Praça da Sé

Praça da Sé, Salvador: Address, Phone Number, Praça da Sé Reviews: 4/5

Praça da Sé
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This square is the entrance to Pelourinho.
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

771 reviews
Very good

Vincent M
New Orleans, LA2,213 contributions
Jun 2015 • Solo
There’s lots to see in the Praca de Se, but the real interest of many of the sights requires knowing a bit about them. I’ll focus on four of these: a primeval jungle, a champion of Black independence, a tasteful bishop, and an historic body of water. The Praca de Se is a long rectangle stretching from the new cathedral to the Elevador Lacerda. It’s most historic colonial building is the Santa Casa da Misericordia. The "holy house of mercy," a charitable institution for the sick, widows, and orphans, was founded by Queen Leonor in Lisbon in 1498, two years before Cabral’s official “discovery” of Brazil (“We had no idea it was there, honest!”). Royal patronage and the institution’s obvious usefulness generated its spread throughout the Portuguese empire, and Salvador’s was established in 1569. Its sister-Misericordia in Macau is still a social services institution in modern China to this day (see my review of Largo do Senado there), but Salvador’s is now a museum. Behind this Misericordia and to the north, you can walk down to a sub-plaza of the Praca de Se, called the Praca de Cruz Caida. Three things catch your eyes immediately: the sea view from its terrace, the huge Cruz Caida, and a life-sized Baiana puppet drawing your attention to the Memorial das Baianas (I’ve reviewed the cross and memorial separately). But if you head to the north side of that terrace, you’ll find:
Primeval jungle. Of course, we’re not supposed to say “jungle” anymore. Ecology pedants want us all to refer to jungles as “tropical and subtropical moist forests” or TSMFs for short, even though “jungle” is a perfectly clear word with a lineage of over 2,000 years (jangala in the Sanskrit). Personally, I refuse to start saying things like “the king of the TSMF” or “the law of the tropical rainforest.” If Guns N’ Roses had sung “Welcome to the Tropical and Subtropical Moist Forest” on their first album, I doubt they’d ever have cut a second one. As for Praca de Se: very, very few large modern cities have virgin jungle inside their city limits, but both Rio and Salvador do, because they both contain cliffs so steep that you can neither build on nor farm the land. In Rio, jungle is all over town—the morros all have some, including Corcovado, and so does the Jardim Botanico. Inside Salvador, jungle is rare. It’s fabulous outside of town, for example, around the airport, but the city center appears to have nothing but buildings, particularly up in Pelourinho. But Pelo is built on top of a steep cliff, and this Praca de Se terrace is right next to jungle canopy (Jungle Canopy photo). Over the rail you’ll see fabulous jungle flora, including lianas (Jungle Lianas photo), and looking down through breaks in the foliage you can see jungle floor (Jungle below Praca de Se photo), covered with ferns and bromeliads (bug spray alert: bromeliads are notorious mosquito havens). If you look off to the right, you can even see the distinctive zig-zag trunk and tiny leaflets of a Brazilian rosewood tree: right in the center of historic Salvador, but still too inaccessible to be harvested for its wood (Rosewood from Praca de Se). The ecologists have now announced that TSMFs are a “biome.” What that means in laymen’s terms is that they contain not only plants, but animals. I wonder how much grant money went into that scientific breakthrough! But I’m betting that this small patch of jungle has considerably less biodiversity than most. Birds, including parrots, and bugs, including Brazilian butterflies and beetles, are probably thriving in it, but don’t expect to see a caiman or sloth, since this patch has been isolated from the surrounding jungles for centuries. How’s the sloth supposed to get here, via the Elevador? Still, if you’ve never seen a jungle canopy up close, you’ll love this. The grates on this part of the Praca are also interesting: in some areas, instead of paving, you walk over metal grates. Beneath the grates are tiny emerald gardens full of tropical plants: brilliant!
An Insurgent: The Praca de Se has memorials to two men. The first is Zumbi of Palmares, the last leader of a 25,000 strong 17th-century black community which tried to maintain its independence from Portugal. Palmares was the largest of several communities started by runaway slaves. Its independence ended in 1695 with the capture and beheading of Zumbi. Zumbi is claimed to be a direct descendant of “some King of Congo” which is highly unlikely. (The Manicongos, starting with Afonso I, were Catholic allies of the Portuguese from before 1492 until the 18th century. One Congolese prince became the Bishop of Utica. Congolese royals, far from being enslaved themselves, supported their treasury by selling captives to the Portuguese.) Zumbi was indeed a champion of black independence from Portugal, but he was no freedom-fighter. Ironically, Palmares itself was based on slave labor. One of the constant thorns in the side of the Portuguese authorities was Palmares’ frequent raids on sugar plantations—not to liberate blacks, but to enslave them themselves. Zumbi’s romanticized statue depicts him bare-chested and bare-legged, in an African pose, balanced on one leg with his right foot resting on his left knee, holding as assegai ( Zumbi dos Palmares photo). While the sculptor’s obvious intent is to symbolize the African-ness of Zumbi, this is about as historically accurate as an equestrian statue of Pitt the Younger dressed like a Russian boyar and riding a Cossack pony. The pose is a classic posture of some herding peoples in the arid grasslands of northeast Africa, particularly the Nuer in Sudan, but not of the Bantu-speaking farmers and traders of West Africa. And Zumbi was no naked savage; he was educated, spoke both Portuguese and Latin fluently, and used firearms, not an assegai. However, clear-cut good-vs-evil myths are almost always more powerful than complex actual events, and Zumbi’s death-day, November 20th, is now celebrated as a holiday, the Dia da Consciencia Negra.
A man of excellent taste: the second memorial sculpture is a bust of Dom Pedro Sardinha (Sardinha in the Praca photo), the first bishop of Brazil, and of anywhere on the Atlantic coast of the Americas, since his diocese was established a year before that of La Plata, and there were none in North America until the next century (however, the Caribbean coast already had a few). Dom Pedro is chiefly remembered for building the first cathedral in Brazil, and for his memorable departure in 1556. On his return voyage to Portugal, his ship sank near the mouth of the Coruripe River. He and a hundred other survivors were able to reach shore, where they were met by Caete tribesmen and provided food. Meaning: the bishop and other survivors provided food for the cannibals, who promptly ate this manna from heaven. As a direct result, the outraged Portuguese, allied to a rival cannibal tribe, the Tupinamba, hunted the Caete to extinction. This incident, unfortunate though it was for all involved, did provide the only instance in American history where a dinner conversation might have gone like this: “So, Joe, are you enjoying the barbeque?” “You bet, Fred, it’s Excellency!”
Finally, two stretches of the Praca de Se offer nice views of the sea: the stretch around the Elevador, and the terrace next to the jungle and Fallen Cross (All Saints Bay from Praca de Se photo). Some bodies of water are packed with more history than others; e.g. the Dardanelles, the Dogger Bank, and the Straits of Malacca. All Saint’s Bay has left its mark on history in three ways. First, in the Age of Discovery, as the best natural harbor in Brazil, All Saints Bay was a critical way station for the Portuguese fleets sailing to India, the Spice Islands, China and Japan. It was faster to get around Africa via Salvador than by going straight down the African coast, because of both head winds and the adverse Benguela Current. Portuguese naus and caravels would take the Trade Winds and Equatorial current to All Saints Bay, re-fit and re-water there, and then sail south with the Brazil current on a beam reach to where currents set back to the east and winds blew from the west. Armada after armada followed this route. Salvador did NOT become capital of Brazil because of its advantages in Brazil, but because of the bay’s importance to the conquests and trade in Asia. Second, All Saints Bay has the unenviable distinction of having had more slave traffic than any other port in history. That sounds plausible to me, since there’s evidence that the Portuguese shipped about 300,000 slaves further west to Cartagena alone in one 35 year-period alone (1616-1650). Portugal dominated the trade for centuries, because they dominated the source, and continued the trade from Portuguese Africa to Brazil after all other countries in Europe and the Americas had abolished it. Third, on a brighter note, is the relationship of this bay to names. The bay was charted and named by Coelho’s expedition in 1502. The full name was Baia de Sao Salvador de Todos os Santos. One plausible reason for the name was that the bay was discovered on All Saints Day. But the most likely explanation is that Coelho’s Florentine navigator named this grand bay after his family’s parish church back in Italy: San Salvatore di Ognissanti, Holy Savior of All the Saints. The church is still there, and still holds the Vespucci Chapel. The Vespuccis had connections to the Medicis and a wide range of other Renaissance notables; the chestnut-haired wife of the navigator’s brother was Botticelli’s model for the Birth of Venus. And to give him credit where credit is in fact due, Vespucci was the first man to convincingly argue that Columbus was dead wrong, that these lands were not part of Asia, but a new continent. Hence, from this navigator and this bay, we get the name of the city—Salvador—and the state—Bahia, and the continent—America, and from that, millions of things like the USA, the Pan-American Games, the Organization of American States, American Express, the Pan-American Highway, American Airlines, and so on. But you know, despite Amerigo’s adventurous life, personal success and the fame of his name, all things considered, I’d sooner have been his brother.
Written September 16, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Pedro P
Porto, Portugal1,105 contributions
Jun 2012 • Friends
Not big deal about this place, but if you happen to visit on a Tuesday, there's music, capoeira, samba and lots of stalls selling drinks, caipirinha and other stuff. Beware of thieves though.
There are also many beggars, most of them kids - one came to me crying and asking for food, broke my heart so I bought him a tapioca. Not the stuff you came here to experience but it's Brasil's reality so be prepared.
Written May 24, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands23 contributions
Feb 2016 • Friends
If there are any events - it is there. Along the praca you can try some local food. Amazing view for the ocean!
Written January 14, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Tromso, Norway257 contributions
Dec 2014 • Couples
This was a special experience, the church was almost empty but the park outside was crowded with homeless, junkies and drunkies. Plus a lot of police of all kinds. Strange way to selebrate Christmas. Nice church by the way.
Written December 24, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Ma'alot-Tarshiha, Israel298 contributions
It is the main square in the colorful old city of Salvador. Nice place, surrounded by antique buildings, lots of coffee houses. You can enjoy the life of the beautiful colorful city of Salvador when you visit the Praca.
At day, there are a lot of coffee houses where you can hang out, a lot of samba shows in the middle of the streets, a lot of local artists and markets which you can enjoy.
At night, there are some local pubs which have local public parties every night. If you wanna mix with the locals, the Praca is the best place to go to, especially during weekends.
Written August 27, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

margarete p
Sao Paulo, SP332 contributions
Aug 2012
my bus stoped at Praca da Se and it was an ugly place, old buildings, people pee everywhere so it smells badly and is full of "pools"
Written September 2, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Gainesville, FL96 contributions
Dec 2010 • Friends
At night, be aware of thieves around the square. The light condition should be improved...
Written November 4, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Greater Melbourne, Australia25,872 contributions
Nov 2019
This square is a large rectangle area that once had the old Cathdral built in1552 and pulled down in 1933. It is a large public space that essentially runs from the Elevator to the main square where the new cathedral best one can tell.
Written November 9, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hello Oldjack Thanks so much for the comment, we are happy for your positive experience. Prefeitura municipal de Salvador
Written November 12, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Rami A
Tel Aviv, Israel1,162 contributions
Apr 2019
The "Praca DA Se" is one of the most nicest squares in Brazil. Wide open, clean and very pleasant to stroll there. It is actually where the old cathedral stood until it was demolished some 85 years ago.
Written October 11, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hello Rami! Thank you so much for your feedback. We are working to improve our services. ALWAYS COME BACK WANT !! Prefeitura Municipal do Salvador
Written October 14, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Rio de Janeiro, RJ8,613 contributions
Jun 2019
The famous "Praça da Sé" is located exactly at the site of the old Salvador's Cathedral ("Sé", in Portuguese). In 1933, the old Cathedral was demolished and a new square occupied the area. "Largo do Pelourinho", "Terreiro de Jesus" and "Praça Tomé de Souza" are just a few steps away ... "Praça da Sé" has been recently restored and is indeed a good reason to visit Salvador, Brazil's first capital city! Be aware of your belongings at all times! Enjoy!
Written August 21, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hi Luiz ! Thank you for your evaluation. Your opinion is important to improve our services. Check back often! Salvador City Hall
Written August 22, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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