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This important southern Indian Ocean port lies less than 100km (60 miles) from neighbouring Swaziland and South Africa. With its subtropical climate, beautiful sheltered bay and blend of Portuguese architecture, African spontaneity and Indo/Portuguese/African cuisine, Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques) has retained much of its colonial mystique. Nightclubs swing to samba rhythms until dawn and a host of quiosques (kiosks) serve galinha piri-piri (chicken piri-piri), matapas (a cassava-leaf dish), bacalhau (dried cod) and some of the best batatas frita (fried potato chips) in the world. Hundreds of salões (sidewalk cafés), dozens of nightclubs and the odd suitably sleazy strip joint complement the vibrant atmosphere of this capital city that feels more Latin American than African.

Modelled on Portuguese harbour cities such as Lisbon and Porto, Maputo’s wide avenidas (avenues) are lined with pavements inlaid with black-and-white stone mosaics. Laid out in a grid pattern in 1847, the ‘long’ avenues extend at right angles to Avenida da Marginal while the ‘short’ avenues traverse Maputo Hill away from the bay. By car, you will enter the city via the large traffic circle on Av. 24 de Julho, and proceed for 5km (3 miles) before reaching Av. Julius Nyerere, the heart of the cima, or upper city. Visitors arriving at Maputo International Airport will enter the city via Av. de Acordos de Lusaka. This becomes Av. da Guerra Popular on reaching the high-rise area, runs downhill to the baixa – the lower city – and ends at the massive ‘peace goddess’ statue in the centre of the square opposite the Maputo Railway Station.

Around Maputo

Mercado Xipamanine

The history of the Xipamanine market goes back to the days of Lourenço Marques and before, when black traders throughout Mozambique were restricted to the outskirts of cities. Tourists did, however, patronize Xipamanine, which had (and still has) the reputation of selling anything from live leopards to human body parts.

Not much has changed, but today you won’t find living, wild creatures apart from the odd pet baboon. To get to Xipamanine, either take a chapa (minibus taxi) or, if driving, from Av. Julius Nyerere turn into Av. Eduardo Mondlane and, after 3km (1.8 miles), at the ninth major intersection turn right into Av. de Zâmbia up to Praça 21 de Outubro, and then immediately left into Rua dos Irmãos Roby. Carry on till you arrive at the hectic, mostly open-air marketplace. Ensure that you leave someone to look after your car, or at least don’t leave anything of value inside. Guard against pickpockets and bag-snatchers, and be sure to visit the section selling traditional medicines and talismans, where you may gain an insight into the hidden spiritual world of the Shangaan and Ronga tribes.

Read more: Around Maputo

Cima Walk (uptown): 7km; 4 miles

This walk, starting and ending at the Hotel Polana (designed by renowned British architect Sir Herbert Baker), explores the newer part of Maputo. Built on a hill overlooking the bay, the Polana, where there is safe short-term parking, recalls the opulent 1920s when no expense was spared on style and luxury. It is a fascinating place to visit. The Polana’s marvellous lift, with its carved hardwood panels, ornate iron railings and crystal windows, is on its own worth the trip.

Read more: Cima Walk (uptown): 7km; 4 miles

Historic City Sites

On the bay of Maputo, which is in fact drained mangrove swampland, many colonial buildings still stand along the Rua do Bagamoio. There is the Hotel Central and the restored Hotel Carlton. The Museu da Moeda (Currency Museum) near the end of Rua do Bagamoio is Maputo’s oldest intact example of Moorish architecture and has been beautifully restored to its original state. Open Tuesday to Thursday, and Saturday.

In an attempt to escape the mosquitoes and humidity of the bay, Maputo’s first hospital was erected on an (originally) densely forested hill, in an area that is now characterized by high-rise residential developments. The attractive two-storey Victorian Central Hospital has since been converted and is today known as Restaurante 1908. The city’s hospital moved to larger premises next door.

Baixa Walk (lower city): 8km; 5 miles

Starting and finishing on the Rua da Sé at the Hotel Rovuma (which has been completely renovated), this route takes in historic old Maputo, and includes a very cheap (if on foot) government ferry ride (the terminal is a 15-minute walk from the hotel) across the bay and back. The hotel is situated opposite the huge, white Catholic Cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Conceição off Praça da Independência. If you get lost, look for the towering, white spire of the cathedral, which is one of the city’s most unmistakable landmarks.

Read more: Baixa Walk (lower city): 8km; 5 miles

Maputo Overview

This important southern Indian Ocean port lies less than 100km (60 miles) from neighbouring Swaziland and South Africa. With its subtropical climate, beautiful sheltered bay and blend of Portuguese architecture, African spontaneity and Indo/Portuguese/African cuisine, Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques) has retained much of its colonial mystique. Nightclubs swing to samba rhythms until dawn and a host of quiosques (kiosks) serve galinha piri-piri (chicken piri-piri), matapas (a cassava-leaf dish), bacalhau (dried cod) and some of the best batatas frita (fried potato chips) in the world. Hundreds of salões (sidewalk cafés), dozens of nightclubs and the odd suitably sleazy strip joint complement the vibrant atmosphere of this capital city that feels more Latin American than African.

Modelled on Portuguese harbour cities such as Lisbon and Porto, Maputo’s wide avenidas (avenues) are lined with pavements inlaid with black-and-white stone mosaics. Laid out in a grid pattern in 1847, the ‘long’ avenues extend at right angles to Avenida da Marginal while the ‘short’ avenues traverse Maputo Hill away from the bay. By car, you will enter the city via the large traffic circle on Av. 24 de Julho, and proceed for 5km (3 miles) before reaching Av. Julius Nyerere, the heart of the cima, or upper city. Visitors arriving at Maputo International Airport will enter the city via Av. de Acordos de Lusaka. This becomes Av. da Guerra Popular on reaching the high-rise area, runs downhill to the baixa – the lower city – and ends at the massive ‘peace goddess’ statue in the centre of the square opposite the Maputo Railway Station.

 

Read more: Maputo Overview

Historical and Cultural Walks

Despite Maputo’s reputation for being riddled with thieves and muggers, it is fairly safe to see the sights on foot as long as you carry your passport (or locally notarized copy), leave your valuables behind, walk in a group and return well before sunset. Strolling certainly beats the frustration of trying to find parking in a city where windshields, headlamps and indicator lenses are stolen, to the extent that many owners deliberately crack these in an attempt to eliminate their resale value.

Read more: Historical and Cultural Walks