Cidade de Santos is more than 450 years old. A 1 hour drive by car from the metropole São Paulo. Santos is situated 800 meters lower than São Paulo, it has almost half a million inhabitants and it can be only reached by 4 main roads like Anchieta, Imigrantes , by Praia Grande or by a ferry via the city Guarujá. Santos is in fact an island, it lies in a beautiful bay at the Atlantic Ocean with just outside the city the 'Mata Atlântica' type of nature. On the Guarujá site of Santos is the side where the port is located. Santos has the biggest port of South America.
The port is used for im-export of goods, mostly by containers, other products like soya, orange-juice and the huge windmill-blades made in Sorocaba find their way to other countries by the Santos port. Besides goods also people transport takes place at the port site, from the cruise-terminal huge Cruiseships leave the port every day in summertime.
The port provides the city it's dynamics and gives it also an international character. Ships from the USA, Europe and Asia go on and off, same counts also for the trains and trucks who are entering and leaving the city 24 hours round the clock. The port is the most important financial source for Santos and the state of São Paulo, it was that already hundreds of years ago when the coffee was shipped from the same port. For me it is a home coming because when i enter the city, the big tanks of the Dutch company VOPAK cannot be missed.
Coffee... 'Café do Brasil' is how they call it here. Santos had an important influence at the time that oil was not the main subject of trading on the world market of economics. At that time the coffee price was the most important number for economics. The decision what the world coffee price would be was made in Santos at that time. Nowadays you can still smell and taste this history in the Coffee Museum located in the old centre of Santos, 'Centro Comercial'. Till today some coffee companies have their offices located around this coffee museum. The museum itselfs is just great, it shows the history in a very nice way and after your tour you can try the coffee yourself or even bring fresh burned Brazillian coffee to home. It is nice to walk around in this area of Santos where you can see old portuguese type of buildings. Try a very good 'pastel' with a nice 'chopp' on the corner near the main square at a bar called Café Carioca. There you can start to taste Brazil already. Beware that everything is closed after 20:00 hours or so, and on sunday the places mostly open after 13:00 hours.
Santos has an old tram track thru the old historic centre, when you are here you 'have' to take a ride on one of the three different trams. The tourist guides will tell a lot about the history of Santos. They will show the port side, the old 'Centro Comercial' and the place where the slaves did hide run when they escape hundreds of years ago.
You can go by a cabletrack train to the top of the mountain Monte Serrat where you find a very old building, formerly used as a casino. Gambling is illegal in Brazil so as a casino the building history, but it takes you back in time . On the same mountain you find also a little church but the best is the 360 degrees view over Santos, it is just astonishing. See also the video at the bottom at this article, because they race every year a downhill competition from this mountain.
The second big thing in history what made Santos famous is a man, a man called Pelé. This former player of the Santos Futebol club is known all over the globe. Pelé shows Brazil, it's people and it's soccer in a very special way ..... by his personality. He made Santos FC in what it is today, a very well know soccer club in which plays on a world level. And Santistas show the importance of Pelé in Santos with his own statue near a bar where Santos fans can be found every day. Also his own star at the walk-of-fame at the Roxy cinema on Rua Ana Costa, because he also was an actor! Not a very good one he said himself :)
For years there are plans to make a Pelé museum, the last i heard about it was in 2010 with even Oscar Niemeyer involved. We will see :) But till today we have to do it with a tour you can get in the soccer stadium of Santos FC, there you can feel a great atmosphere of this impressive soccer club. At the moment their nowadays talents Neymar and Ganso are preparing for the worldcup in 2014... in which takes place in Brazil by winning championships for Santos every year.
Than we have here a very nice beach, Lucky me :) Great for a walk or for a swim. The beach locations are easy to find, by the channels,numbered from 1 to 7. On this more than 10 km long beach you can find a lot of special places, like the surf school at channel 1.... the nice pier with the surf museum is also very nice to take a look. Near channel 2 you find a tiny cinema at the beach in which shows only rare and foreign movies .... there is even a library near channel 5. On the far end near channel 6 you find the sea aquarium (Aquario). Nearby this aquarium there is a place where you can rent a Kayak or Standup board for a very nice price.
On the beach it selfs try a fruitdrink from Isa (near Channel 3), or a Pastel and Caipirinha at one of those little rolling shops on wheels. In the morning you can stay for the tambourel games in which are taken place all over the beach, this sport is even invented in Santos. In the late afternoon the beach is free for beachsoccer and beachvolleybal, mostly played by the locals. But with their build-in Brazilian 'special moves' you can for sure enjoy this competitions at the sideline.
Next to the whole length of the beach you can find an impressive garden, it seams to be the longest garden of the world next to a beach... mentioned in the Guiness Book of Records. I walk here as often with my Adriana as i can. On saturday night you can find a nice market with handmade stuff and art at channel 4 inside that same garden. On this same market they also sell special snacks from all over Brazil.
The food in Santos is just incredible good. It is near the sea, so we have a lot of seafood restaurants. I did not like fish too much in Netherlands, but here i tried some and i can say that i really enjoyed the taste of it.. not too 'fischy' is my explanation. Other kinds of food can be found in almost every street , there are restaurants, bakeries and bar's al over the place. I will name some of my favourites. At channel 7 you find a nice churrascaria names Tertulia, they serve and endless loop of incredible types of meat. They never stop bringing just if you insist to stop. Than we have 2 places near channel 3, Paulistania Café ans a little bit further we have Bar Heinz, both have very good food and beer (chop). If you drive about 1 km in the direction of the 'centro comercial' by channel 3 you will find Beneditos, try there the Parmegiana. They cut the meat with 2 spoons! It is just the best i have tasted so far in Brazil. Pizza is also an amzing type of food in Brazil, and very populair. Till no the best is tasted in Santos is from Barão, located in my street where you can order a Pizza René ... yes really :)
Santos is nearby São Paulo so every weekend with a little bit of sun brings a lot of the so called 'Paulista's' to 'our' beach. They bring also their dogs, surfboards, bikes, skateboards, longboards and inline skates. Santos has bike paths in which is pretty unique in Brazil, one track next to the beach garden and several tracks thru the city what makes it very safe to bike here. I am dutch, so i am biking all the time. it stays pretty impressive if you bike thru a hague of Palm Trees. But stay focused because the people are not used to bikes too much, i have crashed into some people already :) Extreme sports likes inline skating, skateboarding and longboarding is happening all over the park side , but the best spot is the pier where they made special tracks and ramps for them.
So when you wants to visit Brazil and having doubts about Santos.. do not. It is just beautyfull, safe and there are lot's of things to do overhere. I will keep it updated with some other todo's, because there is even more. Last but not least, watch these four nice video's about Santos, they shown the best of 'my city'. It is in my plans to make a video myself about Santos, but till than you just can enjoy these:
Video Santos and some cities closeby: