Eu amo Salvador!
Unofficially the birth place of the most electrifying and joyful festival in the world, the famous Carnival of Brazil. Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and is the largest city in the northeastern region of the country. This enchanting jewel of South America was the first town in the colony of Brazil and still preserves most of the 17th- and 18th-century colonial buildings that have earned them a UNESCO World Heritage designation.
Curious fact: Salvador was Brazil’s capital until 1763, when it was succeeded by Rio de Janeiro. For three centuries this was the first gate of contact for the African slaves. In today’s Salvador, people of African descent still make up the majority of the population. This has highly influenced their music, arts, food, and religion. No wonder this magical city gave birth to the iconic Carnival and the famous martial art of Capoeira. If you come to Brazil, do yourself a favor and discover for yourself why Salvador stole my heart.
Gay City Guide
Salvador Gay Carnival February 23– March 1, 2017
The gay scene is way smaller when compared to Rio or Sao Paolo. Truly the best gay time to visit Salvador is for Carnival. Believe me when I tell you that you will see the hottest men on earth in this 6 day festival. Like in Rio, most guys that come here just split their days between the beach and the parades. Salvador doesn’t have many gay places. Homophobia and hate is a big problem in this city. That’s why I highly recommend visiting around Carnival, it is the time when they allow themselves to play; maybe another reason why the energy is so high on those parades.
Like any of the beach capitals of the world, Salvador’s body culture and image influence the atmosphere and the people from the scene heavily. Of all the Latino lovers, Brazilians are the most passionate and that is not a myth. I met a boy in Carnival and even came back later to visit him. He showed me around the local restaurants and places I would never be able to see if I didn’t meet him. If looking for a lover, Bahianos will teach you a trick or two.
Gay Clubs and Bars
San Sebastian Salvador is pretty much the best option in the city. A small club with a dance floor level, a mezzanine, and an outdoor roof deck area, it is the place that all locals go to on Fridays and Saturday nights. They have really good DJs and a great sound system.
Location: Rua da Paciência, 88 – Rio Vermelho, Salvador
Amsterdam Pop Club Located in the center of Salvador on the banks of the Bay of All Saints, it has a beautiful view of the city, and is one of those clubs that when you get out at 6 am and see the sunrise coming you feel like you are in a movie. Two spaces, one covered with nightclub and modern lighting, the another is open-air with a balcony. Arrive early because the queues are often large and disorganized. Best days to go are Friday and Saturday.
Located:Ladeira dos Aflitos, s/n – Largo dos Aflitos, Salvador
Boate Tropical One of the oldest and most established gay clubs in Salvador. Don’t come here alone, the place is located on an unsafe street. Therefore, if coming make sure to Uber in and out of it. They play Disco and retro tunes and it’s fairly popular with locals. You will have the real queer Salvador experience here. Also, it is walking distance from Amsterdam club, so if one is not busy you can go to the other.
Located: Rua Gamboa de Cima, 24 – Dois de Julho, Salvador
Bar Ancora Do Marujo Open Thursday to Saturday, this lively gay bar/restaurant offers the best Drag shows I’ve witnessed in all of South America. It’s interesting how cities with high levels of homophobia always open a portal to incredible, subversive, strong art and drag scenes. Definitely a must when visiting Salvador.
Location: Rua Carlos Gomes, 808 – Dois de Julho, Salvador
Sauna Rio’s Not a huge fan of saunas, but considering how few gay options Salvador has…This is the best rated Sauna of the city. I personally haven’t been.
Location: R. Almeida Sande, 8 – Barris, Salvador
Top 3 Hotels
Coming soon in 2018. But I add it now so you know that in a year the top hotel of Salvador will be running and ready for you.
This 19th century colonial mansion is located in Pelourinho, facing Baía de Todos os Santos Bay. It offers luxurious accommodation with balcony, a rooftop swimming pool, a panoramic terrace and free WiFi internet. Rooms are spacious and well equipped. The balconies offer bay or city views. Being located in the historic heart of Salvador, many tourist sights are within walking distance. Best Rate $150
This boutique hotel offers carefully designed ambiances and personal attention in the heart of Salvador, only a few meters from the beach. The hotel has a year-round outdoor pool and spa centre and is a great option for those who want to relax in a secluded bahia beach. Until Fasano hotel opens on 2018 Salvador really don’t have incredible high end accommodations but of all the options Zank is the closer they get to a luxurious experience. Best Rate $170
The only reason why I mention this hotel is because on Carnival is the best hotel to stay for their strategic location. Right in the middle of one of the two main circuits it will make your Carnival experiences safer and easier.
Top 3 Restaurants
Brazilian’s love their churrasquerias (Stake houses) and of all the one in the city this one is the favorite within locals. All meats are cooked fresh in the moment in front of you and they will keep coming until you let them know that you are satisfied. A great experience for the meat lovers.
Famous for the bahia iconic dish Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew) Casa de Tereza is the top Salvadorian culinary experience. Meticulously selected ingredients combined with a great talent and lots of love produce a wonderful experience at this restored historical site full of Joy and Culture. Not only the food but the decoration of this place is fascinating! Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on Teresa.
This contemporary Brazilian restaurant by chef Edinho Engel was one of the best discoveries of my Salvador trip. The restaurant front sea wall is made of a giant glass giving you the illusion of eating on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. The views of Bay of all Saints are simply striking. For a contemporary high culinary experience Amado is the best new spot in town.
Hostel prices Starting around $25 BRL for a night for a dorm (8-18 beds). Depending on the location and time of the year you can pay more. The cheapest a private room can be is $70 BRL, although most are closer to $150 BRL per night. Hostels are abundant but become more expensive the closer you get to the beaches. Most of the hostels have WiFi and breakfast included.
Hotel prices Good location, budget-friendly hotels with free WiFi start at $1o0 BRL per night, though expect to pay closer to $150 BRL, again depending on the location and proximity to the beach. Airbnb share rooms start around $80 BRL and private apartments start around $150 BRL.
Food Small, local restaurants here cost $12-15 BRL for a meal that includes a drink. Fancy restaurants will cost around $50-60 BRL. Casual restaurants can start at $30 BLR. Of all the places I went in Brazil, Bahia had the most tasty restaurants. Please don’t leave without trying their famous Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew). My top picks for this amazing dish are Restaurante Casa de Tereza and Restaurante Yemanja.
Transportation Public buses cost $2.50 BRL. Getting around can be hard, especially if you don’t know the language. A cab or an Uber is one of the best ways to move around Salvador, try to have the addresses of where you’re going always on hand. In the Carnival days, motorcycles and taxis are the best and fastest options to get to the parades. Negotiate with them, they will always ask you for more, if they are charging you too much, say no, they will end up taking you at a lower price. Be careful and hold yourself tight, it sure will be a life threatening ride.
Top things to do
One of the top things you should do before you die. The hottest men on earth with African-Brazilian music and their Brazilian Goddess Ivete Sangalo singing for eternity…literally, she is singing for 4 days non-stop…you think Madonna is a thing? Check out this woman. I have never felt more joy in my life. It can sound dramatic, but it is one of those things that is hard to describe with words. So you might as well go and experience it for yourself. I will be working on an extensive article about my experience in Carnival in Salvador…coming soon…
Hit the Beach
Surrounded by incredible beaches, this is the number one thing to do when in Salvador. Divided by the Bay, there are beaches that are better for swimmers and open-sea beaches that are good for surfers; you have many white sand, warm, tropical options to pick from. There’s no such thing as a gay beach in the city, but most gay guys prefer Porto da Barra, close to the city center. Praia do Farol da Barra is another favorite because of its proximity to the lighthouse and two saunas across the street. Behind it is a lively neighborhood with lots of restaurants to pick from, and another good option is Praia do Rio Vermelho, popular among locals and located next to a busy neighborhood as well.
Better known by locals as Cidade Alta (Upper Town) this was the main residential center in colonial Salvador. The charming streets are located on an escarpment 85 meters above the shore. Pelourinho is considered by many the best preserved colonial buildings of 17th- and 18th-century in Latin America. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its impressive ensemble of colonial buildings. Here you will find live street performances of ceremonial dances and capoeira. Street musicians and painters all around, selling their art. The city Museum and de Abelardo Rodrigues Museum of sacred art are definitely highlights of this enchanted town.
I’m not a big fan, but there are some stunning colonial churches in this town. Too many…maybe another reason for their extreme violence and homophobia. If you have been to European churches, just save your time and go to the beach. Here are the most visited churches of Salvador: Sao Francisco, The Cathedral, Carmelite church, Igreja do Senhor do Bonfim, and Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos.
One of my favorite things to do. Walk along Farol Beach all the way to this museum that is based inside the interiors of what once was the military main fort and lighthouse of the city. Every day dozens of locals place themselves along the hill to enjoy the sunset.
Get a Bahia band bracelet
The tradition says that if you wrap the wish ribbon around the wrist, and make 3 knots, making a wish for each of the 3 knots tied, once the bracelet falls off it is believed that the 3 wishes will come true. People from all over the world take them pretty seriously, including the Princess Madeleine from Sweden, who was spotted carrying one at her wedding.
- Don’t walk alone at any time.
- If traveling alone, take an Uber or Taxi to each destination
- Always have your personal info on a piece of paper and the address of where you are staying
- Don’t walk with jewelry
- Don’t walk with a lot of cash
- Leave a credit card back in your hostel or hotel in case of emergencies
- Get a money belts and hide it under your clothes. Put your ID and money there.
- If going clubbing with friends leave phones in the hotel.
- At Carnival: Leave your GoPro, Smart phones, and Cameras at home (Really, leave them)
- If the alley looks dangerous, it probably is. Try to stay in the touristy areas unless you are with a local, especially if you don’t know the language.