Salvador, the capital of Bahia, today has about 2.6 million inhabitants and is the third largest city in Brazil after Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Founded in 1530, Salvador was the first capital of Brazil. Nowhere is the Afro-Brazilian cultural scene more alive than in Bahia – African religions (Candomblé), pulsating rhythms and a distinct love of life mix here into a colorful and energetic cocktail. Bahia is the home of the folk festival, especially known for its hot carnival days, which draw both “Bahianos” and “Gringos” like magnets to the streets for a veritable dance orgy. The nearby beaches, some of which are very beautiful, provide an ideal setting for those seeking relaxation. The extremely worth seeing old town with the Pelourinho has been a world cultural heritage site since 1985.
Tip 1: Pelourinho
The city of Salvador da Bahia was Brazil’s capital until 1815 and had a large port as a transhipment point for gold, sugar and diamonds. This gave it the historic upper town and old town Pelourinho, which today can be reached by elevator or via very steep streets. The many colonial buildings are magnificent witnesses of Salvador’s colonial history. One artfully built residential house stands next to the other. In between are baroque churches with lavish decorations of gold and beautiful squares.
In 1990, with the help of UNESCO, the city lavishly restored some of the buildings in the Pelourinho district to their former glory. The district has held the title of World Heritage Site since 1985, as it has an excellently preserved collection of 17th and 18th century colonial architecture within South America.
The elaborately built churches in the old town Pelourinho inspire with a sophisticated charm. Right next to the cathedral, it is worth visiting the Afro-Brazilian museum, where the history of the Brazilian slaves is illustrated. The museum also points out that the Pelourinho neighborhood was the site of the slave market until 1835. Men and women brought from Africa to Brazil by ships were offered there as merchandise.
After the slave trade lost its importance and was finally abolished, more and more artists and musicians settled in the neighborhood. It is an impressive experience to stroll through the cobbled alleys and streets of the historic Pelourinho district. Restaurants, cafes and cabaret markets have taken up residence in some of the pastel-colored houses. There’s something to see everywhere and loud, Latin music blaring from the quaint bars. It is a cheerful, exuberant atmosphere that captivates everyone.
Tip 2: Elevador Lacerda
Salvador is a special city, because it was built on different levels. Thus, the city consists of a cidade alte, an upper city, and a cidade baixa, a lower city 72m further down. The Lacerda elevator provides a link between the upper and lower city. In less than half a minute, one can overcome a height difference of more than 70m. The Elevador Lacerda is a practical and cheap means of transportation and is used by thousands of people every day.
The inauguration of the Elevador Lacerda took place in 1873. When the elevator was built in the 19th century, such a high elevator was a world uniqueness. The elevator owes its current name to the entrepreneur who had it built, Antônio Lacerda. Due to the great difference in altitude within Salvador, simple elevators were built centuries ago to transport goods up and down.
The Lacerda elevator was the first elevator used as a means of public transportation and has lost none of its importance for the inhabitants of Salvador to this day.
Tip 3: Basílica do Senhor do Bonfim
The Sanctuary of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, not far from the Atlantic Ocean on Largo do Bonfim in Salvador, is a very popular church, which was built from 1746 to 1802 in magnificent Baroque style. It is the most famous church in the city. A large flight of steps leads to the church entrance.
The church Nosso Senhor do Bonfim attracts people of different faiths at the same time, as it is almost unique in Brazil. On the one hand, Oxala, the supreme Candomblé god, is worshipped in the church, and on the other hand, the church is a place of Christian worship.
The church and its forecourt are used for many sacred ceremonies. Therefore, there are many stores for pilgrimage accessories in the immediate vicinity with products for the Christian and Candomblé faith such as devotional objects, Lembranca ribbons as well as votive tablets. The room for consecration gifts has already become a museum in its own right.
The most important religious festival of the year in Salvador is the Bonfim festival, during which the forecourt of the church is traditionally washed with a ceremony.
Tip 4: Farol da Barra
The Barra Lighthouse is located in the city of Salvador, located in the northeast of Brazil. Farol da Barra is located at the very southern tip of Salvador, right on All Saints Bay.
Farol da Barra is a popular destination for tourists as well as Salvador residents. The more than 20m high, black and white striped tower with the big light at the top is visible from far away. The light of the Farol da Barra emits a specific sequence of white and red light in a five-second cycle. Tourists and residents of Salvador can watch from the Barra Lighthouse as the sun seems to slowly sink into the sea in the evening. The lighthouse also houses the Museu Náutico da Bahia.
The Farol da Barra was completed in the mid-19th century and since then has facilitated ships’ entry into the city’s port. Even before the construction of the current lighthouse, there were simple predecessor models with lanterns that were intended to guide ships into the port. As one of the landmarks of Salvador, the Farol da Barra still finds its way into the works of local artists and serves as a source of inspiration.
Tip 5: Igreja e Convento de São Francisco
The Igreja de São Francisco, or Church of St. Francis, is one of the main sights of Salvador da Bahia. The magnificent church is located in the middle of Salvador’s historic downtown.
The São Francisco Church is already visible from afar, and you are greeted by a large cross on the church forecourt. The first impression of plain architecture is deceptive; as soon as you enter the church, you are surrounded by splendor. The Igreja de São Francisco is characterized by its unique interior decoration; for example, you can admire countless ornate carvings. A special highlight is the altar, which is decorated all over with gold.
The Igreja de São Francisco was built in the late 16th century. Only a few decades later, however, the church was destroyed again in the course of a Dutch attack. The church as it can be visited today was built in the early 18th century. The magnificent interior decoration was lavishly designed by various artists of the time and took a full 150 years to complete. It is estimated that about 1,000kg of real gold was used in the interior design of the São Francisco Church. Even today, the church is an important landmark of Salvador and is able to take the breath of one or the other tourist.