Until 1912, Nazaré was called Pederneira, when a law change the name of the village to Nazaré, as people know it today. Pederneira still exists, as a neighbourhood with some historical features.
Nazaré used to be a fishing village, but currently, the village has been growing its tourist activity, being sought by surfers and other people looking to have a great time in a very peaceful place, with a lot of places to visit. Why not take the time to turn away from the beach and the waves and discover more of what Nazaré has to offer.
It is claimed to be the first Portuguese sanctuary to ever exist. Inside there is a sculpture of Virgem Negra (Black Virgin) an image of the Holy Mary, made of wood, brought from Mérida, Spain, in the year 711. The sanctuary was built sometime during the 14th century, but the works were only completed by the end of the 19th century.
The image recalls the legend of Nazaré, which tells that D. Fuas Roupinho, was hunting and decided to follow a deer. During his hunting, he and his horse faced a lot of fog and almost fell off the cliff. Right away, Virgin Mary appeared with baby Jesus on her lap. Then, D. Fuas Roupinho asked for help and suddenly the hooves of the horse were stuck into the rock and the knight was safe.
To visit the sanctuary and its chapel, some stairs must be climbed, but what can be seen inside will make the visitors forget about the effort that was climbing the stairs. The church is lit by eight windows, that make visible the blue tiles, brought from The Netherlands, and some of Portuguese origin. In total, there are more than 6,000 tiles.
Right next to the sea, in Avenida Manuel Remígio, visitors will see some of the most traditional moments that Nazaré inhabitants still maintain today.
During a walk through that street, it will be possible to see something like a drying rack filled with salted fish, to be sold. The tradition comes out of the necessity of conserving the fish for a longer time, as poverty and hunger were a strong reality in Portugal. The dry fish is still being sold, and it is an opportunity to try a different way of eating fish.
It was constructed under the order of King D. Sebastião, to protect the village from pirate attacks, which were common during the 16th century, as the seas were being discovered. Napoleon tropes conquered the place during the French Invasions, that took place during the 19th century. It was during the 20th century that a small lighthouse was built in the fortress, to guide fishermen.
Where to see the big waves
The famous big waves of Nazaré may be seen from São Miguel Arcanjo Fortress, which is located right in front of the Nazaré Canyon. The phenomenon of big waves is registered in that particular area of the village because under the sea there is a valley around five kilometres deep. The waves may be seen, safely, from the fortress, where is also placed an interpretative centre, allowing visitors to understand the science behind the most famous waves of Europe.
Much more than places
Nazaré is much more than a place to visit. The people that live in the place are the ones that make it special. Visitors must make sure to find Nazarenas, women that are dressed in the traditional clothes of the village. The suits are composed of seven skirts, following rules that are known by the locals, who respect them a lot.
Finding a room to stay in will also be a different experience. It is common to see women, in certain places, holding billboards with the word “ROOMS” written in several languages, not meaning they will know how to speak it, but it is an amazing marketing tool.