Salvador has its own ability to get under the skin of its visitors, and many consider this as Brazil’s most beautiful city.
Salvador is one of the world’s very few mainland villages where you can both watch the sun rise and sink into the sea. Salvador in Brazil is heavily influenced by African culture, and the entire Bahia region actually has a larger percentage of colored population than most African countries. The city also counts as the origin of the original African traditions such as the dance of samba, the sport of capoeira and the religion of candomble.
The climate in Salvador is smoother and not as stiflingly hot as the more visited Rio de Janeiro, thanks to the Atlantic Ocean breeze. Although the vast majority speak English, you will still feel very welcome and taken care of in Salvador.
Get to know Salvador
Salvador is located in the Bahia region of Brazil’s northeastern coast, on a V-shaped peninsula out into the Atlantic Ocean. The city is called both Salvador, Salvador da Bahia (to differentiate from all the other Salvador places in Brazil) and often only Bahia although it is referred to as the city and not the state.
Salvador’s modern history dates back to the early 16th century when Europeans arrived, but the city itself was not founded until 1549 by Portuguese settlers. Salvador grew rapidly and became Brazil’s most important port and the country’s first capital. This lasted until Rio de Janeiro took over in 1763. At one point, Salvador was the largest city on the American continent. Today, Salvador is Brazil’s third largest city with around 2.5 million inhabitants.
Although Salvador is located on a V-shaped peninsula with oceans on two sides, it can be a bit confusing to orient yourself in the city’s central parts. This is not least due to the fact that many of the streets have several names, one official on street signs and maps, and one or more other names on the public land.
Nor does it make it easier for the center to be divided in two by a steep cliff. The lower part is called Cidade Baixa or Lower Town, and 85 meters above it lies Cidade Alta or Upper Town. Since 1873, these two boroughs have been connected to a large elevator device called the Elevador Lacerda, which daily carries over 50,000 passengers on the journey, which takes 15 seconds each way.
Cidade Baixa was traditionally the area where workers and fishermen lived, and the area is still dominated by the port and the large market Mercado Modelo. Here you will find several restaurants, souvenir shops and constant capoeira displays, but most of this is intended for tourists and their thick wallets. Cidade Baixa is also Bahia’s financial center.
Cidade Alta was the area where the colonists lived, with a great view of the bay of Baía de Todos os Santos. Here are most attractions, administration buildings, cathedrals and museums, restaurants, galleries and bars. As a tourist, it is probably Cidade Alta that you will spend the most time in.
Despite the population, you never have the impression that you are in a million town as you stroll around Centro Historico, the old historic districts of Cidade Alta. Here, the cityscape is dominated by cobblestone streets, white churches and street vendors rather than glorious neon signs and glass and steel skyscrapers. This part is called Pelourinho, and here you will find the city’s oldest architecture. Here is also Brazil’s first medical school, the country’s oldest cathedral from 1572 and over 350 churches. The entire Pelourinho is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Abbreviation: SSA
- Country: Brazil
Pelourinho can be loosely translated with “whip pile”. The name comes from this being the place where the slaves were whipped and sold. This was previously considered a dilapidated and unsafe area, but after a massive renovation around 1990, Pelourinho has re-emerged as Salvador’s liveliest entertainment area with countless night spots, restaurants, hotels and bars. And wherever you turn, there is music. It is characterized by heavy, rhythmic drums such as Banda Dida, Filhos de Gandy and Olodum, the band that accompanied Paul Simon on his Rhythm Of The Saints album and who also collaborated with Michael Jackson.
Of other neighborhoods that may be of interest to you as a tourist, we can mention Barra, which is located far south on the peninsula. Here you will find Salvador’s nearest beach, and the beach is frequented by families. At least you avoid the surfers, because there are almost no waves. At the very tip is the Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra fortress from 1598. Barra is more relaxed and modern than Cidade Alta, and you will find many good restaurants, hotels and shopping centers here.
If you want to try another beach near the city center, head to the east coast, where you’ll find Praia de Itapoan, or Itapoã, a few miles south of the airport. This beach at a relaxed little village attracts all kinds of local people, but few tourists. Here is a market, some restaurants and a few pousadas, and there is lively music and dancing on the weekends.
If you intend to visit Brazil during the February carnival, Salvador can be especially recommended. The carnival has achieved near legendary status, with four days and nights of continuous spiritual music, parades, samba, costumes and drums. Tourists get involved in the festivities to a much greater extent than in, say, Rio de Janeiro, where you often become a passive spectator.
Facts about Salvador
Salvador is considered by many to be Brazil’s most beautiful city, and something every tourist must bring. In fact, Salvador is the third largest city in Brazil (by population) and the capital of the state of Bahia.
|Population||Around 2.5 million|
|Religion||75% Roman Catholic, 15% Protestant|
|Time Difference||Salvador is 3 hours after Norway, summertime 4 hours after|
|Currency||Brazilian Real (Pronounced he-ai). Divide the Norwegian amount by three for about the price in reals, or multiply the Brazilian amount by about 2.8 to get it in NOK. Credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are accepted at major locations such as hotels and restaurants. ATMs can be difficult to find outside of the tourist spots, and close at 22:00.|
|Tips||Varies. Often included, so check the bill|
|Embassy||The Norwegian Embassy in Brazil is located in the capital, Brasilia. Address SES 807 Avenida das Nacões; Lote 28, CEP 70.418-900 Brasilia – DF. Tel: +55 61 3443 8722|
|Tourist||R ua das Laranjeiras 12 in Cidade Alta|
|Emergency||Police 190, Fire 193, Ambulances 192|
|Electricity||110 volts. Adapters are normally available in stores|
|Holidays and Holidays||January 1, three days in connection with the February Carnival, April 21 (Freedom Heroes Day), May 1, September 7 (National Day), October 12 (Nossa Senhora Aparecida), November 2 (Finados), 15. November (Republic Day)|
|Visa||Not required for Norwegian citizens|
|Vaccinations||No vaccines are required, but hepatitis vaccine is recommended|
|Water||Do not drink from the tap. You hardly get sick of it, but the taste is not good and bottled water is reasonable|
|Nearest major cities||Maceio, Ilheus, Porto Seguro|
|Safety||Crime is consistently high, and especially high during the carnival. Great care should be taken, especially after dark. Many cities have very high homicide rates in an international context. Visitors from abroad are often considered a light switch, and are exposed to pocket theft, purse seeding, robbery, credit card fraud etc. It seems that tourists are subjected to severe violence. It is recommended to bring as little money, jewelry and valuables as possible when traveling in city centers and on the beach.|
List of Salvador Acronyms
The most commonly used abbreviations about Salvador is SSA which stands for Salvador. In the following table, you can see all acronyms related to Salvador, including abbreviations for airport, city, school, port, government, and etc.