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.
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.
Praça da Estrela, Lisbon, +351-21-396-0915
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.
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.
Rua Cintura do Porto de Lisboa, Armazém 1, Lisbon, +351 213 932 930
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.
Rua das Janelas Verdes, Lisbon, +351 213 912 800
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.
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.