Salvador, Brazil’s former capital is renowned for its African-influenced cuisine, music, and architecture. Known as “the Capital of Joy,” because of its exuberant week-long Carnaval celebrations, Salvador brims with contemporary music and art amid architecture that has gone untouched since the 17th century.
Pelourinho is the finest ensemble of 17th- and 18th-century colonial buildings in Latin America, so outstanding that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Rua Gregório de Matos are the Museu da Cidade , with life-size Candomblé figures used in ceremonial dances, and the Abelardo Rodrigues Museum, containing sacred art and folk art, housed in a 1701 mansion. Prédio do Senac is a school of gastronomy where you can sample typical Bahian dishes; in the evenings you can often find dance performances and other folk events here. Also in the Pelourinho quarter is the Casa de Benin, devoted to the culture of the old kingdom of Benin , from which most of the slaves were shipped to Bahia.
In a city known for its strikingly ornate churches, Sao Francisco stands out as the most highly decorated, its interior awash in gold-covered wood carving. The gilding of the high altar is so ornate that it took two years to complete. The ceiling is painted in scenes and themes associated with the Virgin Mary, and the choir combines elaborate wood carving with azulejo (tiled) pictures. The walls of the adjoining square cloister are also faced with superb Portuguese azulejo pictures.
Both the bay and ocean coasts are lined by white sand beaches where locals go to hang out, picnic, surf, and swim. The beaches on the bay side are protected and good for swimming, while those on the open ocean provide plenty of waves for surfers.
Closest to the city center is Porto da Barra, the site of Bahia’s first European settlement and a popular hangout for locals, and Praia do Farol da Barra, which has rocky pools near the lighthouse and good surf conditions at the far end. In a lively neighborhood with lots of restaurants near the beach, Praia do Rio Vermelho is popular.
Many of the dishes are made with maize (corn). El Salvador’s most notable dish is the pupusa, a thick handmade corn flour or rice flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, chicharrón (cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency), refried beans or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America).