As the capital of Mozambique, Maputo has a number of attractions, it’s a bustling and busy city with a population of around 1.5 million that is a little run down, with a rather Cuban-salsa vibe that lends an attractive ambiance to the city. One is never far off from the ocean, which also gives the city that happy coastal buzz. With wide avenues, the city boasts a wonderful cafe culture, where many cafes spill onto the pavements and are great for afternoon espressos.
The beaches are enjoyable, but are not of the same quality as Mozambique's Bazaruto and Quirimbas archipelagos, so don’t expect white sands and a turquoise ocean. However close off shore (40km) is Inhaca Island, which is one of the attractions of Maputo. Head out by boat (take a ferry from Maputo’s ferry terminal or hop onto a 20 min flight to the island) and spend a day (one can also overnight) on the island, soaking up the laid-back island vibe, yet again enjoying Mozambique’s white beaches and excellent snorkelling/SCUBA diving in an azure ocean. Again Inhaca, due to its close proximity to Maputo is a busier island retreat, and is well frequented by South Africans. Should you be visiting Maputo on business, or simply do not have enough time to spend on Mozambique's tropical island archipelagoes, Inhaca is a wonderful option – chat to us regarding your tailored holiday requirements and we'll put a holiday package together that will suit you.
Another attraction north of Maputo, one can enjoy languid days on the shores of San Martino Lagoon (with sea entrance) sipping on local beers. Around 180km north of Maputo is the village of Bilene, which is a popular area for both Mozambican and South African holiday makers, for the myriad water sports activities (kayaking, fishing, snorkelling, SCUBA, water skiing) coupled with the natural beauty of the area, such as the large flocks of flamingos that frequent the lake. The town of Bilene has a number of local restaurants (again seafood abounds) and a few rustic shops and market stalls provide some entertainment, but what the area foremost is known for is outdoors fun in nature and beautiful surrounds.
Maputo is known for outstanding seafood piri-piri style (which equates to extremely hot!), but of course there are all manner of cuisine options to tantalise all taste buds – you will be wowed by the size of the prawns and crayfish, and in general the price of a seafood feast is pretty easy on the wallet.
Maputo is known for its numerous restaurants and sidewalk cafes, and the nightlife is humming (well to tune of jazz anyway). Maputo is also a frenzy of markets and trading (best is the Central Municipal Market in downtown Baixa) where hand crafted silver, bright cloths, curios and clothing, aromatic herbs and spices, cashew nuts, fruits and all manner of purchases can be bargained for. The market itself dates back to 1901 and is one of the oldest buildings in Maputo city (a fire a few years back did some damage to the structure).
An interesting gallery studio that is worth visiting is the Nucelo D'Artes. which has over 100 artists, sculptors and ceramic artists, and regularly holds exhibitions. A good place to shop for top quality and unique art works with a Mozambican flavour. Sundays at Nucelo D'Artes comes alove with jazz, and generally the cafe/bar opens untill late.
Another great option to sample traditional Mozambican dishes within a tranquil garden setting is Feima (across the road from the Polana Hotel and one enters on Avenida Armando Tivane). Here on the last weekend of each month a food market mushrooms within the gardens and it's a great time to visit to taste all sorts of African treats and more. Within the gardens there are always street vendors selling arts and crafts.
Colourful tuk-tuks are the easiest and cheapest way to 'get-around' the city and can be hailed outside of most hotels, alternatively ask your concierge desk to call you a taxi.
- The Cathedral on Independence Square, built between 1927 and 1944, is testimony to the European Catholic influences on the city of Maputo, and is a building of great beauty.
- The botanical gardens of Tunduro (Avenue Samora Machel) is within close proximity of the city’s dramatic Cathedral, originally established in 1885 as ‘Vasco da Gama Garden’ designed by the British landscaper Thomas Honney who at the time also designed gardens for the King of Greece and the Sultan of Turkey. The gardens show case native and exotic plants and trees from Africa, Europe, Asia and South America.
- The Central Railway Station, was completed in 1910, the bronze dome of the station was constructed in South Africa and was considered innovative for that time. Just in front of the Railway Station is Workers Square (Praca dos Trabalhadores) where a statue erected in 1935 commemorates the Portuguese and Mozambican soldiers of World War 1.
- The Yellow House, or ‘Casa Amerela’ was the first seat of Colonial Government (nowadays the Coin or Money Museum) and was built in 1860. The Coin Museum was established with the first anniversary of Mozambique’s currency of the Metical. It houses approximately 4300 coins and notes, of which close to a 1000 originate in Mozambique.
- The House of Iron, is an unusual and interesting building, produced entirely of steel and designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, yes of Effeil Tower fame in Paris as well as the face of the Statute of Liberty in New York. Completed in 1892 its original purpose was to be the residence of the General Governor of Mozambique at the time, but due to the heat in Maputo was never used as a residence, although it has served many purposes over the years.
- The gothic-style Museum of Natural History, displays many of the animal species natural to Mozambique and a collection, considered unique in the world, of elephant foetuses showing the different months of gestation. The building itself was completed in 1911.
The Fortress or ‘Nosa Senhora da Conceicao’, one of the oldest buildings in Mozambique, with its history dating back to 1782, was established by Portuguese traders protecting their investment in the bay, with construction ending in 1787. Fascinating history abounds around The Fortress, from pirates attacking and doing much damage, to the hanging tree out front. The Fortress has been in its current state since 1940 and houses the Museum of Military History.
Maputo has a number of accommodation options to choose from, our ‘favourite’ is the Polana Hotel, as it has such great history, expansive ocean views and has just the right mix of holiday feel within a busy city environment.
Day tours to cover the attractions and highlights of Maputo can easily be arranged, along with day trips to the beautiful island of Inhaca or Bilene north of Maputo. There is even a hop-on-hop-off tourist train (the Maputo Express – which is actually a car disguised as a train – kids will love it!) which is an affordable and fun day spent discovering the city of Maputo.
One of the most popular day tours out of Maputo is not in Mozambique at all, it is a day spent discovering South Africa's Kruger National Park. Kruger is arguably one of South Africa's most well known wildlife reserves, and it's southern boundary runs almost parallel with the city of Maputo.
A mere two to two and a half hour road transfer, will transport you from bustling coastal city, to quiet African wilderness. Better still, if you have the time, spend a night in Kruger, as this will give you the opportunity to enjoy a late afternoon/sunset safari, as well as an early morning safari within the Kruger Park, which is considered peak game viewing times as the wildlife is most active (particularly the predators) during the cool of the early morning and late afternoon and evenings. We have assisted many businessmen in Maputo for a Kruger-quikie!
Here's one client's comment of his Kruger Safari experience
"Just wanted to say a GREAT thank you for this extremely nice planning!!! It was a HUGE success! When we got to the Croc Gate at Kruger, we were met by 5 BIG elephants just at the bridge, then we went for the night game drive… AWESOME!!! Rhinos, elephants and much more. SO great experience. At dinner at the BOMA after our game drive that night, we sat listening to the hippos and lions!!! The early game drive was MIND blowing! We saw all the big 5, many many other species (animals and plants). This safari was my very first and I am determined that I want to bring my wife! This was excellent! The trip back went SUPER smooth with help from a brilliant driver! Again thanx for making this possible!"
Mr Frederiksen (Denmark) – visited Kruger August 2012
- International flights into Maputo are from South Africa (both Johannesburg and Durban), Swaziland, Tanzania (Dar es Salaam), Kenya (Nairobi) and Portugal (Lisbon).
- For travellers who enjoy the self drive option, Maputo is a wonderful combination with South Africa’s southern Kruger area where there are a myriad of safari lodges to suit all budgets within Kruger and on the borders of the reserve. From southern Kruger to Maputo is literally a two to three hour drive (do remember border control/immigration may take a little time). This is a very popular holiday option for South Africans, and during South African school holidays and long weekends, Maputo is buzzing with activity.
A popular self drive itinerary if you have some time is:
Johannesburg – Kruger National Park – Maputo – Swaziland – safari reserves of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa – Johannesburg (approximately 10 nights). Remember cross border fees and conditions will apply.
A great add on to the above self drive route:
Fly Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, pick up a hire car and tour, Port Elizabeth – the Garden Route – Cape Town (one way drop off fees would be applicable on your hire car).