Last updated on
Trying to figure out where to stay in Salvador?
There are a dizzying array of lodging choices in Salvador. I have done this more times than I care to count. You are not alone.
With a population of almost 3 million people covering 268 square miles (4 million people and 1.7 square miles in the official metro area), we’re a surprisingly big city that no one has heard of. The constant refrain of first-time visitors is, “I had no idea how big Salvador is.”
In spite of the size, there are only a handful of neighborhoods that most visitors, particularly non-Brazilian newcomers to Salvador, stay in. Each neighborhood has its own personality and pros and cons — and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. To me, there are five neighborhoods worth a serious look.
(Need more help choosing? Drop me a note and we can chat.)
Barra, sitting right at the tip of the peninsula that is Salvador is probably one of the best known neighborhoods in Salvador.
It’s also one of the best choices for new-ish visitors to Salvador. The beaches are fantastic, it’s well-patrolled by police, has plentiful restaurants, pharmacies, and grocery stores, is very tourist friendly, and is a short taxi or bus ride to the Pelourinho. Plus, there are a lot of housing options to choose from. If you are coming to learn the language, Barra is also the neighborhood where all of the language schools are located.
I admit I’m biased, but I love living in Barra and you can read my in-depth review here.
Housing choices: Pousadas and private apartments (click to search)
Best for: Language learners, beach lovers, and families
Itapuã is the lone neighborhood in this list that is without easy access to the cultural and musical city center, the Pelourinho. But for some, it’s that distance that gives it its appeal. It’s like a trendy suburb — cleaner and quieter than the city itself, but still with lots of great amenities. It has miles and miles of beautiful beaches and plentiful mid-priced, clean restaurants. If you want a beach vacation, but still have big-city comforts without the big city noise, this might be your neighborhood.
Fun fact from my Brazilian husband: Itapuã first rose to Brazilian fame in 70s when Vinicius de Moraes wrote a bossa nova song “Tarde em Itapuã” and since then Itapuã has been a popular Salvador tourist destination for Brazilian and non-Brazilians alike.
Housing choices: Hotels, pousadas, and private apartments (click to search)
Best for: Beach vacationers
In addition to being a being a UNESCO world heritage site, the Pelourino is also the musical and cultural heartbeat of the city. It is filled with live music, including lots of samba-reggae, and colorful characters.
Its abundance of inexpensive hostels make it popular with the backpacking crowd.
Outside of Carnaval and Sao João, there is very little nightlife after about 10pm unless there is a show happening on one of the three stages. If nightlife is your scene, then look at Rio Vermelho.
Housing choices: Hostels and pousadas (click to search)
Best for: Backpackers and those on a very tight budget
Rio Vermelho Neighborhood
I’m not quite sure where it got this reputation, but Rio Vermelho is known as the bohemian neighborhood in Salvador.. Now, when I think bohemian, I think of long flowy skirts, patchouli, and flowery headbands, but I don’t see any of that in Rio Vermelho. Rather, Rio Vermelho is an upper-middle class neighborhood filled with nightlife. There are plenty of nightclubs and live music venues, as well as a number of nice restaurants. It’s the most expensive neighborhood on this list, but relatively speaking, it’s still quite inexpensive.
Located on the Atlantic, it also has plentiful beaches, but in general people don’t stay in Rio Vermelho for the beaches.
Housing choices: Mostly private apartments and hotels (click to search)
Best For: Nightlife and restaurants
Santo Antônio Neighborhood
Santo Antonio is a sister neighborhood to the Pelourinho — located literally just up the hill. It’s a cute neighborhood filled with small, colorful houses, shops, and restaurants. Santo Antônio is a great option for anyone who intends to spend a lot of time in the Pelourinho taking advantage of the live music as well as the music and dance classes. It is also reasonably priced.
There is no beach, but houses on the western side of the main street, Rua Ladeira do Carmo/Rua Direta de Santo Antônio, generally have a spectacular view of the bay, Bahia dos Todos Santos.
Housing choices: Pousadas and private apartments with a few hostels (click to search)
Best For: Musicians, dancers, and other artists
*If you book with any of the links in this post, I may earn a small commission for your stay. You will not pay any extra by booking through the link. Thank you for supporting my work!
Curious to know what Salvador has to offer?
If you are searching for an off-the-beaten-path vacation destination, then look no further.
From world-class beaches to gorgeous colonial architecture to sultry dance rhythms, there are many, many reasons why publications from The Guardian to the New York Times are saying that Salvador is a must-visit destination.