After exploring Brazil's Pantanal and Amazon, take a break in one of Brazil's most culturally exciting cities: Salvador de Bahia. Replete with colonial architectural gems and Afro-Brazilian influences, Sal-vador, located on one of Brazil's loveliest coastlines, is a not to be missed cultural hub. Travelers will embrace this city for its lively atmosphere, historically significant attractions, musical performances, and natural beauty.<br/><br/>Founded in 1549, Salvador was the first capital of colonial Brazil, a title it maintained until it was trans-ferred to Rio in 1763. In its prime, the city served as Brazil's main port and was an important port for both the sugar and the slave trade. Over the centuries, a melding of European, African, Jewish, and indigenous cultures in Salvador has created a unique and colorful culture that can be seen in every-thing from its imobiliarias em salvador religion to its cuisine. Also renowned for its friendly, party-prone locals Salvador is known as "Brazil's Capital of Happiness."<br/><br/>With its colonial renaissance architecture, Pelourinho, the city's historical center, is Salvador's most significant attraction. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, the neighborhood has been restored to its original glory. During the day, a tour of the center is itself a learning experi-ence into the fascinating history of the area, and exploring one of the quarter's many art markets, restaurants, museums, or theaters will leave you with a taste for more. At night, Pelourinho comes alive to the scene of a large open-air music setting, featuring every Brazilian music type and dance imaginable. Pelourinho nightlife is especially lively on Tuesdays, when locals celebrate Bencao, a musical blessing in the tradition of Saint Francis of Assisi, and donate bread to the poor. Against the backdrop of the brightly colored and stucco-decorated architectural gems of the old city center, visitors will undoubtedly enjoy both afternoon strolls and evening jam sessions.<br/><br/>Begin your tour at the Igreja de São Francisco. Built in high Baroque style, this elaborate and ornate church built by sugar barons is the most opulent in Salvador. Over 100 kg of gold were shipped in just to gild the church's elaborate wood-carved ceiling. While notable for its extravagance, the ceiling is also renowned for its often comical depictions of well-endowed and pregnant angels carved by African slave artisans as a form of protest. Just around the corner, don't miss the one-of-a-kind sandstone façade of the Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, complete with masonic symbols.