This energetic coastal city has a grandiose old town, superb art museums, pristine beaches and glitzy festivals, which celebrate its Afro-Brazilian roots.
Spread over cliffs on Brazil’s central-eastern coastline, Salvador (officially Salvador de Bahía) is a city with a magnificent setting combined with an exciting, energetic atmosphere. Explore a picture-perfect historic center, visit eclectic art galleries, relax at beach suburbs and be part of flamboyant festivals. Founded by the Portuguese in 1549, Salvador was Brazil’s capital for over 200 years. Today, it’s the spiritual home of the country’s Afro-Brazilian culture.
Start your visit in the UNESCO-protected Historic Center, which is laden with colorful colonial mansions and African and Amerindian-influenced architecture. At its heart is Pelourinho, a district dominated by 17th- and 18th-century churches. Among these are Our Lady of the Rosary of Black People and São Francisco Church and Convent of Salvador.
Admire the Cathedral of Salvador, browse artisan stalls and watch capoeira performers at the architecturally impressive Terreiro de Jesus square. Find over 200 handicraft shops and sample typical Bahía cuisine, such as acarajé (spiced beans deep fried in palm oil), at Mercado Modelo.
Art lovers are spoiled for choice at Salvador’s galleries and museums. Make time for the Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Sacred Art and Museum of Street Art of Salvador. Learn about Brazil’s close ties with African traditions at the Afro-Brazilian Museum.
Miles of beautiful beaches run around the coastline. Much of this is connected by a waterfront promenade. Popular spots include Farol da Barra Beach and Porto da Barra Beach in the neighborhood of Barra, where you’ll find a busy nightlife scene. Catch a boat to the tropical islands of Ilha de Itaparica and Ilha dos Frades.
Be sure to spend some time in the city’s parks. Parque Costa Azul and Parque Metropolitano de Pituaçu are just a 30-minute drive from the city center. Attend a soccer match or concert at Fonte Nova Stadium.
Reach Salvador by flying to Salvador-Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport. Get around Salvador’s Historic Center on foot and use the metro and public buses to access areas outside of here. Consistently mild temperatures make Salvador a year-round destination. Come in early December for the National Samba Day and stay until February or March for the extravagant Salvador Carnival.