Framed by the bay of Todos os Santos and beaches of great natural beauty, Salvador, a cultural heritage of humanity, preserves an architectural ensemble that represents a living piece of the history of Brazil, of which it was the first capital.

Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, and of Brazil until 1763, is located in the Recôncavo Baiano, on the banks of the bay of Todos os Santos, which opens onto the Atlantic Ocean. The annual thermal average is 24o C, and the total annual rainfall reaches 2,200mm. The dry season is not very pronounced and the wettest period corresponds to the autumn-winter months.


According to Proexchangerates, Salvador was founded by the first governor-general of Brazil, Tomé de Sousa, in 1549, by order of D. João III, who decided to install the seat of the colony government there in order to promote its development and coordinate the defense against Indians and pirates . The original nucleus of the city appeared on the hill of the Cathedral, flat part of the top of the escarpment, and extended to the west, until the valley that corresponds to the current Baixa do Sapateiro. In the 16th century, Salvador was limited to the area now between Pelourinho and Praça Castro Alves.

In the early days of its history, Salvador experienced dramatic moments. In 1624 it was attacked by the Dutch, who capitulated the following year; in 1627 there was a new onslaught by the Dutch, and in 1638 count Maurice of Nassau arrived with troops destined to assault the city. The forces of the last Dutch invader were expelled in 1654. In the 18th century, the city became the scene of several movements for national independence; there were armed uprisings, which were smothered by the imperial forces.

The expansion of sugar cane farming in the recôncavo had repercussions on the development of the city, which experienced a strong growth spurt until the middle of the 18th century. During this period, palaces and manors, convents and churches were built, which extended the limits of the city towards the top of the hills: to the north, the convent of Carmo and the chapel of Santo Antônio; to the south, the convent of São Bento; and to the west, that of Desterro. In 1763 the capital of Brazil was transferred to Rio de Janeiro and a phase of gradual decline in the pace of growth of Salvador began. Until the 19th century, the Bahian city was limited to the east by the Tororó dike, built during the Dutch occupation, to the south by the fort of São Pedro and to the north by the fort of Barbalho.

At the end of the 19th century, the pace of growth was resumed and accelerated in the second half of the 20th century, thanks mainly to oil exploration – with the installation of the Mataripe refinery and other Petrobras units – and the implantation of the Industrial Center of Aratu. The offer of jobs was expanded, as well as the training of labor and the circulation of wealth. Since then, the city has consolidated its functions as a regional metropolis and has grown towards beaches and hills.

The City of Salvador

Urban Development

Salvador develops on two distinct levels: Cidade Baixa, on the narrow coastal plain, and Cidade Alta, located on the plateau that rises on an abrupt escarpment, sixty meters from the port. Cidade Baixa is the core of port and commercial activities, especially in the wholesale sector. In Cidade Alta, residential neighborhoods surround the historic center, which is characterized by retail trade. This area of ​​the city was the one that most modernized and where the buildings of the public administration are located, although houses, houses, churches and palaces characteristic of the old city are preserved. The two levels are connected by the Lacerda elevator, a landmark of the city, in operation since 1873, and by the inclined plane of Gonçalves, also served by an elevator and built on a mountain ramp opened by the Jesuits in the 17th century.

The road modernization of Salvador, carried out in the 1960s, took advantage of the valleys for the opening of wide avenues that facilitated the traffic between the center and the new neighborhoods and summer places. Previously, this connection was made through the contour of the seafront. The city’s growth, however, has aggravated social problems. The poorest population is concentrated in neighborhoods that extend northwards, usually without urban infrastructure. In Salvador is the largest favela on stilts in Brazil, Alagados.


The activities of services, tourism and commerce predominate in Salvador, but the growth of industrialization is marked. The Aratu Industrial Center, created in 1967, encouraged the installation of manufacturing units, which have grown in number and diversification of products. The main industries are in the textile, food, construction and leather, tobacco and cocoa processing sectors. The Camaçari petrochemical complex, which industrializes oil from the recôncavo, functions as a center of attraction for various activities in the industrial and commercial area. In the economic framework, fishing and agriculture also stand out, especially that of fruits such as coconut, orange, banana and mango.

An important communications hub, Salvador has a traditional and busy port, serving the cities of the recôncavo and the cocoa region of southern Bahia. A ferry boat connects Salvador to the island of Itaparica. In addition to the busy airport, the city has train stations and there is intense road traffic to the South and Northeast.

Culture and tourism

The headquarters of two universities, Federal da Bahia (UFB) and Católica de Salvador, Salvador saw the birth of the first medical study center created in the country, the Faculty of Medicine, now integrated with UFB.

One of the largest tourist centers in the country, Salvador benefits from very specific characteristics. It has warm and sunny weather all year round; the natural beauty of beaches, such as Ondina, Arembepe, Farol da Barra, Amaralina, and lagoons, such as Abaeté; the varied manifestations of black culture, such as rich and exotic cuisine, music, warm rhythms, religious syncretism, candomblé terreiros and capoeira exhibitions; parties such as Senhor do Bonfim and carnival, with their electric trios; and a magnificent setting of historic architecture.

It is a large cultural center, with museums, churches, art and historical monuments and unique architectural ensembles such as Pelourinho, listed by UNESCO in 1983 and considered a historic heritage site by humanity. This colonial nucleus, located in Cidade Alta, is the oldest historic center of the city, with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. At the end of the twentieth century, the landscape of Pelourinho was restored, hitherto composed of buildings in ruins or in frank decay, and restored the beauty to more than one hundred of its almost thousand secular houses.

Among the historical monuments of the city are several churches, such as Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, of Baroque style, which is part of the Pelourinho complex; the cathedral-basilica (1572-1657); the church of the Third Order, whose convent was transformed into a hotel; the church of São Francisco, covered with gold carving; the church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia; the abbey of São Bento; the church and convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo; the Bonfim church, whose traditional festival takes place in the month of January; and that of Desterro. Also noteworthy are the forts of the old line of defense of the coast, such as São Marcelo, Santo Antônio da Barra, Monte Serrat, São Pedro and Santa Maria.

Among the museums, the Museum of Sacred Art is famous – with a collection that gathers more than 1,500 pieces, including images, sculptures, tiles, implements, panels, objects made of gold, silver, soapstone and baked clay – and the Carlos Museum Costa Pinto (silverware and furniture), known as the Silver Museum, and the Bahia Art Museum. The Lower City also has attractions such as the Mercado Modelo, with handicraft shops, restaurants and bars, the Ferrão manor, the Unhão manor, which has been completely restored, and the Água dos Meninos fair, the point of influx of typical sloops that carry products. from the recôncavo to Salvador.

The City of Salvador
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