Brazil has a wealth of exotic natural wonders, historical sites and cosmopolitan cities to explore. The most popular option for visitors is to travel to Rio de Janeiro to experience its world-famous carnival, soak up the sun on its golden beaches, and hike up to the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer.
However, there is much more to discover in Brazil beyond the attractions of its most famous city. Those who choose to explore Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, will discover a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site full of exciting modern architecture and appealing green spaces. And then there is Salvador de Bahía, which was actually the very first capital of Brazil when it first became colonized by the Portuguese. This historic port city offers travelers a unique mix of colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and incredible coastlines.
Before traveling to Brazil and exploring Salvador de Bahía, however, foreign citizens may first have to apply for a Brazil online visa in order to enter the country. The Brazil eVisa can be easily obtained by completing a simple application online, saving travelers from applying from an embassy or consulate and allowing more time to plan their stay in Salvador de Bahía.
What to Do in Salvador de Bahía
Although not as world-famous as Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, Salvador de Bahía is considered one of the best cities to visit in Brazil because of its unique history and Afro-Brazilian culture, as well as its compact and manageable size.
If you look at a map of Salvador de Bahía, you’ll see that the entire city fits onto the end of a small peninsula, and that Salvador de Bahìa airport is incredibly close to the city center. This makes it easy to get around and take in all the exciting attractions Brazil’s first capital has to offer.
Explore the Historic Center of Salvador de Bahía
Salvador de Bahìa was founded in 1579 and remained the capital of Portuguese America until 1763, so, naturally, the city boasts some of the oldest buildings in Brazil. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Pelourinho, Salvador de Bahìa’s old town, which is overflowing with 17th and 18th century colonial architecture and gold-laced churches.
Visitors should make a visit to this beautiful downtown area of Salvador de Bahìa a priority during their stay, especially the extravagant Baroque church of San Francisco, which helped the district obtain UNESCO World Heritage site status.
Shop at the Mercado Modelo
After thoroughly exploring Salvador de Bahìa’s history, those in some need of retail therapy only need to consider one destination in the city. The Mercado Modelo is a sprawling marketplace built upon the ruins of the historic Customs House, where slaves were formerly housed upon arrival in Salvador.
Just a 15-minute walk from the Pelourinho, this huge market space features over 250 shops and is perfect for picking up a few souvenirs to gift friends and family back home. The restaurants on the back terrace also offer the perfect opportunity to dine while enjoying impressive views over All Saints Bay.
Ride the Elevador Lacerda
Right next to the Mercado Modelo, this public urban elevator connects the lower city to the upper, and is an ideal way to access the city’s beaches. Originally built between 1869 and 1873, in 1930 the Elevador Lacerda was renovated in a striking Art Deco style that has made the structure a distinctive part of the Salvador skyline ever since.
Although a ride in one of the structure’s 4 elevators only takes around 30 seconds, the top of the towers offers stunning views of All Saints Bay and the São Marcelo Fort, a unique circular stone sea fort built on the reefs that surround the city.
Experience the Salvador de Bahía Carnival
It’s well known that Salvador de Bahia has a buzzing night scene, and travelers can go out and have fun at a lively party almost every night of the week. What is less well-known is that the Bahian carnival celebration is as massive and exciting as the Rio carnival festivities.
The Salvador de Bahìa Carnival is an enormous celebration of local culture and music that lasts for six full days, usually taking place in either February or March. Around 1.5 million tourists flock to the city every year to party alongside a huge swathe of the local population.
Alongside a staggering number of parades, the carnival is also a great opportunity to witness a performance of Capoeira, a local martial art that seems more like an elaborate dance than judo or karate.
Relax on Salvador de Bahía’s Beaches
As Salvador de Bahía rests on the very tip of a peninsula, it is is bordered on all sides by long stretches of coastline, which in Brazil means only one thing: plenty of incredible beaches on which to soak up the sun, or go diving to explore the local marine life.
One of the best Salvador de Bahía beaches is located right in the city center, the Porto de Barra beach. The site of Bahia’s first European settlement, this crescent-shaped beach is framed at one end by a colonial fort and at the other by a historic white church. As one of the few west-facing beaches in all of Brazil, it also offers some spectacular sunset views.
Those looking for a quieter beach-going experience can head out towards Salvador de Bahía airport and discover the golden sands and calm waters of the Praia do Flamengo and Praia de Itapuã beaches. The latter in particular is a paradisiacal delight: a palm tree-lined sandy beach popular with surfers, and a protected nesting spot for sea turtles.
Visitors are advised to take a stroll between these two popular beaches and discover the Farol de Itapuã, a charming historic lighthouse. A stay in Salvador de Bahia just isn’t complete without a photograph of the 19th century red and white striped beacon against one of the many stunning sunsets.