My husband and I have a saying, “Barra tem tudo” (“Barra has everything”).
We live in Barra, and before buying our apartment looked at a bunch of other neighborhoods, but kept coming back to Barra for the sheer convenience — and ocean views. Are there less expensive places to stay? Sure. Do they have the same walkability and sheer number of conveniences? No.
12 Reasons to Love Barra, Salvador
- Amazing beaches. Barra sits right at the tip where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of All Saints. The wedge-shaped neighborhood is bounded by beautiful beaches, including one of the best beaches in all of Brazil (or the world). Beaches from the Farol to Porto da Barra are western-facing on the Bay, so you have incredible sunsets and tranquil waters. From the Farol to the Cristo, you are facing east and on the Atlantic side — there the water is a bit more active and you’ll find a few tenacious surfers.
- Sundays. Some weeks it feels like the entire city of Salvador descends upon Barra on Sundays to go to the beach and watch the sunset at the Farol. With that comes an infectious energy and it is an amazing day to walk along the boardwalk (Orla), people watch, eat street food, and, of course, watch the sunset. Once the sun sets, families stay for hours, enjoying the ocean breezes and the myriad of activities. You’ll find joyous kids playing in the streets, live music, vendors selling everything from cotton candy to phone cases, impromptu capoeira rodas, and much more.
- Numerous grocery stores. In addition to countless street vendors selling fruit, fresh coconut, and street food, you’ll find small markets (mercadinhos) every few blocks. Plus, there are four legit western-style grocery stores in a range of prices and quality right in the heart of Barra.
- A stupid number of pharmacies. The pharmacies here are like Starbucks in the States. They are just everywhere, and sometimes across the street from one another. Honestly, I don’t know how that many survive.
- 15-minute bus ride from the Pelourinho. The Pelourinho is the historic city center as well as the musical and cultural heartbeat of the city. You are a 4-reais bus ride or a 20-reais taxi ride away from fantastic live music, colorful characters, and dance and percussion classes.
- 10-minute bus ride to Rio Vermelho. Rio Vermelho is one of our favorite neighborhoods to go out in at night. There are lots of great restaurants as well as A LOT of street food and praças to hang out it. It’s also where the nightclubs are. In short, whatever your idea of a a great night out is, you can probably find it in Rio Vermelho.
- Nightlife, but not too much. I like to go out, but I’m also a big fan of sleep. In Barra we are a short jaunt from either the Pelourinho or Rio Vermelho. And, we are also just steps away from a number of restaurants — including some with live music most nights of the week.
- Tourist-friendly neighborhood. Barra attracts a lot of tourists, which means that it has a lot of amenities geared towards tourists. We benefit by having a lot of shops and restaurants as well as numerous of street vendors (who we support). It is also clean and well-patrolled by police.
- The Portuguese language schools are all here. There are three Portuguese language schools in Salvador, and they are all in Barra.
- Diversity. Back in the day, Barra was where all of the rich white people lived. And Barra still retains some of that reputation today. But, in recent years urban flight has taken place, and many of those same people have moved into gated suburban communities. As those apartments and houses became available, the neighborhood changed. As a result, the entire neighborhood became more diverse racially and economically. And I like it!
- Safety. Salvador relies on tourism to survive, and Barra is a key tourist neighborhood. The government and businesses here are very aware of the importance of the tourist dollar. Because of that, the boardwalk (Orla) is patrolled 24×7 by police and all of the hotels and pousadas have 24-hour security. You still need to exhibit normal big-city smarts, but I regularly wander out alone up until about 10pm. As long as the street is well-lit and showing signs of life I don’t worry about it.
- On the Barra-Ondina Carnaval circuit. This is both a blessing and a curse, but if you are in Salvador for Carnaval, Barra is not a bad option. The trio elétricos leave from the Farol and head up towards the Cristo (on the Atlantic side) to the Ondina neighborhood. If you stay near Porto da Barra you can be close to the action, but still sleep at night. (Read more about the three Salvador carnaval circuits.)
Looking for a place to stay in Barra? I have two Pousada (similar to a bed and breakfast) recommendations for you, Pousada Papaya Verde or Estrela do Mar. Or, you can rent a furnished apartment from my friend and longtime property manager, Daniel.