Travel Postcard: 48 hours in laid-back Salvador, Brazil

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Salvador, the third-largest city in Brazil, is the country's oldest metropolis, but it has a lower profile than party hot spot Rio de Janiero or the commercial nerve center Sao Paulo.

The laid-back coastal city, which lies on the All Saints Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, is the heart of Bahia, the Brazilian province know for its rich African culture.

Salvador is gearing up for an influx of sports fans, since it has been chosen as one of Brazil's 12 host cities for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. The city is also known for having some of the wildest Carnival parties.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of a short visit to the city.

Friday:

9 a.m. - After breakfast at the hotel, spend the day in Salvador's historic center Pelourinho, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage list (whc.unesco.org/en/list/309). Its golden churches reflect Brazil's colonial past, when Salvador served as the capital city for more than 200 years.

In the 1950s, the city center fell into disrepair, but thanks to a resurgence partly funded by the Brazilian government, boutique hotels, hostels, gift shops, galleries, museums and restaurants have opened in the old city. Visit the boutique hotel Casa Amarelindo. The 10-room hotel has a bar with a deck overlooking the All Saints Bay. Many modern hotels are also available a cab ride away from Pelourinho in the lower city.

Noon - Try the lunch buffet at the SENAC Hotel School, which also offers cooking classes.

Some must-see sights in the old city include the Golden Church and the Afro-Brazilian Museum, which illustrates the influence of the culture on the Bahia region. The slave trade was based in Salvador because of its port. More than a million Africans passed through the city over three centuries.

The town square may look familiar from the 1995 Michael Jackson video for "They Don't Care About Us" that featured the city's famous Olodum drummers. The colorful houses and cobblestone streets make it easy to imagine what Salvador was like in colonial times.

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