Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Walking old Salvador - The Pelourinho and The Historic Center

Buildings along the Terreiro de Jesus
When you come to Salvador you must spend at least a day walking around the Historic Center and The Pelourinho, The oldest parts of the city. (see map)  This was the original Salvador dating back tot he early 1500's. Like many European cities built at that time Salvador was built on a cliff 73 m above the Baia de Todos-os-Santos (Bay of all Saints).

The Lower City from Praça Municipal

You can start your tour at the Praça Municipal, which is home to the City Hall, the City Counselor building and a state government building. There is also an Elevador Lacerda to the lower city.

Praça Municipal with tribute to Joao Ubando Ribieri

City Council

State offices

Elevador Lacerda

Our tour guide - Josuel

From there walk north along the Rua da Miserícordia to Praça de Se. Just before you get to the Praça, there is a store dedicated to the photography of Pierre Verger. There is a gallery of his work on the Rua da Miserícordia.

Once you get to the nicely shaded plaza there is a wonderful tribute to Zumbi dos Palmeras. Zumbi was the leader of an independent town of escaped slaves, made famous in the movie Quilombo

 Continuing on from Praça de Se you get to Praça Terriero de Jesus which is the entrance to El Pelourinho. El Pelourinho is the heart and soul of Salvador. 

Looking around the Praça you can see 4 different churches. The two most important are the Catedral Basilica which covers the west side of the plaza and Igreja do Sao Francisco which sits a block off of the plaza. I will be discussing theses and 2 other churches in another post. 

Start this part of your tour with the Museu Afro-Brasiliero, in the former medical college on the north side of the square.

The Amazing Ms. D at the Museu Afro-Brasiliero
This is a small museum that covers the history of slave trade to Brazil. It has a collection of African art. It also has a permanent exhibit on the orishas. These are the African gods and goddesses of the Candomble religion, one of the many forms of afro-latino religions across the Americas. The main part of the exhibit are a series of carvings by the artist Carybé.


When you are finished at the museum continue down the hill. You have the choice of three streets - Rua Alfredo da Brito, Rua Joâo de Deus or Rua Gregorio de Mattos. Spend your time wandering around the streets. Go into the shops. they range from typical touristy or some high end stores. Explore and enjoy.

One of the things you will see are silver charms called Balangenna. These were charms that were given by slave owners to slaves as a reward for something that the owner liked. If a slave could fill up the clip he would be granted his freedom.

Continue down the hill to the Largo de Pelourinho. This was the main square of the old town. It is where slave auctions were held and where runaway slave were whipped as punishment. 

At the top of the plaza is Casa de Jorge Amado. Jorge Amado was probably the best known Brazilian writer and in the U.S. is most famous for writing Dona Flor and her Two Husbands. If that is all you know about him I suggest stopping in to learn more his extensive and fascinating career.

Largo do Pelourinho

 The final stop in the Pelourinho is the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário Dos Pretos.
Igreja Dos Pretos
Prayer/Wish ribbons of the church gate

The Amazing Ms. D at the Igreja Dos Pretos
This church sits in stark contrast to the Igreja Sao Francisco at the top of the hill. This church was built by slaves for slaves. Dos Preto translates as "the Blacks". I will have more to say about both of these churches and the Igreja do BomFim in a future blog.

Tuesday night is party night in the Pelourinho. Live music all over the place, especially drumming groups. It is not to be missed.

Dida - an all girls drumming group performing in El Pelourinho

Largo do Pelourinho at night


  1. Salvador, its people, the music, the food, the spirituality, the history--it was all wonderful, my favorite part of the trip. Pelo, Pelourinho, stole my heart for the second time. Almost thirty years ago when I first visited, I was a young tourist who was all into this amazing neighborhood but didn't have a behind the scenes understanding of what was going on. This time was even better as we got to know individual people in the community and were privy to some pretty amazing events. The drumming group, Didá had me up and moving my hips even though my knees complained the whole time. I just had another capirinha and kept moving. A note for people with walking issues--the Pelo is wonderful but quite challenging to people with limited mobility like myself. On my first trip, I didn't even notice the inclines, the tiny sidewalks, the uneven cobble stones, the crowds. This time it was much more challenging. I had to go slowly and be very careful of when and where I stepped. It rained everyday (about 15 minutes and then the sun came out and dried everything off). So I had to wait for the cobblestones to dry since they can be quite slippery when wet. My advice--Go slowly, wear flat, closed shoes with rubber soles. If you are careful, it's well worth the effort. AMD

  2. My experiences of Salvador come rushing back in pleasant waves of memories looking at these pictures. The old buildings, the history, the music...but most of all I remember the beautiful smiles of the Baianos we met, the welcoming way we were greeted and the gracious way we were treated. Yes, it's the people I met in Salvador that are my best memories.