Portugal’s Famous Fishing Village:
We arrive in Nazaré at lunchtime, after a 45 minutes drive from Batalho. This little fishing village with its huge stretch of beautiful sandy beach is a pleasant change of scenery from the castles, fortresses and churches that we’ve been visiting.
We’ve already been primed on what to eat here, which restaurant has the best sardines or fish stew and who has the best cakes and coffee. Pedro our tour director recommends “Restaurante O Tamanco” for its sardines and “Pestalaria Batel” is good for cakes and coffee.
How the Town got its Name
According to legend, a monk from Nazareth was believed to have brought a statue of the Virgin Mary to this town in the 4th century and that’s how Nazaré got its name. These days Nazaré is a popular summer resort and it’s obvious that tourism is what drives this town. In the little squares off the seafront and in the narrow back streets, there’s an abundance of eateries with menus in English, cafes, gift and souvenir shops. Notwithstanding, Nazaré still maintains some of its traditional character. If you’re lucky, you’ll still see fishermen dressed in checked shirts and black stocking caps and fishwives wearing short skirts with several layers of petticoats drying fish on wire racks on the beach.
Keeping with Tradition
Seeing some of the older women in big round short skirts you might at first think they look a little strange. These skirts are worn that way for a very practical reason – it seems. In the old days, fishwives would sit on the beach waiting for their fishermen to sail home. To keep themselves warm in the face of the cold Atlantic sea wind whilst staying modestly covered, they wear several petticoats in order to fold layers around their backs and legs. The traditional seven layers of petticoat represent the seven colours of the rainbow. The length of the skirts are kept above the knees because the women used to help bring the boats in from the water. The skirts are therefore cut above the water level. Very clever.
Even today, older and more traditional women still wear short skirts with several layers of petticoats although I’m not sure if they still stick to the seven layers. Up in the old district of Sitio, all the women selling nuts and dried fruits are colourfully clad in this traditional gear.
The Nazaré people’s connection with the sea is reflected in the local handicrafts, in particular the nets, buoys, baskets and traditional puppets dressed in the typical costumes of seven skirts. Local cuisine is also very much tied to the sea, with emphasis on fish and shellfish dishes, such as caldeiradas (fish caseroles), soups, açorda (purée of bread, herbs and garlic) and the dried horse mackerel.
What to see and do in Nazaré
The beach is Nazaré’s main attraction and it’s generally a nice relaxing Portuguese beach resort to spend time in and observe locals doing their everyday thing. There are plenty of souvenir shops here so it’s possible to pick up some gifts.
We unfortunately didn’t have much time here to relax, especially since we went up the hill to Sítio. See our related post.