Chili sauce vendor in Maputo at the Mercado Central

15 Quirky Things to Do in Maputo

I spent six days in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

Statue of Samora Machel in Maputo, Mozambique.
Statue of Samora Machel, the first president of independent Mozambique. Erected in 2011, the monument was designed and constructed in North Korea.

Two friends joined me for the last two days but the rest of the time I was alone. Other than booking my flight and accommodation and buying a guide book — the Bradt Travel Guide for Mozambique, which has a short and rather disappointing chapter on Maputo but was helpful nonetheless — I made zero plans before going. Once there, I continued making zero plans and just wandered around looking at things.

I realized Maputo is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Southern Africa (perhaps surpassed only by Johannesburg), especially for people who like cities. Maputo is cosmopolitan, with incredible food, history, architecture, art, and culture. There aren’t many cities like that in this sparsely populated corner of the world.

Jumma Masjid - mosque in downtown Maputo
The Jumma Masjid, Maputo’s big downtown mosque, one of many strikingly beautiful buildings I stumbled upon while out walking around Maputo.

Here are the top 15 quirky places/things I discovered in Maputo. This list is by no means comprehensive. Read to the end for a few tips about visiting the city.

My Favorite Things in Maputo

1) Architecture

Quirky architecture is everywhere in Maputo.

Radio Mozambique in Maputo
Radio Moçambique.
Beautiful pink high-rise in Maputo
Maputo or Miami?
Abandoned Portuguese villa in Maputo
Old and new.
Interesting church and apartment building in Maputo
Pink and yellow.
Imposing Maputo highrises
I was oddly enthralled by these weird-looking high-rises.
Saint Anthony Catholic Church - lemon-squeezer-shaped church in Maputo
Saint Anthony Catholic Church, the “lemon-squeezer church” on Avenida Kwame Nkrumah.

2) Museu De História Natural de Maputo (Museum of Natural History)

Museum of Natural History in Maputo
Maputo’s gothic-style Museum of Natural History.

This is one of the strangest museums I’ve ever visited. The building is stately and and beautiful and the exhibits are fascinating, yet…repulsive.

Inside the Maputo Natural History Museum
The museum’s dramatic, double-story entry hall.
Preserved snakes in the Maputo Natural History Museum
Strangely beautiful dead snakes and lizards. Apparently there is also a collection of preserved elephant foetuses (!) but somehow I missed those.
Bloody taxidermy at the Maputo Natural History Museum.
One of at least 20 taxidermy hunting scenes in which animals are murdering each other in the bloodiest, most macabre ways possible.

The Museu De História Natural deMaputo is on Rua dos Lusíadas in the Polana district. Admission is free.

3) Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) and the monument to Samora Machel

Maputo’s main cathedral is in the center of town on Praça da Independência (Independence Square). Right next to it is the massive, nine-meter-tall monument to Samora Machel (pictured above).

Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição
This Art Deco church was built in 1936. I would have loved to see the inside but it was never open when I walked past.

4) FEIMA – Feira de Artesanato, Flores e Gastronomica (Crafts, Flowers and Gastronomy Fair) of Maputo

This outdoor craft market, nicknamed FEIMA, is the best place in Maputo to buy crafts and souvenirs. In fact it’s one of the best craft markets I’ve ever been to. The setting is beautiful, the things for sale are beautiful — there are lots of run-of-the-mill African crafts but also lots of really great art — the vendors are chilled, and there are several cafés of the premises.

Wooden bowls for sale at FEIMA in Maputo
I bought one of these.
I bought a pair of these too.
Whole grilled fish at FEIMA in Maputo
I ate one of these, served at the Restaurante Graciana in the market.
Bags for sale at FEIMA in Maputo
I wanted to buy one of these but ran out of money.

FEIMA is on Avenida de Matires de Machava in the Baixa district.

5) Casa Elefante

I don’t sew, but if I did I would have gone to town at this incredible fabric shop. I’ve never seen so much beautiful African material in one place.

Man at Casa Elefante fabric shop in downtown Maputo.
A floor-to-ceiling riot of color in Casa Elefante.

Casa Elefante is at 1845 Avenida 25 de Setembro across the road from the Mercado Central.

6) Mercado Central

This is the main central market in downtown Maputo, with vendors selling fresh produce, fish, household items, crafts, and whatever else you can imagine. The market is beautiful, spotless, and the vendors are friendly. I loved it.

Mercado Central in Maputo
The market.
Chili vendor in the Mercado Central
Blazing hot birds eye chilis and the best peri peri sauce you’ll ever taste. Peri peri sauce is amazing in Maputo.
Vegetable vendor in Mercado Central
Nice man who sold me bell peppers.

The Mercado Central is also on Avenida 25 de Setembro.

7) Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens

This large botanical garden is in the center of town and popular with locals because it’s the best place to escape Maputo’s stifling heat. I spent 45 minutes there on a shady bench, watching birds and lizards and screeching bats in the trees.

Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens
Jardim Tunduru

Jardim Tunduru has several gates but only one of them is open. Enter and exit through the main gate on Rua Henrique de Sousa, just down from the Praça da Independência.

8) Breakfast at Pastelaria Pizza House 3

Pastelarias — bakeries with attached cafés — are dotted all over Maputo and great places to stop for a coffee or inexpensive meal. The Pastelaria nearest to my flat was called Pizza House 3. (I never saw anyone eating pizza.) It was on Avenida 24 de Julho in the Polana district.

Breakfast at a Pastelaria in Maputo
Cheese omelette with chips and a delicious café com leite (coffee with milk) at Pizza House 3.

I had breakfast there twice and bought all my bread from the bakery at the back. A tasty oval-shaped loaf the size of a small baguette costs 10 meticais (2 rand, or 16 cents).

9) Louis Tregardt (Louis Trichardt) Trek Memorial Garden

This was my weirdest Maputo sight-seeing experience. In the middle of a bustling downtown neighborhood on Avenida Ho Chi Min is a pristine memorial to South African Voortrekker Louis Trichardt (spelled Tregardt in Portuguese — important when locating the memorial on Google Maps), who died of malaria here during the Great Trek.

Louis Tregardt Memorial in Maputo
The Louis Tregardt Trek Memorial Garden.

I don’t have time to explain the complicated historical and cultural significance of the Great Trek and why I found it strange that this memorial — funded by the South African apartheid government in 1968 — still stands in Mozambique, a country that has more recently experienced socialist rule and violent civil war. But it’s super interesting and worth a visit.

Louis Tregardt Memorial in Maputo
An interesting map of Louis Trichardt’s trek.

The memorial is tricky to find — I almost walked right past the gate. It’s on Avenida Ho Chi Min near the corner of Avenida Felipe Samuel Magaia.

10) Estação Central dos Caminhos de Ferro (Central Railway Station)

Maputo’s Central Railway Station is world-famous: In 2009 Newsweek ranked the station #7 in an article about the world’s grandest train stations. The Maputo station has appeared on several other such lists.

Estação Central dos Caminhos de Ferro in Maputo
The railway station is also the site of a huge bus stop, hence the hundreds of people milling about in front of it.

Opened in 1910, the station was long rumoured to have been designed by French architect Gustave Eiffel. But that is untrue. The station was designed by by José Ferreira da Costa and modeled after the old central train terminal in Joburg (which now sits in Newtown just under Nelson Mandela Bridge).

Platform in Maputo's Central Railway Station
A platform inside the station.

The station is exceedingly pleasant to visit. Walk up and down the platforms to see some beautiful old photos of the station. There is also a café and a small museum.

The Central Railway Station is just off Avenida 25 de Setembro, a short walk from the Mercado Central.

11) The Scala Cinema

I was charmed by the old Scala Cinema, an Art Deco theatre built in 1931. I don’t think the theatre is operating anymore but the building has been beautifully maintained.

Scala Cinema in Maputo
The Scala Cinema.

I wandered inside and found the lobby decorated with old movie posters and giant antique film projectors. Upstairs is a restaurant, Wood’s Lounge, where you can sit on the balcony overlooking the street. I had a very pleasant meal there.

Cinema Scala is on Avenida 25 de Setembro, one block east of the Mercado Central.

12) Costa do Sol

Restaurante Costa do Sol is a seafood restaurant just outside Maputo, about a 15-minute taxi ride from the city center. Costa do Sol opened in 1938 and is famous for its prawns. The restaurant provides a great excuse to get out of town and hang out by the beach for a couple of hours.

Prawn and calamari lunch at Costa do Sol in Maputo
My lunch at Costa do Sol: the prawn and calamari combo. Delicious.

The beach is pretty but not quite inviting enough for sunbathing — there’s a bit of rubbish scattered around and the water isn’t super clear due to a nearby river mouth. Nonetheless, my friends and I enjoyed a quick stroll on the sand and wading in the warm, shallow water.

View of the beach across from Costa do Sol
View of the beach from Costa do Sol.
The beach provides a nice view of the city.

Before lunch we sat outside one of the many beachside shacks and had a beer, which was fun but hilarious and slightly stressful at the beginning because two lady beer shack owners had a boisterous, 10-minute argument about which one of them was going to serve us.

Costa do Sol is at Avenida Marginal 10294.

13) Dhow Moçambique

Dhow is a gorgeous, classy restaurant/bar in the Polana district, with a great view of the harbor. The restaurant serves Greek food and everything is glorious except for the prices — Dhow is on the expensive side and geared toward tourists and expats. It’s worth it anyway for the amazing setting.

Dhow Mozambique in Maputo
This picture really doesn’t properly convey how lovely Dhow is.

Dhow is at 4 Rua da Marracuene. The street dead-ends at the ocean — when you reach the end, look for the gate to your left.

14) DEAL Espaço Criativo (Creative Space)

My Airbnb host tipped me off to DEAL (Design, Entertainment, Art, and Literature), a private home turned into an art gallery and craft store. Every single thing in this place is beautiful and locally made and all of it is for sale. DEAL also has a really nice restaurant in the garden.

Inside DEAL Creative Space in Maputo
Inside DEAL Creative Space.

DEAL is at Rua Jose Mateus 265 in the Polana district.

15) Maputo’s Fruit and Vegetable Vendors

Everywhere you look in Maputo there are people selling fruit and vegetables from mobile carts or stands. Besides providing the great convenience of shopping while walking, these vendors create a wonderful sense of vibrancy on the streets. Joburg needs more of this.

Buying custard apples on the street in Maputo.
Fiver buys custard apples from a fruit vendor. Note the hand-held digital scale.
Coconut salesman in Maputo
A coconut salesman who happened to pull up in front of my flat as I arrived home one afternoon.

Quick Tips for Visiting Maputo

  1. Portuguese is the national language in Mozambique. I don’t speak Portuguese (beyond bom dia and obrigada) but didn’t have much problem communicating — most restaurants and shops have at least one English speaker.
  2. South Africans don’t need a visa to visit Mozambique but most non-Africans do. Visas at the airport cost $50 (you can pay in dollars or rands) and can be purchased on arrival. Don’t go straight to the regular immigration line — there is a small table in the corner where you need to go first to buy your visa.
  3. Print out a copy of your accommodation booking before you leave. Immigration officials will give you a hard time if you can’t provide the exact address where you’ll be staying.
  4. We stayed in an Airbnb in the Polana district on Avenida Ahmed Sekou Touré. Our flat is called “Love Maputo Polana” on Airbnb and I highly recommend it. Shout-out to our awesome hosts Maria and Patricia.
  5. A taxi ride from the airport to town should cost around 800 meticais (about $12 or R180). It’s best to arrange a taxi in advance if you can.
  6. It’s hard to navigate Maputo without Google Maps and wifi is not prevalent. I recommend buying a local SIM card at the airport. I had a bad experience with my mCel SIM card (the signal was very spotty) but my friend swore by her Movitel card.
  7. Except for the cheap and delicious bread and the local beer, I thought food was a bit expensive in Maputo — perhaps 15-20% more expensive than in Joburg.
  8. I found walking alone in Maputo during the day to be 100% safe. I never felt vulnerable and wasn’t harassed or even approached by a single policeman or hustler. I’ve heard you should carry your passport at all times, and I did, but no one ever asked me for it.
  9. It’s freaking hot in Maputo. Dress accordingly and drink coconuts.
Heather with a coconut in Maputo
Photo: Fiver Löcker

Central Mozambique was hit by a disastrous cyclone last week. The storm was far north of Maputo and the city wasn’t affected. But hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have been killed in the city of Beira and surrounding areas. If you’d like to donate to help the victims of Cyclone Idai, Health Alliance International is a good charity to support.

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26 Comments

  • Reply Timmee March 23, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    How awesome? I’ve always wanted to visit, but I want to drive, not fly.

    Do you recall if they drive on the same side of the road as South Africa?

    Do you know if South African SIM cards would work in Maputo?

    • Reply 2summers March 23, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      Yep they drive on the left! And yes, your card might work but I think you’d have roaming charges.

  • Reply Shawn Malone March 23, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    This gave me so much nostalgia. You hit a lot of my favorite spots! The two intriguing towers are known as the Torres Vermelhas (Red Towers) and that part of the city is Ponte Vermelha (Red Point), but am not sure where the name derives. Always thought it must be a bit terrifying to live in a high-rise that looks like it hasn’t been maintained in quite some years…

    • Reply Shawn Malone March 23, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Sorry, Ponta not Ponte…

    • Reply 2summers March 23, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      Yes, we also all thought it looked quite scary!

  • Reply AutumnAshbough March 23, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    One of the great things about your posts is that the gorgeous photos and interesting facts compel me o do more research on the history and geography of ever area you visit. I feel like school kids should follow bloggers when studying geography.

    • Reply 2summers March 23, 2019 at 7:50 pm

      Haha, there’s a market I never thought of tapping into. Glad you liked the post!

  • Reply dizzylexa March 23, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Many of our holidays when I was younger were spent in Maputo or Beira. We would come home with large tins of cashew nuts as they were dirt cheap. The bar snacks included prawns at no charge. I loved the cemetery in Maputo. Thanks for reminding me of all my wonderful memories I have and I really should revisit.

    • Reply 2summers March 23, 2019 at 7:51 pm

      Prawns at no charge! WOW. I guess that was before people were aware of the concept of sustainable fishing 😂

      • Reply dizzylexa March 25, 2019 at 12:20 pm

        I’m sure it was, as you could buy buckets of oysters and mussels on the beach.

    • Reply catji March 23, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      Yes! (The cashews.) What happened? I guess whatever is produced now is exported in bulk/mass. Maybe the crappy cashews we get now, at exorbitant prices.
      My gran used to get them at Christmas every year, I think her brother got them from somewhere. Lovely tins (i vaguely remember them being like the awesome Portuguese olive oil cans.) Plain salted, peri-peri, and curry spice.

      • Reply catji March 23, 2019 at 10:23 pm

        (1960s, maybe early 70s. Maputo originally Lourenço Marques.)

      • Reply dizzylexa March 25, 2019 at 12:21 pm

        They were square tins, almost the size of a cake tin with a smaller round opening on the top.

      • Reply 2summers March 26, 2019 at 5:03 am

        We bought some cashews while we were there – still cheap and delicious!

  • Reply Landi March 23, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you. I’m definitely visiting Maputo… soon.

    • Reply 2summers March 23, 2019 at 8:44 pm

      I hope you have a great time 🙂

  • Reply Bobby March 23, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    This is awesome.
    Did you encounter any of Pancho Guedes’ architecture?

  • Reply Lani March 24, 2019 at 10:48 am

    I’m sold. AUH-mazing photos and information. Thanks for doing the hard work 😉 for the rest of us.

    • Reply 2summers March 24, 2019 at 10:57 am

      Thanks! Yeah I didn’t want to give short shrift to this city – it’s too cool.

  • Reply catherine March 24, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Heather, thank you so much for the beautiful photos, we love Maputo and it makes us feel like going again soon….

  • Reply Tumtum March 25, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    It’s only in Moz where I would pick chicken over prawns on the menu. The peri-peri chicken at Costa do Sol is so so good it may have brought me to tears – not from the spice – but from gratitude of being able to experience such a glorious meal.

    If I may add, there is an island (Inhanca) off the coast of Maputo that is worth visiting for some R&R away from the city.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2019 at 5:04 am

      Oh yes, I’ve heard Inhaca is great.

  • Reply Peggy Laws March 29, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Still on my “wish list”. I missed an opportunity in the early 1970’s and have always regretted it.

    • Reply 2summers March 29, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      Flights aren’t too expensive! Maputo is waiting for you 🙂

  • Reply Jeroen April 4, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Loved visiting Maputo, wish I had so much time for it!
    It’s quite nice to drive there too – when I did so, the fastest route was via Swaziland, avoiding the direct SA-Moz border crossing which can get hectic, especially on Fridays and Sundays. But perhaps by now they managed to reconnect the rail service again?
    As for offline maps: Google allows you to download maps of region-sized areas including most data about venues. But I love the free Maps.me app with very detailled maps that are easy to annotate with your own markers.

    • Reply 2summers April 4, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      Apparently there is a train but it’s still very unreliable and you have to get out and walk across the border 😂 I actually traveled between Swaziland and Maputo once with some friends a couple of years before I moved to SA. Such a fun city!

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