In 1996, Michael Jackson put the Pelourinho and Carmo districts in the spotlight by recording his music video ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ there. The video, including the local percussion group Olodum, shows you what is waiting for you in the historical and swinging center of Salvador.
1. To do and see in Salvador
Dozens of little streets with cheerfully painted colonial houses and churches, where you can stroll around for hours on end. Don’t use a travel guide and be surprised by what and who you encounter. Typically in the lesser-known smaller streets, you will find the most charming shops, restaurants, and bars.
It sometimes feels like you’re walking in an amusement park, where everyone is trying to entertain you or sell you something, but appearances can be deceiving. Pelourinho, which has been on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 1995, is just a residential area. Samba-reggae, capoeria, Candomblé, acarajé, and many percussion groups are part of an Afro-Brazilian lifestyle which is still alive and kicking.
Would you like to experience what it’s like to play samba on the drums? Then you should visit charismatic percussion and capoeira master Lua Rasta. In just an hour, he will teach you the basic techniques of samba on his homemade drums and tambourines. If you really try, he will turn it into an unforgettable party. The lessons cost 30 Real per person. Of course, he can also arrange capoeira lessons.
Address: Atelier Mestre Lua Rasta, Acciole 3, Pelourinho, Salvador
The most appreciated hostel in the whole of Salvador is the previously mentioned Hostel Galeria 13, and rightly so. The rooms are really magnificently furnished, the breakfast with a freshly made egg is delicious, and it has its own pool. On top of that, a guest of the hostel receives a 10% discount in Bar Zulu.
Address: Hostel Galeria 13, Accioli 23, Pelourinho, Salvador
If there are no rooms available in Hostel Galeria 13, Hostel Solar dos Romanos is an excellent alternative. Request a room at the back of the building, because of the excessive noise level on the street side and for a view of the bay.
Address: Hostel Solar dos Romanos, Portas do Carmo 14, Pelourinho, Salvador
3. Eat and drink
For enthusiasts of delicious and especially good food, Bahia is the place to be. Therefore, when you order, please bear in mind that the dish is often prepared for two people. We have found three restaurants that we would really like to recommend. Hostel Galeria 13 has the same owner as Bar Zulu.
It is one of the few restaurants without someone who’s trying to talk you in, because they simply don’t need it. They have an excellent and elaborate international menu. Don’t forget to order a serving of bolinhos de bacalhau, the ones they serve here are of excellent quality.
Address: Bar Zulu, Laranjeiras 15, Pelourinho, Salvador
Would you like to taste the local Bahian cuisine?
Then you should try the über-cute Dona Chika-Ka and the more upscale SENAC. The latter is also a culinary school where you can learn to cook traditional Bahian dishes. Recommended dishes are moqueca and bobó de camarão.
Address: Restaurante Dona Chika-Ka, Rua do Açouguinho 10, Pelourinho, Salvador
Address: Restaurante do SENAC, Largo do Pelourinha 13, Pelourinho, Salvador
In the Brazilian summer months December and January, parties and concerts are regularly organized in Pelourinho and Carmo, just as in the rest of Brazil. Most hostels and pousadas know exactly when, where, and what kind of shows are on. Expect a spectacular show, as Brazilians know how to throw a party.
Every Tuesday night, the district turns into one big party with something happening on every corner. One of the most popular concerts is held on Tuesday night, by the band Geronimo, on the steps of a church (La escadaria do Carmo).
Address: Concert Geronimo, Ladeira do Carmo, Pelourinho, Salvador
4. Transport to Salvador
You can catch a bus from the bus companies Kaissara and Águia Branca in Rio de Janeiro, but this will take you a day. To fly is faster and sometimes not even so much more expensive if you book far in advance. Airlines flying to Salvador are GOL, Azul, LATAM and Avianca.
In Pelourinho and Carmo, the police presence is visually noticeable so you can walk around fairly carefree. It is recommended to stay vigilant in the evening and especially at night, and to carry the bare minimum of valuables. Salvador is a poor city where crime statistics are slightly higher than the rest of southern Brazil.