Salvador was the first capital of the colony and also of the Republic of Brazil; it’s one of the oldest cities in the Americas and was also the scene of several important events in the history of the country. It has an impressive collection of colonial architecture, ranging from the 17th to the 20th century, and was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. In the city, you will find no less than 372 Catholic churches, several of them in the Baroque style. It is also the home of Candomblé, and the orixás are thought to be all around this town. Salvador also witnessed several important cultural manifestations, such as music from the heavy African influence to the superb baiano cuisine. And honestly, with all Bahia has to offer, you cannot not spend at least a day in such a fascinating place. There’s so much you can do in 24 hours, and we’re here to tell you exactly what.
One of the biggest characteristics of the Northern part of the country is the heat, so the best time to wander around town is in the morning when the temperature is still fairly mild. It is a great time, then, to visit the historical Downtown, starting at Mercado Modelo, by the shore of Baía de Todos os Santos. This market is located in a neo-classical building from 1861, and there you’ll find, besides two amazing restaurants, more than 200 stands of souvenirs, handcrafted pieces by local artists, religious articles, local pottery, and so on. Across from the market, you will find the biggest symbol of the city, the Elevador Lacerda, which connects the lower city to the upper city. As soon as the elevator takes you up, you will have a breathtaking view of the port, the market, and the baía. If the heat is getting intense, you should treat yourself to an ice-cream at A Cubana Sorvetes, located right next to the elevator’s exit. Besides classic flavors, they serve several exotic ones such as umbu, mangaba, whiskey with chocolate, and condensed milk with xerém of cashew nut.
After that, go to the Largo Terreiro de Jesus. At this square, you can visit four churches: the Basilic of São Salvador, the Church of São Pedro dos Clérigos, the Church of São Domingos Gusmão, and the Convent of São Francisco. In the area, you will also find a variety of clothing and jewelry stores, bars, and capoeira groups playing around there. A must visit place is O Cravinho, a cachaça bar with an infinity of options for drinks blended with the most diverse spices, stored in small wooden barrels. And the most adventurous travelers should try a mix of all the cachaça flavors together.
From the square, and down the Alfredo de Brito street, you’ll arrive at the world famous Pelourinho. This place of colored little houses was even featured in a Michael Jackson music video, but lately, it had been given a bad name due to violent incidents in the area. However, it is a lot safer now, with extra security and policemen around. The biggest structure around there is the Casa de Jorge Amado Foundation, which holds a huge collection of pictures, videos, objects, and works of the famous Brazilian author and his wife, Zélia Gattai. You can spend a good amount of time there until lunch, and nothing more appropriate than to dive into a typical baiano feast. Still around Pelourinho, is the Museum of Gastronomy of Senac, with a restaurant at the terrace of the historical house. The restaurant offers a buffet including moqueca de camarão, siri catado, octopus, squid and stingray, a variety of stews such as sarapatel, maxixada, quibebe, and xinxim de galinha, among other delicacies. You pay the equivalent of U$16,00 and you can eat until you pass out. Oh, and there’s also a dessert buffet, visse?
After lunch, take a taxi to Solar do Unhão, a 17th-century house in a privileged location, right in front of the baía. The house is today the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia, after a project of architect Lina Bo Bardi to restore the building in the ‘60s. Around the museum, the Esculturas Park displays the works of Carybé, Mario Cravo Junior, Siron Franco, among others. And, in the basement, you will find workshops and ateliers. But the most interesting thing there is the aqueduct, also located in the basement. It has a very charming café, perfect for an ocean view drink. On Saturdays, they host jazz shows at dawn, usually attracting a big crowd.
As the end of the day approaches, you can take advantage of the sundown and the less hot temperatures to go for a stroll at the waterfront Barra, which was recently restored. There, you will find people biking, skating, jogging, or simply watching the surfers at Farol Beach. At the end of the walkway, you’ll arrive at the Santo Antônio da Barra Fort and the Farol da Barra, the oldest lighthouse of the continent. It’s the perfect place to watch gorgeous sunsets.
The sun is already down, and you still haven’t tried the acarajé? Time to change that. Head to Rio Vermelho, where you can you can choose between the two most famous acarajé spots: the Dinha and the Cira. Acarajé, besides being delicious, is a very low-cost dish and it’s practically a meal. Pair it with a very cold beer in the numerous bars of the area and you’ll be all set.
And since there’s still an entire evening ahead, head to the nearby Espaço Cultural Casa da Mãe for more drinks and live music. Each night they play a different genre, from chorinho to samba to jazz. They also offer a menu of more than 20 types of cachaça.
After two or three shots and all these activities, we bet you’ll sleep like a baby.
*This article was originally published in Portuguese at Chicken or Pasta. Translation by Priscila Toledo.