Maputo is the largest urban centre in Mozambique and has served as the national capital since 1898. The streets and markets are busy and energetic and the avenidas, lined with jacaranda, flame and palm trees and numerous street cafés, have a relaxed, hassle-free, Afro-Mediterranean atmosphere that is distinctively Mozambican. From impressive architecture to botanical gardens and bustling markets, Maputo is well worth exploring.
Sunrise over Maputo Bay, Mozambique © Eric Pasqualli, Shutterstock
If you fancy a stroll with views of the coast before heading into more central Maputo, begin your walk at the Polona Serena which for decades was the showpiece of Maputo’s hotels. Head south from here and turn off the Avenida Julius Nyerere onto the first street on the left to walk along Avenida Friedrich Engels which runs high above the coast. This shady road is lined with trees, bougainvillea-draped lookout points and well-maintained benches. Perhaps enjoy a coffee in the Acacia Café not far from here, with its fine views of the wide river estuary and the harbour.
Natural History Museum in Maputo © James and Alex BonTempo, Wikimedia Commons
Next, head to the Natural History Museum situated near the Hotel Cardoso, on the Praça da Travessia do Zambeze. You may prefer to start your walk here if you prefer to start your day closer to the centre of Maputo. It is housed in one of the finest buildings in Maputo, a palace built in the Manueline style (a sort of Portuguese Gothic) and decorated with wonderfully ornamental plasterwork.
Old Maputo Synagogue in Mozambique © Jcornelius, Wikimedia Commons
One block further, on the Avenida Tomás Nduda, is the old Maputo synagogue, built in 1926 and restored in 2013. There are no formal visits but you might be able to get the caretaker to show you around.
Botanical gardens in Maputo © Mac in Maputo, Wikimedia Commons
Walk along Avenida Patrice Lumumba to reach the Jardim Tunduru (Botanical Gardens), a public park with many large shady trees which is particularly pleasant towards the end of the day as the lowering sun casts yellowing stripes on the grass.
To the left of the main entrance gate, on the Praça de Independência, is a statue of Samora Machel, the country’s first president. Just up from here is the Casa de Ferro (Iron House), a construction of prefabricated metal parts designed by the French engineer Eiffel. Opposite, on the east side of the Tunduru gardens, is the palace in which Paul Kruger, President of the South African Republic, resided after fleeing from British troops at the end of the 19th century.
Statue of Samora Machel in front of the town hall in Maputo © Fedor Selivanov, Shutterstock
This old building now houses the Centre Cultural Franco-Mozambicain, which has a pleasant semi outdoor café, regular art exhibitions and a funky little shop selling locally made handicrafts and clothing.
Continuing up Avenida Samora Machel brings you to the imposing town hall and yet another statue of Samora Machel; this one is the largest in the country.
The glistening white Catholic cathedral in Maputo © Fedor Selivanov, Shutterstock
On its right is the glistening white Catholic cathedral, a boldly unattractive structure that was completed in 1944. From the cathedral, cross the Praça de Independência and walk along Avenida Josina Machel for a block and a half. On the southern side of the road is perhaps the most surprising monument in the Baixa, the Louis Trichardt Memorial Garden and is worth seeing if only because it is so incongruous.
The impressive railway station in Maputo © Africa Image Library
From here, wander down Avenida Karl Marx and turn right on Rua Consiglieri Pedroso to reach the palatial green-and-white railway station, built in 1910 following a design by the architect Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and notable for its plethora of marble pillars and wrought-iron detail. It is used little these days but does not detract from its importance as an architectural monument.
The Jumma Masjid mosque © Africa Image Library
It is worth poking around the streets of the Old Town with most buildings constructed in the late 19th century and quite run- down but still with a certain charm about them. In particular, visit the Jumma Masjid, a large, well-kept and much-frequented mosque.
Traditional African batik paintings in the Mercado Central © Fedor Selivanov, Shutterstock
Nearby, on Avenida 25 de Setembro you will find the Mercado Central which is an excellent place to end your walking tour by exploring the market. It is perfect for craft shopping with a good selection of basketry, woodcarvings and paintings. Also on sale is an unusually varied selection of fresh and tinned produce, bootleg DVDs and music CDs, clothing and hardware.