The coastal town of Nazaré in Portugal is known for its monster waves. The old fishing village lost many fishermen to the sea in the past, but has also discovered a positive side of the monster waves in recent decades. The beach resort welcomes hordes of tourists who come to relax on the extensive sandy beaches in the summer and it is a mecca for surfers in the winter. Read more about the high waves of Nazaré and the best things to do in this beach town!
The waves of Nazaré
If you visit Nazaré and read about this destination, you will immediately read about the gigantic waves of Nazaré. Just off the coast here is the Nazaré Canyon on the seabed, giving waves an extra push to grow to monstrous proportions. In the past, that meant a lot of fishing widows and legends about sea monsters, but in recent decades the coastal town in Portugal has been discovered by surfers.
In the winter months, the beach is no longer full of sun-tanned tourists, but the parking lots are filled with campervans with surfboards on the roof. The famous monster waves of Nazaré attract surfers from all over the world who want to conquer these towering bodies of water. Nazaré now has several world records to her name, such as the highest wave ever surfed and year after year the highest wave of that year. Waves in Nazaré can reach a height of 30 meters, but they have never set a surf record. In 2020, Nazaré was in the news because Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira had conquered the highest wave of that year in Nazaré. The wave was no less than 22.4 meters high.
We visited the coastal town in December and indeed saw very high waves. Unfortunately not bodies of water where the world records are set, but high enough to feel the splashes from a distance. The best view of the waves is from the vantage point at the old fortress or from the pier at the ‘Farol Nazaré Pontão Norte’.
Things to Do in Nazare
The beach town roughly consists of two parts: the lower part with the long sandy beach and the higher part with the old fortress and the most beautiful viewpoints. During your visit to Nazaré, you should definitely visit both.
#1 Surfing in Nazaré
With famous monster waves as the main draw, surfing in Nazaré is, of course, the most popular activity in the city. There are several surf schools where you can take lessons. Keep in mind that the temperatures in Nazaré are of course the best in the spring and autumn, but you will find the best waves in the winter months. In the summer it can get very hot in the seaside resort, although a cooling dip is of course also very nice.
#2 The sandy beach
The sandy beach is a big draw in the summer months when you can get a nice tan here and enjoy the warm sea temperatures. The colourful umbrellas that take over the beach are a cheerful sight, but also give an impression of how busy it is here. On the beach, you will also find rows of coloured fishing boats that you can read more about on the information boards next to them, fisherwomen in their traditional seven-layer skirts and long rows of racks on which fish is drying.
#3 The funicular
For those who do not want to climb all the way to the cliffs of the higher part of Nazaré, the lift is an option. This cable car cabin takes you up in a few minutes. Then make sure you stand or sit in the front for the best views of the city and the sandy beach. For a return ticket, you pay € 2.90. If you do want to climb up yourself, then, of course, you have the same views. You will also pass one of Nazaré’s most popular Instagram spots: the photogenic swing with a view over the city and the beach.
#4 The fish restaurants and hip hotspots
In a coastal town, you can of course count on many restaurants with seafood. You may well eat the best fish and other delicacies from the sea in Nazaré. But where there are tourists, hip hotspots also arise. We had a delicious brunch at Village Brunch & Coffee where you can order delicious pancakes, eggs or other breakfast dishes for a competitive price. You can also go to Sabor’art Café and Casa Sana for trendy breakfast menus in an equally trendy setting. For burgers, you have to go to the stall Le Petit Chef near the viewpoints above or Mooo near the beach.
#5 The postcard-pretty viewpoints
Where there are cliffs and a cable car, there is of course also a phenomenal view. From the higher part of Nazaré you have a beautiful view of the city. From the place you come up – both the path and the cable car end up at approximately the same place – you have several viewpoints over the city and the beach. Especially around sunset, the view is even more beautiful than the most beautiful postcard.
#6 The fortress of Nazaré
With high cliffs on the sea, Nazaré also has a good strategic location and that calls for a fortress. At the very tip of higher Nazaré stands the old fortress, which now houses a bright red lighthouse – the ‘Farol de Nazaré’. It’s a good place to watch surfers in the winter, but it’s also a popular vantage point during sunset. If you walk from the main square of higher Nazaré to the lighthouse, you will pass a number of popular food stalls where you can eat delicious street food for a small price. The burgers of Le Petit Chef are especially a big hit.
#7 The Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré
The most beautiful church can be found on the main square in higher Nazaré, right next to the popular viewpoints. Entrance to the church is free and it is definitely recommended to go inside. The facade is a beautiful sight, but even more beautiful is the interior with a lot of splendour. For the well-known Portuguese tiles, you have to go to the aisles of the church, where you will find the blue and white azulejos from floor to ceiling.
#8 The Monastery of Alcobaça
Near Nazaré is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Portugal: that of Alcobaça. The Monastery of Alcobaça is only a 20-minute drive from the city and is known for its tragic love story. In the monastery church, one of the Portuguese kings is buried together with his wife Ines. When Pedro was still crown prince, Ines had been his mistress for many years. As soon as his wife died, his father King Alfonso feared that he would marry Ines and had the king murder Ines. Too late, by the way, because Pedro and Ines were already secretly married. As king, Pedro had an extravagant funerary monument built for Ines in the church of Alcobaça, where he also reserved a place for himself so that they would be together forever after death. The monastery cathedral is free to enter, but if you want to visit the monastery in addition to the cathedral and these tombs, you need a ticket of €6.