The 16 Best Things to Do in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

The 16 Best Things to Do in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

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Salvador de Bahia, often called the ‘capital of happiness‘, truly lives up to its name. It makes you reignite your passion for life. The city pulses with Afro-Brazilian drumbeats, the streets are a rainbow of colour, and the people here are warm and genuine, always ready with a smile. Following my trip from Spain to Brazil on the Nomad Cruise in December, I had a chance to spend five days in Salvador. Here is my list of the best things to do in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. I hope it will help you enjoy your stay as much as I did.

The best things to do in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

There is a lot to do in Salvador, from exploring historical neighbourhoods and watching a street capoeira to drinking caipirinha on one of the beaches.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Discover the charm of Pelourinho: Salvador’s historic heart

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

If you’re visiting Salvador for the first time, make sure to start your exploration in Pelourinho, the historic heart of the city.

Nestled in the Cidade Alta (Upper City), Pelourinho is the historic site where Portuguese settlers laid the foundations of Brazil’s first capital in 1549.

Today, this area is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to Salvador’s most important landmarks and cultural attractions.

An interesting tidbit: Pelourinho gained international fame when Michael Jackson joined forces with Olodum, the acclaimed Afro-Brazilian percussion group, to film some parts of the music video for ‘They Don’t Care About Us‘.

Consider booking your stay in Pelourinho, especially if it is your first visit to Salvador.

I highly recommend Casa do Amarelindo. This lovely hotel, nestled in an old Portuguese colonial house, is perfectly located for exploring the city centre. You can enjoy live drum music from the hotel bar in the evenings as bands pass by. The staff at the hotel are genuinely friendly and always ready to offer tips or assistance to ensure you have an amazing stay.

Go on a free walking tour

Join a free walking tour, it is a great way to get to know the main sights and some under-the-radar places in Salvador.

The guides share interesting stories about Salvador’s culture and history. Plus, they make you try out some local treats such as coconut milk, fresh coffee, and artisanal ice creams (the ice cream in Brazil is on a whole other level of deliciousness).

The tour takes about two and a half hours, which gives you the rest of the day to see more of the city on your own. Your guide will recommend the best places to eat and other great tourist spots to visit.

Get yourself a colourful Bahia wish ribbon

As you walk around the city, you might come across people selling ‘fitas,’ or colourful ribbons, which are traditionally worn as bracelets. These aren’t just decorative; they’re a big part of local culture, blending the beliefs of African religions with the miracle-granting powers attributed to Catholic saints.

You’re supposed to tie the ribbon with three knots, each representing a wish. According to local belief, these wishes will come true when the ribbon naturally falls off. So, be patient; helping the ribbon fall off will not speed things up (lol).

Explore Salvador’s colourful squares and landmarks

Praça da Sé

Make sure to visit Praça da Sé. It’s a lively square known for its colonial buildings. You will find many cafés, shops, and stalls here selling anything from Bahian foods to handcrafts.

Look out for the Fallen Cross Monument (Cruz Caida) by renowned sculptor Mário Cravo. It was erected in 1999 on the site where the old Salvador Cathedral used to stand.

Right across from the Cruz Caida is the Baiana de Acaraje Memorial. It’s a small museum dedicated to the Baianas, the women who embody Salvador’s Afro-Brazilian identity and religious practices.

Terreiro de Jesus

Explore Terreiro de Jesus, a large square with magnificent Baroque churches and colonial townhouses all around it. It bustles with bars, cafes, and souvenir stalls.

You can watch regular displays of Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art) here. Note that a tip is expected for watching the street show.

Largo de Pelourinho

Salvador De Bahia, Brazil, Pelourinho

Visit the famous Largo do Pelourinho. This was once the location of the pelourinho, or whipping post, a grim reminder of the past where enslaved people suffered punishment.

The square is also home to the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, a church that stands as a testament to the resilience and craftsmanship of enslaved Africans who constructed it over the course of a century.

Largo do Cruzeiro de São Francisco

Take a walk through Largo Cruzeiro de São Francisco, and you’ll immediately notice the large wooden cross and the stunning Church and Convent of São Francisco. The church is a standout example of baroque architecture, with its gold-plated interior, elaborate carvings, and traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles.

After you’ve visited the church, why not wander around the square? There are plenty of shops where you can pick up souvenirs.

Praça Municipal

Make your way to Praça Municipal, a historic area that ranks among Salvador’s oldest. This is the very square where Tomé de Souza, the first Portuguese governor, set up the earliest centres of governance and religious worship back in the 16th century.

Don’t miss the Palácio Rio Branco; once the governor’s home. This graceful edifice now serves as a cultural centre.

Bordering the square to the west stands the iconic Elevador Lacerda.

Take the iconic Elevador Lacerda

Use the art deco-style Elevador Lacerda for a swift journey between Salvador’s Cidade Alta (Upper City) and Cidade Baixa (Lower City).

The elevator travels the 72-meter distance in just thirty seconds. At the top, you’re rewarded with stunning views over the Bay of All Saints.

The elevator operates on a regular basis and is popular with both visitors and locals. Keep in mind, though, that it can become quite crowded, so watch your belongings carefully.

Also, have the exact fare ready for the ride since the ticket machines don’t give change.

Explore the bohemian Rio Vermelho

Enjoy the bohemian charm of Rio Vermelho, a vibrant neighbourhood in Salvador famous for its dynamic nightlife and eclectic restaurants.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Explore the lively waterfront area, where you’ll find a sacred altar to Yemanjá, an African deity that the local fishermen revere.

In close proximity, you’ll also find the sculpture of Jorge Amado, the celebrated Brazilian novelist.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Go on a walk along Taroro’ Dike

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Taroro Dike (Dique do Tororó) is an artificial lake surrounded by lush greenery. With walking and jogging paths and spots perfect for a picnic, it offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The lake is well-known for its life-size statues of Orixás, which are deities in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé.

Explore a Candomblé temple

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Visit a Candomblé temple, known locally as a ‘terreiro,’ which serves as a sacred space for the practice of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.

The term ‘Candomblé’ means ‘dance in honour of the gods‘.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

This spiritual tradition includes diverse rituals such as ceremonial dances, offerings, animal sacrifices, and individual acts of devotion.

One of the most renowned terreiros in Salvador is Casa Branca do Engenho Velho, also known as Terreiro do Gantois. It is considered by many to be the oldest terreiro in Brazil.

Many terreiros are situated within the favelas. The easiest way to visit one is to go on an organised tour. It will provide you with invaluable information about the cultural and religious significance of these places of worship.

I visited a Candomblé temple during my Afro-Brazilian Roots City Tour.  

Watch a drum performance

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Catch the nightly street shows of Olodum, the famous Afro-Brazilian band that plays a style of music called samba-reggae, or watch other local drumming groups. Their energy is infectious.

Admire the sunset at the Barra Lighthouse (Farol da Barra)

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

The Barra Lighthouse (Farol Da Barra), part of the old Santo Antonio Fort, is a well-known spot in Salvador that attracts both locals and tourists. It’s particularly stunning at sunset, with great views of the coastline.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

People often gather here for a picnic, to strum guitars, or just soak up the serene atmosphere.

It’s an ideal place for a walk, and there are a few bars around where you can stop for a drink. The popular Porto da Barra beach is also located nearby.

Visit the local museums

To get a sense of Salvador’s history and culture, visit some of the city’s popular museums. Here are three recommendations:

Carnival House (Casa do Carnaval da Bahia)

This museum is a celebration of the city’s legendary carnival, featuring a variety of carnival costumes, videos, and other memorabilia. It also provides an informative and entertaining look into the history of the carnival.

Afro-Brazilian Museum (Museu Afro-Brasileiro)

Located in the same building as the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Afro-Brazilian Museum displays an impressive collection of ritual objects, musical instruments, and textiles.

I was particularly impressed by the stunning wooden effigies by the artist Carybé.

Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia)

The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology showcases a diverse collection of indigenous Brazilian artefacts, gathered from across Brazil by Jesuits, alongside archaeological finds from Bahia.

These museums are pretty small, so you can enjoy the exhibits in about an hour or so.

Enjoy the flavours of Bahian cuisine

Try the bold and spicy flavours of Bahian cuisine. The food is so good that you may want to bring some recipes back home.


Moqueca is a must-try: a savoury seafood stew enriched with coconut milk, tomatoes, bell peppers, fresh cilantro, and dendê (palm oil). It usually comes with farofa (toasted cassava flour) and a spicy pepper sauce. I tried it on a couple of occasions, and each time it was incredibly tasty.

For a genuine taste of local cooking, head to Restaurante Dona Suzana. A local guide recommended it to me. It’s a bit tucked away, right by the sea. The seafood is fresh and well-seasoned, the vibe is warm and welcoming, and the sea views are stunning—definitely worth the trip.

Dona Suzana, Rua da Conceicao da Praia, 1294 1490 Comercio, Salvador

If you take a Quilombo Heritage Daytrip Tour with Lunch, the residents of the Quilombo community will treat you to a delicious home-cooked moqueca, which you can enjoy in the quiet of their community, away from the crowds.


Another snack you should try is acarajé. Originating from West Africa, Acarajé consists of peeled black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê (palm oil).

Typically, it’s served with vatapá, a paste made from dried shrimp and coconut milk, along with hot sauce (pimenta), and a fresh salad.

A related dish is abará, which is similar in ingredients but steamed instead of fried, offering a lighter alternative. Pair it with a beer, and you’ll blend in with the locals.

Cachaca/ pinga

Try cachaca, Brazil’s national liquor made from sugarcane. You might also enjoy a batida, which is cachaca mixed with fruit juice, sugar, and crushed ice.

Other popular drinks are cachaça-based cocktail Caipirinha.

Brazilian fruits

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

If you’re after healthier drinks, try Brazilian fresh fruit juices. With the country’s huge variety of fruits, you’ll find some interesting juices made from açaí, acerola, caju, pitanga, guava, genipapo, graviola, maracuja, sapoti, umbu, and tamarindo.

You can also enjoy caldo de cana, which is fresh sugarcane juice—a local favourite.

Wander around the local markets

To truly experience local culture, visit a local market. I find the Sao Joaquim Market particularly interesting for its authentic atmosphere and local character, away from the typical tourist trail.

Sao Joaquim Market (Feira de São Joaquim)

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Sao Joaquim Market is the largest market in the area. It is primarily a food market, but you can also find handmade goods and religious artefacts. Be warned—it can be quite smelly!

Address: Av. Eng. Oscar Pontes / Água de Meninos, Salvador, 40301-155

Mercado Modelo

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

In contrast, Mercado Modelo is one of the most visited tourists spots in the city. It is located by the bay and is home to hundreds of stalls selling a wide range of goods, including traditional Bahian food, lace clothing, jewellery, wood sculptures, leather goods, and musical instruments.

It’s a convenient place to pick up affordable keepsakes, but in my experience, the shops in Pelourinho have a more interesting selection of higher-quality goods.

Address: Pr. Visc. de Cayru, s/n - Comercio, Salvador, 40015-170 

Enjoy local festivals

Depending on the timing of your visit, you might just be lucky enough to witness some of the city’s most spectacular celebrations. They offer fantastic opportunities for photography. Here are some of the most popular ones:


The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Carnival in Salvador is a colossal street festivity. It is all about music, dance, and outrageous costumes. Known as one of the largest carnivals globally, it certainly offers an unforgettable experience.

Festa do Bonfim

The Festa do Nosso Senhor do Bonfim is celebrated on the second Sunday following Epiphany. The celebration commences on the preceding Thursday with a lively procession that winds its way towards the church, setting the stage for a weekend of festivity and reverence.

Spectators can observe a sea of penitents participating in a unique ritual—the washing of the church steps. This is one of Salvador’s most eagerly anticipated and well-attended annual celebrations.

Festa de Yemanjá

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

During Festa de Yemanjá, fishermen get to their boats in a procession, carrying offerings to Yemanjá, the Goddess of the Sea.

The air is filled with the rhythms of African-Brazilian music, creating a truly magical atmosphere that celebrates the city’s deep connection to both its maritime heritage and African roots.

Visit the Church of Our Lord of Bonfim

Visit one of the most notable landmarks in Salvador: The Church of Our Lord of Bonfim. Built in the 18th century on a hill in the Itapagipe Peninsula, this Catholic church is at the heart of Salvador’s religious scene.

Every January, it becomes the focal point of the city’s spiritual life during the celebrated Festa do Bonfim.

Visit a Quilombo Community

Once you have explored the major attractions of Salvador, consider taking a Quilombo Heritage Tour. It will take you to one of the Quilombo communities outside the city.

Quilombo communities, founded by people of African descent who often escaped slavery during colonial times, are an essential part of Brazil’s history.

You can visit a Quilombo community only through organised tours.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

During the tour, you’ll learn about the traditional methods residents use to make cassava flour and palm oil. You will also get a glimpse into their daily lives.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

The tour includes a trip through Santo Amaro’s countryside, where you can see fields of sugarcane and tobacco. You will also have some time to wander through a local market.

The 16 Best Things to do in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

I hope this list of the best things to do in Salvador da Bahia has piqued your interest in the city’s rich blend of history and culture.

Salvador has something for everyone, and whether you’re actively planning your trip or just daydreaming about future travels, this city is ready to welcome you.

If you have already been to Salvador, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. I would love to hear from you!

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