Things I Have Learned In Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” Anita Desai
Salvador de Bahia was the first capital of the Portuguese Empire and currently is the third most populated city in Brazil. This city is full of life, culture and music.
It was one of the largest slave ports on the new continent and now has the largest black population outside of Africa.
Daily life still has a very strong African influence – from food, music, religion (the Yoruba derived system of Candomblé) and martial arts (Capoeira).
Pelourinho is the old town of Salvador now a UNESCO World Heritage site and major tourist attraction in Bahia and Brazil.
The famous district of Pelô, as they call it is one of the best preserved colonial settlements in all South America.
Its cobbled streets and colorful houses will impress you as you step into this place full of tradition and history. This is where we spent most of our time. Everywhere there is art, sound and music.
Casa De Amarelindo is a beautiful boutique hotel in a restored nineteenth century building in the old city. The staff are extremely helpful and always smiling.
The restaurant is beautiful and the breakfasts are amazing. Their attention to detail for each guest is outstanding. The double paned glass blocks out the noise of the city and views of the Bay Of All Saints are beautiful.
Julia our guide recommended that we spend our first night at the Ballé Folklorico which is a one hour show from eight to nine PM in the Miguel Santana Theater in Pelourinho, a block from the hotel. The theatre is simple and inexpensive and reminded me of a theatre outside Havana. The first part of the show is a good introduction to a Candomblé ceremony. In the second part they introduce the capoeira, ‘makulelé’ and ‘samba de roda’ dance. There is something very special about this performance and it should not be missed.
The Elevador Lacerda is the most representative Art Decó icon in the city . Built in 1873 to connect the low neighborhood with the high neighborhood, it was the first urban elevator in the world.
The ride costs only a few cents and leaves you in front of Mercado Modelo in the lower part of the city. This market had been Salvador’s former Customs House and “storage” area for slaves not yet auctioned off. Today, it’s a place to buy souvenirs, check out the architecture and feel the past.
Feiria De Sao Joaquim is an authentic local market near the port.
Vendors come from all around. Smells, colors, sounds and chaotic movement makes this crazy and authentic market a great place to shop.
You should probably go with a local.
The prices are very cheap- especially for tourists and every day I think of more things I should have bought . We had lunch there as well. Julia said no one will bother me because I had so many shopping bags, I was clearly not there to look.and take photos.
The city’s biggest attraction, though, is Carnival. Beginning in January, Bahia launches into a season of feasts and festivals that, over the course of six weeks, escalates into a rocking, high-decibel street party. Those who know claim that it’s better than Rio’s—that it’s the best in the world.
Safety in Salvador is tricky.. You are in the robbery capital of Brazil. If something does happen – just hand it over- your safety is the most important thing. Anything outside of the main tourist neighborhoods of Barra, Rio Vermelho and the Pelourinho is broadly considered unsafe for tourists. Our taxi driver drove through the red lights at night to avoid robberies. We were usually with a guide during the day or friends at night. But, I did see them watching if we wandered off. Don’t pull out your wallet or your cell phone without a friend watching you and definitely not in a crowd situation such as listening to music or a market. Don’t wear large jewelry or carry all your money or credit cards with you. Showing a bit of respect to all those people who don’t have as much as you do is not such a big deal and it will make your life easier. Salvador is a place worth going to in your lifetime and we were fine.