Pelourinho, Salvador's historic center, hosts an old school, throwback style carnival party, appropriate for the place which back in the early 1500's was colonial Brazil's first capital. The largest standing example of Colonial Portuguese architecture in the New World, Pelourinho with its picturesque 16th, 17th and 18th century churches, colorful colonial houses, and car-less cobblestone streets has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
The carnival found here is a traditionalist carnival. Instead of amplified trio eléctricos, one finds New Orleans-style brass bands and small afro-blocos (drum crews) who march up and down Pelourinho's ladeiras (hills).
Also, it's here the small, but beautiful afoxe troops can be seen. Salvador's youth pay homage to their African ancestry by dressing in colorful and traditional African-styled attire, dancing choreographed passages of Afro-Brazilian dance to afoxe rhythms, a music born from candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian religion practiced here. These afoxe bands take to the street on a short route known as the Batatinha circuit, which starts at Praça da Sé, passes the Elevador Lacerda, and ends at Praça Castro Alves (where the Campo Grande/Centro circuit is intersected).
Pelourinho is the cultural and historic soul of the city and, come carnival, it's always beautifully decorated in the current year's carnival theme. Enormous, larger than life bonecas (dolls) are erected in Pelo's various praças (squares) where they reign majestically over the carnival proceedings; colorful banners and flags hang above the streets; it's not uncommon to see people dressed in costumes with masks or painted faces continuing a carnival tradition of 'merry making' that dates back to the 19th century.
As for the musical programming, there are stages mounted throughout Pelourinho where one can dance to live bands. For those interested in samba, one area of particular interest will be the Praça Municipal, the square found in front of Elevador Lacerda, which will features Samba Foclorico. Samba bands from all over the interior of Bahia, as well as the big city, are invited to perform here during carnival.
Pelourinho's carnival has something for everyone, young and old alike, even families, for parents looking for a festive environment that isn't as crazy or as crowded as the other two circuits. There is even a square dedicated to "Carnival for kids" tucked away at the Praça das Artes.
Lastly, Pelourinho's numerous restaurants and bars all function during carnival. Get a table outside at a restaurant and watch the brass bands and drum blocos pass by. Careful, though; watch that your plate doesn't get showered with carnival confetti!