Salvador Bahia in Brazil - Abbey Travel - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Salvador da Bahia

Salvador da Bahia

Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, is a magical and sensual world all of its own, and one of Brazil’s most privileged cities with a luxurious tropical atmosphere, friendly people, and rich cultural heritage. Founded in 1549, Salvador was Brazil’s capital until 1763. Impressions of its past can be gained in the UNESCO-protected old city, known as Pelourinho. Be sure to visit Salvador’s Baroque churches; Bonfim, the most popular in all Brazil, and Sao Francisco Chapel, whose interior is literally covered with tons of gold! Afro-Brazilian religious cults are widespread through Bahia, particularly “Candomble”. The influence of popular culture is also found in the tasty cooking, exotic local customs and festivals, and religious celebrations. Visit the colourful street markets where you can buy handicrafts, and taste the spicy foods and local fruit. The sun and sea breeze keep Salvador’s yearly average temperature at 27ºc, and along the coast you have a great choice of wide, peaceful beaches, surrounded by rich tropical vegetation. You’ll be dazzled by the colourful street scene, and charmed by the friendly, out-going people. Relax and have fun, and discover a new world!

The spicy atmosphere of this delightfully decadent city is best soaked up on foot, within the narrow streets and in the markets, the best of which is the Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums. One of the city's more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda, an Art Deco structure housing old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of the town, on the hill.

The only thing wrong with Salvador's excellent beaches is that visitors are spoilt for choice. The range extends from calm coves (ideal for swimming, sailing and underwater fishing, such as Porto da Barra beach) to wild beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean, such as Aleluia beach, which attracts surfers. Some beaches are surrounded by coral reefs, forming natural swimming pools that are ideal for children. The beaches are the location for many of Salvador's great festivals, including the New Year festivities, which include performances and an impressive fireworks display.

Salvador is Brazil's most Africanised state, a result of the thousands of slaves that were brought here 400 years ago to work in the sugarcane plantations, and there is even a museum, the Museu Afro-Brasileira, which is dedicated to Black culture. The fusion of African and Latin cultures had given Salvador a unique brand of magic that is particularly evident at city's many festivals, most notably the massive 'Carnaval' in mid-November which attracts two million revellers from all over the world and is said to rival the famous Rio Carnaval.

Information & Facts


Salvador da Bahia experiences a humid tropical climate with average year round daily highs reaching 77°F (25°C). The coldest months are June through August when temperatures are at their lowest with an average of 70°F (21°C) while the warmest months stretch from December through February with average daytime highs reaching 86°F (30°C). The rainy season is typically May through August.


The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however Spanish and English are also used in the cities.


The Brazilian monetary unit is the real (BRL), plural reais. There are 100 centavos to the real. The US dollar is also welcome in most tourist establishments. In the main cities foreign currencies and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks or cambios. There is an extensive network of ATMs in the country and most major international credit cards are accepted.


Shopping in Salvador do Bahia is more limited than other major Brazilian cities like Rio or Sao Paulo, but if you look hard you'll find some treasures in this artistic and creative city. Some of the best Salvador souvenirs are beautiful handicrafts and art made by the locals.

There is a vibrant art scene in Salvador, and you can find a selection of local work at places like Portal das Artes or the many galleries around Largo do Pelourinho; or a variety of hand-crafted items made by indigenous people like the Pataxós, Tikuna, Caipós, and Yanomami at the state-run Instituto de Artesanato Visconde de Mauá, or the craft shop Kembo. The non-profit Projeto Axé sells locally-made clothing, and the profits go toward a fund for street children.

Salvador also has a few shopping malls, like the beachfront Aeroclube Plaza with its movie theatres, restaurants, live music venues, and the only bowling alley in Salvador. Another good local mall is Barra, which is conveniently located near the centre of town. Barra has outlets of some of Brazil's major stores along with independent boutiques, and a selection of movie theatres and restaurants.

You can always bargain in Salvador, especially at markets and independent stores. Most stores and boutiques will accept credit cards, but you'll need cash at the markets.


Salvador de Bahia is on old city rich in cultural history, and that is evident in its beautiful architecture. In the historic district, also known as Pelourinho or the Cidade Alta, there are many photogenic buildings dating back to the 17th century. There are over a thousand sacred houses in Salvador, including churches like the Cathedral of Salvador, the Church of Nossa Senora do Rosário dos Pretos, and the Convent and Church of Sao Francisco. Another building worth seeing is the donut-shaped São Marcelo Fort, built in the 17th century.

There is much to see and do in Salvador, as the inhabitants know how to have a good time. One of the main reasons to visit Salvador is the city's continuous line-up of festivals and celebrations, dozens of which fill the calendar with music, dance and parties. The Mercado Modelo is the city's bustling market area, with arts and crafts stalls, and a variety of restaurants and bars.

Salvador's beaches are fantastic, with natural variations that mean there's something for everyone to do. Porto da Barra is a popular beach for swimming, as it faces the bay and the waters are calm; Farol da Barra has a number of rocky pools great for kids to play in. Farol de Itapoan has strong currents suited to experienced swimmers and surfers, while Flamengo is scenic and has a few fun barracas, or beach bars. You can also visit Projeto Tamar, which is a sea turtle conservation project at Praia do Forte.

You can get spectacular views from Farol de Barra, a lighthouse at the point of the city where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of All Saints. You won't be able to see the city, but crowds form every night to watch the sun set from this amazing vantage point. You can get a better view of the city itself from Forte de Monte Serrat, or at one of the two restaurants at the top of the Mercado Modelo.


Brazil spans four time zones: Rio and Sao Paulo: GMT -2 (GMT -3 April to October); Brasilia and Belm: GMT -3 (GMT -2 October to March); GMT -4 in the West.

The São Francisco Church and Convent - a high-baroque cathedral, located in downtown Salvador - quite simply, has to be seen to be believed. Funded by the sugar barons of the area, and built between 1708 and 1723, the cathedral's interior is literally plastered with gold - over 100 kilograms of it, mainly in the form of sculptured gilt woodwork; while precious stones and Sistine Chapel-like paintings adorn the ceiling, and elaborate gables, volutes and curlicues round out the baronial look. Best viewed in the evening, when - as the daylight dies - the cathedral begins to glow, the São Francisco Church and Convent is one of the most important examples of what is known as 'churrigueresque architecture' in the whole of Brazil, and should not be missed. Allow at least an hour to fully absorb the cathedral's considerable splendour.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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