São Bento monastery, Porto da Barra and Rio Vermelho in Salvador, Brazil

The modern city, which is dotted with skyscraper apartment blocks, sits to the south of the old centre towards the mouth of the bay. Rua Chile leads to Praça Castro Alves, with its monument to the man who started the campaign that finally led to the abolition of slavery in 1888. Two streets lead out of this square: Avenida 7 de Setembro, busy with shops and street vendors selling everything imaginable; and, parallel to it, Rua Carlos Gomes. São Bento monastery, www.saobento.org, another of Bahia's oldest religious buildings, dating from 1582 but with much later construction. The cool, colonial spaces and cloistered garden are a welcome quiet space within the bustle of the city. The monastery was used as an arsenal by the Dutch during their occupation in 1624 and narrowly avoided going the way of much of colonial Rio and São Paulo in the 20th century, razed to the ground to make way for ugly modern skyscrapers.

Museu de Arte Sacra da Bahia
, is in the 17th-century monastery and church of Santa Teresa d'Avila, at the bottom of the steep Ladeira de Santa Tereza. Many of the 400 carvings are from Europe, but there are some beautiful pieces by the artists who worked on the city's finest churches, such as Frei Agostinho de Piedade and José Joaquim da Rocha. Look out for the hauntingly life-like statue of Christ by the latter, carved from a piece of ivory and crucified on a
cross. Among the reliquaries of silver and gold is one made from gilded wood by Aleijadinho . The views from the patio, out over the Baía de Todos os Santos, are breathtaking and very little photographed. Opposite is
, a private museum of postcards. Just inland near Campo Belo is the
Dique do Tororo
, a lake and leisure area decorated with 3-m-high
statues by the Bahian sculptor Tati Moreno. There are large
celebrations here at dawn on 2 February before the
Festa da Yemanjá
when priestesses offer presents to Oxum (the spirit of the waters).

Mosteiro São Bento
 (Gregorian chant)
, is one of the oldest Benedictine buildings in Latin America, founded in 1582 and altered through the centuries. It is a peaceful retreat from the bustle of Salvador and houses a religious art museum with some 2000 priceless antiquities.

Further south, the
Museu de Arte Moderna
, converted from an old estate house, is only open for special exhibitions. The buildings themselves are worth seeing. Slaves from Africa arrived here and were crammed together in the building's dungeon-like rooms. The museum is close to a
and there are occasional muggings particularly after dark; it's best to take a taxi.

Heading towards Porta da Barra, the
Museu de Arte da Bahia
, has interesting paintings by Bahian and Brazilian artists from the 18th to the early 20th century.

Museu Carlos Costa Pinto
, www.guasar.com.br/ mccp/mccp.htm, is a modern house with collections of crystal, porcelain, silver and furniture. It ostensibly has the world's only collection of
(slave charms and jewellery) and is highly recommended.

Porto da Barra and the Atlantic beach suburbs

Barra is one of the most popular places to stay in Salvador and the best inner-city beaches are in this area. The strip from Porto da Barra as far as the Cristo at the end of the Farol da Barra beach has some of the city's liveliest cafés, restaurants, bars and clubs. A night out here, in nearby Campo Belo and in the exclusive restaurants and bars of the city's most upmarket venue,
Praça dos Tupinambas
, give an idea of how polarized Salvador society is. The clientele is much more middle class than the Pelourhino; the music, food and conversation are more European and American and, in Brazil's African heart, there's hardly a black face in sight.

There are a few sights of moderate interest around Barra. The
Forte de Santo Antônio
and its famous lighthouse are right at the mouth of the bay where Baía de Todos os Santos and the South Atlantic Ocean meet. On the upper floors, the
Museu Hidrográfico
, has fine views of the coast. A promenade leads away from the fort, following the coast to the beach suburbs of
. Confusingly, the road is known as both Avenida Oceânica and Avenida Presidente Vargas, but with different numbering. Beyond Pituba are the best ocean beaches at
(take any bus from Praça da Sé marked Aeroporto or Itapoã, about one hour). En route the bus passes small fishing colonies at
, where
(small rafts peculiar to the northeast) can be seen. Near Itapoã is the
Lagoa do Abaeté
, a deep freshwater lake surrounded by brilliant, white sands. This is where local women come to wash their clothes and then lay them out to dry in the sun. The road leading up from the lake offers a panoramic view of the city in the distance with white sands and freshwater less than 1 km from the sea.

Near the lighthouse at
are two campsites on the beach. A little beyond them are the magnificent ocean beaches of
Stella Maris
, both quiet during the week but very busy at the weekends. Beware of strong undercurrents in the sea.

Rio Vermelho

This modern coastal suburb, between Ondina and Pituba, has long been the home of many of Salvador's well-to-do artists and musicians and is rapidly becoming the most exciting nightlife centre outside the Pelourinho. Unlike the beachfront neighbourhoods around Barra, the clientele is a healthy mix of middle class and African-Brazilian. There's a lively market with many little spit and sawdust bars, a handful of decent restaurants and small eateries serving some of the city's best
. The area is busy at night, especially at weekends, and there are a number of venues playing traditional Bahian music. On 2 February the beach at Rio Vermelho is packed with
pilgrims for the
Festa de Yemanjá
. To get here from the city centre, it is a 10-minute taxi ride (US$8-10) or a 20-minute bus journey. There are some good hotels nearby.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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