Bahia is the birthplace of samba and capoeira. Its heart lies in Salvador, Brazil’s 3rd largest city. African influences dominate the culture and way of life here, and can be found in the local cuisine, religions, arts, and music to name a few examples. That, in combination with the colonial architectural style of the Pelourinho district, and the laid-back and friendly atmosphere makes Salvador a one-of-its-kind destination.
Salvador is strategically built on the peninsula between Todos os Santos Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. A 100m cliff separates it in a lower and an upper section. Travelling between these two parts is often done by taking the Elevador Lacerda, one of Brazil’s most famous man-made attractions. Four lifts connect Lower and Upper Salvador, and provide great views over the Todos os Santos Bay from the top.
However, before making your way up to the historic centre, make a stop at the Mercado Modelo. This arts and crafts market is a popular attraction amongst visitors. Over 200 vendors offer locally produced art and souvenirs, as well as regional food. This all provides a good insight into the local traditions and customs of Bahia. Be prepared to engage in friendly bargaining ‘battles’ though, as sellers are known for starting with high introduction prices.
Exiting Elevador Lacerda on the Upper level takes you to one of the entry points of the Pelourinho district. This UNESCO World Heritage listed district used to be the city centre during the Portuguese colonial period, and features a wealth of historic monuments dating back to the 17th century.
One of the highlights that can’t be missed in Pelourinho is Igreja de São Francisco Church and Convent. The interior is filled with displays of wealth and splendour, including gold artwork and azulejo tile murals. Construction started in 1708 and took around 15 years to complete. Details were added throughout the 18th century which now makes it an incredible sight.
Pelourinho is not only a treasure chest when it comes to architecture – although the pastel coloured buildings do make it almost picture perfect – it’s also a hub for shopping, eating and drinking, music and art. It’s highly likely that you’ll encounter a samba or capoeira show on its streets, or come across art in all shapes and forms in galleries, local shops and museums. With our half day walking tour you really get a good chance to experience the area, and see the contrast between the Upper and the Lower parts of the city.
In the evening, the promenade at Porta da Barra Beach is a great place to unwind, with numerous of restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from. Alternatively, walk to Brazil’s oldest lighthouse, Barra Lighthouse, for incredible bay- and sunset views.