Founded in 1549 by Tomé de Souza and as the first capital of Brazil until 1763, Salvador de Bahia, often simply called Bahia, witnessed the blending of European, African and Amerindian cultures. It was also from 1558 the first slave market in the New World arriving from the African coasts to work on the sugar plantations.
Salvador is split between the upper city, including the Pelourinho district, and the lower city (cidade baixa) where the Mercado Modelo (handicrafts and souvenirs) as well as the administrative buildings are located. Around this bicephalous historical centre, linked together by the Elevador Lacerda (Lacerda Elevator) and various funiculars (planos inclinados), the city covers a huge surface consisting of districts with often very characteristic features (small bungalows, favelas, ancient villages absorbed by the metropolis, modern and luxurious buildings) separated by highways. Capital of the state of Bahia, the city has exceeded 3 million inhabitants and is considered as one of the most cultural spots of Brazil.
The majority of the population of Salvador is of African descent, the reason for nicknaming it “the black pearl of Brazil”. This African soul has been preserved and can be found through the culture (candomblé animist rituals, with its gods and goddesses showing very human defaults and qualities, the cherished Orixas), through the food (spices, dendê palm oil, coconut milk), through the dances (axé and samba), and through an impressively colourful and lively carnival, the crowning moment of spontaneous unbridled and popular parties throughout the year. For this reason the baianos (Brazilians born in Bahia) say that each day given by God on earth is a party day. Besides carnival, Salvador is known for its quantity of celebrations (festas), at least one per month.
Salvador is a city where your senses are constantly aroused: by the sight of churches overloaded with gold, the exotic taste of the drinks and the traditional cuisine, the smell of the spices and herbs, the colours of the picturesque houses of the Pelourinho district, the shouts of the street sellers, and above all the characteristic rhythm of the Bahian music you can hear everywhere.
Salvador is literally surrounded by magnificent beaches which attract tourists, especially in the North.