Things to Do in Salvador, Brazil

Things to Do In SalvadorHere are some suggestions for food, nightlife & music, and daytime hangouts in Salvador, Bahia. For a more complete guide with maps and other details, I highly recommend that you purchase a guidebook such as the Lonely Planet Guide for Brazil. Many people have found their guide to be the only one with real substance on Bahia. Also, here's a tip: If you spend US$40 at the Lonely Planet Shop you'll receive free delivery and a free gift.The following is a list of some of my favorite things to do in Salvador.FOOD. Salvador is known for its traditional cuisine which is Bahian food and this style is especially known for its seafood dishes. The traditional dishes include things you can find sold on the street like acarajé, vatapá caruru, cuz cuz, bolinho de estudante, cocada puxa and cocada baianinha. These foods are sold by "Baianas" who are the women that sit in all-white dresses on street corners in Pelourinho (the Historic Center), on the beaches, and in certain specific locations around the city. Some of the most famous makers of Acarajé in the city are located in Rio de Vermelho (Acarajé da Dina ) and Itapua (Acarajé da Sira). I highly recommend trying some of this food while you are in Salvador.Some of my favorite restaurants include (By neighborhood):In Barra:- Barravento. This is one of the only restaurants directly on the water. It is pricey, but the food is excellent, and so is the service. It is worth having at least one meal there.- Caranguejo de Sergipe. This is across the street from the Barravento restaurant that I just described. It is a little bit less expensive, but the food is good, and it often has a lively atmosphere during the afternoon and evening.In Rio de Vermelho:- Mercado do Peixe. This is the "Fish Market" which has several small restaurants next to each other. This place is most happening during the wee hours of the night. Between midnight and sunrise after many other places are closed, this is sometimes the most happening spot in the city. It is a good place for drinks or food, and usually you will find several cars with their hatchbacks open blasting Brazilian music to share with everyone.In Amaralina:- Quatro Rodas (Four Wheels). If you want to try true Bahian "soul food" after hours, this is the place. This place is mostly frequented by locals, who are familiar with the dishes. These are truly traditional Bahian dishes, the kind that people make at home. If you have picky eaters in the group, you might not want to bring them. These are the kind of dishes, but you might enjoy better if you don't ask what's in them. However, their food is delicious and this restaurant is famous. It is essentially a van that pulls up around 9:30 at night, loaded full of larges pots of dishes like feijoada, sarapatel, dobradinho, etc. They pull out chairs and tables and after about 15 minutes they start serving food and drinks. The place stays busy until the wee hours of the morning, because people go there after evening shows and concerts. This place is for the more adventurous tourist.NIGHTLIFE AND MUSIC. Bahian nightlife is rich with music and dance. Some of the best nightlife, especially for tourists, is concentrated in Pelourinho (the Historic Center). I highly recommend spending some time there in the evening. Many of the most popular groups, as well as several other music groups will play in various plazas there throughout the week. Many of the concerts are free. Depending on the location of the Plaza, you can also grab dinner at the same time. There is a tourist office there that is quite informative and they have English speakers. Some of the popular band names today that might play in Pelourinho are Olodum, Motumbá, and Jauperi. However, there will be lots of musicians performing.Ballet Folklorico de Bahia. If you like to see dance performances, I highly recommend the Ballet Folklorico in Pelourinho. The photo at the beginning of this article is of the Ballet Folklorico in performance. I've known some of the dancers for a long time and they are serious professionals. One of the long-running shows worth seeing at the Ballet Folklorico highlights dances of the Orixás around which the religion of Candomblé is centered. It includes a dance in which a dancer spins with flaming bowls and eats fire. It is a very colorful and impressive show.Some other locations for regular nightlife include:- Bohemia Bar in Barra. this bar is much more typical of a bar, you might find in São Paulo, or even in the United States. It is a little pricey, so it tends to host a more upscale Brazilian crowd. There is a dress code, so it you're better to show up in jeans instead of shorts. There are several other restaurants on the same corner with outdoor seating in case you choose to have dinner beforehand. Any taxi driver can find it for you.DAYTIME HANGOUTS. This is a list of things to do during the day including beaches, museums, and shopping.- Mahi Mahi restaurant at Sol Victoria Marina Hotel. This place is next door to my condominium building in Corredor da Vitoria. (By the way, I rent out this fabulous condo when I am not using it). This is a great place to spend an afternoon as an alternative to going to the beach. To use any of the hotel facilities next door, just go there and if anyone asks, tell them you stay next door in my building. Especially If you want to take the ride down the side of the hill to the restaurant/bar on the water (Mahi Mahi Restaurant), they might request that you pay between R$25-R$35 per person up front before you take the tram. If they do, they will give you a voucher for that amount. You will get credit for that amount when you pay your food and drink bill. Just be sure that everyone gives the waiter their vouchers so that they will deduct the amount of the vouchers from the bill. I recommend going early in the afternoon because when you can hang out all day and night after you get your voucher for the day. It is a nice place to kick back, listen to music, sunbathe, and chill for hours.Beaches. I would definitely check out Porto da Barra at least one beach day. It is the closest and the easiest to get to. Because of that, it gets very crowded. As you go in the direction of the airport, the beaches get less crowded and cleaner. If you have time to go to a far away beach, a half hour to an hour drive, go to Praia da Forte or Praia de Flamengo. You can negotiate a price with any taxi driver to take you there and back. Alternatively, you can find a city bus that goes there.Museums. There are several museums in Corredor da Vitoria including the Museum of Geology, the Bahia Museum of Art, and the Carlos Costa Pinto Museum. The hours are not all very standard, so I recommend consulting a tourist guide such as the Lonely Planet Guide for hours and phone numbers.Mercado Modelo. This is one of the best places to buy souvenirs. You can find all kinds of local arts and crafts there. You can also bargain with vendors for the best prices on any local items you can think of like Brazilian hammocks, music CDs, paintings, etc. There is also an interesting exhibit in the basement. The basement was the holding place for slaves brought to Salvador centuries ago. You can find a small stairwell towards the back of the market that will take you down there and I believe the exhibit is still free.Shopping Barra. If you want a more traditional shopping mall, the largest mall in the heart of Salvador is called Shopping Barra. It is where locals go for movies, fashionable clothing, and household goods. However, it is also where you can find a local SIM chip for your GSM cell phone, exchange money, and sometimes buy tickets to shows.Over time, I'm sure I'll add more favorites to my blog, so check out other postings as well. However, you will be doing yourself a favor to going get the Lonely Planet Guide for Brazil. It is useful not only in software, but in all the other locations in Bahia and in Brazil that you might travel to as well.
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