Brazil,  Latin America

A local experience in Salvador: the São Joaquim market

I recently spent 10 days in Brazil’s third-largest city, Salvador, for work. Spending my day time mostly working in Barra – a relatively safe and popular neighbourhood for tourists, but slightly boring – I only had the evenings to enjoy other parts of the city.

Thankfully this wasn’t my first time in Salvador. About two years ago I travelled through Brazil with my sister and we spent a few days in this city, before we headed off to the amazing Chapada Diamantina.

My favourite place in Salvador was and still is its historical centre, the Pelourinho. It’s a bit touristy, but what can I say – I just have such a weak spot for architecture from the colonial era. I love the colours of the houses and the cobbled streets. The drum bands roaming the streets are definitely a bonus.

However, this time I also wanted to see something new where I wouldn’t find other gringos. Lucky me, I was taken to the São Joaquim market by my local friends. The Feira de São Joaquim is the largest open-air market in Salvador and has just about anything for local cuisine. I was told that some Salvadoran street vendors come to this market to buy large amounts of veggies or fish and shrimps, that they take to neighbourhoods like Barra where they sell it for much higher prices.

I travelled a lot, also in very busy places like Mumbai. But wandering at that market was a similar experience – there were people, animals, carts and cars everywhere all the time. Every five minutes we had our backs pressed against the walls so a car or a van could pass through the very narrow corridors.

I had a great time watching the goods that were being sold (mostly food) as well as the market vendors themselves.

Like everywhere else in Salvador, there was music at the market as well. Men with loud speakers on carts were walking around and playing the latest Brazilian hits, hoping to sell their CDs. I wonder when Spotify will take over their business. Of course, there was a bar at the market as well.

They also sell the famous Bahian azeite de dendê (palm oil) that is being used for dishes like moqueca (fish stew – find a recipe here).

You can find the São Joaquim market in Agua de Meninos, close to the São Joaquim maritime terminal. Come in the morning (around 9am) by taxi or an Uber and explore the market. If you’re looking for souvenirs, there are some simple wooden stirring spoons and bowls that you can buy. It’s best not to come with large handbags or valuables, although I was fine with my Canon DSRL in a simple tote bag – just make sure you keep a very good eye on your things and your surroundings.

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