Porto Seguro’s Old Town is where the Portuguese first settled in Brazil. Wander the dusty streets, visit 16th-century churches and enjoy superb coastal views.
Journey back to the early 1500s at the Cidade Histórica (Historic Center). This open-air museum is where Pedro Álvares Cabral and his band of explorers first landed on Brazilian shores. The Cidade Histórica commands a spectacular hilltop location and marks the point where the nation’s history and culture would be changed forever. Explore the ancient colonial-style landmarks, handicraft stores and museums set around lush gardens.
At the heart of the district is the Marco do Descobrimento, a stone pillar brought from Portugal and erected to mark the newly discovered land. Step inside the peaceful Nossa Senhora da Pena Church to see the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, one of Brazil’s earliest religious icons. Browse the collection of chalices and crucifixes in the Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia Church. The Church of St. Benedict was erected by Jesuits in the mid 1500s and has a wonderful ocean vista.
A must-see while here is the Porto Seguro Museum, housed in the former building of the municipal town hall and jail. Its exhibits retell the life of the early Portuguese settlers and the indigenous tribes, who ruled the region prior to the colonial years. Go down into the museum’s basement to see where lawbreakers were once imprisoned.
Peek inside the rows of well-preserved colonial houses, some of which are home to souvenir shops selling Bahian crafts and clothes. Purchase a colorful fita (good luck wristband) and attach it to the fence in front of the Porto Seguro Lighthouse. Watch capoeira martial arts and traditional Bahian dance performances at the ruins of a Jesuit school.
Reach this attraction by following an uphill path for about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Porto Seguro’s city center. Alternatively, taxis are readily available. There’s a large car park at the entrance to the district.
The Cidade Histórica is open daily. Knowledgeable unofficial guides offer tours of the buildings. Be sure to negotiate a price if you wish to use their services. The museum has an admission fee. Donations are welcome at the churches.