Explore Salvador, Brazil
Explore Salvador the capital of the state of Bahia, Brazil. With a charming Old Town (a World Heritage Site), a vibrant musical scene and popular Carnival celebrations, it is considered one of the birthplaces of Brazilian culture.
Founded in 1549, Salvador was the capital in the heyday of the slave trade. The legacy remains today in its large Afro-Brazilian population, and the resulting culture in many ways outshines the rest of Brazil. It’s a vibrant, exciting city, and its people are quite friendly.
The city is the third largest in Brazil, sprawling for dozens of kilometers inland from the coast. Most visitors head for the coastal neighborhoods that cluster around where the bay meets the ocean. Salvador has a tropical climate including rainforests and lush vegetation.
There are many beach districts that stretch from the tip of the peninsula northeast along the Atlantic coast. The Barra neighborhood at the tip of the peninsula is the main alternative jumping-off point to Pelourinho, and a little further to the northeast are the hip neighborhoods of Rio Vermelho and Amaralina, which feature a nightlife less geared to the foreign tourism industry. A decent bus ride beyond these is the neighborhood of Itapuã, which has energetic beach side nightlife and relatively few foreign visitors. Northward from there are kilometers and kilometers of gorgeous beaches, all accessible by bus.
The bayshore coast north beyond Pelourinho features a more tranquil atmosphere and a locally patronized, though less scenic, beach life. The interior of Salvador is where the “new city” has developed, full of residential neighborhoods, shopping megaplexes, and knotted highways, all of which can be quite alienating without actually having a friend to show you around.
Local residents enjoy sharing their exotic dancing and music skills with tourists. Residents are also considered some of the friendliest people on the planet. Tourists are welcomed with open and friendly arms by the majority of local residents.
People of Salvador, as other people from the state of Bahia, have a reputation of being relaxed, easygoing, and fun-loving, even by Brazilian standards. On the bad side, this is also interpreted as laziness and disgust of working; in a way, people of Salvador have reputation opposite to people from São Paulo. It’s questionable whether this reputation is true, as the behavior of pedestrians and drivers in traffic seems to contradict this.
There are a number of transportation options available in Salvador, including taxis, buses and car rentals. The bus fares are quite affordable, although the taxi fares can be quite expensive if one is traveling a long distance.
What to do in Salvador, Brazil
You’ll find a huge variety of things to do in Salvador. Some of the popular activities include:
- Day tour of Salvador
- Salvador Parks
- Salvador golf courses
- Salvador music festivals
- Surf trips
Salvador, 500 years in 1 day (Visit Salvador, back to the African and colonial roots of Brazil). A historic visit, off the beaten tracks, to discover the most interesting places in Salvador, linked to over 500 years of culture, meeting with Salvadorians and their real every-day-life. A good Brazil tour guide in Salvador will be able to show you around lots of the attractions and activities if you want to explore the city and it’s surroundings safely with a local. A good option to get a general idea and find your way around in the city is the “Salvador Bus”, an open-top tour bus passing by the main points of interest and offering explanation on the way.
For alternative crowd there is a free walking tour running in the city starting from Cinema Glauber Rocha on Castro Alves square
One of the main attractions in Salvador is the carnival. Salvador’s giant Carnival, the biggest of the world, according to the Guiness book of records, lasts for one week and is extremely popular with Brazilians and tourists alike. It consists of parades, live entertainment, music, dancers and vendors. The main parades follow three circuits: one in the historic center Pelourinho (with mainly traditional groups in costumes), one on Campo Grande, where most bands play samba, and in recent years the most popular one in Barra / Ondina, where modern Brazilian Axé music mixes with percussion and all kinds of rhythms and styles, and the bands parade between “Camarote” boxes on one side and the beach on the other. Options to participate are either by watching from the camarote boxes, or purchasing an “abadá” shirt to join a group that accompanies one of the bands throughout the parade. One can expect to have a lot of fun if they vacation in Salvador, Brazil during the Carnival.
Go to the beach
Visiting a Salvador beach is a highlight for many tourists. One of the main central Salvador beaches is Porto de Barra. It was originally the site of the first settlement of European newcomers to Bahia. It can get very crowded on weekends. The northeast region of Salvador concentrates most beaches with good water quality. Flamengo and Stella Maris are the most popular beaches among tourists and upper class locals. They have excellent tourist infrastructure and rough waters excellent for surfing. Jaguaribe, Piatã and Itapoã, with calmer waters, are mostly frequented by locals and can become quite crowded at weekends. They are a good option with you want to mix with the local population, but don’t bring anything besides your clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and some cash, as muggings are quite common.
The other beaches of Salvador aren’t suited for bathing, but still can be good for walking, cycling, or taking pictures. Farol da Barra has a beautiful view (especially during the sunset), but it’s difficult to walk due to the rocks. “Farol” means lighthouse, and this beach is known for its lighthouse as well as being popular with surfers. A much safer choice is nearby Plakaford. Here the calm waters and soft sandy beaches are welcoming for families and children. In the city south, there is an array of beautiful beaches that include Tinhare and Boipeba.
What to buy
Salvador shopping is the bargain hunters paradise. There is nothing that you cannot find in a mall. If you plan to buy popular art, crafts and clothing, check the small stores at the Old Town or head to the Mercado Modelo (Model Market). Locals like to shop at American-style shopping malls.
- Shopping da Bahia (formerly Shopping Iguatemi)
- Salvador Shopping
- Shopping Barra
- Shopping Itaigara
- Shopping Center Lapa
- Shopping Piedade
- Bahia Outlet Center
- Salvador Norte Shopping
- Shopping Bela Vista
The first thing that anyone wanting to shop in Salvador should know is that it is essential to barter. Very few vendors will stick to their given price. If pushed they will always go lower. If you want local art you should visit Pelourhino. There are many galleries that double as stores.
What to eat
Bahian restaurants are considered to be among the best in Brazil. The majority of Bahia restaurants offer South American cuisine but there a few that offer other specialties. The Terreiro de Jesus is a great place to sample the local cuisine from street stalls, served by Afro-Brazilian baianas in their traditional white dresses. A must try dish is the Abara. This is a wrap with bean paste, dende oil and onions all cooked in a banana leaf with spices for flavor. If you prefer western food then you will find many fast-food places like Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway or Pizza Hut. You also will find casual dinner chains like Outback Steakhouse.
Be sure to try acarajé, small fritters made from black-eyed peas and onions fried in palm oil slathered with spicy vatapá (shrimp paste).These are sold by Baianas on the street.
- For a nice day trip, catch the ferry to the laid-back island of Itaparica. Salvador is also the gateway to many other nearby attractions such as:
- Praia do Forte. Beach town with the “Project Tamar” turtle sanctuary.
- Tiny beach town along the Costa dos Coqueiros (Coconut Coast) with quiet beaches perfect for surfing.
- Just a few kilometers further North from Praia do Forte, this relaxed village’s beach lies between the sea and a river that runs parallel to the ocean for a few hundred meters. Unique panorama.
- A beautiful and very pleasant island.
- Morro de Sao Paulo. Very frequented island by tourists and locals, plenty of restaurants, hostels and bars. It has four beaches with translucent water.
- Massarandupió. Just 90 km from Salvador, it’s a true paradise, a semi-desert beach, with a small river. Walking by the beach you can reach a nudist beach area. A few small pousadas and restaurants. Great camping on a grassy flat area behind the dunes.