré has something for everyone. From scenic fishing docks and ancient churches to stunning beaches and top-notch eateries, spending just a few hours here is worth it. It's a spot that captures the best of all worlds, making it a must-see on your list of things to see in Nazaré.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.