Nazare is a fascinating place, steeped in history, but sadly overwhelmed by tourism. Very crowded in summer, with a sprawl of holiday apartment buildings obscuring much of the town’s former unique atmosphere, this is a crowded, raucous beach resort with all the hustle, bustle and hassle that goes with it. Formerly known for the traditional costumes worn by fishermen and their wives, old women can still be seen standing on street corners in traditional headscarves and aprons, although they are now more likely to be selling tourist accommodation than fish.
The beach itself is not an ideal companion to such a resort, either. Known by surfers as Portugal’s big wave spot (6-100ft+), a long finger of deep water points to Nazare, allowing swells to hit virtually unchecked.
The potentially hazardous consequence of this geographical oddity means that bathers must be tightly squeezed onto the patrolled main beach, which leads to even greater overcrowding. The main beach is also the place where locals are wont to dry their fish, giving rise to a deeply unpleasant smell!
Take the funicular 110 meters up the sheer rock face behind the main town, however, and some respite is available. O Sitio, the old town, is perched on top of a headland, a location that historically enabled Nazare to protect itself from frequent attacks. From here you can walk north along a stretch of quiet, exposed sand, pounded by the Atlantic and popular with line fishermen.