Nazaré is a charming seaside town in Portugal and home to the biggest wave ever surfed as noted by the Guinness World Records. It is the perfect place to go on a day trip from Lisbon. We visited Nazaré as part of our 3-month Portugal road trip itinerary.
The best places to visit in Nazaré town include Praia da Nazaré beach with golden sands, São Miguel Arcanjo fort for watching the huge waves, the unique dried fish open-air exhibit, and the panoramic seaside viewpoints at the top of the cliffs.
I especially loved hiking up to the Monte de São Bartolomeu mountain for the best views over Nazaré! In this blog post, you will find all the best things to do in Nazaré with photos, descriptions, and locations on Google Maps. Happy exploring!
1. Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo and the Big Waves of Nazaré
Probably the main attraction in Nazaré is São Miguel Arcanjo fort which translates as the St. Michael the Archangel Fort. It was constructed back in the 16th century in order to defend Nazaré from pirates. Entrance to the fort costs 1 EUR.
Today it is the main lookout point for watching the Atlantic Ocean and the famous big waves. Did you know that Nazaré holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed? It happened right here! It measured 86 feet (26.21 meters) high!
Tip! When is the big wave season? Typically wintertime – from late October to early March. You can check webcams from Nazaré and big wave updates here. If you visit during the summer months, you are likely to see a more or less flat ocean.
You can’t drive to the fort by car. You can either take a tuk-tuk or walk there. Check out the Big Wave entrance to the fort as well as the deer sculpture with a surfboard along the way! This is a wonderful spot to visit for sunset.
2. North Beach and the hidden Forno de Orca Cave
North Beach is a sandy beach to the North of Nazaré lighthouse famous for the giant waves of Nazaré. This is the place where the surfers are riding those largest waves ever surfed. As I said, the big waves only come during the off-season from October to March.
However, it is still worth visiting at any time of the year. Once you visit the Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo fort and check out the Nazaré lighthouse, you can then walk down a dirt path to the beach.
This beach is favored by surfers but, of course, anyone can enjoy it. Just remember that the water might be rather cold as it is the ocean. Hidden in one corner of the beach is one of the hidden gems in Nazaré – Forno de Orca Cave.
The cave is an opening inside the cliffs, but this one not only has an entrance from the side of the beach but also has a circular hole in the ceiling. It reminds me of the specific caves called algars that you can often see in Algarve, Southern Portugal.
3. Clifftop viewpoints – Miradouro do Suberco and Miradouro da Nazaré
Amongst my favorite things to do in Nazaré was checking out the breathtaking view from the clifftop viewpoints. Miradouro do Suberco and Miradouro da Nazaré are two viewpoints right next to each other offering views over Nazaré.
The viewing platforms are situated on overhanging cliffs at 110 meters above sea level. These are great photo locations in Nazaré and amongst the best spots in town for watching the sunset.
If you take a photo from the side of Miradouro da Nazaré, you can get the effect of you and the cliff both kind of hanging in the air high above the sandy Nazaré Beach (see photo above).
Further along the cliffside, there is another viewpoint – Miradouro de São Brás. It is a bit more quiet and less visited as it is hiding away from the main square. It is definitely worth checking out in case the main viewpoints are too crowded.
While there, don’t forget to check out a beautiful small chapel at the side of the cliff – Ermida da Memória or Chapel of the Miracle’s Memory. It is a beautiful blue-and-white chapel. The roof and the inside are covered by glazed tiles with painted patterns.
The 12th-century chapel is an iconic symbol of the town. The legend says that the Virgin Mary appeared to a knight D. Fuas Roupinho in this spot and saved him from falling down the cliff as he was chasing down a deer. Sadly it was closed when we visited.
4. The city square and Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré
Located next to a large city square lays an ornate hilltop church – Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. The imposing church was founded in the 14th century on the occasion of the arrival of King Ferdinand.
The inside of the church has a wooden painted ceiling, a beautiful golden altarpiece, and marble columns. The corridors of the Sacristy inside the church are completely covered with stunning blue and white tiles.
The facade features semicircular stairs leading to a beautiful baroque portal and two square bell towers. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Nazaré and a must-see place in the Sitio de Nazaré neighborhood.
Location: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazareth
5. Unique Nazaré souvenirs
One of the most fun things to do in Nazaré was souvenir shopping in the square next to the panoramic viewpoints. It is filled with street vendors, souvenir stands, and shops offering you colorful things to buy as a keepsake from the iconic town.
Probably the best souvenir you can buy here is related to surfing – a surfer t-shirt, surfer hoodie, or a miniature surfboard will be a great choice. However, there are other artisan goods like ceramics (plates, tiles, bowls), cork products (bags, belts), and others.
Location: Souvenir Square
6. Swing at Baloiço da Ladeira
Baloiço da Ladeira is a beautiful cliffside swing overlooking Nazaré town. Swinging in this iconic swing has to be amongst the best things to do in Nazaré! Feeling free with the wind in your hair while having the whole town at your feet is a great feeling!
Baloiço da Ladeira is one of the most panoramic swings in Portugal. It is located somewhere midway on the path that connects the downhill part of Nazaré and the Sitio de Nazaré neighborhood that is located on top of the cliff.
Location: Baloiço da Ladeira
7. Nazaré funicular
One of my favorite fun things to do in Nazaré was riding on the Nazaré funicular. It connects Nazaré town with the clifftop neighborhood – Sitio da Nazaré. The round-trip ride costs about 4 EUR and the journey only takes about 5 minutes.
Nazaré downtown and the clifftop neighborhood are both must-see areas in Nazaré, so you have to visit both of them. It doesn’t matter where you start exploring – uphill or downhill – but the lift is a great way to move to the next must-see attraction.
Plus it is much faster to take the lift than to drive a car and then try to find a parking lot. Another alternative is to hike the pathway on foot, however, we really wanted to experience the lift and I’m glad that we did so!
Location: Nazaré funicular
8. The sandy Nazaré Beach
Nazaré Beach is one of the main attractions in Nazaré and one of the most beautiful beaches in the nearby area. The golden sand beach stretches far and wide for everyone to enjoy! If the North Beach was for surfers, then Nazaré Beach is for chill beach days!
There are water sports activities as well as beach volleyball and football courts, and, of course, sunbathing spots on the beach. This is an ideal place for sunbathing or just relaxing with your feet deep into the golden sand.
Relax under a beach umbrella or build sand castles – this is a great place for the perfect beach day. Remember that this is the Atlantic Ocean and the water may not be as warm as you hoped for when going for a swim! And there can be strong currents as well!
The beach is surrounded by waterfront houses and has a beautiful promenade stretching along the coastline. Plenty of bars and restaurants with sea views. To the North of the beach, there is the Nazaré cliff where you can ride up by a funicular.
Location: Praia da Nazaré
9. Barcos Salva Vidas – an outdoor exhibition of old boats
One of the best things to do in Nazaré at the beach is to check out the traditional fishing boats. They are put on display outside on the main beach There are numerous wooden boats painted in different bold colors each having a different name.
Some of these boats were used for rescuing people who got stuck in the sea but other boats were simply used by local fishermen to go out into the sea and catch fish. This boat exhibition is a great reminder that Nazaré was just a small fishing village once!
Location: Barcos Salva Vidas
10. Seca do Peixe – fish drying exhibit
Seca do Peixe is a unique fish-drying area on Nazaré Beach. Here you can observe the traditional fish drying method and also buy some typical fish caught in the nearby waters – sardines, mackerel, sea bass as well as some good-looking octopus.
This is one of the biggest dried fish markets in the country and thus has been labeled as an open-air museum of dried fish. The fish are cut open and positioned on unique drying nets fixed in a wooden frame and then put on display outside to dry.
This is one of the most unique things to do in Nazaré, so definitely walk by the ladies selling fish and check out the unique fish drying racks. I especially loved the octopus ones but I’m not too big of a fan of dried fish so I didn’t buy any ‘souvenirs’ from here.
Drying fish helped fishermen earn money and save food for the times when they couldn’t go out into the ocean and catch more fresh fish. Drying of the fish takes about 2 to 3 days depending on the weather.
Location: Seca do Peixe
11. Smells and taste of Mercado Municipal da Nazaré
Mercado Municipal da Nazaré is a local market and one of the coolest places to visit in Nazaré. Exploring the taste and smells of the market was one of my favorite things to do in Nazaré.
The market is located inside a huge hangar filled with food stands offering you everything from fresh fish to baked goods and even clothes. This is the place to go if you are looking for some snacks like cheese, meat, or fresh fruit.
Just pay attention to working hours – Mercado Municipal da Nazaré is closed on Mondays but it is only open until 1 PM during the rest of the week. If you happen to be there when they are open, then I recommend checking out those local goods of Nazaré!
Location: Mercado Municipal da Nazaré
12. Ice cream paradise – Gelatomania
Gelatomania is a local legend in Nazaré. It is an iconic ice cream shop next to Nazaré Beach and is a must-visit place in Nazaré. They have waffles, milkshakes, crepes, desserts, and anything you can think of as toppings for various ice-cream dishes.
We went there for breakfast but this is a place you can go to at any time of the day as they only close around midnight. This is a hyped up place in Nazaré but for a good reason – super fast service and big portions. You won’t leave with an empty stomach!
This is the place to go for an ice cream in Nazaré, but they also have tables inside and outside so you might as well sit down for a tasty meal. Although it is often very busy and full, the service is fast and you won’t have to wait too long!
13. Panoramic views at Miradouro da Pederneira
If you are looking for dreamy views over the Atlantic Ocean and Nazaré then Miradouro da Pederneira is a great place to go. There is a lookout point with a beautiful view over the town. It is quieter than the Nazaré cliff where there is a constant flow of people!
The viewpoint also features a pergola-like area with seats. You can sit down and enjoy a drink or a snack and wait for the sunset. There is a really good restaurant – Pangeia – right next to the viewpoint if you want to stay for dinner.
Right next to the viewpoint, you will see a beautiful small church – Church of Mercy of Pederneira. It is a simple yet beautiful 18th-century church built in the Mannerist style with a classic baroque facade. Take a look inside if it is open!
14. Portuguese tiles at the Church of Saint Anthony
Another unique spot in downtown Nazaré is the Church of Saint Anthony. Especially the facade of the church. Although the church is squished between the houses, you can still see the beautiful facade.
If you are into the beautiful Portuguese tiles ‘azulejos’ then you will like this place. Hunting the iconic tiles is probably amongst the best things to do in Nazaré as well as in any other Portuguese town.
The facade is covered by blue-and-white tiles with a beautiful pattern painted on them. There is also a small tile illustration on the upper part of the facade. Sadly we could not enter the church but it is worth stopping by if you are somewhere nearby.
Tip! It is located next to the Nazaré funicular. If you use the lift, then stop by this church!
Location: Church of Saint Anthony
15. Spectacular views at Monte de São Bartolomeu
Monte de São Bartolomeu is a hill close to Nazaré town. It is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Nazaré and see the whole Nazaré from above. Monte de São Bartolomeu reaches 156 meters above sea level.
It is best if you have a car because you can drive to the bottom of the hill, park your car, and embark on a hike to the summit. If you don’t have a car, I recommend taking a taxi as it is only accessible by roads without sidewalks and the traffic could be too risky.
At first, the path to the summit takes you along a sandy dirt path but soon after it turns into steep stairs. For athletic people, the hike uphill will take less than 10 minutes. But I did enjoy stopping along the way and enjoying the views.
At the top of the hill, you will see a small chapel, a watchtower, and a cross standing on top of large boulders. Access to the watchtower is prohibited as it is a guardhouse for people on the watch for forest fires. But you can access the chapel and the cross.
This was one of my favorite places and things to do in Nazaré as it offers you great exercise, an amazing view, and natural beauty all around you with pine trees and strawberry trees covering the area as far as the eye can see.
16. Near Nazaré – the glorious Alcobaça Monastery
You can’t travel to Nazaré and ignore the fact that it is situated close to some of the most impressive bucket list destinations in Portugal! One of those is Alcobaça Monastery – a glorious monastery complex with a church, cloisters, and massive halls.
Alcobaça Monastery is just a 15-minute drive away from Nazaré and an hour and a half away from Lisbon. The monastery is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as well as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Alcobaça Monastery was established by the first Portuguese king – Afonso I and at the time of its completion it was the largest church in Portugal. A fact that makes it a symbolic place for the Portuguese nation.
The entrance fee to the monastery costs 10 EUR per person. Although it is a bit pricey, I never felt that it was too much for such a historic monument. There are so many interesting rooms, halls, courtyards, tileworks, and architectural elements to see there!
Established back in the 12th century, it is the first Gothic building in Portugal. Alcobaça Monastery once was one of the richest and most influential monasteries in Portugal with a population of nearly 1000 monks.
It is also the final resting place for many monarchs – kings and queens of Portugal, including King Pedro I and his forbidden love – Inês de Castro who was assassinated by King Pedro’s father. Their tombs are located in the main church hall facing each other.
However, one of my favorite rooms was the kitchen. It featured a colossal room-size chimney in the center of the room with a massive fireplace underneath it. Interestingly, water and fish were diverted to the kitchen basin through a specially built canal!
We arrived at the monastery just one hour before closing thinking that we would easily walk through the whole building. We don’t normally try to read every sign and every pamphlet. But the reality was that we barely got through the building in time!
Nevertheless, the positive side of going before closing was that there were fewer people around and we could easily enjoy every room. We were just in awe of the sheer size of this symbolic place.
Maybe going to churches or monasteries might not seem too exciting however they often tell the most comprehensive stories about the history of the country. If you want to learn about Portugal, Alcobaça Monastery is an excellent addition to your travel itinerary.
Location: Alcobaça Monastery
17. Near Nazaré – the majestic Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal that we ever saw during our 3-month road trip. It is located in a town with the same name – Batalha – and is just a 30-minute drive away from Nazaré and a 1h40min drive from Lisbon.
The glorious monastery was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. It serves as the first royal pantheon in Portugal filled with tombs of kings, queens, and princes.
Construction of the massive complex took over a century and was done under the reign of seven kings and the supervision of fifteen architects. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also one of the most important Gothic sites in Portugal.
My favorite place in Batalha Monastery was the roofless Unfinished Chapels. It was intended to be the Pantheon of King Duarte. However, the sudden death of the king as well as that of the main architect – Huguet – put a stop to the construction process.
Construction of the Unfinished Chapels started in the 15th century, then it was stopped due to the deaths, then it received modifications, and then it resumed. Its extravagant entrance and seven funereal chapels around the octagonal perimeter were finished in the 16th century.
Unfortunately, the Pantheon never saw the finish line and was left roofless which kind of makes it extra unique and exclusive. At least the first half of the 20th century saw the tomb of King Duarte finally find its peace inside the roofless pantheon where it lies today.
You can visit the church for free, however, the visit to the whole monastery complex is 6 EUR per person and I highly recommend buying the tickets. You will go on a journey through the church, pantheon, cloister, as well as the iconic Unfinished Chapels.
It truly took my breath away. One of the most spectacular buildings I have seen in terms of architecture. Because it was built over the course of more than a hundred years, it features many different architectural styles.
The monastery is predominantly Gothic, but, it saw the use of Flamboyant Gothic and the intricate Manueline styles for the first time in Portugal, including one of the most extravagant places – the entrance to the Unfinished Chapels that was made in Manueline style.
If you only have time for one detour somewhere near Nazaré, I would choose to go to this place. Of course, only if you can appreciate amazing architecture and unique places. If you like being in nature better, I suggest checking out Mira de Aire Cave!
Location: Batalha Monastery
18. Near Nazaré – the marvelous Grutas de Mira de Aire
Grutas de Mira de Aire is a large complex of caves located in the Mira de Aire town in Portugal. The town is located about a 45-minute drive away from Nazaré and a 1h30min drive away from Lisbon.
One of the caves in the complex – Moinhos Velhos Cave – is accessible to the public and you can join guided tours in groups to visit the cave. This is one of the most impressive and beautiful limestone caves that I have visited (and I have visited quite a few of them!).
Visits to the cave happen in groups. You don’t need to book your visit prior – just arrive, go to the ticket office, buy a ticket, and then wait until the group is big enough to go. The cave is warm inside and easy to walk, but comfortable shoes are recommended.
Most of the tour was only in Portuguese language, but we got a brochure with numbers and descriptions in English about each point that you will visit in the cave. Overall, we learned and understood enough to get a good insight about the cave.
The entrance to the cave is higher above sea level than the exit. This means you will be walking downhill pretty much all the time. At the end of the tour, there is a lift that will take you above the ground so you can walk back to the starting point.
The caves formed about 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Age when there were dinosaurs on the Earth. You can still see some dinosaur footprints in this area and in other places in Portugal.
The caves are lit with lights throughout the whole route so you don’t need any extra lights. Different colors of light emphasize the marvelous stalagmites and stalactites that are growing everywhere inside the cave.
The tour costs 7.80 EUR per adult, but there are lower prices for different groups of people. You can read all about visiting the cave on their website. The tour lasts around 60 minutes, but we didn’t even notice – time flies down there!
Location: Grutas de Mira de Aire
19. Near Nazaré – the splendid Convento de Cristo in Tomar
Convento de Cristo or the Convent of Christ in Tomar, Portugal is a 12th-century convent founded by the Templar Knights. However, the construction of the impressive building complex took about five centuries!
Convent of Christ is the paradise of architecture lovers as it combines Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist, as well as Baroque styles. Today it is a National Monument as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Because the Convent of Christ is surrounded by the walls of the Castle of Tomar, it also served as a stronghold to defend the new Portuguese country against the Moorish forces during the 13th century.
One of the most beautiful and incredible places in the convent is the 12th-century Oratory of the Templars – the famous round church (called a rotunda). The intricate frescoes and paintings mostly depict biblical scenes.
Another famous architectural artwork that you can visit in the Convent of Christ is the chapterhouse window (photo above). The Manueline window is filled with maritime themes including ropes, wood, buoys, and others.
It is a pure work of art, unfortunately, on the day we visited the convent, the famous window was partly covered and being restored. However, I did look at photos online and it looked absolutely exquisite.
However, one of my personal favorite places in the convent was the spiraled staircase that leads to the second floor and is accessed from the main courtyard. It is hard to imagine how much effort was put into this building centuries ago!
The spiraled staircase is a beautiful photo spot in the convent and so are the scenic courtyards, the gallery, the famous round church, and the view from the arcade on the second floor overlooking the roof and towers of the building!
Entrance to the convent costs 10 EUR. We visited the convent about an hour before closing and we barely got through every room, hall, and courtyard. Visitors can explore two stories so it takes a bit of time to see everything.
Honestly, this was one of the most beautiful places we got to visit during our road trip around Portugal. I highly recommend paying a visit to the Convent of Christ if you happen to be nearby!
Location: Convento de Cristo
20. Near Nazaré – the medieval castle Castelo de Leiria
Castelo de Leiria is a beautiful and picturesque medieval castle built in the 12th century by the order of King Afonso I, the first king of Portugal, to protect, at that time, the Southern border of his country.
Throughout the centuries it has served as the residence for Portuguese monarchs and played a strategic role in the defence of the country. Today the iconic castle is accessible to the public and an entrance to the castle costs 2.10 EUR per person.
There are a couple of legends involving the castle – one of them claims that there is a dormant volcano under the castle that is responsible for heating the water in the hot spring.
Another legend says that one winter morning the queen left the castle to distribute bread to poor people in Leiria. When the king inquired about her plans and what she was hiding in her clothes, the queen said that there were roses.
So when the king seemed surprised that she would carry roses in January, the queen then revealed her clothes and there were indeed roses instead of bread that she had hidden there.
The Castle of Leiria is located in Leiria city just a 30-minute drive away from Nazaré in Portugal. Each year Leiria hosts a Leiria Medieval Fair – a big medieval festival where the whole city is turned into a medieval-themed playground.
If you happen to be around during those days, I highly recommend paying a visit to Leiria and the castle as everything will be beautifully decorated and there will be medieval celebrations throughout the city.
We happened to be there a day before the festival started so we saw different performances, everything in festive colors, and a city full of medieval markets and street food stands. Sadly, we could not stay longer, but it definitely looked quite fun.
Location: Castelo de Leiria
21. Near Nazaré – the iconic Sanctuary of Fátima
Sanctuary of Fátima is a massive shrine complex built in a place where, it is said, the Virgin Mary appeared to three kids in the early 1900s. Overall, about four million pilgrims visit the basilica every year.
The sanctuary is located in Fátima town about a 45-minute drive away from Nazaré. Even if you are not really interested in Catholic pilgrimage sites it is still an impressive place to visit when in Portugal.
The massive complex consists of several monuments and buildings like the Chapel of the Apparitions which is the spot where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary (main building), the massive Basilica of the Holy Trinity, and more.
The site is accessible to the public for free, but be sure to check online before going there as there are regular events taking place on the site. A rosary or mass won’t be a huge event (with exceptions), but there may be bigger celebrations as well.
The most important dates related to the apparition of the Virgin Mary are the 13th of May and the 13th of October. Those dates will attract millions of pilgrims to the site, so take that into account when visiting this place.
We visited the Sanctuary of Fátima quite early in the morning and there were already quite a few people visiting. Don’t forget to walk through the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary church and pass by the tombs of the kids who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary.
Location: Sanctuary of Fátima
Nazaré in Portugal is a captivating coastal gem. Nazaré is known for its massive waves, but it is so much more than just surfing. It is a delightful destination filled with charming streets, golden sand, delicious smells and tastes, and panoramic viewpoints.
I hope you enjoy your time in Nazaré and in Portugal as much as we did! And I hope you will get some travel inspiration from this blog post to make your trip to Nazaré even more exciting, memorable, and filled with lots of fun things!