One day is never enough to visit a city, especially not if it’s Salvador da Bahia, the second most populous city of Brazil and one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. But even if football is your main reason for the visit, it would be a shame not to get yourself a guide (or a map) for the day and submerge yourself in the city. Here are a few of the highlights.
Explore the Upper & Lower city
Downtown Salvador is divided into two parts: the lower city or Cidade Baix (the commercial and financial center with the port and markets) and the upper city or Cidade Alta (religious and residential center). A steep cliff separates both parts. From the Cidade Alte you have a lovely view over the lower city and port.
Walk around the Pelourinho
Let’s start in the Upper City! The Pelourinho is the heart of the historic Cidade Alta and its square (Largo de Pelourinho) is the main feature. From here, you have a magnificent view over all the amazingly well preserved colonial buildings and churches.The site declared Unesco World Heritage in 1985 and upgraded in the past few years. The facades in pretty pastels, the meandering cobblestone streets and impressive architecture are well worth the recognition!
Enjoy the various arts
Art is all around in Salvador, in various shapes and sizes. There’s street art (especially around the Pelourinho, the heart of the historic upper city), there are street vendors selling handicrafts like wood carvings and paintings and there’s music. You’ll find musicians all around and with a bit of luck you might also see street artists performing Capoeira, a martial art brought to Brazil by African slaves. Though it will be more likely to see them at the beach. Take your time to walk around and enjoy the many colors and skills!
Take the Elevador Lacerda
You could walk all the way up and down via the winding little streets, slopes and steps that connect both parts, but my guide advised not to do so by myself because it can be unsafe, even in daylight. Instead, take public transportation or better yet: the art deco elevator! The Elevador Lacerda travels 73 meters in just a couple of seconds. In the meantime you have a great view over the two different city parts, the bay and the ocean.
The Mercado Modelo and slaves basement
In the Cidade Baixa, next to the waterfront, you’ll find the Mercado Modelo. It used to be a Customs House but was made into an indoor market. You can buy just about anything here, from spices to T-shirts (like this one, with the 10 commandments of Bahia). It’s quite touristy so if you’ve had enough, try to find the staircase that will take you to the catacombs of the building. Slaves were first brought into Salvador da Bahia for the first time in the mid 1500’s by ship and this is one of the places they had to stay while they waited to be ‘auctioned’ at the slave market, mainly to work on sugar plantations. The faint yellow lights, the damp air, the think walls, low arches and floors covered with water… you just can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like.
The Sao Marcelo Fort visit & view
The round Forte São Marcelo (nicknamed the belly button of Bahia) is located in the Baia Todos os Santos Bay and you can visit it by ferry (near the Mercado Model). It was used in the 1600’s to protect the city from attacks or invasions. I haven’t seen it from the inside but from what I’ve heard, 30 minutes is sufficient to see it all. The best part is said to be the view of the city you’re treated with when you’re up there.
The Todos os Santos Bay
The Baia Todos os Santos (‘All Saints Bay in Portugese) It’s the largest bay in Bahia but it still manages to look picturesque and cosy. The restaurant Maria de Sao Pedro on the top floor of the Mercado Modelo has a balcony with a view over the port but you can just as easily walk along the harbor with its fishing boats and fishermen at work. The perfect place to spend whatever time you have left before the football game is on!