Maputo Budget Travel Guide

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Maputo - Economic & Cultural Heart of Mozambique

Take in the fusion of African, Mediterranean and Asian cultures, experiencing the rich mix of old and new flavours, architectural styles, rhythms and lifestyles of Maputo.

Maputo is a good-looking port city, located in the lush bay of Maputo, on the East Coast of Southern Africa. This is the largest city in the country and its only big cosmopolitan centre. Formerly known as Lourenço Marques, Maputo's charm lies in its unique blend of old colonial Portuguese influences and chaotic African vibrancy. Known as the City of Acacias many of Maputo's wide avenues are lined with big acacia thorntrees and jacarandas. The lively atmosphere of this diverse city reflects the rich blend of cultures, interesting history and economic growth of the country, giving visitors real insight into Mozambique.

The capital city, Maputo serves as the ideal springboard for tourist destinations in Mozambique, a country of great natural beauty and stunning beaches.

When in Maputo... Eat, Dance and Explore

Eat the local food: Mozambique is known for its good food, especially fresh seafood, and Maputo offers a rich taste of the country's unique cuisine. Sample the fusion of African, Portuguese and Asian flavours served in the wide selection of restaurants and at the kiosks offering local specialties. Spicy peri-peri prawns are a hot favourite, as are the traditional cassava dishes.

Dance the night away: head to one of the many vibrant nightclubs to see live bands and experience the Latin-meets-African rhythms of the city. For a wide array of restaurants, pubs and nightclubs, head to the established Feira Popular compound, a popular haunt with both visitors and locals.

Explore the city on foot: take a walk down the wide avenues, along the promenade with its vendors and along jostling pavements. You can join cultural and sightseeing walking tours, or explore on your own. Don't miss the architectural gem of the Maputo Railway Station, located on Workers’ Square (Praça dos Trabalhadores), as well as the museums and old colonial buildings.

Go shopping: whether it's malls or markets you are after, Maputo is the place for some Afro-style shopping. Main shopping malls include the Mall of Mozambique and the best street for curio shopping is Julius Nyerere avenue, which is lined with arts and crafts stalls. All kinds of general goods and fresh produce are sold in the main market of the city, Municipal Market, which is well-worth a browse. Almost anything can be bought at the notorious Mercado Xipamanine, a bustling market in Mfalala.

Maputo also hosts lively festivals and events throughout the year, including the dance and musical festival, Festival da Marrabenta, held in February, and the Mafalala Street Festival, celebrating peace and diversity, in November. There is also the Mozambique Jazz Festival in April and the documentary film festival, Dockanema, in September.

Understanding Maputo

Today the city is in part a sophisticated metropolis, offering all the luxury and convenience of contemporary western cities, but with many a local twist. Ultra-luxurious hotels and laid-back cafes share the crowded city landscape with chaotic marketplaces and hawking street vendors. Maputo isn't one of Africa's cheapest places to visit, with imported goods and comfortable accommodation costing a pretty penny. The city is known for its robust nightlife, trendy social scene and cultural splendours, whilst at the same time being notorious for its chaotic atmosphere, traffic congestion and dangerous edge.

Where to go and what to see...

  • get fresh and take colourful photos at the Maputo Central Market, offering a profusion of fruit, vegetables, produce and fish
  • see one of Maputos oldest landmarks - Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, a small fort housing historic weapons
  • go to the FEIMA Artisans Market to bargain for locally made arts, jewellry and crafts, have a drink and grab a pizza
  • explore Maputo Elephant Reserve to see the beautiful beaches, flora and fauna, including antelopes, hippos and elephants
  • take a speedboat to Inhaca Island for a few days of island romance and beach time, snorkelling, swimming and unwinding
  • visit the beautiful architectural gem of the Maputo Central Train Station for the nostalgic atmosphere of this old structure
  • tour the sights - Samora Machel Statue, Holy Cathedral, The Iron House, Tunduro Botanical Garden and Natural History Museum

Maputo's Past

Before the Portuguese sailed onto the scene the Maputo Bay region was ruled by Chief Maputa. Hence this region, stretching down to St. Lucia Lake in South Africa, is still known as Maputaland today.

The original Portuguese capital of Mozambique was the unoriginally named town of Mozambique on the island, not surprisingly, called Mozambique Island. By 1897 the capital had however been shifted onto the mainland, in response to British and Afrikaans interest in the port town. The fast-expanding capital was named after Portuguese explorer - Lourenço Marques, retaining his name until the People's Republic of Mozambique was proclaimed in 1975 and the city was renamed Maputo.

The city features rich remnants of the past - the history of Maputo and Mozambique can be explored by walking in the streets, visiting the museums and viewing the old colonial Portuguese buildings of Maputo.

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