On this post I will highlight the places we visited and the best things to see and best things to do in Santos.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT SANTOS
Santos is in the São Vicente Island together with São Vicente.
Santos started in 1531 as a small hamlet called Porto de São Vicente. In 1543 it became Vila do Porto de Santos and later Santos. It was elevated to a city only in 1839 by Venâncio José Lisboa.
Today, it is home of the biggest port in Latin America handling lots of exports such as coffee, sugar, oil, bananas, and others.
Santos is also a touristic resort and receives thousands of visitors in the high season.
It is a beautiful city characterised by the “canais” (canals) that cut the city in various places. These “canais” are more than 100 years old and they were built to drain the fluvial waters to the sea to avoid the illnesses that plagued the city due to the constant floods in the area at the time.
Nowadays, these “canais” are a reference point to the city and are numbered to distinguish the various neighbourhoods, there are 7 of them.
Santos was built in a swamp area, and the sand soil is not suitable for foundations. Foundations need to go to the bed rock, about 50 metres below in order to provide a safe and firm foundation for new buildings.
With the touristic characteristic of the city, from the 1960’s, new high-rise buildings started to be built on the beach front very quickly. To save money, these buildings did not take the foundations to the bed rock causing them to have defective foundations and start moving.
There are about 90 buildings on the beach front that had some kind of movement due to foundation failure, most of them in the Boqueirão, Embaré and Aparecida neighbourhood.
The leaning buildings became a touristic attraction of the city, being known as “The leaning Towers of Santos”.
Santos is also famous for the longest beach garden in the world featuring in the Guinness World Book of Records. It is 5.335 metres long and 50 metres wide and it is a well-maintained garden with lots of plants, trees and lawns with cycle paths that separates the beach from the main road.
It is a nice place to go in the end of the afternoon to walk and have some ice cream.
Besides soaking the sun in one of Santos beaches, you can visit many other attractions such as various museums, a Municipal Aquarium, a botanic Garden, a funicular, a streetcar, and other interesting attractions to visit.
We will talk on this post about the attractions at the city centre.
One of the most popular things to do is to visit the city centre.
Many of the colonial buildings of this part of the city received a restoration about 13 years ago (now I think it is time to give the city centre another refurbishment as it is looking a bit sad again).
It is still enjoyable to take the street car in front of the old train station and to tour the main roads of the city centre.
The street car passes on “Rua do Comércio”, an historical street with many old mansions with architectural interest and very beautiful.
You will see many buildings from the imperial era, some with tiled frontages, some restored and still looking good, others in a derelict state, begging to be rescued and brought back to life.
The city centre has a very nostalgic appearance and passes good vibes.
You can watch a video on the Travelling Surveyor Instagram of the street car arriving at the train station below.
In front of the train station, you will find “Museu do Pelé”.
This is a museum dedicated to the life of the famous football player “Pelé”, who started his career in Santos. The museum tells the story from when he started until his final days playing football.
It is a very interesting museum specially if you are a football fan. We visited the museum on the same week that “Pelé” passed away and the museum was very busy. Also, it was a rainy day, so people could not go to the beach, and they headed to indoor activities such as this one.
Still in the city centre, there is the building of the “Bolsa Oficial do Café”, where you will find the “Museu do Café”.
It’s another interesting building full of period architectural details to admire. The auction room was where the brokers negotiated the coffee arriving by train from São Paulo.
It is a beautiful room and in the heart of the building. After the “Bolsa Oficial do Café” ceased from trading in the 1960’s, the building was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was only in 1997 that the building was restored and the “Museu do Café” was created in the building.
In 2005 a long-term exhibition telling the story of the coffee was assembled to the museum.
There is a coffee shop where you can try coffee from different parts in Brazil. Another nice place to visit if you like architecture history and coffee!
Another attraction in the centre of the city is the “Monte Serrat”.
This is a mountain that can be reached via a funicular. From the top you have views of the harbour and from the city centre.
When the funicular railway was built and inaugurated in 1927 it was to take guests to the brand-new and luxurious night-club at the top.
In 1927 it gained a cassino and it functioned until 1946 when cassinos were banned in Brazil. It was renovated in 1998 and today is a cultural area for expositions, private parties, and cultural events.
There is also a church at the top that is called “Nossa Senhora de Monte Serrat” the saint that is the patron of Santos. This saint is very famous for many miracles and people from Santos adores and respects this saint very faithfully.
If you are visiting the city centre and want to stop for lunch or something to eat, you should visit the traditional “Café Carioca”. It is more than 70 years old and is famous for its nice options of food. It is a simple and cheap place, but it is worth going.
There is also a Portuguese restaurant in the centre that is called “Tasca do Porto” which is very typical in an old, restored building that serves very good food.
There are also lots of other restaurants in the centre that serves food by the kilo, and you can eat very well for very little money.
The building of the Town Hall on Praça Mauá is a very nice building too. There is a café on the top floor open to the public that affords very beautiful views of Santos.
As the time we were in Brazil it was close to Christmas, we attended a Christmas show of lights on Praça Mauá in one of the evenings. The place was packed, and the show was incredible to watch. They have a show of lights every year at Christmas time.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT
Below you will find a list of what to visit, where to stay and where to eat in Santos. I classified each place as follows:
BOLD – Visited, tried and recommended
NOT BOLD – Not visited or tried, but planning to visit or try and heard very good reviews
*** – Excellent
** – Good
* – OK
£££ – Expensive
££ – Fair and affordable
£ – Cheap
WHAT TO SEE IN SANTOS PART 1
1 – The “Canals” – ***
2 – The Leaning Towers of Santos – ***
3 – Santos’ Beaches – ***
4 – Santos’ beach gardens – ***
7 – Mont Serrat – ***
8 – The street Car – ***
9 – Museu do Pelé – ***
10 – Bolsa Oficial do Café – ***
11 – Museu do Café – ***
12 – Igreja Nossa Senhora de Monte Serrat – ***
13 – Town Hall – Praça Mauá – ***
WHERE TO STAY IN SANTOS
1 – Parque Balneário Hotel – 5* – £££
2 – Apart Estanconfor Santos – 4* – ££
3 – Apartamento Pé na Areia – 4* – ££
WHERE TO EAT IN SANTOS
1 – Café Carioca – £
2 – Tasca do Porto – ££
3 – Churrascaria Tertúlia – *** – £££
Or you can have half a day private tour of Santos by booking it HERE.
If you tried any of my recommendations above, please send me a message and tell me about your experience good or bad, so I can update the list accordingly. Thanks!
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