Salvador is Bahia state's capital city. Its pulse and vibrancy will linger in the minds of visitors long after they've left its golden shores.
Salvador da Bahia © bartek500
Founded in 1549, Salvador quickly became Brazil's premier city, and the Portuguese Empire's second most important one - after Lisbon. It prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was Brazil's major port. A significant portion of the country's gold, sugar and diamonds passed through its territory.
Today, the city's impressive colonial architecture is evidence of its rich history. Well-restored enclaves of the old city remain between modern tower blocks. Visitors will encounter cobblestone streets, colourful mansions, and dozens of ornate Baroque churches. The São Francisco Church and Convent, a high-baroque cathedral located in downtown Salvador, has to be seen to be believed. Funded by the area's sugar barons and built between 1708 and 1723, the cathedral's interior is literally plastered with gold. Precious stones and Sistine Chapel-like paintings adorn the ceiling. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums.
This delightfully decadent city's spicy atmosphere is best soaked up on foot, within its narrow streets and markets. The Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market may be Salvador's finest. One of the city's more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda. The Art Deco structure houses old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of town.
Salvador's beaches present visitors with an enviable list of options. The range extends from calm coves ideal for swimming, sailing, and underwater fishing, such as Porto da Barra beach, to wild coasts facing the Atlantic Ocean. Aleluia beach falls into the latter category and attracts many surfers. Some beaches are surrounded by coral reefs, forming natural swimming pools that are ideal for children. Beautiful beaches host many of Salvador's great festivals, including the performances and fireworks of the New Year festivities.
Salvador is Brazil's most Africanised state. Indeed, thousands of slaves were taken to the region's sugarcane plantations 400 years ago. The Museu Afro-Brasileira is dedicated to this history and culture. The fusion of African and Latin cultures has given Salvador a unique brand of magic that is particularly evident at the city's many festivals, most notably the massive Carnival in mid-November. It attracts two million revellers from all over the world and is said to rival the famous Rio Carnival.
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