Salvador is a city that knows how to enjoy itself. Whether leading the charge with carnival celebrations, nurturing an eclectic music scene or encouraging visitors to eat, drink and explore, its relentless energy radiates out from its array of establishments. Its bars, from seats on the street to glamorous hotel haunts, are aplenty. Here are our 10 top picks.
Though a café by day, the homely Cafelier on the edge of the Pelourinho district really comes into its own as a bar at sunset. Wobbly tables on its elevated terrace look straight out to the mouth of Salvador’s bay and a small menu of artisanal beers, Chilean wines and fruity caipirinhas go down well in front of the setting sun. Book a spot to avoid disappointment and look out for the Escamas de Yemanjá, canoe-shaped fingers of tapioca filled with parmesan and named after a sea goddess.
O Cravinho is a mini-emporium dedicated to cachaça, Brazil’s national firewater, in all its various flavors and infusions. It occupies four rooms clad in warm wood, including a shop, bar and a cachaçaria. The house speciality and a local favorite is flavored with honey, lime and cloves (cravos, after which the bar is named). Also recommended is the Canela, which is made with cinnamon, and the Jatobá, flavored with the bark of a tree that grows in Brazil.
Embodying Salvador’s unpretentious outdoors vibe, Bar Zulu is a popular ex-pat run haunt that opens out onto the cobbled streets of Pelourinho. Its inventive, affordable and vegetarian-friendly menu – the burgers are a favorite – pull patrons from its nearby sister hostel, Galeria 13, and far beyond. Caipirinhas can be ordered according to quality and type of alcohol chosen, and live music and the chatter of a swelling crowd often fills the night air.
Whether you are looking to recharge after a long day on your feet or hoping for a romantic drink à deux, the laidback sophistication of the lobby bar at Hotel Villa Bahia might just be the place for you. It is a boutique hotel on a wide Pelourinho street, housed in two handsome colonial mansions with fluttering white umbrellas outside. Through the shuttered doors and palms fronds lies an oasis of colonial décor and cool calm, and a top-rated restaurant for those looking to splash out.
The intriguingly-named Shed Full of Subject Matter is a warehouse-cum-cultural space smothered in graffiti and full of art. Started by musician and plastic artist Peu Meurray, who has jammed with the likes of Brazilian star Seu Jorge, the venue regularly hosts musicians and bands on Saturday nights when it fills up with Salvador’s young and hip. Expect hot dogs, beer in cans, and drinks in plastic cups in keeping with the bar’s informal surroundings.
Something of an institution in Rio Vermelho, Boteco do França is a classic Brazilian watering hole. Its outside is painted brightly with colorful awnings and tables parked on the Portuguese stone pavement, making it a sweet spot to stop at and watch the world pass by. Though the menu is extensive, follow the locals’ lead and choose some petiscos (bite-sized snacks) along with a bottle of Original beer to share.
Solar is a classy contemporary restaurant on a quiet street with a well-stocked bar and a serious jazz programme. The music strikes up on Thursday and Friday evenings and from lunchtime on Saturdays, while the barmen whip up cocktails using Brazilian ingredients like the jabuticaba fruit. Their jugs of Argentinean favorite, clerico, slip down on a hot evening, as do the spritzers, G&Ts, and wines on offer.
The two things this unpretentious neighborhood bar, São Jorge, is most famous for are feijoada and samba. The first, the Brazilian national dish of beans, meat and rice, is served from an all-you-can-eat buffet on Saturdays and Sundays. And in the evening, barn-storming bands fill the space with sweet samba and locals take to the floor. With big screens, it is also a good place to watch football.
Beautifully and cleverly designed with wooden pallets for walls, Commons Studio bar is multi-arts space you might never want to leave. It has a large outdoor area, usually crammed full of Salvador’s artistic and alternative youngsters, contained by a vertical garden. A roster of ever-changing bands and DJs, playing forró, reggae, rock and acrobat, get going around midnight and will play you through to the early hours. Join the guestlist via the website for a discounted entry fee.
Tucked away overlooking the small bay of Praia de Buracão is a beach bar decked out with wooden tables, scattered cushions and beds shaded by umbrellas. Blue Praia is a more sophisticated barraca than most stationed along Salvador’s coast. The menu includes, seafood risotto, succulent tentacles of octopus with cashew fruit, and even oysters, which go nicely with one of the bottles of sparkling wine on the menu.