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By Mariana Sales, Contributing Reporter

SALVADOR, BRAZIL – Perhaps the most culturally diverse city of Brazil, Salvador in the state of Bahia has a unique energy that expands well beyond their famous Carnival celebrations. Once the capital of the country, the city is composed of a mix of European, African and native heritage, that is reflected in the local music, dance and architecture.

The streets of Pelourinho are filled with colored colonial-style houses, photo by Olivan Osantos/Flickr Creative Commons License.

The perfect way to kick off a five-days trip to Salvador is by going to the world famous Historic Center of the city – listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site -, where Pelourinho, Largo de São Francisco, and Largo de Santo Antônio are located.

Salvador has managed to preserve many of its outstanding colonial-style buildings and Pelourinho is where you can find most of them. Right at the entrance, at Largo Terreiro de Jesus, tourists are welcomed by capoeira dancers, and at the end of the square, there is São Francisco church, known for its golden interior.

Closely located is the Lacerda Elevator, in the Municipal Square, that reveals a breath-taking view of Todos os Santos Bay. You can take the elevator down to Modelo Market, where there are tons of souvenir shops.

For day two, it is worth visiting the famous Senhor do Bonfim Church, at Colina Sagrada (Sacred Hill), where the famous colored ribbons come from. Catholic churches are a big part of Bahia, as it is popularly said that Salvador has a church for every day of the year. About five minutes away there is Ribeira neighborhood, and after strolling its seafront visit Sorveteria da Ribeira, one of the oldest ice cream shops in town.

On your way back, stop by the Modern Art Museum (MAM), at Solar do Unhão, to grab a coffee and watch the sunset. Usually, on Saturday evenings they host Jam no MAM, an open-air jazz concert.

For the third day, a good idea is to visit Museum of Sacred Art to see its beautiful collection of paintings and antique furniture. Nearby is also Palacete das Artes which houses some works of Rodin.

Porto da Barra is the most famous beach in Salvador and gets busy on weekends, photo by Livony Borja /Flickr Creative Commons License.

Next stop is Barra beach, the favorite among Bahians for its calm waters. After that, walk towards Farol da Barra, one of the town’s main landmarks. That might be a good time to have a Moqueca and some água de côco (coconut water).

The sunset at Farol da Barra is one of the highlights of the city, according to Argentinian physical therapist Sabrina Escalada, who had lived in Salvador and is already planning her return.

“It is a magical place, I fell in love with the city. The food is so rich and the locals are very nice. But for me, the most remarkable thing is to watch the sunset at Barra after a day in Pelourinho,” says Escalada.

The Bohemian neighborhood of Rio Vermelho is located close to Barra, and is where festivities for the goddess Yemanjá take place every year. It is a good place to spend the fourth day exploring. At Largo de Santo Antonio there are the most popular bars in town.

Last but not least, take the final day to visit Praia do Flamengo – it is a little further from the center of Salvador, but certinaly worth a day visit. With many barracas – such as Barraca do Lôro and Pipa – by a stunning beach, the area is often deserted during weekdays. Do not forget to pass by Acarajé da Cira for a last minute Acarajé.

From Rio, a flight to Salvador takes about two hours, and round-trip prices usually start at R$350 but there are often sales and special offers. There are also buses available – but be aware that the trip takes up to 24 hours and is often as expensive as flights at R$150 for a one-way ticket.

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