Sítio, on the top o f the promontory, at an altitude of 110 meters, opens onto one of the most beautiful maritime panoramas in Portugal.
Genesis of the town's name, a place of miracle, worship and pilgrimage since at least the 14th century, Sítio developed as a village only in the middle of the 17th century due to difficult access, having grown considerably during the following century. The installation of a Funicular linking “Praia” to “Sítio”, in 1889, originated a new population increase as well as tourist visits.
The historical and religious interest and an incomparable natural beauty are the main attractions of Sítio da Nazaré. The long promontory that guards and protects the beach has at its end the Fort of S. Miguel Arcanjo. Nowadays Sítio knows a new pilgrimage, between October and March, of all lovers and curious to see the Biggest Waves in the World.
The beach of Nazaré has a relatively recent origin, for until the 17th century the sea occupied most of the area where today stand the houses. The geological transformations occurred during that century made the retreat of the sea and the silting up of the area, leaving the lovely bay uncovered.
The first references to fishing in Nazaré date from 1643, however, only in the beginning of the 19th century did the population start to live in the new beach. Until then, the fishermen lived, mainly, in the upper parts – Sítio and Pederneira – since the constant attacks of Algerian and Dutch pirates made the beach a very unsafe place.
Nazaré was first known and demanded as a seaside resort in the middle of the 19th century. Its natural beauty and typical characteristics drew the visitors’ attention. Fishing, fish transformation and its sale were the main activities of the population during most of the 20th century. The harsh and dangerous sea life has made many fishermen leave their hometown seeking for better living conditions. The construction of the Harbour, in the 1980s, has changed and improved the fishermen’s living conditions, thus starting a new period on the population’s daily life.
In the 1960s, tourism discovered the charm of the beach and the town became known all over the world. Every year, Nazaré receives the visit of thousands of national and international tourists, being today a modern and always lively town. To walk down its narrow streets towards the sea, is to discover a way of living still genuine and peculiar, with surprises at every corner! Beauty, memories, charisma and traditions make Nazaré the most unforgettable Portuguese beach.
This part of the town has been a fishermen’s land since the 12th century, and was once called “Seno Petronero” which means Gulf of Pederneira. In those times the village was placed farther inland and fishing in the gulf was the main activity of the population. The village developed, in the end of the 15th century, with the arrival of fishermen from the nearby seaport of Paredes, which was destroyed by the silting up of its harbour.
Pederneira was one of the most important seaports of the lands of the Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça. During the golden age of the Portuguese Discoveries – 15th and 16th centuries – it was one the most active shipbuilding yards of the kingdom, from where sailed away many vessels and caravels. By the Pederneira seaport were shipped out the goods and woods from the King’s Pinewood to the capital and overseas lands. Out of the fishermen’s population were recruited many sailors to the Indian Sea Route.
The development of Sítio and the progressive drawback of the sea due to the silting up of the gulf, and the formation of the new beach, led to the decline of Pederneira in the end of the 18th century. Not even the arrival of fishermen from the area of the Aveiro Ria was enough to give it some vitality. Slowly the inhabitants moved to the new bay.
Nowadays, Pederneira is one of the town centres, peaceful and pleasant; an attentive belvedere of the sea and of the beach bellow, guardian of past memories.
The small town of Nazaré consists of 3 important population centres: Praia, Sítio and Pederneira, and the settlement of Fanhais. The name Nazaré is attributed, since 1912, to the urban complex formed by the historic centres of Praia, Sítio and Pederneira, with different chronological and community origins, and which are urbanistically interconnected.
This connection comes from its natural expansion, but above all, more recently, from the creation of new residential areas, such as Urbisol, Rio Novo and Nova Nazaré.
The municipality of Nazaré consists of 3 parishes: Nazaré, Valado dos Frades and Famalicão, it has an area of 82.5 km2, about 15,000 inhabitants and one of the most famous beaches on the Portuguese coast.
Most of the area of the municipality is made up of flat and sandy terrain, with some patches originating from old silts that formed after the receding of the sea. Coarse, clean sand is found shallow. To the north of the Municipality the land is made up of dunes covered with pine trees, with some cultivated and productive lowlands. The entire horticultural culture has a great development, especially in the very fertile fields of Valado, and where a true tradition remains from the monks of the Monastery of Alcobaça
Fishing absorbed most human activities, both coastal and offshore fishing.
Nowadays, although fishing and agricultural activities remain in the municipality, tourist activity has been monopolizing a large part of the municipality's human resources.