Maputo is the capital of Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony on the south-east coast of Africa. During colonial times, the city was a playground for wealthy visitors from neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe. After gaining independence in 1975 and a brutal civil war, the country has now rebuilt itself and Maputo today offers the visitor an invigorating mix of African traditions, lush gardens and colonial architecture. One of the most extraordinary buildings is Casa do Ferro on Avenida Samora Machel, designed by Gustav Eiffel, who conceived the Paris tower that bears his name. It is now a museum and is known locally as “The Iron House”.
To understand how Mozambicans experience their city, visit the central market, in the Baixa district, where you’ll find everything from fresh calamari and crabs to fruit, vegetables and handicrafts. The Polana is the city’s most famous hotel, a destination for the rich and famous in past years. An afternoon tea here will transport you back to another era. The National Art Museum has a small but important collection of Mozambican art. Look out for works by Malangatana, a Mozambican artist with an international reputation. The Natural History Museum is a place for all the family, with exhibits that include life-size elephants. Many visitors come to Maputo for the beaches and there’s a wide choice. Catembe, a short ferry ride from the city centre, and Ponta d’Ouro are two of the finest. Many visitors take a day trip to Inhaca Island, where there are beautiful views and long, wild walks.
Many local people use minibus taxis, known as “chapas”, to get around the city. Prices are very low, but you may need a basic knowledge of Portuguese. The minibuses are colour-coded depending on destination. A formal fleet of buses also operates.
The city is served by Maputo International Airport (MPM), located some 2 miles (3.2 km) from the city centre. Taxis are available from the airport. You should agree a price before the journey. A trip from the airport should take about 15 minutes, depending on traffic. Many hotels offer free shuttles from the airport.
Maputo Intl (MPM), located 4.5 km from the city centre, is the airport you fly into when you book flights to Maputo.