Nazaré, Portugal

Coordinates: 39°36′04″N 9°04′14″W / 39.60111°N 9.07056°W / 39.60111; -9.07056
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Panoramic view of Nazaré and its beach
Panoramic view of Nazaré and its beach
Flag of Nazaré
Coat of arms of Nazaré
Coordinates: 39°36′04″N 9°04′14″W / 39.60111°N 9.07056°W / 39.60111; -9.07056
Country Portugal
Intermunic. comm.Oeste
 • PresidentWalter Chicharro (PS)
 • Total82.43 km2 (31.83 sq mi)
 • TotalNeutral decrease 14,889
Time zoneUTC±00:00 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+01:00 (WEST)
Local holidaySeptember 8

Nazaré (Portuguese pronunciation: [nɐzɐˈɾɛ] ) is a Portuguese town and municipality located in the Oeste region, in the historical province of Estremadura, and in the Leiria District. The municipality has a population of 14,889 in an area of 82.43 km2,[2] while the town itself has around 10,000 inhabitants.[1]

It is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the Silver Coast (Costa de Prata).

The town of Nazaré consists of three neighbourhoods: Praia (along the beach), Sítio (an old village, on top of a cliff) and Pederneira (another old village, on a hilltop). Praia and Sítio are linked by the Nazaré Funicular, a funicular railway.

The present mayor is Walter Chicharro, a member of the Socialist Party. The municipal holiday is on 8 September, as part of the Our Lady Of Nazaré Festival, a ten-day religious and secular celebration with processions, bullfights, fireworks, folk dancing and a fair.[3]


The name Nazaré is the Portuguese version of Nazareth, the biblical city in the Holy Land.

History and legend[edit]

Miracle of Our Lady of Nazaré
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré in Portugal.

The earliest settlements were in Pederneira and in Sítio, above the beach. They provided the inhabitants with refuge against raids by Viking and, later, French, English and Dutch pirates, that lasted until as late as the beginning of the 19th century.[4] In fact, only in the 19th century, with the gradual end of maritime piracy, was possible for the people to start occupying the Praia which is today considered the town center.

According to the Legend of Nazaré, the town derives its name from a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, brought from Nazareth, Holy Land, to a monastery near the city of Mérida, Spain, by a monk in the 4th century. The statue was brought to its current location in 711 by another monk, Romano, accompanied by Roderic, the last Visigoth king of today's Portugal. After their arrival at the seaside they decided to become hermits. Romano lived and died in a small natural grotto, on top of a cliff above the sea. After his death and according to his wishes, the king buried him in the grotto. Roderic left the statue of the Black Madonna in the grotto on an altar.

The first church in Sítio was built over the grotto to commemorate a miraculous intervention in 1182 by the Virgin Mary, which saved the life of the 12th-century Portuguese knight Dom Fuas Roupinho (possibly a templar) while he was hunting deer one morning in a dense fog. The episode is usually referred to as the Legend of Nazaré. In memory of the miracle he had a chapel (Capela da Memória) built over the small grotto, where the miraculous statue had been placed by king Roderic. Beside the chapel, on a rocky outcrop 110 meters above the Atlantic, one can still see the mark made in the rock by one of the hooves of Dom Fuas' horse.[citation needed] This Church of Nazareth, high on the rocky outcrop over Pederneira Bay, was noted as a landmark in sailors' manuals.[5][6]

In 1377, King Fernando I of Portugal founded a new, more spacious church, which was totally transformed between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré is a rich baroque building, with splendid tiles on its interior. Behind and above the main altar, visitors can see and venerate the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Nazaré. The religious figures are crowned by 18th century diadems, presented to the church by King John VI. The sacred image is wrapped with a green cloak decorated with gold, gifted to the Virgin Mary by King John V. The main chapel is separated from the body of the church with an arcade made from pau-santo and a few pillars decorated with mosaics in 19th century Italian marble.


The Nazarene coastline is among the most dangerous in the world with its high waves and local fishermen have braved them for centuries. The town’s reliance on the sea for food production and economic viability is a result of the unique climate that differs from the surrounding Mediterranean eco-zone where land-farming is more common.[7] Fishing in Nazaré is an activity carried out entirely by the village men, leaving the women to run daily life and daily governance in the town. These distinctly gendered roles and adherence to rudimentary fishing practices are widely believed to be the primary reason the town has not yet developed into a modern industrial society.[8]


The municipality of Nazaré borders the Atlantic to the west and is surrounded entirely by the municipality of Alcobaça to the north, east and south.


Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo in the wintertime

Nazaré has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csb) with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The town's climate is moderated by the Atlantic Ocean and the seasonal upwelling phenomena typical of western Portugal gives it cool to warm, dry and overall sunny summers. As a result of the marine layer, morning and evening fogs are very frequent in the summer and can persist all day on rare occasions. The seasonal downwelling on the other hand is most common in the winter and gives Nazaré a more unstable, Atlantic dominated weather with often overcast, rainy and stormy days, clear days, however, are not uncommon in this season. Temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) or below 3 °C (37 °F) are very uncommon.[9] Nazaré also experiences some seasonal lag, with temperatures in September being warmer than those in June.

Climate data for Nazaré
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 14.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 10.6
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 6.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 81.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 13.7 13.1 10.4 12.6 10.2 6.2 3.8 3.8 7.2 12.1 13.0 14.5 120.6
Average relative humidity (%) 82 79 76 77 74 73 74 74 75 79 80 81 77
Source: IPMA,[10] Portuguese Environmental Agency[11]

Human geography[edit]

Administratively, the municipality is divided into 3 civil parishes (freguesias):[12]



Panoramic view of the village

Over the 20th century, Nazaré progressively evolved from a fishing village to a point of interest among Portuguese and International tourists,[13] advertising itself internationally as a picturesque seaside village.

Located on the Atlantic coast, it has long sandy beaches (considered by some to be among the best in Portugal), attracting many tourists in the summer. The town used to be known for the traditional costumes worn by the fishermen. Women traditionally wear a headscarf and flannel skirt, embroidered in seven different colours. The costumes are still worn occasionally.

A woman from Nazaré wearing the traditional seven-coloured flannel skirts.

It is quite visited due to the religious festivals[14] dedicated to Our Lady of Nazaré, in which there are processions and also some profane celebrations.

Many of the tourists and Catholic pilgrims who visit Central Portugal, and especially the internationally famous Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima (located nearby in Cova da Iria), go to Nazaré for a visit or to watch the surfing championships.

Museums and cultural centers[edit]

  • Doctor Joaquim Manso Folk and Archeological Museum
  • Sacred Art Museum of Reitor Luís Nesi
  • Fisherman House-Museum
  • Nazaré Bullring
  • Nazaré Cultural Centre[15]


The Praia do Norte (North Beach) was listed on the Guinness World Records for the biggest waves ever surfed (formed under the influence of the Nazaré Canyon)

Nazaré is a popular surfing destination because of the high breaking waves that form due to the presence of the underwater Nazaré Canyon.[16] The canyon increases and converges the incoming ocean swell which, in conjunction with the local water current, dramatically enlarges wave heights.[17]

Due to the height of the waves, numerous surfing records have been set at Nazaré. In November 2011, surfer Garrett McNamara surfed a then record-breaking giant wave measuring 23.8 m (78 ft) from trough to crest, at Praia do Norte, Nazaré.[18] On 8 November 2017 Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa broke the previous record by surfing a wave of 24.4 m (80 ft).[19][20] In October 2020, German surfer Sebastian Steudtner broke this record, riding a wave which was measured at 26.2 m (86 ft).[21]

There has been a marked increase in visitors to viewing points for surfing competitions, such as the lighthouse at the Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, which has seen numbers increase from 80,000 visitors in 2015 to 174,000 in 2017.[22]

On 18 January 2018 Brazilian big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira surfed a wave of 24.7 meters (74 feet).[23][24]

On 5 January 2023 Brazilian professional surfer Márcio Freire died whilst practicing tow-in surfing.[25]

International relations[edit]

Nazaré is twinned with:[26][27]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "INE - Plataforma de divulgação dos Censos 2021 – Resultados Preliminares". Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Áreas das freguesias, concelhos, distritos e país". Archived from the original on 2018-07-29. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  3. ^ "Our Lady of Nazare Festival". The Free Dictionary. Farlex Inc. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  4. ^ "NAZARE TOURISM GUIDE, Portugal's most picturesque fishing village".
  5. ^ Sailing Directions for the West Coasts of France, Spain and Portugal. United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. 1891. p. 348.
  6. ^ Murray, John (1856). A handbook for travellers in Portugal ... J. Murray. p. 88.
  7. ^ "Nazaré: Women and Men in a Prebureaucratic Portuguese Fishing Village by Jan Brøgger" (PDF). JSTOR. Springer. JSTOR 4603058. Retrieved 2022-01-21.
  8. ^ "Nazaré: Women and Men in a Prebureaucratic Portuguese Fishing Village by Jan Brøgger" (PDF). JSTOR. Springer. JSTOR 4603058. Retrieved 2022-01-21.
  9. ^ "Average Weather in Nazaré, Portugal, Year Round - Weather Spark". Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  10. ^ "São Pedro de Moel (1971-2000)" (PDF). IPMA. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  11. ^ "Cela 16C/01C". APA. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  12. ^ Diário da República. "Law nr. 11-A/2013, page 552 80" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  13. ^ "History" (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  14. ^ "Nazaré: a hidden village in Portugal that you must visit". 20 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  15. ^ "Museums in Nazaré". Retrieved 2017-09-09.
  16. ^ "Hawaiian surfer breaks wave-riding record at Nazare, Portugal". BBC News. 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  17. ^ "The mechanics of the Nazaré Canyon wave". Surfer Today. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  18. ^ "McNamara Claims Record For Biggest Wave Ever Surfed". CBS Los Angeles. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  19. ^ "Largest wave surfed (unlimited) - male". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  20. ^ "80 foot monster wave gives brazilian surfer world record, judges say". Fox News. 2018-04-30. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  21. ^ "Surfing a record 86-foot wave took guts. Measuring it took 18 months". Washington post. 2020-05-25. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  22. ^ "The economic power of surf". The Business Report. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  23. ^ "Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira breaks largest wave surfed record". Guinness World Records. 2020-09-10. Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  24. ^ Rachini, Mouhamad (2022-09-13). "How surfer Maya Gabeira battled injury, sexism — and the biggest waves". CBC. Retrieved 2023-05-31.
  25. ^ Márcio Freire: 'Mad Dogs' legendary surfer killed in Portugal's giant waves BBC News
  26. ^ "Geminações de Cidades e Vilas". ANMP. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  27. ^ Murillo, Ángela (16 April 2007). "Cinco ciudades hermanas". Hoy (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 July 2013.

External links[edit]