Maputo Travel Guide | The Mozambique Capitol

View of Maputo in Mozambique.

Maputo, once famous as Lourenço Marques, is a magnet for South African tourists, particularly people from areas like Gauteng who never see the sea. Hotels near the beach, such as the iconic Polana and the Cardoso offer serene views of Maputo Bay.

Maputo has excellent hotels, restaurants, nightclubs - even a casino - and offers visitors the opportunity to view innumerable sights of historical, cultural and scenic beauty. The Cathedral, on Independence Square, is a particularly imposing sight as are the neo-classical City of Council Chambers nearby.

Where to Stay in Maputo

See Maputo Hotels in Mozambique

The gothic-style Museum of Natural History houses exhibits on many of the animal species in Mozambique while the Fortress, one of Maputo's oldest buildings, is now a colonial history museum. Other interesting buildings in this city of Mozambique are The House of Iron, imported from the World Exhibition in Paris; the Railway Station; and the Yellow House, the seat of the first colonial government.

The Botanical Gardens; the Central Market, which offers a wide variety of handicrafts in addition to fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs; and the Fish Market may also be of interest. Inhaca Island, 34km out into Maputo Bay, is easily accessible by boat or light aircraft while the Maputo National Reserve lies 80 km to the south of the city.

Prior to the 1970s and 1980s, Maputo was on of the most glamorous places to be in Africa where a mix of Portuguese and African culture attracted socialites and many visitors it was a beautiful and exotic destination with an impressive skyline. Neglect set in during the war years and the city fell into disrepair.

Polana Hotel

Maputo is currently undergoing rejuvenation and the Polana Hotel which has stood the test of time is once again a playground of the rich and famous with excellent views of the harbour, tea gardens, a gym and Victorian features.

Maputo has pretty tree lined avenues and many interesting historical and scenic spots, local restaurants serve wonderful fresh seafood and cold beer or visitors can wander through the fish market and purchase the catch of the day for a barbeque later. Maputo's legendary nightlife with lots of bars and discos are in the Fere de Populare area.

From the harbour visitors can take the ferry out to Inhaca Island to see the fascinating maritime museum, historic lighthouse, have lunch or stay over. There are many historic landmarks to see in Maputo and a good place to start is the Praca de Independencia, also worth visiting is the Central Railway Station, Tundaro Gardens, the Art Museum and the Museum of the Revolution.

A focal point in the city is the Praca de Independencia. Around it are a statue of the country's first president, Samora Machel, the gleaming white Roman Catholic cathedral, the neo-classical City Hall and the French-Mozambican cultural centre, a splendid old colonial building which has been tastefully restored and now presents art exhibitions. Round the corner is another architectural treasure; an iron building designed by Monsieur Eiffel, more famous for his tower in Paris, and nearby are the botanical gardens, the Jardim Tunduru.

Across the road is Rádio Moçambique, not very pleasing to the modern eye but a functional example of the Estado Novo monumentalist tradition in Portuguese public architecture of the 1940s and 50s. The building, incorporating a rising central tower and bunker-style windows, achieves a certain grandeur and the bas-relief statuary flanking the central entrance is a classic of the genre.

Nearby is the British High Commission, which is stylish and full of history. Here worked Sir Roger Casement, the only British diplomat to be executed for treason, and here a British journalist on the run from South Africa where he had been covering the Boer War took refuge. The journalist, Winston Churchill, is better remembered as his country's prime minister during the Second World War.

A few minutes walk down the hill from the high commission is the Fortaleza, a Portuguese fort with cannons pointed out to sea. In the Fortaleza lie the remains of Ngungunyana, ruler of the old Gaza Empire, who tried and failed to defeat the Portuguese at the end of the 19th century.

A statue in a street named after him commemorates the man who founded Frelimo, the movement for Mozambican independence, Eduardo Mondlane. Dotted around Maputo, and other Mozambican towns, are streets and schools named after men and women who, like Mondlane, gave their lives in the independence war. The remains of Mondlane, Machel and several other national heroes are enshrined in a star-shaped monument in the Praca dos Herois, which also boasts a large mural recounting the country's centuries of struggle.

Resting Places of the Historically Famous

As in many countries, the main graveyard is also a place to look for memories of a stormy past, which in this case included the Mozambican people's support for South Africa's freedom struggle. In Maputo's Lhanguene cemetery one can find the gravestones of South African liberation personalities, killed in Maputo by apartheid shock troops, poisoners and senders of letter bombs. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison one of his first acts on a visit to Mozambique was to visit these tombs to pay homage to the men and women who kept the dream of freedom alive during his 27 years of incarceration.

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