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Considered by many to be one of the birthplaces of Brazil’s vibrant culture, Salvador’s splendour is hard to beat. Its world-famous old town is arguably one of the most evocative examples of the profound influence of 17th and 18th century European settlers on this part of the world. But, it’s more than just architectural heritage in Salvador:the city is also home to an incredible cultural scene that draws its inspiration from everything from music and religion to food, dance and martial-arts traditions. With delightful coastline right on the doorstep, what more could you ask for?
Cidade Alta — Salvador is a city that is dramatically divided in two by a 100 foot cliff that stretches the entire length of the bayshore. Cidade Alta is the part of the city to be found at the top of the cliff, and it’s up here that you’ll find Pelourinho, the old city centre. These magnificent cobblestoned streets are festooned with sites of historical note, colonial architecture, museums, restaurants, bars, boutique stores, and even dance and capoeira academies.
Cidade Baixa — At the foot of the cliff meanwhile, this neighbourhood isn’t quite as dramatic as its cliff-top sibling. It’s still worth checking out however for the Mercado Modelo, which offers countless stores and stalls that sell regional arts and crafts.It’s also from Cidade Baixa that you’ll be able to hop on a boat across to the islands in the bay.
Barra — This district right at the tip of the peninsula also neighbours the wonderful Pelourinho old town. If you head northeast from here however you’ll discover both Rio Vermelho and Amaralina. These hip areas are home to some of the city’s finest local nightlife, and where you should head if you want to experience a taste of the ‘real’ Salvador.
Itapua — Heading a bit further out of the main city you’ll find Itapua, which is home to Salvador’s liveliest beachfront nightlife. What’s more, beyond Itapua you’ll discover spectacular beaches that seem to stretch on forever, making it the perfect spot to get away from it all.
Salvador is an absolute treasure trove of rich historical sights. The best place to start is a one of the two squares at the centre of Cidade Alta, Praça da Sé and the Terreiro de Jesus. Praça da Sé is decorated with splendid fountains and the protected ruins of the church from which it takes its name. Terreiro de Jesus meanwhile is ensconced by four churches and the 19th century Faculdade de Medicina building, and is a focal point for many of the city’s religious celebrations. With a cathedral linking these two squares, you get a real sense here of the sheer density of heritage you’ll discover right across Salvador.
If you want to grab a beer and enjoy some live music then you should head out to Abaete Park. This protected state park is also home to dazzling white dunes that stand in stark contrast with the dark waters of the park’s lake. If, however, you want to catch some waves, then Praia do Farol da Barra near the lighthouse is a popular spot with surfers. It also has a lively waterfront nightlife to enjoy once the sun goes down.