48 Hours In: Salvador

Brazil’s first capital is now a bustling coastal metropolis that’s certain to seduce football fans. By Nick Boulos

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Brazil hosts the Fifa World Cup from 12 June to 13 July, and Salvador da Bahia is the most alluring venue. It is the nation’s third city – after Sao Paulo and Rio – and was its first capital, from 1549 to 1793. Defending champions Spain kick off against the Netherlands here on 13 June. Fans will discover a city as vivacious as it is cultured and historic.

Next month also marks the annual Festa de Sao Joao, on 24 June, in which the city’s squares are filled with dancing to traditional forro bands.

Touch down

There are no direct flights from the UK. The easiest connections are offered by Air Europa (0871 423 0717; aireuropa.com) from Gatwick via Madrid, and by TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932; flytap.com) from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester via Lisbon. Fares, even during the World Cup, are available for £900 return.

I travelled with Journey Latin America (020 8622 8444; journeylatinamerica.co.uk), which offers tailored trips across Brazil. A five-night trip to Salvador excluding flights costs from £486pp.

Flights arrive at Salvador’s Deputado Luis Eduardo Magalhaes airport, 28km north-east of the centre. Airport bus S002 departs every 20 minutes from 7am-8pm and terminates an hour later at Praca da Se (1) near the historic Pelourinho quarter. The one-way fare is 3 Brazilian reais (R3/80p). A taxi costs around R80 (£21).

Get your bearings

Home to nearly three million people, Salvador is the beating heart of the north-eastern state of Bahia. It was colonised by the Portuguese at the start of the 16th century and became their capital and a focal point for the gruesome slave trade, with thousands arriving from Benin, Nigeria, Angola and beyond. That chapter of history continues to influence through a dominant African culture, in everything from food, costume, music and dance.

Today, Salvador combines pretty, colonial architecture with modern skyscrapers and lively beaches, all packed on to an Atlantic-lapped peninsula that guards Baia de Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Bay).

Salvador is divided into the Cidade Alta (Upper City) and Cidade Baixa (Lower City). Its heart is Pelourinho, the cobbled old quarter named after the flogging pillars used to castigate slaves.

The bohemian, beachy neighbourhood of Rio Vermelho bookends the city to the south and the upper and lower districts are connected by the Lacerda elevator (2) on Praca Municipal in Cidade Alta (6am-10pm). The 30-second journey costs just 15 cents (1p).

The tourist office (3) is next door on the upper level (visitbrasil.com; 9am-6pm).

Check in

Villa Bahia (4) at Largo do Cruzeiro de Sao Francisco 16 (00 55 71 3322 4271; en.lavillabahia.com) is located in atmospheric Pelourinho and is among Salvador’s best pousadas. The colonial townhouse has 17 rooms with four-poster beds and a pool. Doubles from R530 (£142), with breakfast.

Casa do Amarelindo (5) at Rua das Portas do Carmo 6, (00 55 71 3266 8550; casadoamarelindo.com), also in Pelourinho, has 10 luxurious rooms with dark wood floors and Jacuzzis. Doubles from R350 (£93), including breakfast.

In Santo Antonio, a 10-minute stroll from Pelourinho, is the Hotel Redfish (6) at Ladeira do Boqueirao 1 (00 55 71 3241 0639; hotelredfish.com). Rooms are large and boldly decorated. Doubles from R220 (£59), including breakfast.

Kick off: dancers perform capoeira on the street  

Day One

Take a view

The terrace beside the Lacerda elevator (2) gives an excellent view across Salvador’s modern districts below and across Baia de Todos os Santos, including the busy harbour and the island of Itaparica on the other side of the bay.

Take a hike

From the lookout, head over to the neighbouring Palacio Rio Branco (7) (00 55 71 3117 6492; 9am-1pm weekends, 10pm-6pm weekdays; entry free). The nation’s first government building has an impressive Neo-classical lobby and a small museum on Bahia’s history. Walk north-east across Praca da Se (1) and on to Largo Terreiro de Jesus, a square dominated by the Portuguese-style Cathedral (8) (8.30am-5pm daily; R3/80p), built in 1862 with Lisbon sandstone. Next door is the salmon-pink Museu Afro-Brasileiro (9) (00 55 71 3283 5540; www.mafro.ceao.ufba.br; 9am-5pm weekdays; R6/£1.60), highlighting the region’s African heritage. Tickets also cover the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology downstairs.

Cross the square, pausing under shady palms, to enjoy spontaneous performances of capoeira – an old and energetic artform developed by slaves, that fuses martial arts and dance.

Turn left on Rua das Portas do Carmo and continue to the very end to emerge on to Largo do Pelourinho (10). The baby-blue building at No 8 is where Spike Lee filmed Michael Jackson’s video for “They Don’t Care About Us” with local drum group Olodum. A photo on the balcony will set you back R2 (50p).

Lunch on the run

Across the square at No 19 is Senna Restaurant (11) (00 55 71 3324 4501; 11am-7pm daily except Sunday). It is also a cookery school and museum of Salvador’s old culinary habits. The cosy dining room on the first floor of this 17th-century townhouse hosts a daily buffet (R44/£12) of old Bahian favourites. Try the stewed fish and acaraje – bean and onion croquettes.

Window shopping

At Praco do Artesanato (12), there’s a cluster of souvenir stalls selling native berimbais – single-string percussive instruments made from a calabash shell.

Elsewhere, domino-playing artists display their work along Rua das Laranjeiras (13). The art is bold and bright and captures the spirit of Bahia.

An aperitif

Thirsty locals gather around the tiny bar of Cravinho (14) at Terriorio de Jesus 3 (00 55 71 3322 6759; ocravinho.com.br). The tipple of choice is cachaca, a sugar-cane spirit served from tiny wooden barrels. Do as the locals do and down it in one (from R2.50/70p).

Alternatively, head to the fourth-floor rooftop terrace at the Casa do Amarelindo hotel (5) for a fruity Creole punch (R25/£7).

Dining with the locals

In the back streets of Pelourinho is Maria Mata Mouro (15) at Rua da Ordem Terceira 8 (00 55 71 3321 3929; mariamatamouro.com.br). This charming restaurant has a pretty courtyard and defence walls built in 1549. Highlights of the menu include lamb in tamarind sauce with mandioquinha mash (R76/£20).

Mama Bahia (16) at Rua das Portas do Carmo 21 (00 55 71 3322 4397) serves hearty, unpretentious dishes, accompanied by live guitar music. The star of the menu is moqueca, a rich stew of coconut milk, palm oil and seafood – usually oysters, shrimps or octopus (from R34/£9).

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

The splendid early Baroque church of Sao Francisco (17) on Rua de Ordem Tereira celebrates Sunday mass at 8am (normal visiting hours 10am-3pm Sundays, 9am-5.30pm other days). Brazilian gold and jacaranda wood were used in the construction in the early 1700s. It was built by slaves – some were even permitted to worship inside. Its outdoor courtyard is lined with Portuguese azulejos (tiles) depicting the life of St Francis of Assisi.

Out to brunch

Opposite the church, Le Glacier Laporte (18) at Largo do Cruzeiro de Sao Francisco 21 (00 55 71 3266 3649), specialises in crêpes. Among the 22 options are peppered calabrese sausage and queijo cheese (from R17/£5). There are also weird and wonderful fruit juices such as umbu, abacaxi and siriguela.

A walk in the park

The lush public square of Campo Grande (19) on Avenida Sete de Setembro opens 6am-7pm daily. Under the swaying palm and mango trees stands a statue of a native warrior defeating a dragon that represents Portugal. There is also a number of stalls selling Bahian handicrafts.

Cultural afternoon

Beyond the intricately carved wooden door of the Museu de Arte da Bahia (20) at Avenida Sete de Setembro 2340, is a collection that includes the work of native painters such as the 18th-century artist Jose Teofilo de Jesus (00 55 71 3117 6138; bahiamam.org; 2-7pm weekends, 1-7pm Tuesday-Friday; free).

Take a ride

A taxi to the Barra district (21) should cost about R20 (£5). The main attraction is the crescent-shaped shoreline, popular for its sheltered waters. Try stand-up paddle boarding (R60/£16 for an hour’s lesson) or relax in a deck chair for R3 (80p).

At the southern end of the bay stands the 16th-century Santa Maria Fort (22) at Largo do Farol da Barra. It houses a maritime museum (00 55 71 3264 3296; museunauticodabahia.org.br; 8.30am-7pm daily; closed Monday, August-December; R10/£3). Take the trail around the back of the fort to see where the bay converges with the Atlantic.

Icing on the cake

Try capoeira with a class at the Mestre Bimba Capoeira School (23) at Rua das Laranjeiras 1 (00 55 71 3322 0639; bit.ly/MestreBimba). Hour-long lessons with veteran professor Adubos take place almost hourly, 9am-6pm (R25/£7).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum