Salvador - Bahia - Brazilian Cities
The city of São Salvador da Baía de Todos os Santos was founded in 1549. But since the first years of the XVI century, after the Portuguese discovered new lands, the place where the urban area was later erected had been known already. It called the attention of sailors in that bay that the place was so favorable for the anchorage of ships.
In that same year, Salvador became the first capital of Brazil until 1763, when the colonial administration was moved to Rio de Janeiro. During that period, the city played an important strategic role in the defense and colonization of the territory. That is why the Portuguese tried to erect a fortified city on top a hill.
The construction of the new metropolis followed well-defined plans that may be recognized in the urban space that nowadays is occupied by the Historical Center -main public and religious buildings were protected in the higher part of the city. Even though, Salvador underwent the Dutch occupation for some months in 1624. A new attack of the same Dutch in 1638 was not successful. Invaders were repelled immediately.
The Salvadorian population (in Portuguese, Soteropolitena, adapted from the Greek soteropolis, "city of salvation", according to Aurélio dictionary) is formed by the same mixture of ethnic groups that mark the base of the Brazilian people -Blacks, Indians and Europeans. In Salvador, the biggest port for entering slaves brought from Africa since the middle of the XVI century, the African cultural influence always prevailed. It is noticeable in religion, arts, food, and in many other aspects of the life of Salvadorian people.
Religious syncretism is mainly expressed in candomblé (Brazilian voodoo), which mixed rites brought from Africa by slaves with Catholicism. Churches in Salvador receive followers of candomblé, like in Nossa Senhora do Bonfim, where every year women from Bahia dressed in typical costumes and do the cleaning of the steps. In candomblé grounds with ceremonies open to the public, it is possible to help babalorixás, ialorixás and iaôsto (fathers, mothers and daughters of the saints) invoking, by means of dances and singing, orixás, entities that personify the forces of nature. Other symbol of the African culture in Salvador is capoeira. Original from Angola, it was used by slaves as a form of defense and attack. Nowadays is a very popular combination of fight and dance. Capoeira members swing from side to side and hit acrobatic blows using mainly their legs. Meanwhile, the other members surround them in a circle and sing accompanied by percussion instruments like berimbau, agogôs and atabaques.
Walking along the Historical Center, especially through old alleys and squares of Pelourinho neighborhood, is to observe constructions of the XVIII and XIX centuries: old big houses formerly belonging to sugar barons, beautiful baroque churches and majestic public buildings that serve as stage for the people who preserve its cultural roots and take them to the streets, sharing them with visitors. Capoeira, acarajé, patuá, candomblé, atabaque, moqueca, bobó and berimbau are some of the words that manifest the cultural riches of Salvador and that may be better understood by simply answering a question that is part of a song by one of Brazil's greatest composers, Dorival Caymmi: "have you been to Bahia yet?"
And it is also on the streets that Salvadorians make their parties. Salvador lives every year an intense calendar of popular events. Mostly in the period between New Year's Eve and Carnival, the city becomes venue of great celebrations, which reveal the deep religious feeling and happiness of its inhabitants.
Salvador has its cosmopolitan side. One of the most sought-for Brazilian destinations by tourists from all regions in Brazil and abroad, the city receives visitors with a diversified network of accommodations that is constantly modernizing. It is possible to opt between high-quality hotels and charming posadas set up in historical old houses. And together with its restaurants and street-stands that serve delicious regional delicacies, the visitor finds places of superior international gastronomy -French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, among others. Besides a modern airport, the city has infrastructure for events and conventions.
Salvador is a sunny city, with a hot and humid climate. It is typically tropical, with an average temperature of 25ºC (76ºF).
Like a river rapids, from which no one wants to escape, the ‘trio-elétricos’ sweep up whoever is in Salvador during Carnival. The ‘trio-elétricos’, floats with amplifiers used as moving stages, pass through three official circuits. Behind them, more than 2 million merrymakers follow over 25 km of streets and avenues. Osmar goes from Campo Grande to Castro Alves square, downtown; Dodô, goes from Farol da Barra to Ondina, along the coast; and Batatinha goes through Pelourinho.
The first is the oldest circuit. It is also where the event’s most traditional groups parades. In Dodô, where the artist box seats are located, the party becomes lively toward the end of the afternoon and it continues until morning.
Population: 2.440.886 inhabitants
Area Code: (71)
Brasília: 1540 km
Rio de Janeiro: 1730 km
São Paulo: 1960 km
Belo Horizonte: 1430 km
Accommodation / Restaurants
Salvador’s tourism infrastructure is considered one of the most complete and most modern in Brazil, especially in terms of lodging. The city offers accommodations for all tastes and standards, from Youth Shelters to the most sophisticated international hotels.
The cuisine is an example of the preservation of African cultural origins in Bahia. Moqueca (fish stew with spicy seasonings) is one of the local cuisine’s driving forces. There is also bobó de camarão (shrimp stew), vatapá (seasoned cassava meal mixed with fish or meat), sarapatel (pig’s or sheep’s viscera and blood) acarajé (a cake of cooked beans fried in dendê-palm oil) and sururu broth (edible mussel) or lambreta (steamed clams). The pepper, always very hot, is served on the side.
How to get there
By Air: All Brazilian airlines have daily flights to Salvador, departing from any capital. There are 30 weekly flights from 18 different cities, in 13 countries and three continents.
By Highway: The BR 101 and BR 116 highways cross Bahia from north to south connecting Salvador to the rest of the country. In Feira de Santana, take BR 324. The capital of Bahia is served highway transportation companies from almost every Brazilian state.
By Sea: Hundreds of cruise ships stop in Salvador, especially during summer.
Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport in Salvador
Address: Praça Gago Coutinho, s/nº
Phone: +55 (71) 3204-1323 / 3204-1244 / 3204-1444
Address: Av. ACM, 4362 - Pituba
Phone: +55 (71) 3450-4488
The city has many national and international banks agencies. Most commercial establishments accept credit card.
The Salvador Historical Center, which was declared a Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, has thousands of 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Century houses. It is divided in three main areas: the Municipal Square on the Largo de São Francisco, the Pelourinho and the Largo do Carmo, ending at the Largo de Santo Antonio Além do Carmo. There are secular churches and houses, surrounded by rich locally developed cultural activity. In addition, its steep sidewalks and streets paved with ‘cabeça-de-negro’ stones register important episodes of Brazilian history.
Among its attractions, those deserving of special attention include the Municipal Square and Sé Square, Lacerda Elevator, City Hall, the Municipal Plaza, Rio Branco Palace, Misericordia Hospital and Church, the Archepiscopate Palace, Basilica Cathedral, the Terreiro de Jesus, Largo do Cruzeiro de São Francisco, Pelourinho with its churches, shops and squares, and last but not least, Largo do Carmo, where Santo Antonio Fort and the great religious complex formed by the Church and Convent of Our Lady of Carmo and the Church of the Third Order of Carmo are located.
Passed on from generation to generation, the popular manifestations are a strong cultural trait of Salvador. City folklore gathers artistic elements made by the people for the people, always emphasizing the traditional character of these performances, such as: capoeira, afoxé, Folia de Reis, Maculelê and Samba de Roda.
The Salvador coastline is one of the longest in Brasil. There are 50 km of beaches distributed between the High City and the Low City, from Inema, in the railroad suburb to the Praia do Flamengo, on the other side of town. While the Low City beaches are bathed by the All Saints Bay waters – the country’s most extensive bay, with 1052 km of reflecting waters – the High City beaches, from Farol da Barra to Flamengo, are bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. The exception is Porto da Barra, the only High City beach located in the All Saints Bay.
The capital’s beaches have enormous ecological diversity because of this difference. There are calm inlets, ideal for swimming, sailing, diving and underwater fishing, as well as open sea inlets with strong waves, sought by surfers. There are also beaches surrounded by reefs, forming natural pools of stone, ideal for children.
Church of Ajuda
Founded in the 16th Century by the Jesuits that arrived with Tomé de Souza. In the 20th Century, it was demolished and rebuilt on the other side of the street. It is one of the oldest churches in Salvador. Its neo-romantic façade is currently being remodeled.
Church of the Lord’s Ascension
This church, built in 1975, does not follow the conventional standards of Salvador’s churches. Almost everything in it is related to the number 12. In homage of Christ’s 12 apostles, the ceiling is formed of 12 concrete “petals” and 12 pews are positioned in a row. In the basement there is a mini church, where the baptistery and sacristy are located.
Church of the Third Order of Saint Domingos
It was started in 1731 and finished six years later. It has a rococo style façade and neoclassic engraving. Its floor plan is typical of 18th Century churches, with lateral corridors and overlapping pulpit. The nave’s ceiling has an illusionist concept and the Noble Room panels are attributed to José Joaquim da Rocha. The tiles on the Main Chapel are paintings of Saint Domingos.
Our Lady of Penha Chapel
Located in the Iguape Estuary, the main chapel and church nave are totally covered with “massaroca” type tiles. It is dated from the mid-17th Century.
Priests House – Itacaré
It was constructed by the Jesuits over the high basement in the beginning of the 18th Century. The roof has four slopes, with ‘beira-saveiro’ trimming. The house is in semi-ruins and its roof has collapsed.
It was built in the 17th Century with materials such as gold, marble, rosewood, and turtle ivory. It is a church that blends baroque and rococo styles.
Church of Our Lord of Bonfim
It was built on the top of a hill in the middle of the 18th Century. The image of Our Lord of Bonfim stands out, an ebony cross adorned with silver, greatly adored by the people of Bahia.
Saint Francis Church and Convent
This church is one of the greatest expressions of baroque in Brazil, having retables covered with gold leaves. The Saint Peter of Alcântara image is a work by Manoel Inácio da Costa. Church construction began in the first half of the 18th Century. The panels made of Portuguese tiles, portraying Saint Francis’ birth and his renunciation of material goods, are also baroque. The central nave, transversally cut through by a smaller one, represents the Cross of the Lord. The paintings are star-shaped, hexagons and octagons and exalt Our Lady. In the sacristy, there are 18 oil paintings telling the story of Saint Francis.
Santo Antonio da Barra Fort
This fort belongs to the Brazilian Navy and it is located at the northern entrance of All Saints Bay. It was started by the first donee of the Bahia Province, Francisco Pereira Coutinho, in 1536, and it was originally shaped as a ten-sided tower.
Mont Serrat Fort
Due to its elegant shape it is considered the most beautiful military construction of the Brazilian colonial period. Construction started in 1583, on a strategic position on top of the most projecting side of the peninsula, overlooking the city’s port. It was finished in 1742, and has not suffered any modifications from its original plan. It still has a command house flanked by round bastion walls and nine canyons.
Carlos Costa Pinto Museum
This museum reveals the intimacy of the rich 18th and 19th Centuries families. Costa Pinto’s private collection originated 23 art décor and painting exhibition rooms. The collection includes silver piece collections, jewelry, Chinese and European porcelain, crystals, furniture, paintings, ivory works, opaline, copper and Chinese lacquer. The gold jewels and the collection with 27 silver trinkets are the most valuable pieces in the entire collection.
UFBA Sacred Art Museum
It was inaugurated on August 10th, 1959 and it is located at the Santa Tereza Convent, one of the most amazing architectonic complexes from the XVII Century. The work was done by the Carmelitas Descalças (Barefoot Carmelites). Its collection consists of sculptures in wood, soapstone, clay and ivory and jewelry. It also includes a golden silver vessel adorned with more than 400 gems and semi-precious stones.
Bahia Museum of Art
The Bahia Museum of Art is the oldest museum in the State. Founded in 1918, today operates at the Solar Cerqueira Lima. Its collection consists of wood, clay and ivory sculptures, painted tiles and 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century silver pieces, as well as pieces typical Bahia furniture from the same period.
Abelardo Rodrigues Museum
It has one of the largest private collections of sacred art in Brazil: 808 pieces consisting of images, paintings, oratories, altars, as well crosses from the 17th to 19th centuries. It is located at the Solar Ferrão, a valuable building from the civil architecture of the colonial period.
Arts and Crafts
The simplest arts and crafts use natural resources such as straw, leather, ceramic, wood, seashells and seeds. The most sophisticated are produced with gems and semi-precious stones. Many pieces are made in metal like gold, silver, copper and brass. The artisans in general opt for religion as a theme for their works, expressed in images of catholic saints as well as candomblé. The amulets, that reveal the syncretism of its people, are explored through figas (an amulet in the shape of a clenched fist with the thumb clasped between the fore and middle fingers), bull’s-eye, garlic, four-leafed clover, the famous Bonfim ribbon, among others. Nature, reflecting the local fauna and flora, is also lapidated on these pieces. The music is represented by atabaques, pau-de-chuva and water drums, in addition to the famous berimbau and many others unusual instruments.
Suggestions of the best known shops:
Souvernirs and arts and crafts: Mauá Institute - Largo do Porto da Barra, 2 (Porto da Barra), Rua Gregório de Mattos, 27 (Pelourinho), and Mercado Modelo - Praça Visconde de Cairu (Low City - Cidade Baixa).
Professional berimbaus and atabaques: Mestre Lua - Rua Frei Vicente, 19 (Pelourinho), Mestre Olavo da Paixão – stand in front of Mercado Modelo.
Antiques: Casa Moreira - Ladeira da Praça, 1 (downtown), Rua Rui Barbosa, 51 (downtown) and Casa San Martin - Rua Rui Barbosa, 69 (downtown).
São Felix and Cachoeira Cigars: Rosa do Prado Tobacco Shop- Rua Inácio Acciole, 5 (Pelourinho).
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