Salvador is Brazil’s former colonial capital, where diverse customs from across Brazil, Africa and the Caribbean have left indelible influences on its music, food and culture. Salvador holidays are beautifully atmospheric, and it’s a city that begs to be photographed, with cobbled streets and colonial houses on the cusp of the Bahia Peninsula with its 900 kilometres of idyllic coastline.
The old quarter of Pelourinho has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and restored back to its past glory. You can easily spend a day rambling the hilly streets and nipping in and out of transformed buildings like the São Francisco Church and Convent, whose Baroque gold-plated interior gleams in the dim light. Many of the grand old houses have found new lives as luxurious boutique hotels, and staying in the heart of the city is preferential on holidays to Salvador. This way you can experience the quirks of the city first-hand, from bedding down in a converted convent to ordering coconut desserts from street sellers and shopping at the craft markets for African-themed printed fabrics. After dark, Pelourinho comes alive with bars and live music venues in which to order an icy cocktail infused with Brazil’s sugar-cane spirit, cachaça.
For a taste of Salvador’s real musical heritage you’ll want to head to Rio Vermelho, a neighbourhood on the coast that retains Salvador’s traditional aesthetic despite the intrusion from glittering skyscrapers. Salvador is often described as the New Orleans of Brazil, and in Rio Vermelho you’ll see how this city celebrates music, food and culture with a carnival spirit. Music is a huge part of Salvador’s history and its cultural influences are reflected in the thundering drum beats, acrobatic capoeira, samba and forro music. In Rio Vermelho the open plazas become meeting places where locals dance the night away, sip refreshing beers and snack on acarajé – black pea fritters. Depending on the night you could find yourself getting down with the locals to reggae, dance, jazz or Brazilian pop; the music is as varied as Salvador’s chequered history.
As well as its music scene, Salvador is blessed with a gorgeous coastal location overlooking Todos os Santos – the Bay of All Saints. Nearby you’ll find plenty of beach resorts in which to spend the day relaxing after a night on the tiles. Head to Kiaroa to stay in an eco-friendly hotel on the beach, or hop in a taxi to take you the short distance to Boca de Galinha to try moquecas – a traditional fish stew – with a view of the bay.
Speak to our experienced Destination Experts for Brazil for first-hand inspiration and more information on our holidays to Salvador.