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World Cup 2014 city guide: Salvador

Treino do Vasco

Salvador

State: Bahia
Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova (cap. 52,048)
Games: Six including Spain against the Netherlands, and Germany v Portugal as well as a Round of 16 and a quarter-final.
Airport to city centre: Salvador can get pretty gridlocked so you’ll probably be looking at around 30-40 minutes from the airport to the centre.

Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and a former slave trade centre so it is seeped in history and African heritage, making for a distinctive contrast with the European-influenced southern host cities.

Is it ready?

Yes, the Arena Fonte Nova was one of the six stadiums completed for last year’s Confederations Cup and it is pretty impressive inside and around the concourse.

Situated close to the Dique do Tororó lagoon featuring orixas – or gods in the African religion of Candomblé – it is also in a picturesque setting. Access is pretty easy and the inside of the stadium is modern and comfortable.

Traffic is potentially a problem, and taxis are more expensive than in Rio so worth planning your journey, especially if you’re staying in the business centre of the city.

Is it safe?

Salvador has a bit of a ropey reputation, and while I neither had nor saw any problems, I was advised by locals to be careful of what I carried around with me, especially after dark.

You may feel slightly mugged at some of the popular tourists spots, though, so keep your wits about you. Coming out of the Mercado Modelo – an artisan market selling souvenirs of all kinds – you may find yourself being blessed…for R$20 (£5). Who knows, maybe it’s worth it. And England could do with all the help they can get.

Mercado Modelo (1 of 1)

Beach?

Yes, Salvador is a great beach city and the sea here is more inviting than the polluted waters of Rio. Some, like the small Porto da Barra beach, get pretty crowded so get there early if the sun’s out to grab a spot and a guarda-sol.

And the picture postcard spot is Farol da Barra, which is where the Fan Fest will take place. It’s a beautiful point between beaches and where Carnival gathers every year. Farol means lighthouse, which makes for a pretty iconic location and it’s a nice place to get pictures. There’s also a good range of bars and restaurants on the beachfront nearby.

What else?

:: Acarajé is the thing to eat in Salvador. These deep-fried pea patties come spread with shrimp paste and filled with prawns (not shelled), although acarajé completo is served with okra, salsa and spicy pepper – it’s a meal in itself and ideally washed down with a coconut water or a beer. Normally available on the street from women dressed in traditional white dress.

Pelourinho:: Don’t miss out on Pelourinho, the historical centre of the city, which is filled with pastel-coloured houses and stunning churches. It’s also where Michael Jackson filmed half of his They Don’t Care About Us video, and you’re likely to come across some of the Olodum drummers on street corners. There’s an elevator that links the low town with the high town, and lots of art galleries, street performers and museums to check out.

:: It’s more than likely you’ll get a fita or several. These are traditional coloured wish ribbons that are tied around the wrist, normally with “memories of Bonfim” written on them and you’ll see them tied to the gates of churches.

:: Check out Bahia’s musical sons and daughters: Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil and pop star Ivete Sangalo are both from the state and both are well worth a listen.

:: The state of Bahia has also produced some of the Brazilian national team players so there’ll be a particular connection with Dani Alves, who comes from the countryside town of Juazeiro, and Dante.

With eternal gratitude to Gustavo Oliveira

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