What to do and see in Salvador, Brazil: The Best Places and Tips

August 5, 2017 Claudia Navarrete

Brazil's former capital is renowned for its African-influenced cuisine, music and architecture. Known as "the Capital of Joy," because of its exuberant week-long Carnaval celebrations, Salvador brims with contemporary music and art amid architecture that has gone untouched since the 17th century.
Restaurants in Salvador

Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil
Excellent
45%
Good
36%
Satisfactory
15%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 13 reviews

Pelourinho

Sometimes called the "city within a city," this old part of Salvador is worth visiting for its cobblestone streets, pastel-colored buildings, churches, restaurants, shops and nightlife.

Reviewed By Vincent_van_Halsema

It's very touristic of course, but it's absolutely charming and beautiful. Lovely Caribbean vibes, great to walk around. Don't stray to the non-touristic side as this is effectively a favela with high crime rates, stay by the church and to the left of it and you'll have a great time. Check out the restaurant Cuco Bistrot if you want excellent food.

2. Casa do Rio Vermelho

Rua Alagoinhas 33 | Melhor acesso é pela av. Vasco da Gama, sentido orla/centro, primeira entrada à direita., Salvador, State of Bahia 41940-620, Brazil +55 71 3333-1919
Excellent
80%
Good
16%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5 based on 944 reviews

Casa do Rio Vermelho

Reviewed By Daniel-SSA - Salvador, BA

I've heard about this location since my childhood, when both Jorge and Zélia were alive, and it was a living institution in town, but never actually knew where it was.
It is in Rio Vermelho, but in a quiet, sleepy, unsuspected part of the bohemian neighborhood, not far from the bars and hotels (1.4km away from Ibis and Mercure Rio Vermelho, for example, but there's a steep uphill walk on the last 300m)
When Zélia passed away it was a matter of time and political will until it became a proper memorial, like other major artist houses around Latin America, specially Frida and Diego's houses in Mexico City and Pablo Neruda's houses in Santiago, Valparaiso and Isla Negra.
Unlike those other two examples, it is less stuffed, more organized, but not enough to cross the line between former house and museum. Not overcrowed like Neruda's houses, visitor's flow is more simliar to Frida and Diego's in Mexico City, so it doesn't spoil the place.
Jorge and Zelia's house, like Calasans Neto and Auta Rosa's in Itapuã, that is not open to public visitation, is full of history and you can almost feel the creativity flowing, the good times they and their intelectual and artist friends had there.
Jorge is the most translated writer from Bahia and, after Paulo Coelho, probably the most known brazilian writer around the world. He was a flawless storyteller, and Zélia was also an accomplished writer on her own right.
A communist congressman that defended religious freedom in the late 1940's, known as the "atheist who had seen miracles", Jorge Amado was a fierce supporter of Candomblé, an african descent religion professed by many in Salvador, when it was still officialy prosecuted by the Police
His novels usually portraited the poor, the marginalized, the working class, but not in a boring "socialist realism" way. In fact, some of his best comic works are top-class magic realism stories no worse than those from Nobel laurates Angel Asturias, Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa, that made Latin American literature from the 20th century famous worldwide.
Regardind the house itself, many information signs are in english and portuguese, but, as some people already mentioned, the informative videos lack portuguese subtitles, so foreign visitors might miss important parts of the expo. I wouldn't go as far as saying that an english guided tour is necessary, but surely english subtitles in the videos are, and not hard to do after all.
Tiny and good gift shop, but the cafe at the porch could have some tables, besides the benches on the other side. Overall it is a wonderfull experience, still off the beaten path, but perhaps not for long. Enjoy it crowdless while you can, but come here anyway even if it's crowded. It's worth it.

3. Sao Francisco Church and Convent

Praca Padre Anchieta, Salvador, State of Bahia 41810-830, Brazil +55 71 3322 6430
Excellent
69%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 5 reviews

Sao Francisco Church and Convent

One of the most spectacular churches in the world, this famous church is richly adorned inside with gold, silver and precious stones and has ceiling art that has been compared to that of the Sistine Chapel.

Reviewed By saronic - Zurich, Switzerland

Two of the most typical artistic expressions of Portugal are 'Gilded woodcarving' (Talha dourada) and 'Glazed ceramic tilework' (Azulejos). Both can be found in abundance in the 'Sâo Francisco Church and Convent' in the former capital of Portuguese Brazil, in Salvador. There is an entrance fee of 5 R$ to get in.
Many tiles - all in blue and white - can be seen on the walls of the cloister. They had apparently been imported from Portugal in the mid-18th century and they don't represent religious themes, but allegories with moral intent, added by quotations from Roman poet Horace.
After the cloister, to which one comes first and where some stairs lead to its upper part (closed), one can also visit the chapter room, the sacristy and the vestibule, befor entering the church proper.
In the church again the lower part of the walls is decorated with blue and white azulejos, while almost everything above it is woodwork covered with gold leaf. It makes for an overwhelming impression, but again as at the Igreja do Nossa Senhora do Pilar in Ouro Preto, another Brazilian example of an exuberant use of gold, which I had visited shortly before, I got the feeling that less would have been more.

4. Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco

Rua da Ordem Terceira, Salvador, State of Bahia 40026-260, Brazil 7133216968
Excellent
77%
Good
20%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 135 reviews

Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco

Reviewed By Vincent M - New Orleans, Louisiana

The Church of the Ordem Terceira de São Francisco (I’ll call it the Ordem Terceira for short) is so overshadowed by the church and convent next door (which I’ll call Sao Francisco to avoid confusion), that it isn’t even listed as one of the 216 Salvador attractions in TA. To put this in perspective, a few years ago there was an internet election for the Seven Wonders of Brazil from a list of 49 contenders running the gamut from ancient ruins to the Itaipu hydroelectric dam; of Bahia’a seven candidates, only two were churches: the Ordem Terceira and Sao Francisco. No Bahian entry was a national winner, but an accidental result of the exercise was that since Bahia had exactly 7 contenders, you could consider the Ordem Terceira to be one of the 7 Wonders of the entire state of Bahia, as well as one of the state’s two most remarkable churches. The Ordem Terceira’s sculptured façade is doubly amazing. First for artistry: it’s unique in Brazil. Second for improbability: the entire façade was rediscovered: the only close parallel I know to its strange story is the rediscovery of a 5.5-tonne solid gold Buddha at Wat Traimit in Bangkok. (I and over 3,000 other folks have reviewed Wat Traimit, but no one’s reviewed the Ordem Terceira. Go figure. FYI: Bahia’s other 5 candidates were the Elevador Lacerda, Barra Fort, Sao Marcelo Fort, Casa da Torre in Mata de Sao Joao, and the Sanctuary Grotto of Bom Jesus de Lapa.)
The Franciscan Third Order is a remarkable institution; its members included Michelangelo, Sir Thomas More, Joan of Arc, and both Columbus and da Gama (I discuss the Franciscan tertiaries in more detail in a review of Rio’s Sao Francisco da Penitencia). The tertiaries built their first church in Salvador in 1644, and completed the current church on the same site in 1705. In the 1820s, after Waterloo, Brazil was awash with émigré French academicians, all touting the merits of Neoclassicism. So the tertiaries redesigned this entire church inside and out, replacing its gorgeous façade with a Neoclassical one. By the end of 19th century, there was virtually no one alive who even remembered what the old church had looked like, except as tales told by their grandparents. Then, in the 1930s, church authorities decided to install electric lights on the façade. As an electrician was merrily hammering away, a section of the Neoclassical façade’s plaster broke away and fell to the ground, exposing part of the marvelous Baroque stonework—it hadn’t been destroyed; it had simply been plastered over. The Brazilian government promptly put it under national protection as a priceless heritage, and it has now been completely uncovered to its 1705 appearance (see Ordem Terceira façade photos). The light beige façade is punctuated with three massive green doors at street level and two smaller green doors with wrought terraces at the organ loft level. Between the two upper doors, a bone white statue of St Francis contemplating a human skull visually jumps out at you. Christian saints and icons compete with cornices, birds, pediments, mermaids and mythological figures for every square inch of the rest of the façade. The church is set back from rua da Ordem Terceira by a forecourt with a white stucco wall, where an imposing stone portal pairs perfectly with the façade. If I had to specify the façade’s style, I’d call it Spanish colonial Churrigueresque, but this church doesn’t pigeon-hole easily; Brazilian authorities say it’s Plateresco. If you’ve ever seen the façade of the Sagrario church in Mexico City, you’ll know why I’m sticking to Churrigueresque.
The interior of Orden Terceira is Neoclassical, albeit with a few surviving Baroque touches. It’s not as spectacular as the interior of Sao Francisco, but it’s about three times better than the interior of the French Neoclassical Cathedral in my home town, which TA rates as #2 of 288 attractions in New Orleans! The altar is Neoclassicism at its best, with wonderful symmetry: five oval platforms and seven ascending rows of tall candlesticks direct your eyes upward toward the cross. The altar is framed by tall golden Corinthian columns on either side. Large windows above the apse provide sunlight to assist the electric candles; the candlesticks themselves, however, as well as the vases and other altar decorations, date back to 1835 (Ordem Terceira Altar photo). Similar gilt columns and other design elements of the main altar are used in the side chapels running down the nave (Ordem Terceira Chapels photo). The floor plan is a simple rectangle—no transept, no crossing. The upper windows have interior wrought iron balconies, and the organ loft has a spectacular railing running across the entire nave. The ceiling is completely covered with ornamental coffers and paintings (Ordem Terceira Nave and Loft photo).
There are several other attractions in this church’s complex (Ordem Terceira Room photo), but I’ll just mention two. First, the Neoclassical Hall of Saints with dozens of life-sized statues is worth a brief look. Some saints are instantly recognizable. Some are not—their St. Louis doesn’t look like either a king or a crusader. At least one, the black O.B. Sao Antonio de Loures, is downright obscure, but photogenic. (Hall of Saints, Sao Luiz Rei, Antonio de Loures photos).
Second, the cloister and rear corridors are lined with Portuguese blue-and-white tiles and painted murals (Azulejo in Cloister photos). Some murals are interesting; one depicts St. Isabel appeasing two armies about to join battle; Isabel was not only the queen and patron saint of Portugal, but a Franciscan tertiary to boot (Isabel Prevents Battle photo). The azulejo varies from memorable in the cloister, to a few downright dreadful ones in side-passageways which apparently were laid from left-over tiles in crazy-quilt fashion by lunatic tilers who’d had too much to drink, under the direction of villainous saboteurs; perhaps the workers had been stiffed of their wages on a prior church job (Leftovers or Madmen photo). All the really good azulejo panels have informative labels in eight different languages, but the labels are useless—every last one just informs you “don’t touch the tiles!” However, you’ll find a Portuguese description of the scene on the azulejo itself. The cloister tiles depict Lisbon in the first half of the 18th century. You can see the 1729 royal wedding of Prince Joseph and Princess Mariana (Royal Wedding photo), spice-laden ships arriving at the riverfront (Tagus Traffic photo) and notable landmarks of what had been the richest capital in Europe (Arco dos Italianos photo). 25 years after these tiles were shipped to Salvador, the world they depicted was gone with the wind. In 1755 Lisbon was levelled by one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in history (aftershocks caused damage as far away as Boston); the progressive minister Pombal seized the opportunity to demolish anything left standing and replace it all with a radically different city; and Joseph and Mariana’s daughter Maria I would wind up, mad as a hatter, being hustled off to Brazil as Napoleon’s conquering army was marching through Lisbon’s gates.
Tips: There’s a nominal fee. If you’re walking down the Large of Sao Francisco from the main square, a left turn puts you on rua da Ordem Terceira and the façade of Ordem Terceira is unmistakable a few meters away; a right turn puts you onto rue de Sao Francisco and gets you to the visitor entrance to that church (the street just makes a name change as it passes the largo). While the Ordem Terceira really should be rated as one of the top attractions in Salvador, Sao Francisco’s interior and witty azujelo make it the clear-cut #1. Therefore, if you intend to do them back-to-back, I recommend you visit Ordem Terceira first, for the same reason that I’d recommend seeing Santa Maria in Trastevere before going to San Pietro, rather than the other way round. Sao Francisco in Salvador, like St Peter’s in Rome, would make any other church you visit afterwards, relatively unimpressive.

5. Ilha dos Frades

Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil
Excellent
65%
Good
27%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2 reviews

Ilha dos Frades

Reviewed By Clarice B

The amazing and beautiful marine nature reserve in the Baia de Todos os Santos is in danger because of the predatory tourism and environmental devastation. A large consortium, years ago, tried to (and continue trying) to dominate the entire island to build a resort. That's illegal and the justice forbade and interdicted it. But they continue to invade surround the best Beaches on the island. The Beaches of Ilha dos Frades has tropical waters and smooth currents. This island has achieved a blue flag rating because of its high standards of conservation and environmental efforts to preserve it. You must pay a tax to enter the island.

6. Misericordia Museum

Rua da Misericordia - Praca da SE 6 | Próximo à Praça da Sé e Elevador Lacerda, Salvador, State of Bahia 40020-200, Brazil +55 71 2203-9835
Excellent
62%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 409 reviews

Misericordia Museum

Reviewed By dmittleman - Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

The Museum, church, and convent make a wonderful visit. Although I don't generally like being led around by a docent, our guide was brief, to the point, and informative. The displays are interesting and well done. The views are great. Gives great insight into the old era. Of note, NO photos are allowed. Not even through the window of the views. I'm told it is for security reasons. Not sure what that means.

7. Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People

Largo do Pelourinho s/n | Pelourinho, Salvador, State of Bahia 40026-280, Brazil +55 71 3241-5781
Excellent
57%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People

This famous church dominates Pelourinho Square with its unmistakable blue façade.

Reviewed By K R

I attended this church on a recent trip to Salvador, and I must say, it was an amazing experience. I speak very little Portuguese. However, I do know the typical order of a Catholic mass, so overall, I understood what was going on. The music was phenomenal, from the percussionists to the singers. The priest was animated and engaging. One part that captivated me is that a cross is passed throughout the congregation at a certain point during the service, and people were passionately making their way to an open spot in order to touch it. I had never seen that before in a service, and I thought it was a beautiful, genuine moment. The Mass, in addition to the overall history of the church, made for an unforgettable experience.

8. Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova

Ladeira da Fonte das Pedras, Salvador, State of Bahia 40050-565, Brazil +5571982052038
Excellent
57%
Good
34%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 3 reviews

Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova

Reviewed By Fernandocisv - Salvador, BA

Easy access by the subway, just go to Bela Vista Mall and you can take the train to the stadium. You can arrive a little early and walk around it, ever since it is located near another of Salvador´s most beautiful touristic spots: Dique do Tororó. If you are lucky enough you may get to see one of the best football´s team of Brazil win another victory in this amazing stadium!

9. Teatro Castro Alves

Praca 2 de Julho, Salvador, State of Bahia 41347-095, Brazil (71) 3535-0600
Excellent
59%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 741 reviews

Teatro Castro Alves

Reviewed By Veleiro - Dunkirk, France

Modernist architecture from the late fifties with a tragical history of two fires.
But even if not that much into modernist architecture of the last century, this theater has a few interesting elements. From the Campo Grande Square, it looks rather modest. But if you see it from the other side, it's totally different with its intelligent use of the hilly location and introducing a giant shell shaped open air arena with over 5000 seats. Inside there are always a few Exhibitions going on, perfect for escaping a few minutes the Bahian heat.
And why not pick up a performance? Culture is nearly the only thing in Brazil that's cheaply priced. 20 Rs for a normal performance. And if you are lucky, or clever, you can get free entrances. Try during daytime the little office in front of the theater and ask if there are free tickets available for the same evening. If yes, you can use these vouchers to obtain your real ticket through the bilheteria at the left side of the TCA. But the ticket shop only opens from noon on!

10. Sao Bento monastery

Largo de Sao Bento 1 | Centro, Salvador, State of Bahia 40024-108, Brazil (71) 3322-4749
Excellent
59%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 149 reviews

Sao Bento monastery

Mon-Fri 9am-4pm

Reviewed By africanmatrix - africanmatrix

lovely church amazing choir usually sing at Sunday service center of Salvador Bahaia city on Avenida 7 de setembro

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