WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Salvador is from December to February, the Bahian summer. The extravagant Carnaval celebration, normally held in February but in 2011 scheduled for March 3–8, is the second largest in Brazil and, according to some, more authentic than Rio de Janeiro’s. Brazilians prepare all year for the annual showcase of colorful costumes and dramatic floats, which are designed by “schools” comprised of thousands of performers who sing, dance, and play in orchestras featuring some 400 drums.
Salvador is also a great place to spend New Year’s Eve, as crowds of Brazilians dressed in white head to the coast at midnight and throw white roses and carnations into the sea as an offering to Lemanjá, goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomble, a mix of Catholicism and African beliefs. Fireworks, musical performances, and throngs of revelers shimmying down the streets turn the city into an unforgettable party venue.
American Airlines and TAM, the Brazilian airline, offer daily connecting service from U.S. cities. U.S. citizens need visas in addition to passports. More information is available at Brazilian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco, or at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
WHERE TO STAY
- Othon Palace is an oceanfront high-rise with gorgeous views of the coastline. Ave. Oceanica 2294, Salvador; (011-55-71) 2106-0200.
- Hotel Redfish is a quaint and colorful three-story colonial-style bed-and-breakfast in Salvador's historic center. Ladeira do Boqueirão 1, San Antonio Centro Historico; (011-55-71) 3241-0639.
- Convento do Carmo, a former 16th-century convent turned luxury hotel in the historic district, is the most expensive and upscale accommodation in town. Rua do Carmo, Pelourinho; (011-55-71) 3327-8400.
WHERE TO EAT
- Mama Bahia offers international fare in Salvador's historic center. Frequented by Europeans, it is known for its meat and seafood. Rua das Portas dos Carmo 1, Pelourinho; (011-55-71) 3322-4397.
- Jardim das Delicias, a cozy patio with live bossa nova music, makes a great muqueca (seafood stew). Rua Joao de Deus 2, Pelourinho; (011-55-71) 3321-1449.
- Restaurante do SENAC (National Service of Commercial Apprenticeship), the city’s culinary institute, is a great place to sample Bahian specialties like acarajé (bean fritters), feijoard (bean stew), xinxim de galinha (chicken stewed in palm oil), and a variety of desserts. Daily lunch and dinner buffet at 25 reais (about $12) a person; Largo do Pelourinho 19, second floor; (011-55-71) 3324-4550.