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Salvador da Bahia

The capital of Afro-Brazilian culture, experience the sights and sounds of Salvador...

The capital of Bahia state, Salvador, is one of Brazil’s most vibrant and colourful cities. The country’s first capital and an entry point for slave ships from Africa, Salvador da Bahia played a key part in the history and development of Brazil. The ruins of this diverse history include 15 forts, 166 Catholic churches and 1000 candomblé temples. Although Salvador has long ceased to be the economic and political capital of Brazil, it has retained its rich colonial architecture and continues to be the cradle of African cultural heritage within Brazil.

With up to 80% of the population being of African origin, Salvador holds the title of being the most African city in the Western Hemisphere. This is reflected in the tales of the Orixá spirit gods and goddesses, the constant rhythms of drum troupe orchestras in the streets, in the martial art ballet of capoeira and the rich, spicy food characteristic of Bahían cuisine.

Set in a privileged location in the world’s largest tropical bay, the Baia de Todos os Santos, the city has developed from the original cliff-top district of Pelourinho, established by the Portuguese in the 1500s, to incorporate the lower beachfront districts and the surrounding hills. The ‘Pelourinho’ of the ‘Cidade Alta’, which takes its name from the whipping post where African slaves used to be auctioned off and punished by their Brazilian-Portuguese masters, is the main point of interest for tourists visiting Salvador. Here, an entire 2km stretch between the Praça Municipal in the south and the Carmelite churches to the north is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its steep, windy, cobbled streets and pastel-coloured squares hold a mixture of restaurants, museums, cultural centres, African-Brazilian monuments and some of the finest baroque churches in Brazil and South America, including the gold-laden São Francisco Church and Convent.

To see more of modern Salvador, it is necessary to head out to the ‘Cidade Baixa’ and the districts of Campo Grande, Barra and Rio Vermelho, which border the Atlantic coast. Upper-class Campo Grande is full of wide shady avenues, museums and theatres, meanwhile Barra boasts one of the best inner-city beaches with a wide beachfront promenade and lots of cafes, restaurants and bars. Rio Vermelho, which also overlooks the coast, is the most bohemian district of the city. Home to artists and musicians, it has plenty of restaurants, bars and live music venues and is a good area for those looking for some nightlife for the evenings.

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    At a glance…Salvador da Bahia

  • Size: 2.6 million
  • Location: North Eastern Brazil
  • Recommended time: 2 to 4 nights
  • Time to visit: September to April
  • Go here for: Culture and beaches
  • Further reading...

  • › When to go
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  • › What to do in Salvador
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