The Best Things To See & Do In Santos, Lisbon

Explore the cobbled, winding streets of Lisbon
Explore the cobbled, winding streets of Lisbon | © PEC Photo / Getty Images
Valeria Nikonova

Santos, a formerly unexpressed waterside district full of tiny houses with wrought-iron balconies, was given a second life with a renovation project that began in 2005. Santos has attracted attention of architects and artists, who have established a hip community of glossy shops and cafés, the biggest of which is Lisbon’s marina. Old mansions have been re-established as luxury hotels, which blend seamlessly with the residential buildings of the 18th century, when aristocrats and noble families moved to the area. Many Santos industrial warehouses have been turned to contemporary creative and cultural hubs. This guide presents the best things to do and places to visit in Santos.

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LX Factory

Scattered across the former warehouses of the 19th century thread and fabric companies, LX Factory occupies a 23,000m² site that was transformed into a home to various start up businesses, ranging from funky restaurants to work spaces for designers and artists. LX Factory holds a Sunday flea market along the main street every week, where vendors present quirky vintage and local designer clothes, handmade jewelery, and vinyl and old school CDs. LX Factory is an island of creativity, and there is a diverse range of events related to fashion, art exhibitions, music concerts and architectural meet ups.

Witness the beauty of the Basilica da Estrela

Basilica da Estrela, Santos, Lisbon

The construction of the Estrela Basilica and the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites started under the reign of Maria I in 1885. The church was completed by architects Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and Reinaldo Manuel. The Basilica da Estrela has been considered as one of the most majestic and beautifully executed Baroque churches in the world, featuring a single nave and Latin plan in the shape of a cross. The façade of the building features a triangular fronton, with two bell towers and clocks which are decorated with small statues referring to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the middle of the interior is a high altar with the tomb of none other than Maria I, who was buried with honors in the marble crypt.

Admire the 25 de Abril Bridge

The 25 April bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril) is a steel suspension bridge located in Lisbon, Portugal, crossing the Targus river.

The 25 de Abril Bridge is a suspension bridge that connects Lisbon with the municipality of Almada on the south bank of the Tagus river. It was opened in 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999. The bridge has similar coloring and is often called the ‘sister’ of the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. There is a concrete area at the waterline, that starts from the Docas de Santo Amaro under the bridge, and goes to Belem, paralleling the Avenida Brasilia. It acts as a park for local runners, bicycle riders and residents of Santos, who like to stroll around the park until the evening lights make almost everything indistinguishable and disappear in the darkness.

Dine at Restaurant Kais

Kais is a high end restaurant, situated in the former electricity warehouse which was completely re-established, except for the brick walls and huge windows with wrought-iron elements of décor. The menu is filled with contemporary meals of Portuguese cuisine with some added notes and well thought out decoration. Its industrial ambiance is accompanied by a local jazz band, which performs for the pleasure of customers during dinner time. However, after midnight this sophisticated venue is turned into a bar and becomes filled with pop sounds. Some of Restaurant Kais’ specialities include simple lobster risotto, baked octopus tentacles with potatoes in olive oil, and sirloin steak roasted in sea salt with Café de Paris sauce.

Cemiterio dos Prazeres

Built during the Romantic period and the unfortunate epidemic of cholera in 1833, this cemetery almost exclusively consists of the private family burials and crypts. Monuments made by some of the most renowned sculptors of the 19th century stand side by side with anonymous graves. The management of the cemetery actively promotes the idea of its cultural and architectural heritage, and provides frequent thematic guided tours, including the history of the Prazeres Cemetery, the great personalities tour, the history of the funeral symbols, and the masonry and heraldry tours. This magnificent area is also a home to the largest and oldest concentration of cypress trees in the whole Iberian Peninsula.

Explore history at the National Museum of Ancient Art

It is said that the National Museum of Ancient Art has gathered the most outstanding collection of Portuguese and European art in Portugal, ranging from paintings to sculptures, silverware and decorative arts from Europe and Africa, and with works on display by Gonclaves, Bosch and Raphael. The museum was opened in 1884 and currently houses more than 40,000 unique items of artistic heritage of national and international importance. The building of the museum is an example of the simple design and decoration popular during the period of its establishment. The only decoration of the museum lies in its ornamental baroque doorways. Despite its plain external entity, the National Museum’s of Ancient Art collection is what makes it the most important Portuguese museum.

Take a boat tour from Lisbon Marina at Docas do Amaro

There are plenty of companies which offer boat trips around Lisbon’s waterline and along the River Tagus, but many of them depart from Lisbon Marina under the 25th of April Bridge. The marina itself is definitely worth a visit, even if you are not planning a boat trip, since it features a group of the 19th century warehouses converted into modern entertainment establishments. Opened in 1995, Docas de Santo Amaro has been a popular spot for a laid-back afternoon meeting or an exclusive dinner among the magnificent lights of the night marina, as well as being an unconventional area for drinks at night or throughout the day. The marina has a capacity to accommodate about 330 ships, and to walk around the area touched by the cool river breeze is a real delight.

Tapada das Necessidades

The ‘Pink Palace’ lies at the centre of Tapada das Necessidades in Lisbon

Located between the Prazeres Cemetery and the Tagus waterline, this large public park in the heart of Santos has an authentic medieval and peaceful feel about it, thanks to numerous abandoned buildings, colored in pastel pink and yellow, almost blurred paths between exotic species of flora, desiring some maintenance. Once it was home to the Royal Palace Necessidades, which was one of the most beautiful palaces in Lisbon. Tapada das Necessidades is the perfect escape if you are looking to calm your thoughts and worries. Tapada das Necessidades is a unique and almost wild peace of land among the streets of contemporary and busy Lisbon, due to the lack of facilities and maintenance. However, you can spice up your visit by bringing some food and drinks with you, and enjoy a spontaneous romantic picnic amidst the singing birds and strolling elders.

See vintage vehicles at the Carris Museum

Carris is Lisbon’s main transport line, which has been operating for more than a century and contributing to Lisbon’s immaculate operation since its establishment in 1872. The principal aim of creating a museum dedicated to the transport system was to preserve an existing collection, which consists of both historical and valuable objects. The Carris Museum offers a brilliant journey through time, which can be done by any visitor who wishes to explore the historical documents, reports, photos, uniforms, transport tickets and the trams and buses themselves.

Visit the Puppet Museum

Lisbon’s Puppet Museum is the guardian of a secret and fantastic world of incredible stories and emotions. Opened in 2001, this museum stores a great collection of puppets from around the world, with different forms of manipulation and functions. This includes an excellent and rare collection from Asia and Africa with copies of masks of an excellent quality from far away countries such as Bali, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Vietnam and China, contributed by the collector Francisco Capelo. The museum, however, places a special emphasis on the history of the Portuguese puppet scene. This museum will be a great addition to your travel guide if you are travelling with children, as kids of all ages have a quick and vivid imagination and are mesmerized by the unusual performances.

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