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The complete name of this city on Brazil's east coast is Saõ Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos. Right, just Salvador is a lot easier. It is South America's most African city. It's due to the fact that for centuries slave trade played a very important role here and the descendants of the slaves leave their mark on Salvador. This is for example reflected by the music and the local food culture. The history of the slave trade is explained in the Museu Afro-Brasileiro. The city has a beautiful old center with houses and buildings dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The historic center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Salvador is built on a cliff, which makes that the old part of town (Cidade Alta) is located well above the newer part (Cidade Baixa). The small, triangular square Praça do Pelourinho is part of the oldest part of town. Rebellious slaves were punished on this square (Pillory Square). The city center is formed by the large Terreiro de Jesus Square that is connected with the Praça da Sé. The name of the latter refers to the cathedral on the square, originally a Jesuit church, with inside altarpieces from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.
The Museu de Arte da Bahia shows paintings, Chinese porcelain and furniture from the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The Museu Costa Pinto also has paintings, porcelain and furniture but from a later date, the eighteenth and nineteenth century. This museum also holds a valuable collection of gold jewelry and richly decorated silver buckles.
The Museu da Cidade is the city's most important museum and shows daily life in years gone by. Besides works of art, religious objects, furniture and dolls, it has a section dedicated to the writer Jorge Amado. His books are set in the old Bahia (the province of which Salvador is the capital). From the museum you have a nice view of the Lower Town, which you can reach by elevator, the Elevadora Lacerda. In the lower part of town there are many markets, like a market with handcrafts from the region in the former customs building on Cayrú Square. This Mercado Modelo is the best place to go souvenir hunting! On the square near the market young men often practice the martial art capoeira.
Along the coast, both north and south of Salvador, lie beautiful sandy beaches. Each beach has its own character. Itapuã is Salvador's most famous beach. The seawater is relatively calm, which makes it an attractive beach for families with children. It's also ideal for doing water sports such as windsurfing. The Praia dos Aristas, the artists' beach, in the charming neighborhood of Boca do Rio, is slightly less touristy. This beautiful beach with a line of dunes and coconut trees, draws – as indicated by its name – musicians, poets and other artists. There are also beaches that are not suitable for swimming, but they are for walking. For example the Farol da Barra beach, where you have a fantastic view of the sunset. It is not easily accessible though because of the jagged rocks.
Salvador is located halfway the so-called Cocoa Route, a 180-kilometer-long route between the cities of Canavieiras and Itacaré along cocoa farms, wonderful beaches and untouched forests with coconut trees. Swiss immigrants developed the cocoa farming in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The money they earned with it was spent on luxury colonial houses, large mansions and beautiful churches. The coastline is full of them, like for example in Ilhéus.
In the rugged interior of Bahia you'll find unspoilt nature, interlaced by many rivers. Ideal for rafting or canoeing.
At a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Salvador lies the 12-kilometer-long beach Praia do Forte, fringed with coconut palms. A tropical paradise and the clear water and coral reefs make it an El Dorado for divers and snorkelers. There is also a sea turtle reserve that you can visit.
Just like in other large Brazilian cities, traffic in Salvador is busy and chaotic. Finding a parking space in the city center can also be extremely difficult. There are some parking garages and parking lots on the outskirts of the old town (near the roads along the coast of the peninsula).
Deputado Luis Eduardo Magalhães International Airport is the official name of Salvador Airport, 28 kilometers northeast of the city center. You can easily reach the airport by rental car: follow the Paralela freeway or the nicer, but slightly longer road along the coast.