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Brazil’s Santos is a Sun-Soaked Paradise


[SPONSORED CONTENT] A Sun-soaked paradise, the city of Santos is known for its football pedigree, as well as the sea, sand and samba.

Published on Apr 11, 2019

 

IT'S SOMEHOW fitting that the young Edson Arantes do Nascimento got his big break in Santos. Pele, for it was he, signed his first professional contract with the city's biggest football club at the age of 15 and spent an incredible 19 seasons at the Estadio Vila Belmiro. Throughout this period, the forward built his reputation as one of the world's greatest players, starring for both club and country.

Pele did more than build his own legend in the beachside city. He also helped promote the concept of o jogo bonito (the beautiful game) during an era when Brazil's free-flowing performances in international competition seemed to effortlessly channel the carefree spirit of sun, sea, sand and samba.

It's no surprise that this dynamic style of football was nurtured in Santos. A sun-soaked paradise with passion and soul, the city exudes charisma. Although it is only an hour or so from Sao Paolo, Brazil's vibrant commercial center, Santos has more in common with Rio de Janeiro, 500 kilometers to the northeast.

Santos Cathedral.
Santos Cathedral.

 

 HEAD TO THE SEASIDE 

As in Rio, life in Santos is very much built around the ocean. One of the oldest settlements in Brazil, Santos was founded in 1546. Its fame grew, and by the turn of the 20th century it was established as one of the nation's most important and wealthiest ports, cargo ships laden with export goods, notably coffee, spearing out of its canals and harbor to markets all over the world.

Even today, this port is the largest in Latin America. Visitors though come more for the city's rich heritage and architecture, its picture postcard setting and—most of all—the incredible beach culture. In Santos, the golden, surf-pounded sand serves as a multi-purpose social hub.

It's a catwalk for beautiful people, a gathering spot for families and friends and a testing ground for volleyball players and football stars, eager to follow in the footsteps of the city's favorite adopted son.

With around 17 kilometers of sand to play with, it's easy to find a choice spot. Even better, the Sheraton Santos Hotel is about two blocks from Embare Beach, a popular stretch of coastline.

Sheraton Santos Hotel.
Sheraton Santos Hotel.

This cozy relationship with the sea is further consummated in a dining scene that goes big on delicious fresh seafood. For stunning marine fare in a deceptively simple setting, head for Porta do Sol in the historic center. Wash down a mocequa (Brazilian seafood stew) with lashings of fruity sangria.

The tang of the Atlantic hangs tantalizingly in the air at an enviable selection of outdoor bars and venues where live bands and DJs major in everything from rollicking baile funk to sensuous samba.

Some of the best entertainment options can be found just in front of Santos Shore and Gardens, which at around seven kilometers long, ranks as one of the largest of its kind in the world. While nearby venues come alive at night, the garden—with its 815 flower beds and extensive cycle paths—is best enjoyed when the sun is golden in the sky.

Offshore, things are equally spellbinding at the Laje de Santos State Marine Park (lajedesantos.com/site/). Located some 45 kilometers from the mainland, the marine park, which is centered around the barren islet of Laje de Santos, offers some of the best underwater action in the state of Sao Paolo. Turtles, manta rays and dolphins are plentiful with visibility of up to 35 meters on good days.

Laje de Santos State Marine Park.
Laje de Santos State Marine Park.

 

 BACK ON DRY LAND 

Equally stunning and more accessible for landlubbers is the funicular ride to the church of Montserrat. While the church itself is not particularly special, the views over the city and its shimmering bay are worth making the journey for.

Another unmissable ride is the one offered on the city's famous Tourist Streetcars. Departing from Valongo station—built in 1867 for the first railroad in Sao Paolo state—the streetcars travel for five kilometers through the historic center. The route passes by top heritage sites such as the Carmo Covent Complex, two conjoined churches considered two of the oldest examples of Brazilian baroque, the Andrada Pantheon, the resting place of the ashes of Brazil's "father of independence" Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, and Santos Cathedral.

Tourist Streetcars Santos.
Tourist Streetcars Santos.

If you don't manage to hitch a ride on the special Pele streetcar—a 1920s tram adorned with imagery of the star painted by local artists Leandro Shesko—the best place to pay homage to the player (and Brazilian soccer in general) is at the Pele Museum.

In addtion to audio-visual footage of some of his greatest moments, the impressive museum has a collection of more than 2,400 items amassed during the player's lifetime. These range from a shoe-shine box he used to collect money during his impoverished childhood to his player of the tournament award from the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, regarded by many as a high-water mark in the sport that is yet to be surpassed.

Kicking about at the Pele Museum.
Kicking about at the Pele Museum.

 

Sheraton Santos Hotel.

 

 

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Laje de Santos State Marine Park.
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