The neighbourhood of Barra smells of brine, salt, seaweed—it’s bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the entrance to the All Saints Bay to the west. There are two small beaches, Porto da Barra and the bigger Farol da Barra. If you come down around 10 p.m., you may be able to see some sand, although it’s also at this time of the night that trucks pick up the trash left behind. If you show up during the day, all you’ll see is a sea of blue umbrellas—both spots are crowded. Between us, the two praias aren’t great to swim or relax. Just use them as an entertaining spot like everybody else.
Barra also smells of dendê, palm oil used to fry aracajé, Bahia’s number one street food (and apparently also a religious offering). You can’t miss the many stands around the lighthouse—”Acarajé da Tânia,” “Acarajé Da Neide,” “Acarajé da Mara”… The majority of street vendors are women dressed in traditional white clothes in homage to the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, deep-frying balls of peeled beans all day long to feed locals and curious tourists.
Barra also smells of beer because of its many bars. It’s a popular neighbourhood, definitely not the poshest one but one of these safe places in Salvador where you can hang out at night and grab a drink. There’s a favela right behind the modern shopping centre, but it’s a peaceful one. It’s probably not a great idea to walk on the beach at night but hey, I’ve seen football games being played past midnight, so it’s up to you. And you won’t get lost because of the series of landmarks along the waterfront—it’s easy, Forte Santo Antonio da Barra, Forte São Diogo, Farol da Barra, and Morro do Cristo. Basically fort, lighthouse, Christ. You don’t even have to ask for direction, just look for Jesus!
My Airbnb is a couple of blocks from the beach, at the other end of the long street where we stayed two years ago. I was already familiar with the neighbourhood and it didn’t change much—still a vaguely chaotic mess, but a friendly one.