Santarém  has very few actual attractions. The town’s only museum is the Centro Cultural João Fona (Praça Barão de Santarém, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.–Fri.). Housed in a handsome canary yellow 19th-century mansion, the small, but very interesting collection provides an insightful look at Santarém’s history and culture.
Apart from some beautiful pieces of Tapajoara pottery dating back 5,000 years, there are recent examples of indigenous art as well as paintings that portray the town and river during colonial times. Otherwise, the most compelling thing you can do in Santarém is simply wander around soaking up the atmosphere of an Amazonian port town. The constant bustle of boats coming and going and passengers boarding and disembarking is quite a fascinating spectacle.
For a pleasant stroll along the river, start at the Praça Matriz, site of the town’s oldest church, the 18th-century Igreja Matriz da Nossa Senhora da Conceição. From here, head west along the main waterfront drag, Avenida Tapajós, towards the gigantic eyesore that houses U.S.-based Cargill’s soybean processing plant.
Along the way, stop to check out the action and produce at the Mercado Municipal, where you’ll see a dazzling array of fish as well as a local delicacy, the very tiny local shrimp called aviu. For an excellent view of the meeting of the Rio Tapajós and the Rio Amazonas (which run together side by side for several kilometers) climb the hill that rises up from the waterfront to the Mirante do Tapajós.