Attractions in Salvador
Palacio Rio Branco
In the middle of Cidade Alta’s magnificent Praca Tomé de Souza square you will find this magnificent old palace, built in 1549 for Salvador’s first Governor Tomé de Souza. It’s now turned into a great museum, and if you ask the museum guards to let you out on the balconies, you have Salvador’s best views of Baía de Todos os Santos.
Barra Lighthouse (Farol da Barra)
Located on Salvador’s southern tip, this 37-meter-high lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse dates from the late 1600s, and was the first of its kind on the entire American continent. You can’t go up into the tower itself, but on the terrace below is a small cafe where you can get a cafezinho or ice-cold cerveja to enjoy in the strong wind as the sun sets over Itaparica Island. Here you will also find Salvador’s Maritime Museum, which is open every day except Mondays from 10am. 0900 to 1900.
Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra
Bahia’s oldest fortress is Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra, which was built in 1598. It is right next to the lighthouse and the Maritime Museum at the tip of the peninsula.
Igreja de Sao Francisco
Among Salvador’s 365 churches, this is possibly the most beautiful. It is built in Baroque style, and the facade is covered with blue and yellow tiles. The large inner garden is peaceful and beautiful, while the interior is richly decorated with gold and silver. Notice that some of the angelic figures on the pages are incredibly ugly or endowed with enormous genitals, a silent protest from the slaves who were set to make the figures.
Igreja de Sao Francisco is located in Cruzeiro de Sao Francisco in Pelourinho and is open every day from. 0730 to 1200 and from 7 p.m. 14.00 to 1800 except Sundays.
Praca Castro Alves
This is an incredibly beautiful square, named after the famous local poet Castro Alves (1847-1871), who used to perform his dedicated poems against the slave trade right here. The statue of Alves forms a silhouette against a beautiful sunset on a bright red sky, if you come here in due time.
Museu de Arte Moderna
If modern art is for you, take a taxi to the old sugar plantation Sola do Unhão, where you will find a modern art gallery and a restaurant. There is free admission and the gallery is open every day except Mondays. Opening hours vary, but are usually between 6 p.m. 1300 and 2100.
Igreja do Senhor de Bomfim
North of the center you will find this magnificent church from 1745, which is known for its healing powers. This is the most important building in Salvador for virtually all religions, and on the second Thursday in January, everyone goes to Bomfim to wash the stairs, pray for luck, blessing and protection. Here you will get a small bracelet of fabric that will fulfill three desires if you keep it on until it falls off by itself. The Bombay Church is open every day except Mondays from dawn to 2 p.m. 1200 and from. 1400 to 1800.
MAS – Museu de Arte Sacra da Universidade Federal da Bahia The
Bahia State University Museum of Religious Art is an amazing museum that is remarkably little visited. It is located in a former 17th century monastery, and free concerts are held every month. Just the fact that the museum is partially built and run by rehabilitated homeless street children should be a good argument for a visit.
MAS is located in Rua do Sodre, the parallel street of Avenida Carlos Gomes. More information in Portuguese and pictures on the website. Open Monday to Friday at. 1130 to 1700. Entrance fees are a few tikrons.
Tourist in Salvador
The center of Salvador is not big and it is a pleasure to stroll around on your own and discover everything the city has to offer for a tourist.
For example, if you feel safer with a guide and want information on what you see and the history behind the buildings, contact Brazilnuts, which offers private tours from three hours to full day, with English-language guides.
Day 1 in Salvador
You can spend your first day in Salvador in full in the historic district of Pelourinho. Brazilians are not morning birds, so bring a late breakfast at the hotel before heading to Largo de Pelhourinho, with its cobbled alleys and hills. Here you can stroll around and look at colorful colonial houses and the many Baroque churches of Salvador, and sit on the outdoor seating for a refreshing cerveja, caipirinha or café whenever you feel like it. It is also an idea to visit the Bahiatursa State Tourist Office in Rua Francisco Muniz Barreto 12.
Head into Salvador’s City Museum and bring with you the golden church of Ingreja São Francisco and the equally magnificent Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos, built for and by the slaves. You will also find several nice small shops and cafes here. Gradually you can pull a little southwest.
In the middle of Cidade Alta’s magnificent Praca Tomé de Souza square you will find the magnificent old palace Palácio Rio Branco, built in 1549 for the city’s first Governor Tomé de Souza. The building has now been transformed into a great museum, and if you ask the museum guards to let you out on the balconies, you have Salvador’s best view of Baía de Todos os Santos.
Take the large elevator Lacerda down to Cidade Baixa, the lower quarter. The elevator brings you 85 meters straight down in about 15 seconds. In front of the large indoor market Mercado Modelo, fresh fish, lobster and crabs are sold, as well as vegetables, fruits and flowers. Inside the Mercado Modelo you will find most of the souvenirs from crafts and t-shirts (long-sleeved shirts are almost impossible to find in Brazil) to postcards and CDs. Most are aimed at tourists, so don’t accept any price you get served.
In the evening, try real Bahia cuisine at one of Salvador’s many restaurants, such as Restaurante O Picuí in Barra, before it’s time to embark on the city’s rhythmically vibrant nightlife in Pelhourinho. If it’s Tuesday, Salvador’s premier outdoor day, or Sunday, Olodum or Filhos de Gandy is playing somewhere in Pelourinho, and you should definitely not miss it.
Day 2 in Salvador
After another late breakfast, you might want to spend a few hours sunbathing and swimming on the nearest beach, such as Praia do Porto da Barra ? Or maybe you want to take a closer look at the cultural sights of the Museu de Arte Sacra, the country’s second largest museum of religious art? If it is Sunday, it is still very quiet and crowded in Cidade Baixa and Pelourinho, as most have been up and partying and dancing till night.
However, you should take a taxi or bus to Salvador’s most famous church, Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, located just north of downtown. It was built in 1745 and is known for its healing powers. This is the most important building in Salvador for virtually all religions, and on the second Thursday in January, everyone goes to Bomfim to wash the stairs, pray for luck, blessing and protection. Here you will get a small bracelet of fabric that will fulfill three desires if you keep it on until it falls off by itself. The Bombay Church is open every day except Mondays from dawn to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00.
In the afternoon it is an idea to be in Barra again. Find a spot by the lighthouse on the south end of the beach where you can sit with a cold drink and watch the sun sink into the sea. Afterwards, stroll back along the beach and dine at one of Barra’s many restaurants along the boardwalk. If you are still healthy and alert and in good shape, there is always life and touch in Pelourinho.