Salvador Travel Guide
While Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are Brazil’s highest-profile cities, it was the city of Salvador that had the honor of becoming one of the first cities that was established in the New World.
Its history may have revolved around the shameful industry that was the slave trade, but it has left a cultural legacy, as this city is home to the largest population of Afro-Brazilians in the country.
What’s more, the people of this town know how to have a good time, and there is no better proof of this than the fact that they are home to the liveliest and largest Carnival in the world.
Whether you come here to party or to explore its history, Salvador deserves a solid place on your Brazil travel itinerary.
Begin your cultural tour of Salvador by swinging by the São Francisco Church and Convent. Located in the heart of the old city, the intricate interior designs of this Baroque style Church will prove to be a highlight of this part of town.
Culturally minded and Christian tourists will be enthralled by the insane level of detail put into the woodwork and stone sculptures located within.
If you would rather admire an attraction that containing art from the current century, then taking a cab to the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia will provide you a way to escape the tropical heat of Salvador and bear witness to the best modern art that can be found in Northern Brazil.
There are also a number of pieces that have been sourced from modern artists from elsewhere in the world, and there are a number of workshops that help artistically minded locals reach their creative potential that occur on a regular basis.
Despite what the first two attractions have to offer, most culture vultures make their way to this city in order to participate in the Salvador Carnival.
This festival is known for being the biggest party of its kind in the world, eclipsing what can be found in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, USA.
Officially, this event takes place over the six days leading up to Ash Wednesday, but over the years, partiers have begun to show up earlier and earlier, which has led to events being planned more than the week and a half before the beginning of Lent.
During the six day peak stretch though, the streets are jam-packed with parties and parades for 16 hours, and during the other eight hours, there are countless people on the streets living it up anyway, so don’t plan on sleeping much (bring earplugs for when you do plan to get a little shut-eye).
Another key attraction for visitors to Salvador is its Old Town. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this is the center of the first major city that the Portuguese established in Brazil.
While Brasilia is the present day capital of the country, Salvador was the political center for many centuries, and it shows in the diversity of colonial architecture found throughout the old part of town.
Throughout this part of Salvador, there are countless restaurants, bars, boutiques and other attractions that will keep you busy and buying, so be sure to dedicate an entire day to just this part of town.
Given its location in Bahia, the tropical heat will likely have you craving the beach at some point in your visit.
Looking for an urban beach? Praia Porto da Barra will be where you want to go. The water is calm and warm, but the sands are very busy, so if you are claustrophobic, this might not be the best place for you.
If you are looking forward to sitting back in your sun lounger and calling out to a vendor for food and drink though, welcome home.
Count yourself in the former category? Then taking a boat to Ilha dos Frades (a 6 kilometer long island in Salvador’s harbor) will be a better strategy, as the beaches found on this island are considerably less crowded than what can be found back in the city.
Additionally, there is a small but picturesque church that can be found here, which will give cultural travelers something to check out before rolling out their towel on the beach.