Salvador City Guide

An Introduction to the city of Salvador


In the eastern region of Brazil's fourth most populous state, the state of Bahia, lays its coastal capital, the city of Salvador, formerly known as São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos. Located on a small, roughly triangular peninsula, surrounded by All Saint’s Bay or Baía de Todos os Santos on the northwestern and western shore; by the Atlantic Ocean on the southern, southeastern and eastern shore and by rainforests from the north, this city is divided by a 100 meters long cliff into the lower town, also known as Cidade Baixa and upper town, also known as Cidade Alta.


Tomé de Sousa, Salvador’s first governor-general, had founded Salvador in the year of 1549 as the capital of the Portuguese colony of Brazil, which makes Salvador one of the oldest cities in Brazil.

As the warehouse of the prosperous sugar trade, developed along the bay shores, this city became a significant target for the pirates and enemies of Portugal. In the year of 1624, Dutch forces have captured Salvador, but it was retaken the following year. During the Brazilian colonial period, Salvador was a major centre for the African slave trade. In the year of 1835, the widespread riots, organized by African slaves, occurred in Salvador.

The city remained under Portuguese control until the second half of 19th century, when the Portuguese troops were expelled from their last stronghold in the war for Brazilian independence. In the year of 1763, Salvador lost its political domination, due to the capital being moved to Rio de Janeiro, entered a long period of economic downfall, which lasted for more than 150 years. In the late 19th century, the first elevator, also known as Elevador Lacerda, was built in order to connect the upper area, which includes an administrative, religious and major residential area, with lower area, where financial center, a port and the market were located.

Since the year of 1940, a significant economic improvement was noted, along with rapid population growth and extensive public works. The Camacari petrochemical complex and the Aratu Industrial Centre were built and linked to Salvador by highway. In the year of 1975 the first terminal of a deepwater port was opened, along with additional facilities. To this day, many private homes, squares, baroque churches and even handmade paving bricks have been preserved in Salvador, as part of Brazil's historic inheritance.

General facts

Salvador is spread all over the area of 706 km², which includes a 48 km long beach area. With a tropical rainforest climate, featuring warm and humid conditions, average temperature throughout the course of the year in Salvador is approximately 24°C.

The largest African influence on Brazilian culture is made in Salvador, from the specific cuisine, which still bears the African names, such as caruru, vatapá and acarajé, to the religious ceremonies, which honors both African deities and Catholic holidays, to the schools of the unique martial art named capoeira, the African form of ritualistic fighting.

The main industries in Salvador are food and tobacco processing, chemical production, metallurgy, textile, ceramics and automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding, along with ship reparations, woodworking and leatherworking. The port of Salvador is considered as one of the finest in Brazil and includes a 700 meters wide yacht harbor, with depths from 9 to 12 meters. Salvador is famous by its historic, colonial area named Pelourinho, astonishing colonial architecture, fantastic carnivals, amazing Baroque churches, attractive music, rhythmical nightlife and delicious local cuisine.


One of the most iconic colonial monuments in Brazil is a church named Convento de Igreja de São Francisco, which was built between the years of 1708 and 1723. The hand crafted and significantly gilded woodcarvings named talha dourada, along with the paintings on the inner surfaces of the church reflects the Salvador’s ages of prosperity, during which a huge amounts of gold were transported from the Minas Gerais region through the city. Another unique Salvador’s landmark is most certainly Bahia’s oldest fort, known as Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra, which was built in the year of 1698.

One of the most characteristic buildings, made in the harmonious Mannerist architecture, is the Cathedral of Salvador, which was built during 17th century to serve as a Jesuit church. One of the most iconic landmarks in Salvador is Pelourinho, the neighborhood of significant historical importance.

Its fame comes mostly from its numerous examples of Baroque colonial architecture, which is considered the largest collection of that type in Latin America. Pelourinho includes colonial palaces, churches and convents. The most famous Catholic Church in Salvador is the Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, which was built in the 18th century in Itapagipe peninsula. Rio Branco Palace is also one of the remarkable landmarks in Salvador. It was built by Tomé de Souza, the founder, general and first governor of Salvador. This building represents one of the first houses of Brazilian government built.

General specifications

According to census that dated from the year of 2010, population in Salvador is estimated to 2,480,790 inhabitants, with density of 3840 inhabitants per km². This city is considered as the third-most populous city in Brazil. Among other, Salvador’s educational system includes 15 major high schools, 4 major universities, 4 major colleges. Salvador is currently divided on 17 political-administrative zones.


Salvador’s prices are evaluated as moderately low, and hotel and pousada prices in the city are lower than many other Brazilian cities.

Places to go

In addition to mentioned landmarks above, Salvador is also a city of attractive activities, such as the ride at the famous, 72 meters high, Elevador Lacerda, which transports passengers from the Thomé de Souza square to the Cayru square in 22 seconds. Beside mentioned, there are numerous beautiful squares, such as Praca Terreiro de Jesus, Praca 2 de Julho and Praca Castro Alves. There is also a majestic Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova stadium with a maximum capacity of 55,000 people.

Football matches, in organization of 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, were held there. This stadium is preparing to be one of the hosts the football competition of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The vibrant nightlife in Salvador provides numerous spectacular events. Casual jazz and bossa nova events are the common happening in Museu de Arte Moderna every Saturday, during evening hours. There are four parks protected by the State, such as Jardim dos Namorados Park, Costa Azul Park, Park of Pituaçu and the fabulous Abaeté Park, formed around its homonymous lake, with entertainment area included. Among other numerous beaches, the Praia de Amaralina is the safest beach and also perfect for surfing and windsurfing.

Salvador also has many shopping malls, such as Shopping Iguatemi, Salvador Shopping, Shopping Barra and Shopping Paralela. The annual Carnival, also known as Carnaval baiano, is mainly held in Salvador. It represents a unique seven days experience of various performances of hundreds of music groups and other featured events, for an average 16 hours per day.

Stretched across the city, from the beaches to the streets, the endless columns of people celebrate this amazing festival. There are also a significant number of different restaurants with a tempting array of regional cuisines, from the famous Bahian buffet, which features several varieties of moqueca, to traditional dishes. Salvador is also famous by its intense sport activities, from which capoeira, volleyball and football draws the most attention.