The city of Salvador is a highlight of Brazil for many visitors. The capital of the state of Bahia in the north of the country, it contains the worlds largest collection of colonial architecture and pulsates with a diverse and fascinating culture.
Salvador is known for its strong African roots. The north of Brazil is, sadly where the Portuguese imported their slaves when they first colonised the country, mainly from West Africa. With slavery long abolished, the legacy today remains as a vibrant culture with a strong African influence. Salvador is the city with largest black population in Brazil and this gives it a very different feel to cities in the south such as Rio or Sao Paulo. Drumming and dancing are popular and it is not uncommon to encounter a drumming school practising in the streets. Nothing beats this as stand by watching the smiling faces of the group as they move through the streets in perfect rhythm.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this culture is the dance cross martial art known as Capoeira. Capoeira originates from Angola and was brought over by the African slaves. It is a strong and skilled combination of dance, acrobatics and music that is becoming popular in many countries through the world. It is Brazil, and particularly Salvador and the north where it is most famous and has even been given a protected status by UNESCO. Visitors to the city can watch a demonstration and even take part in a class; its a fantastic way to keep fit!
Capoeira is not the only UNESCO protected part of Salvadorean culture. The old town of the city, known as the Pelourinho is a beautiful collection of colonial architecture, the largest in the world. A picture-perfect blend of pastel-coloured buildings, terracotta rooves and cobbled streets, it is a touristic highlight of the city. Interspersed amongst these buildings are many churches with spectacular examples of frescoes and ceilings. Outside of the Pelourinho, the most famous church in the city is the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. It is the most venerated church in the city and the site of a famous festival every January. The popular Bonfim bracelets, coloured cotton ribbons wound round the wrist, are worn in Salvador and throughout Brazil. They are seen originally as a good luck charm and nowadays also as a fashion symbol.
The Pelourinho features some of the best hotels in Salvador, known for their boutique charm and luxury accommodation. Here we talk about the three best boutique hotels in Salvador.
Housed in two adjoining colonial mansions, Villa Bahia maintains the style of the 17th and 18th centuries in a charming manner. The 17 rooms are decorated in a unique style with wooden floorboards and crisp white linens with warm, colourful accents. Each of the rooms reflects a different period in the history of Bahia ranging through Africa, Asia and Europe. Th e public spaces are equally charming with a courtyard in the centre of the hotel that houses a swimming pool, lined with exotic plants.
A second patio offers a more botanical feel with different plants and a relaxing environment. The restaurant serves delicious cuisine, locally inspired but with French influences and using the freshest ingredients. Guests can enjoy their meal in the restaurant or on the patio, in a fresher environment. The rooftop terrace is a crowning glory of the hotel and the perfect place to relax with a drink and enjoy the view over the rooftops of the Pelourinho.
Casa do Amarelindo
Casa do Amarelindo is a beautiful hotel in a restored, 17th century mansion. Offering 10 rooms decorated in an elegant style with polished wooden floors and authentic decorative touches. Each offers views over the Pelourinho or the beautiful All Saints Bay, looking out to sea. Amenities include Nespresso machines, safe and complimentary WiFi. The restaurant serves fresh, Bahian cuisine with an emphasis on fish and seafood, all with international influences.
Guests have the flexibility to enjoy a delicious breakfast in the restaurant, by the pool, in their room or on the panoramic terrace. The bar serves cocktails from around the world including the Brazilian Caipirinha and a range of first class cachaças. Guests wishing to be more active can use the Fitness Centre with views over All Saints Bay. The hotels pool is the only one in the Pelourinho with a view of All Saints Bay. Guests can dive into the pool and imagine themselves diving into the sea itself. The panoramic terrace offers breath-taking views of the bay and islands beyond, the Bonfim church and other key landmarks in the city. It is ideal for relaxing at the end of the day with a cooling cocktail as you watch the sun go down.
Aram Yami, like all boutique hotels in Salvador, is a former colonial mansion situated in the heart of the Pelourinho. Effortlessly combining classic authenticity with modern cool, it is a beautiful hotel. The six suites are all uniquely decorated with views over the Pelourinho or All Saints Bay. Many have glazed doors that open onto private balconies, allowing the sea breeze to flow in.
Polished wooden floors and crisp white linens create a fresh and clean feel and funky touches include statement wall paper, four poster beds and bright linen accents. Guests can enjoy a typical Brazilian breakfast full of fresh fruits, tapioca pancakes, freshly squeezed juices, eggs and much more. Aram Yami offers 2 pools and some suites come with their own private pool.
Simon Williams is Director of The Bespoke Travel Group.
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