I found my way to Centro.
I’m very glad I’m not staying in Centro.
I’m a couple of blocks from the beach in the neighbourhood of Gonzaga—lucky pick, it’s one of the safe, tourist-friendly bairros. Not that I was tempted to book a Airbnb in Centro anyway. In Brazil, “Centro” invariably means “empty at night, probably not safe to walk around, use caution during daytime.”
But I’m pretty sure the Centro of Santos is where people came up with the word “dodgy.”
Granted, it was a hot and stormy day and plenty of places look vaguely menacing when the sky is grey. Besides, a historic city centre isn’t supposed to be shiny and spotless. Still, I had the feeling it wasn’t a great place to wander around aimlessly.
I didn’t have a map (yet) but I had a few sights in mind and I knew where I was going. From Gonzaga, I walked straight north until I reached the Gothic cathedral, past the many car repair shops and other small businesses.
First stop, coffee. Then the coffee museum. Oh, wait… there had to be a coffee shop at the coffee museum, right?
Santos made its wealth from coffee, exported from the port. The museum is housed in the old Bolsa Oficial de Café, the Coffee Stock Exchange, which was one of the world’s main centres for coffee trading for more than two decades. This is where the São Paulo elite fixed daily quotations of sacks of coffee in the bidding room, under the stained glass windows, while producers and exporters watched the sessions from the mezzanine. And yes, the entire museum smells of coffee.
After that, I checked out the Museu do Pelé, dedicated to Santos Futebol Clube’s famous player. There was a tourist info in front of it so I was finally able to get a paper map, but I skipped the slow tourist tram tour of the centre.
Well worth a visit… daytime only.