Each Saturday afternoon during the summer months you can sit on the seawall to watch the “Arte Xávega” spectacle, as nets laden with fish are dragged in from the sea
Nazaré is perhaps Portugal’s most famous fishing village. Even today many locals still wear their traditional outfits: checked shirts and trousers for the men; several layers of petticoats for the women. The fishing boats are delightfully colourful too, with eyes painted on their sides that have the power to avert storms.
You can swim, surf, or watch the fishermen at work along Nazaré’s sandy half-moon beach, which is packed with multicoloured cocktail umbrellas over the summer months. In the town itself, a warren of cobbled streets channel you between outstanding seafood restaurants and local bars. With its natural beauty and ancient traditions, it’s no wonder Nazaré has long been a favourite summer retreat for the Portuguese.
The Legend of Nazaré
Legend has it that the town’s name is derived from another, distant place: Nazareth. During the 4th century a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary - a Black Madonna - was brought to a monastery near Mérida in Spain from Nazareth. In 711, following the Moorish invasion of Iberia, the statue was brought to Nazaré by another monk, Romano, accompanied by Roderic, the defeated Visigoth King.
They lived as hermits in Sítio, a cliff spot 316m above the town. Even after their deaths, the statue lay there for centuries, bringing miracles and bestowing its name on the town, before the beautiful Nossa Senhora da Nazaré Church was built on the site. Today you can visit the holy spot, either using the funicular, or by foot, if you’re feeling brave.
Centuries down the line, Nazaré is famous for a rather different reason: huge, huge waves. In November 2011 Garret McNamara rode a 23.8m wave here, setting a world record. These freakishly high breaking waves are a result of the underwater Nazaré Canyon and the constructive interference it creates between incoming swell waves. You don’t need to take a dip yourself — enjoy a vicarious thrill watching the lunatics risking their lives.
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