What to do Salvador - City sights & activities
Before you start exploring the city's showpiece, the beautiful
historic centre of Salvador, Pelourinho, you should know that the centre of Salvador is divided into two parts by a steep bluff. High up the cliffs is Cidade Alta (‘Upper town’). Here you will find Pelourinho and several other historical neighbourhoods of Salvador.
Upper Town & Lower Town - Salvador da Bahia
|Cidade Alta is connected to the parts at the waterfront by cable cart and cable elevator.
This part of Salvador is called Cidade Baixa (‘Lower Town’). Cidade Baixa is the business district of Salvador.
Another important part of Salvador is the suburb Barra with some good
If you want to have a quick and convenient overlook of all sites, you may consider to hop on the touristic open double-decker Salvador Bus.
Pelourinho, which translates as ‘pillory’, was named after the tool disobedient slaves were punished with publicly at the central square of Salvador. Along the cobblestone streets you can explore the pastel coloured colonial houses, baroque churches and
fascinating museums of Salvador. You can easily spend multiple days just wandering around the Pelourinho area.
These are the architectural highlights to look out for in central Salvador:
– Church and Monastry of São Francisco (Igreja e Convento de São Francisco) – Rua Inácio Accioli
Heavily decorated Salvador church and monastery, one of the most impressive baroque edifices in Brasil.
The complex was built between 1708 and 1750. Delicate woodcarvings and a huge silver chandelier are the showpieces.
Church and Monastry of São Francisco, Pelourinho
– The Cathedral (Catedral Basílica) – Terreiro de Jesus, Praça VX de Novembro
The cathedral of Salvador, built between 1657 and 1672, is one of the most stunning examples of baroque architecture. It also has a magnificent gilded interior.
– Church Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks (Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos) – Praça José de Alencar
Church built by slaves and a symbol of
Afro-Brazilian culture in Salvadorda Bahia. All sculptured saints are black.
– Terreiro de Jesus
One of the loveliest squares of Pelourinho, laid out in 1549.
– Praça da Sé
Feel like a 16th century Salvador city guard; from this square you have good views over the Todos os Santos bay from the Belvedere lookout.
– Rio Branco Palace (Palácio Rio Branco) – Praça Tomé de Sousa
While appearing from the Renaissance era, this eminent Salvador palace from the beginning of the 20st century was built as the successor of the original palace. Now there is an exhibition on all Bahia governors from the past.
– Lacerda Elevator (Elevador Lacerda) – Praça Tomé de Sousa
Originally from 1873, this elevator got its Art Deco look after a renovation in 1930. The landmark elevator will take you from the Upper Town to the Lower Town of central Salvador. From the top you will have an unforgettable bay panorama.
After the descend into Lower Town, you can stroll to the Mercado Modelo (Praça Visconde de Cairu), a large artesians’ crafts market and stock up on Bahia souvenirs.
Note: you can also travel from the Upper Town to the Lower Town by cable cart, at the back of the cathedral. Never go on foot!
– Afro-Brazilian Museum (Museu Afro-Brasileiro - MAFRO) – Terreiro de Jesus
Woodcarvings, photos and artefacts tell the history of the African Diaspora to Salvador and the rest of Brazil.
– Jorge Amado House (Fundação Casa de Jorge Amado) – Largo do Pelourinho
A small museum about the most famous novelist of Bahia. Even if you have not read anything written by Jorge Amado, the museum is still an interesting spot, if only for the decoration entirely made of book covers.
– City Museum (Museu da Cidade) – Rua Gregório de Matos 40
This very complete museum is dedicated to Afro-Brazilian culture, arts and religion in Salvador da Bahia.
– Abelardo Rodrigues Museum (Museu Abelardo Rodrigues) – Rua Gregório de Matos 45
This museum is supposed to have the largest private collection of religious art in Brazil.
– Postcard Museum (Museu Tempostal) – Rua Gregório de Matos 33
An interesting, extensive collection of postcards and photos from the 19th and 20th century, showing the history and development of the city of Salvador da Bahia.
In Ciudade Baixa (Lower Town):
– Sacred Art Museum (Museu de Arte Sacra) – Rua do Sodré 276
Accommodated in a former Carmelites monastery. It has a very comprehensive collection of religious art and this Salvador museum has a serene ambiance.
– Modern Art Museum/ Solar do Unhão – Av do Contorno
Solar do Unhão used to be a sugar factory from colonial times. This Salvador edifice is beautifully restored and now shelters the Museu de Arte Moderna. This art museum is more like a cultural centre, with besides an art exhibition also has a theatre, a library and a good restaurant. At night there are often folkloristic dance performances.
– Bahia Art Museum (Museu de Arte da Bahia) – Av 7 de Setembro 2340, Vitória
The Bahia Art museum is more than just artwork; in fact, it is more on ‘art of life’. Art, opulent furniture, crockery, chinaware, crystal articles and the likes show you the decadent lifestyle of the colonial Salvador sugar elite.
Praça Almirante Tamandaré, Barra
One of the most popular landmarks of Salvador, this 16th century fortress at the far tip of the peninsula is overlooking both the Baía de Todos os Santos and the Atlantic Ocean.
Its lighthouse dates back to 1698 and is still in use.
The Salvador fortress houses the Museu Hidrográfico, which has a interesting collection of maps and nautical instruments. From the museum café there are great views of the Salvador skyline.
Largo do Bonfim, Barra
This picturesque Salvador church, about 9 km/ 6 miles north of Pelourinho, is an excellent place to get a better understanding of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion.
The Nossa Senhor do Bonfim church is dedicated to both the Catholic God as well as the Candomblé deity Oxalá.
On Fridays, the devotees dress up in white, gathering in front of the church which makes a stunning sight.
Yes, it's Friday: Church Our Lord of Prosperity
On other days you can pay a visit to the fascinating Sala dos Milagros (Miracle Hall), a huge collection of wax, wooden or even golden objects representing miracles that have occurred.
You will encounter hearts, lungs, breasts and other body parts, babies, as well as cars, houses and other earthly things, fenced in by walls full of portraits.
The good thing is: you can buy some fortune for yourself as well. At the square outside you will be jumped by sellers of colourful ribbons, which will bring fortune if you wear them on your wrist. You can make a wish for every knot... Good luck!
Porto da Barra beach - Salvador da Bahia
Salvador has some beautiful beachesin its proximity.
The best ‘city beach’ (within the official city boundaries of Salvador) is Porto da Barra in the suburb Barra. Further out, along the Atlantic coast you will find more and better beaches.
Popular beaches are Praia de Ondina (beach with many accommodation options), Praia de Amaralina (great Salvador surf destination) and Praia de Itapuã (beach with turquoise waters and reefs, great for snorkelling).
Further north of Salvador, about 30 km / 19 miles from Barra, you will find more authentic, quieter beaches, like Stella Maris beach and Ipitanga beach.