Walking Tour of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Salvador, Brazil, is the third-largest city in the country and lies on the Baia de Todos os Santos (the Bay of All Saints), in the Bahia region on the east coast of Brazil, almost 1700 kilometers (over 1000 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro. Its wealth and history are tied to the sugar cane industry, and therefore, slavery. Thus, the population of the city is largely Afro-Brazilian. This region may well be the birthplace of Brazilian culture as the world knows it today.
Salvador’s Old Town (Centro Storico), known as Pelourinho, is a 16th century enclave of historic, colonial homes and buildings, located on a cliff above the bay. This is the area known as the Upper Town and is the major place of interest for the tourist.
My walk begins at the Main Square of the district, Terreiro de Jesus. On the western edge of the plaza is the Catedral Basilica. Besides its size, which is impressive, the church, built in 1672, has a wealth of intricate detail inside. Much of the interior is covered with gold, and the wooden statue of Christ is the largest of its kind in all of Brazil. Also on the square is the Antico Faculdade de Medicina, a wonderful old building which now houses three museums. The best of the lot is the Afro-Brazilian Museum. In addition, there are two other, Baroque churches on the plaza, the Igreja Sao Pedro dos Clerigos and the Igreja de Ordem Terceiro de Sao Domingos de Gusmao.
Now, exit the square at the northeast corner, onto Rua Alfredo de Brito, which leads downhill to another plaza, the Largo Pelourinho, once the location where criminals were publicly flogged. Here you will find the Casa de Jorge Amado, a tribute to one of Brazil’s most-acclaimed writers. Also on this square is Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos. This blue and yellow church was built for the African slaves of the city and still is the church of choice for the black residents of Salvador.
From here, walk south on Rua Gregorio de Matos. On your left is the Praca da Arte, Cultura e Memoria, another delightful little square. After your short visit, continue walking on Rua G Matos. Feel free, as you amble southward, to explore the side streets, which often open into charming little courtyards.
When you reach the end of this road, turn left onto a wide, cobblestone street which leads into Praca Anchieta. One of Salvador’s most important churches can be found here. Virtually every surface of the interior of Igreja de Sao Francisco is gilded, since it was built to showcase the wealth and importance of the sugar industry.
Now, leave the square, heading west on Rua Sao Francisco, and then turn right onto Laderia da Praca, which leads to another square that contains the Laceida Elevator. Take the elevator down to Lower Town, to visit the Mercado Modelo, Salvador’s most popular (with tourists) market. It specializes in arts and crafts, as well as souvenirs. Be sure to bargain for your treasures! When you have seen and bought enough, hop back on the elevator to return to Pelourinho, and turn left on Rua da Misericordia. This street leads into the Praca da Se. Cross the square and walk to the right of the Cathedral to reach Terreiro de Jesus, where the walking tour originated.