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The charming old fishing village of Nazare features fishermen in brightly coloured traditional dress and long stretches of sandy beach, considered by many to be the best in the country. Named for a statue of the Virgin Mary from Nazareth in the mid-4th century, the city's protector is said to have miraculously saved the life of a 12th century knight.
Divided into three sections connected by a funicular railway, visitors to Nazare can soak up the sun in A Praia (the beach area), take the funicular up to Pederneira, or admire the panoramic views from the old town hilltop of O Sítio.
A tiny 12th century chapel commemorating the Virgin's miraculous intervention is situated next to the Nossa Senhora de Nazare cathedral in Sitio, with a hoof print from the knight's horse engraved in stone in the crypt below.
A popular spot with pilgrims and holiday makers, Nazare's crowded beaches ooze local flavour and timeless appeal. Along the waterfront, brightly coloured fishing boats sway gently on Atlantic waves, still tended by locals in traditional dress. The Casa Museu do Pescador (fishing museum), housed in a traditional fisherman's cottage, honours the town's age old culture with authentic displays.
Strolling past the cafés and craft shops of the avenida Marginal is an ideal way to spend a morning before sitting down to a glass of port and a bowl of the local favourite, caldeirada à nazarena (fish stew). Other local specialities of fish and gambas (shrimp) can be found anywhere along the beach or boulevard.
Excursions along the coastal road lead to several old world villages steeped in history, best explored with a hire car, which can be booked online in advance. Nazare itself can be reached by either bus or train, with the nearest airport in Lisbon just a short drive away.