Salvador Bahia is situated on a peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean coast. It is a major export port and the heart of the Recôncavo Baiano area. Its population was 2.54 million people in 2002, making it the third largest city in Brazil.
The settlement was founded in 1549 by Thomé de Souza and was commonly known as Bahia. It quickly became the main Brazilian sea port and first capital of Portuguese Brazil, a centre of the sugar industry and the slave trade. The city became a bishopric in 1552. The cathedral still standing today was completed in 1572. By 1583 there were 1600 people in residence. The Dutch captured and sacked the city in May of 1624, and remained in control of it until it was reconqured by the Portuguese in April of the following year.
The city was divided into a cidade alta (upper city) and cidade baixa (lower city), with the Cathedral and administrative buildings on the higher ground.
Salvador Bahia was capital until 1763 when it was succeeded by Rio de Janeiro. The city became a base for the Brazilian independence movement and was attacked by Portuguese troops in 1812 before being officially liberated on July 2, 1823.
By 1948 the city had some 340,000 people, and was Brazil's fourth largest city. By 1991 the population was 2.08 million.
In the 1990s a major project was done to clean up and restore the Pelourinho or old town section.
Salvador was the birthplace of noted musician Gilberto Gil.
The city still contains many colonial buildings, including the first cathedral in Brazil, and the nation's oldest medical college, but it has become more famous due to the strong influence of African culture on the city. The majority of the population of the city are of African ancestry. It is the center of Yoruba Candomblé and the martial dance art of capoeira, and has so many churches (over 350 including the 16th century cathedral) it has been dubbed the "Black Rome". The African influence extends beyond religion to cover food, music (from the spiritually influenced afoxé and the community-based blocos afros to more popular axé and samba), and a dynamic cultural life.
The city's official literacy rate is 81%. As of the late 1990s, the average monthly income was R$ 537 (about 447 US dollars). Sanitation is a problem in the poorer neighborhoods. About 1/3 of the residents have neither sewage hookups nor septic tanks.
The city has several universities, including the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Universidade do Estado da Bahia, and Universidade Católica do Salvador.
Salvador is noted for its large Carnival celebrations.
Salvador is an important tourism destination, especially the Pelourinho or old town and the beaches.