Salvador Travel Guide

Salvador Overview

Salvador (Portuguese: Salvador da Bahia), Brazil is the capital of Bahia state and commonly referred to as the cultural capital of Brazil – with good reason. Brazil’s northeast coast is the perfect place to work on your tan, laze in a hammock and sip fresh coconut water. Once the sun sets, tourists and locals flock to the streets and revel in the energy that is Salvador.

Nestled 1700 km north of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador features a well crafted display of drumming, dance, cuisine and folk art at every street corner with an emphasis on Afro-Brazilian heritage. The city is divided into two parts, the Lower City (Cidade Baixa) and Upper City (Cidade Alta). The Lower City is the commercial and banking centre of Salvador and houses the port with daily ferry service to Itaparica Island, 50 minutes. Hotels, restaurants and the historic Pelourinho district are located in the Upper City. An elevator and cable car connect the two zones, $ 0.15 Reais or $0.08 USD one way.
Portuguese settlers established Salvador as a major port facilitating the sugar and slave trade. Today, the colonial architecture makes for picturesque panoramas while people watching from a sidewalk cafe. The colors and sounds of the streets will keep your interest for hours and a thirst-quenching Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail of cachaça (sugarcane liquor), lime and sugar will help fight off the blazing Bahian sun.
For tourism purposes, women in traditional Bahian dress sell handicrafts and usher tourist into popular restaurants while shirtless capoeria performers demonstrate their flexibility and agility in plazas around the historic Pelourinho district. Capoeira is a fusion of martial arts and dance originating among the slaves brought to Brazil from Africa. Be sure to tip the performers if you pause to watch or take a picture. Salvador residents are known to be upfront and persistent. You risk harassment and glares if you don’t drop a few dollars.
Salvador struggles with vandalism and theft. The Pelourinho district is relatively safe at night because there is constant movement in the streets and tourist police patrol the area thoroughly. Avoid the Lower City after dark and always be discrete with cameras and jewellery.

Things to do in Salvador

The historic Pelourinho district – Other than beaches, everything you need is in the Pelourinho district. A collection of cobblestone streets where slaves were auctioned and beaten in the past. Now a tourist haven boasting fine dining and drumming circles that congregate around smoothie stands.

Mercado Modelo – This crowded tourist market is a one-stop shop for souvenirs, Salvador themed Havaiana sandals and handicrafts. Located at the base of the elevator connecting the Upper City and Lower City.
Candomblé Terreiros - Visit a Candomblé Terreiro, a house where the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé is celebrated. You are guaranteed an out-of-body experience and hours of dance, trance and hypnotic sounds. Wear respectable clothing, preferably white out of respect to the Candomblé deities. Terreiro Axé Ofá Omi is open to tourists and is centrally located at 52 Rua da Laranjeiras in the Pelourinho. Card readings, cleansings and the popular shell readings cost around $ 70 Reais or $ 40 USD per session. Free to attend ceremonies.
Capoeira and African dance lessons – Escola de Dança located on the edge of the Pelourinho offers group and private lessons in African dance and Bahian swing. Rua da Oracão, 1, Pelourinho, Salvador. Drop into the Associacão de Capoeira Mestre Bimba for a Capoeira class or show. Rua das Laranjeiras, 1, Pelourinho, Salvador. Tel. (55) 71 3322 0639
Salvador Beaches:
Porto da Barra – A short bus ride from Salvador’s lower city, Porto da Barra is blessed with crystal calm waters and a lively crowd on weekends and during Carnival. Watch your belongings.
Farol da Barra – The beach nearest the lighthouse is rocky and provides shallow waters for children. Surfers opt for the far end of the beach.
Praia do Forte – Located two hours north of Salvador, this ecological beach resort boasts natural pools, a marine turtle conservation project and postcard-perfect coastline.
Salvador Nightlife:
Quincas Berro d’Agua Plaza and the Largo do Pedro Arcanjo are plazas in the heart of the Pelourinho district lined with restaurants and bars. Live music fills the streets and beer vendors walk the streets selling local brands like Skol and Nova Schin out of coolers. Nightclubs are along the waterfront between the Lower City and Barra.
Praça do Reggae – Concert schedule changes so check often and expect to pay a small entry fee, negotiable depending on number of people in your party. Ladeiro do Pelourinho, Salvador.
Aeroclube – Otavio Mangabeira, 6000, Boca do Rio, Salvador.
Lotus – Marques de Leao, 46, Barra, Salvador. Tel. (55) 71 3264 6787
Mercado do Peixe – After-hours food stands and relaxed atmosphere for continuing the party after the Pelourinho has quieted down. Largo da Mariquita, Rio Vermelho, Salvador.

Hotels in Salvador

Budget Hotels Salvador

Hostel Cobreu In the heart of the historic Pelourinho district and features a guest-use kitchen. Ladeira do Carmo, 22, Pelourinho, Salvador. Tel. (55) 71 3117 1401
Tamboleiro Hospedaria Specializing in long term and group bookings. Rua Luiz Viana, 7, Pelourinho, Salvador. Tel. (55) 71 8853 0974
Midrange Hotels Salvador
Pousada Villa Carmo A XIX century building tastefully converted into a family run inn. Rua do Carmo, 58, Pelourinho, Salvador. Tel.(55) 71 3241 3924
Casa do Amarelindo Rua das Portas do Carmo, 6, Pelourinho, Salvador. Tel. (55) 71 3266 8550
Luxury Hotels Salvador
Club Med Itaparica Located on the beautiful Itaparica Island. Tel. (55) 71 3681 8800

Salvador Weather

Salvador Travel Resources  - good info on Carnival in Salvador


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This page was last modified on 21 Jul 2011 by Matt