Nazaré: Golden sands, seafood and fishing tradition in abundance


Nazaré: Golden sands, seafood and fishing tradition in abundance

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  • By KipperTree
  • March 16 2023

Nazaré: Golden sands, seafood and fishing tradition in abundance

Set in the district of Leiria on what is known as the Silver Coast, sits Nazaré or as it was once known Nazareth. A town split in half by a huge row of cliffs and one of the most popular seaside resorts along this stretch of coastline.

Situated approximately (121.7 km) from Lisbon 1 h 24 minutes by car and (214.2 km) 2 h 2 minutes from Porto, this quaint little seaside town is famous for its fishing history and its lovely expanse of soft golden sand. Pictures adorn restaurants with old images of oxon pulling fishing boats from the sea.

In the summer months, the seafront is crammed full of tourists from all over the world and the city throbs with life both day and night.

The beachfront is home to an array of activities from football (The Euro Beach Soccer League stages are held here in July) to bouncy castles, trampolining on a bungee rope, mini car racing, dodgems, pedlo’s and stalls containing tour guides selling boat trips. The great expanse soft of sandy beach can comfortably house the thousands of summer sunbathers and swimmers that frequent the sand in the hot summer months, but it’s not just people that cover it. Old brightly coloured boats sit as a reminder of times past when fishing was the main industry here. 

Most of Nazaré's 15,000 or so inhabitants seem to be in the tourist trade, old ladies in traditional dress (rumour has it that these ladies have seven dresses one on top of the other) stand with placards selling rental apartments and shop keepers stand watching the crowds as they view their products inside and outside the many gift shops that litter the front. In fairness there’s not a lot to see in Nazaré in terms of culture, however, there are some things you must do. Take the Funicular railway up to the top of the huge cliffs to the neighbourhood of Sítio.

Once the slow ride to the top is over it’s almost like being a different town. Sítio is obviously slightly colder as it’s much higher, but it’s not just that, it looks different too. Vasco da Gama’s Memorial is here paying homage to the fact that he stayed here before setting sail out across the Atlantic. There’s also a Museum here named Museu Dr Joaquim MansoWhilst in Sítio dine outside at the Sitiado and enjoy great wine and generous portions before taking a stroll to see the giant world-renown waves that Nazaré is now so famous for, before heading back down the railway and back to the hustle and bustle of the seafront.

Head for the narrow back streets that run in straight lines perpendicular to the sea and watch the locals outside their doors cooking fresh sardines on mini bbq’s and old ladies sat in chairs soaking up the limited sunlight as it lights up the streets for limited periods of time. This is the real Nazaré and its here you will find the Rosa Dos Ventos. A fabulous tiny little restaurant that has a couple of tables outside in the narrow street, a couple inside and a couple outside in the next street. Without a doubt, if you can get a space here, as they don’t take reservations, you will eat the best fresh fish of your entire life. Take a frozen jug of Vinho Verde (the new or green wine) some salad and the catch of the day. Red snapper’s a great choice if they have it and depending on which street you are in, you will be in awe of the old lady that cooks your meal on a ting bbq that sits outside of the premises. The daughter and the owner speak many languages, are both from Nazaré and can tell you all about the old days of this once tiny fishing village.

If you are Sushi lovers then the vegetarian-friendly restaurant Sushi Lovers has to be the place for you.

Take some ice cream from Gelatomania as you stroll the seafront enjoying the view and the numerous stalls drying fish on the beach. The ice cream under your nose should help keep the smell away until you can reach the main square and do a little people watching as you sit in with a large gin and tonic and watch the world go by.

If you are looking a more upmarket dining experience take a taxi to the top of the cliffs and visit the Pangeia Restaurant. Exquisite food and sunsets to die for.

For those wanting to start a business in Portugal, Nazaré certainly gets the numbers of visitors needed each year. An estimated 13 million people visit Portugal each year and you would have to think that many of them visit Nazaré. Rentals are popular here due to the high summer demand, accompanied by the surf trade in the winter trying to catch the worlds largest wave.

Whatever your business idea, you could do much worse than choose Nazaré!