Hello Maputo! The capital of Mozambique!
As an airbnb host in Maputo, I’ve recently been interacting with many foreigners, specially the ones travelling through the country. I came to realize that I got lots of requests about what to do and where to go in Maputo.
There’s already some information around about the city, specially from other travelers sharing their experiences, but after 4 years living in Maputo, some local insights may be useful to make the stay more easy, so I’ve developed a tip book for my guest, which I’ll partially share in this article.
1- UNDERSTANDING THE CITY MAP
Maputo City Center Map is very easy! It is like a chocolate bar and everything is relatively close. For reference, I’d advise you to know the following main avenues: Av. 25 de Setembro, Av. 24 de Julho, Av. Eduardo Mondlane, Av. Mao Tsé Tung, Av. Vladimir Lenine, Av. Julius Nyerere.
2- TOURISM INFORMATION OFFICE
If you need additional touristic information, the Tourism Information Office is located inside Jardim Botânico do Tunduru (Tunduru Botanical Garden). There, you can also schedule walking tours around the city, including a walking tour to Pancho Guedes buildings, if you are interested in architecture.
3- WHERE TO GO
FINDING THE MARKETS
When buying, remember to bargain. Try lowering the price to half and go up from that value. When the buy was too easy you probably could have gotten the same item for a lower price. No shame in that, try memorizing the prices so next time you have a reference on how much things actually cost.
*1* Mercado Central (Central Market) – Located downtown is probably the most famous Markets. You can buy vegetables, fruit, nuts, peri-peri, art craft and hair (!), among others. If you cross the street from the Market you’ll find “Casa Elefante” which is very well known for their Capulanas (local printed fabrics) BUT if you go to the streets behind the market you’ll also find beautiful Capulanas at lower prices.
*3* Mercado do Povo (People Market) and *8* Mercado Janet (JaneteMarket) – Both Markets are very similar. Not very big, you can find all sorts of different stuff and eat local food. They are on opposite sides of the city. Check them out only if you’re in the neighborhood, no point going there on purpose. We usually go to Janete market when we want to find a tailor.
*5* Mercado do Pau (Wood Market) – On Saturdays only, it opens at 6am until 2pm more or less. This is also an art crafts market and you can find most of the thing you have in FEIMA at a lower price but is not as big nor glamorous. Better go early since by midday people start to close the stands.
*4* FEIMA – Art crafts market – This is the most touristy market but a beautiful place to walk around and check out all kinds of art craft works. You’ll be surrounded by colors and trees since it is located inside Continuadores Park. A must.
*6* Mercado de Chipamanine (Chipamanine Market) – If you don’t like crowds or mess, this market is not recommendable for you. Chipamanine is a bit off the city center but it’s huge and has about everything. When you go, walk around with only the essentials and mind your stuff.
*9* Mercado do Peixe (Fish market) – As the name points, you can buy fresh fish and seafood here, but the best part is that it also has many restaurants where you can have your recently bought groceries cooked. People will approach you offering help buying the fish so they can afterwards cook it for you. If interested in having lunch, accept the help, you’ll enjoy the meal. It is a bit expensive considering the other restaurants, you should bargain.
*7* Estrela (Star market) – Avoid going to this market. It is a black market where people usually go only to buy back their stolen stuff. Not for nice people and dangerous. A don’t.
LOOKING FOR SOME CULTURE
Did you know that Maputo has many buildings of renowned figures? Gustav Eiffel and Pancho Guedes are some of the people who left their print in the city. Furthermore, as an antic Portuguese colony, you can still find neighborhoods in typical colonial architecture. Here we list some of the iconic buildings of Maputo, museums and cultural centers. Remember museums close on Mondays.
*1* CFM – Train Station – Is one of the most iconic buildings in Maputo. Recently rehabilitated, all iron you see was design by Gustav Eiffel. The CFM Train Station also stared as a hotel in the movie Blood Diamonds (with Leonardo DiCaprio). There is also a museum inside, in the platform. Across the square you can also find one of the 112 buildings design by Pancho Guedes. Just look around, you’ll easily understand which one it is.
Rua do Bagamoyo – If you wander East from CFM, you’ll probably walk into Bagamoyo Street. You can look at the old buildings and try to imagine how beautiful the neighborhood might have been in its golden years. Nowadays, if you go there by night you’ll find strip clubs and girls practicing “the oldest job in the world”.
*2* Fortaleza – The fortress is probably the only stone building you’ll find in Maputo. The current building was constructed in the 20th century but since the 18th century it has been a military defense point. Inside you can find the Museum of Military History.
*3* CCFM – French-Mozambican Cultural Center – Be careful not to mistake it with CFM: it has an extra C. This is a beautiful building of typical colonial architecture that hosts many cultural events, such as concerts, theatre plays, dance and exhibitions. Check the program online. A must.
*4* Catedral – Near CCFM you’ll see a big white cathedral dating from the 40’s, which is another iconic building of Mozambique’s Capital, specially due to its 61m tower. It’s located right beside the Maputo Municipality. The inside is quite simple in our opinion, but it may be interesting to watch the mass.
*5* Casa de Ferro (Iron house) – A building design by one of Gustav Eiffel’s student, is literally made in iron. It was imported from Belgium to Maputo to serve as the Governors House but nowadays is the Headquarters of the Ministry of Culture. You cannot go in, but should pay attention to this building, located in-between CCFM and Tunduro Botanical Garden.
*6* Igreja da Polana (Polana’s Church) – Or as usually called: “the orange/lemon squeezer”. It’s a memorable modern architecture building dated from the 60’s. The inside has a very interesting light due to the lovely stained glass. If no mass is going on, the main entrance might be closed. However you can access it by ringing at the door of the priests on the street behind the church. There have a tunnel that links their house to the church. There is a board on the front main entrance explaining this in Portuguese.
*7* Museu de História Natural (Natural History Museum) – This Museum is in a beautiful neo-manueline building and has a vast collection representative of the country’s fauna. It’s most remarkable feature is the elephant fetus collection with most of the stages of baby elephants development.
*8* Fundação Fernando Leite Couto – This foundation is located in a building design by the architect Pacho Guedes. It is named in honor of Fernando Couto, a poet, journalist and editor, also Mia Couto’s father (Mia Couto is a world renowned Mozambican writer). It is a lovely space with a small gallery and promotes literary events as well as concerts. You can also eat there. Check the program online.
Besides all the above mentioned sites, you can also visit the coin museum (*9*), national art museum (*10*) and the geology museum (*11*), but I’ve never actually gone there (shame on me) so better not write about what I don’t know.
4- WHAT TO DO
SPORTS and ACTIVITIES – If you are into sports, in Maputo you can basically do everything, from kite surfing, golfing, horse riding, yoga classes, playing tennis, even bowling and driving karts. There are many joggers out there as well. To dive and surf you need to get out of the city. You can snorkel in Inhaca Island, but you need to take a boat to get there (batelão).
CHILLING – You can go to the cinema (in Maputo Shopping), buy some DVDs on the street in front of PiriPiri to see at home and go to the pool (in Maritimo, Polana Hotel, Girassol Indy Hotel, Terminus Hotel, Cardoso Hotel, and others).
GOING FOR A DRINK – Oddly enough, Maputo doesn’t actually have pubs where you can just go for a drink. Mainly there are “botecos” (small shacks) where you can have beer at all hours. However if you want a glass of wine or a gin and tonic, you’ll end up inside a restaurant, a hotel or a disco/bar, in which you’ll have to pay for entrance.
NIGHTLIFE – Actual nightlife takes places mostly in Bistro, 1908, Scala, Face2Face (dance kizomba here), Havana club (dance salsa here), Dolce Vita, Venue, Gil Vicente, Bar e Bar, Robson and Coconuts. Every week there is a different party event in a different place, sometimes in a Rooftop, others in Continuadores’ Park or in one of the above mentioned clubs/bars. However there are some events that take place every week like:
- Tuesday – Gil Vicente Karaoke Night
- Thursdays – JAM Sessions in Associação dos Músicos Moçambicanos (Mozambican Musicians Association) from 19h to 21h OR Jazz Sessions in Soul Gourmet from 19h to 21h AND later you can go to Robson Karaoke Night
- Sundays – Núcleo de artes Live Concerts from 19h. It is also a place where you can see artists working and look for some art you’d like to buy while drinking a beer (a “must go” in my modest opinion).
Remember, all of nightlife main spots have an entrance fee, so don’t forget to take money with you. The most expensive it gets is 600 MZN. The Mozambican Musicians Association and Dolce Vita are the exception (free entrance).
5 – MOVING AROUND SAFELY
In Maputo you can walk, take taxis, take txopelas or take a “chapa” (local public transport).
Either if you are on vacation or business, safety is a regular concern. But don’t stress, in general Mozambicans are good people. Mainly I just advise you to mind your stuff. Specially avoid being careless with your cellphone, like walking while texting. If driving with the windows opened, put your values away from the window. And ladies keep you purses closed. Furthermore, don’t be reckless to where you go alone if you don’t know well the city. In the map below I sign some areas considered to be the “go at your own risk” parts of Maputo (its mainly going up or down the slopes – green areas circled below).
WALKING – If you want to walk in the city center, during the day it is pretty safe, just bear in mind the signed areas in the abovementioned map. During nighttime we advise you to take a vehicle just to avoid creating opportunities for badly intended people.
TAKING A TAXI: You can grab a taxi on the street: they are the yellow and green vehicles. But our tip to you is to call a taxi central and the rate will be much cheaper. With the central, they text you warning that they have arrived to your pickup place, so you don’t need to stand on the street waiting. Ask on the phone how long will they take so you are prepared. Sometimes these taxis are regular vehicles, not yellow-green. Usually prices go from 150 MZN to 700 MZN (this last to the airport).
- Central Novo Taxi: 84 301 00 10
- Central Taxi Marcelo: 84 505 00 50
TAKING A TXOPELA: (you’ll probably call them tuc-tuc, but here they are called txopela). Txopelas are great to take a city tour. You just find one and bargain around 1000 MZN for the whole day. You can also take them instead of a taxi, it is cheaper than a regular taxi called on the street.
TAKING A CHAPA: Taking a chapa is the most local and affordable way of transport. It costs 7 MZN per trip inside the city. There are several Chapa stops in the city, where you can take chapas for most destinations, you’ll easily find them due to the crowds standing in one place, just ask the people there. Remember that chapas can get extremely crowded, so tell the fee collector man where you want to go. He will sit you accordingly and tell you when you arrive to your destination (this is the man inside the chapa, standing at the door and calling for more passengers). If you don’t like crowds and mess, taking the chapa is not recommendable for you.
If you need a pharmacy, you’ll find online most pharmacies addresses and choose the one closest to you. There are several 24 hour pharmacies in case your distress happens during awkward hours.
The most important care you need to take regards Malaria. Malaria in the city center is not very common, but one shouldn’t play with luck, so bear in mind the following advice: If you feel like you have the flu (fever, body aches and fatigue) and you have been in Mozambique for more than 10 to 15 days (incubation period for Malaria), my advice is that you take a malaria test. It’s not very expensive and you’ll get your results in about 20min. You can go to the hospital to take the test but it will be faster to go to a clinic. We usually go to ICOR, situated in Av. Kenneth Kaunda, cross with Rua General Teixeira Botelho. If your test is negative, just pop the pills you need to get better. Avoid self-medication before taking the Malaria test because you may be hiding your symptoms and making it worse.
7- THE DON’Ts
- Avoid being rude, specially cursing. Mozambicans don’t usually curse.
- Don’t try to play smart with the police, specially arguing with them too much, it will only get you in more trouble. Be always nice and calm. Sometimes if you ask for forgiveness (even if you don’t feel guilty about anything) they will let you go. If they stop you just for money and you haven’t done anything wrong, kindly answer that you don’t have money.
- Never walk around without having your ID/passport on you.
8 – ALWAYS BE PACIENT
In restaurants, food might take some time (a lot) to be served. Waiters might take your order wrong. Light may go down in the city for a period. Water is limited. Is not that easy to find places with free wifi. But don’t worry, with a little patience, positive vibes and a smile, you will be just fine.
Know and remember the slogan: T.I.A.! This is Africa.