Salvador - Brazil

With sunset samba sessions, Bahian food and zinging caipirinhas, it’s little wonder, says David Constable, that this colourful coastal city is Brazil’s ‘Capital of Happiness’.

Travel Time 16hrs 10min

Why go?

Salvador’s Bahian culture gives it a distinctive atmosphere that sets it apart from Brazil’s other major cities. The vast majority of its citizens are Afro-Brazilian, and African traditions influence everything from the vibrant cuisine to the architecture. In February it hosts the world’s biggest street party, the Salvador Carnival, when almost four million people take to the streets for six days of revelry, earning Salvador the title of Brazil’s Capital of Happiness. Once you’ve finished exploring or partying you can plunge into the Atlantic Ocean that laps its sensational sandy beaches.

What to do

The cobbled district of Pelourinho, with its churches and pastel-hued colonial architecture, was once the centre of Salvador’s slave trade, which had a seismic and indelible effect on the city’s culture. It’s the best place to get a sense of history: here you’ll see women dressed in traditional white Baiana dresses, and find many of Salvador’s landmarks. Visit the Igreja de São Francisco, one of the most important baroque churches in the world, its interior latticed in intricate golden woodwork, before strolling west, past boutique shops and live music performances, to the Mercado Modelo. This indoor market sells everything from knick-knacks to traditional instruments and clothing, and you can grab a Brahma beer and watch football on the communal TV with the locals. Further south along the coast, away from the tourist crowds, is Solar do Unhão. This 18th-century sugar mill on the Baía de Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Bay) contains a small museum, the Museu de Arte Moderna (, designed by the Italian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi. On Saturday evenings it holds live sunset jam sessions that combine the rhythms of samba, frevo, blues and swing.

Where to stay

Housed within a convent built in 1586, the Pestana Convento do Carmo (00 503 55 71 3327 8400, is located in Pelourinho, in the heart of the city. Two cloisters have been redesigned as a peaceful garden space, with a swimming pool and an outdoor bar that serves one of the best caipirinhas in town. If you’re after something more modern, try the Zank Boutique Hotel (00 503 55 71 3083 4000,, an elegant setting with spectacular ocean views. For ample space and relaxation, book into the five-star Hotel Vila Galé Salvador (00 503 55 71 3263 8888). It’s perched on the coast and serves authentic local cuisine at its Versátil Restaurant.

Where to eat and drink

Streets are filled with authentic Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants and every few metres you’ll spot camelôs selling beers, caipirinhas and local fare, such as the deep-fried black-eyed pea fritters or chilled acai smoothies topped with granola. Even when you’re on the beach, vendors will stroll by with portable barbecues, selling grilled cheese and iced tea. While large parts of Brazilian cuisine are rooted in Portuguese influence, Salvador leans towards an Afro-Brazilian repertoire of typically African ingredients and techniques. Seafood is also a major part of the city’s traditional fare and it’s abundantly available, fresh from the Atlantic Ocean. Tucked away in a side-street, Dona Mariquita (00 503 55 71 3334 6947, serves Bahian food, such as the region’s signature dish of moqueca (a stew of fish, onions, garlic and tomatoes) and vatapá (coconut milk, dried shrimp, peanuts and dende oil). For something special, visit Restaurante Casa de Tereza (00 503 55 71 3329 3016, where you’ll experience chef Tereza Paim’s traditional Bahian recipes laced with Spanish, Italian and Portugeuese influences.

Time running out?

Take in the view from the Elevador Lacerda as you soar the 82m that separates the Lower Town (Cidade Baixa) from the Upper Town (Cidade Alta).


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the Brazilian real. Salvador is four hours behind GMT. Flights, with connections, take around 16 hours from London.

Getting There

LATAM Airlines ( flies from London Heathrow to Salvador via São Paulo.

TAP Portugal ( flies from London Heathrow to Salvador via Lisbon or Porto, with connecting flights in Brazil.


Bahia Tourism Board provides advice on planning a trip and what to experience once you’ve arrived.
Visit Brazil Travel Association ( offers information about Brazil, including tips on travel, food and culture.

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

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