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12 Must See Sites in Maputo, Capital of Mozambique

Home > The World > Beaches | Gardens | Historic Houses | Museums | Travel
by Carole Liivrand (subscribe)
I love to explore & share my experiences and photographs with others on the off-chance that they too get a buzz out of simple things at their own back door.
Published February 29th 2016
A melting pot of cultures and cuisines
Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Market, Seaside
Maputo's Seaside

Known as the city of acacias, Maputo attracts many foreign tourists and is quoted as having one of the longest (2,514 kms) and most beautiful coastlines in Africa.

Formerly known as Lourenco Marques, it is a laid-back capital with a mix of outdoor restaurants and cafes which sit in palm-lined yet pot-holed streets. Tall buildings are nestled amongst tin shanties Then there are ritzy villas, grand colonial buildings, and unsightly soviet-style concrete block buildings dating back to the 1950's when Russia and Cuba had a finger in the political pie.

Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama came here on his way to India in the early 1500s. Followed by Arab and Indian traders dealing in gold, slaves and ivory.

Colonised by the Portuguese in the 1600s, Mozambique gained independence in 1975 following a fierce and bloody liberation struggle. A bitter civil war followed, but since 1992, this multi-party democracy has been stable and the economy continues it grow as foreign investment pours in.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist
Maputo's Impressive Railway Station

Our very short half day city orientation tour was enough to give us a glimpse of today's Maputo.

Maputo Central Train Station
The once impressive railway station designed by Gustav Eiffel in 1910 is definitely an architectural highlight. The trains are more basic than basic and definitely belong in a museum. Passengers were queuing, several hours ahead of departure time, at what appeared to be the only ticket office. I would have loved to watch them board. Photos only tell some of the story as colourful clothing and bags and baskets stuffed with belongings were carried on heads and backs as passengers made their way down the platform.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist
Images taken at Maputo Railway Station

Maputo Central Market

At the local market we walk into a hub of activity. Everything is sold here. Many stalls are under cover in the very attractive market building, whilst others flow out to form an extension, and others are close to the street. You will find curios, baskets, seafood, fruit and vegetables, plants, household goods and more. Provisions are very fresh and very organic, I am sure! Photography was generally permitted, except for the ladies selling the morning's catch of fresh seafood. Here you first you need to ask permission, and then I discovered, a reward of some kind is expected. The woman I photographed wanted my bottle of cold water. This is not unusual as bartering is the traditional way of doing business.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Market
Maputo Market

Intriguing also were the many stalls with vendors selling packets of synthetic hair. There were plaits, pony tails, wigs & hair-pieces, and curls galore.

Praça da Independência
Known to the locals as Praça da Independência, our next stop is Independence Square dominated by an enormous statue of Samora Machel - the country's first president, and is flanked by the white Roman Catholic Cathedral, the neo-classical City Hall and the French-Mozambican Cultural Centre.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Market, Praca da Independencia
Praça da Independência, Maputo, Mozambique

Casa de Ferro
We also had a quick photo stop at the house built entirely of iron, a material which is far too hot for this climate! The building was designed by Gustave Eiffel, and is now home to the French cultural centre in Mozambique. Although we didn't visit inside, we are told that there is a good souvenir shop and a restaurant

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Market, Praca da Independencia, House of Iron
The House built from Iron

Tundura Botanical Gardens
I am at a loss as to why our tour included a visit to the Tundura Botanical Gardens. They occupy less than a small city block, were full of rubbish and street people and are in need of maintenance. Definitely a place to miss unless you need to find a few hundred bats clinging to trees. Having said this, it appears my experience was not that of other visitors to the Gardens which were designed in 1885 by Thomas Honney, who also designed gardens for the King of Greece and the Sultan of Turkey. They are quoted as being "exquisitely laid out, if at times a little overgrown".

Natural History Museum
The natural history museum, although small and reflective of the lack of funds in this country, is worth visiting. The displays are all models predominantly depicting Africa today, yet in spite of this, has a few good exhibits. It's small and can be viewed very quickly.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum

Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana
The drive via Polana showed us the other side of Maputo with the Polana hotel having expensive cars out front and lines of taxis waiting to ferry tourists and business people around. Close by is the impressive Catholic Church San Antonio.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Catholic Church San Antonio
Catholic Church San Antonio.

There is an obvious wealth disparity here, with a very large percentage of poor people, yet so much potential. In 2013 Mozambique ranked 185th out of 187 countries on the 2013 UN Human Development Index by the UN Development Programme.

Maputo Beaches
The foreshore drive once again demonstrated the potential here: shanties, fields of rubbish and mile upon mile of goods for sale displayed on the roadside. Nearby are beach weddings, and locals selling BBQ chicken, beer and coca cola. Not far away from all this is the sailing club and mushrooming high rise developments.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Market, Seaside, Retail
Retail Outlets - one traditional, one more Western-style

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist, Market, Seaside
Images by Maputo's Seaside

Here, the seaside is a hive of activity very different from that seen in Western and more developed countries.

Maputo, Mozambique, Railway Station, Africa, Tourist
Farewell Maputo, Mozambique

More Maputo ..
One short visit can only give you a taste of what's on offer. Given more time, one would head for the outdoors and go snorkelling or diving on the "spectacular reefs of Inhaca and the Portuguese Islands," or book a game drive through one of the reserve areas. You would experience dining al fresco at one of the many side-walk café's. It is said that one should "expect superb, fresh seafood dishes and friendly locals".

It has also been suggested that this is a great place to tack on after experiencing a Safari in East Africa or Kruger National Park, which are literally across the border and only around 2 hours drive.

For more information, this YouTube video gives a good introduction to Mozambique, while this WikiTravel gives a overview on the city, transportation, travel, budgeting, currency, etc.

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Why? Fascinating, exotic mix of cultures and history with a shoreline where you can see forever
When: It depends on many things: your interests, where you want to visit and why you're going. One person's best time can be another's worst!
Where: Maputo, Mozambique, Africa
Your Comment
Lovely and very informative article Carole - enjoyed reading it!
by Diana (score: 2|719) 2676 days ago
by ultim (score: 2|436) 161 days ago
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