The city lies between green tropical hills and broad beaches along the bay of Todos os Santos. It was built on two levels with administration buildings and residences constructed on the hills, and forts, docks, and warehouses on the beaches. To this day the city is still divided into upper and lower cities.
From 1500 to 1815 Salvador was the nation’s busiest port. A significant portion of the sugar from northeast Brazil, and gold and diamonds from the mines in the southeast passed through Salvador. It was a golden age for the town; magnificent homes and churches resplendent in gold decoration were built. Many of the city’s baroque churches, private homes, squares, and even the hand-chipped paving bricks have been preserved as part of Brazil’s historic patrimony.
In Salvador, more than anywhere else in the country, the African influence in the makeup of Brazilian culture is readily visible, from the spicy dishes still called by their African names (caruru, vatapa, acaraji), to the ceremonies of candombli which honor both African deities and Catholic holidays, to the capoeira schools where a unique African form of ritualistic fighting is taught.