Salvador was originally built around a cliff overlooking the Bay of All Saints, which effectively split the city into two. The Cidade Alta (Upper Town) was home to ornate administrative palaces and churches while the Cidade Baixa (Lower Town) sheltered maritime docks and markets, and later grew into the financial and commercial district. To this day, the two are linked by a series of tortuously steep roads, two funiculars, and one of Salvador’s most famous monuments: the art deco Elevador Lacerda.
Over time, the city grew, following the extension of the Cidade Alta’s main commercial avenue, Avenida Sete de Setembro, which leads from the Praça do Sé in the colonial Pelourinho district to the main square of Campo Grande—an area today designated as “Centro.” From Campo Grande, Avenida Sete de Setembro continues down to the lively beach neighborhood known as Barra; Barra’s iconic black-and-white striped lighthouse marks the point at which the placid Bay of All Saints meets the rougher waters of the Atlantic open sea.
At this point, the main coastal road takes over, and continues for 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) to the former fisherman’s enclave of Itapuã, whose rustic charms were romanticized in the lyrics of two former residents, Dorival Caymmi and Vinícius de Moraes.
Aside from LR Turismo (Rua Marquês de Leão 172, Barra, tel. 71/3264-0999), other operators specializing in city tours include Tours Bahia (Largo do Cruzeiro de São Francisco 416, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3322-4383, www.toursbahia.com), whose excursions are pricy, but varied and professional, and Privê Tur (Av. Sete de Setembro 2068, Vitória, tel. 71/3338-1320, www.privetur.com.br), which also organizes schooner trips and trips to beaches.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition