The bustling capital of Mozambique is on the road to recovery following the country's brutal civil war (1977-1992) and its economically devastating brush with Communism. Visitors are rediscovering Maputo, which offers a lively if incongruent tapestry of wide avenues lined by crumbling Portuguese-colonial architecture, unsightly Soviet-style apartment blocks, and rising luxury office towers and condos (as foreign investment in the East African nation's untapped natural resources pours in). Linger-worthy sidewalk cafés, colorful marketplaces, lush vegetation, and tourism curiosities — including elephant fetuses and iron houses — warrant exploration during a day spent in this pleasantly shabby Indian Ocean port city.
What We Love
Natural History Museum: This small, well-organized museum is worth popping into for its sizeable and unusual collection of taxidermied African animals (don't miss the elephant fetuses) and an ethnographic exhibit showcasing local artifacts, such as traditional weapons and musical instruments.
Markets: Don’t miss browsing one of Maputo's animated marketplaces, which include the historic Central Market, overflowing with tropical produce and spices touted by women in colorful head wraps, and the Feira de Artesanato (FEIMA), offering a wide selection of crafts such as handmade Mozambican batiks and masks.
Best Known For
Eiffel Architecture: Maputo may seem an improbable locale for the handiwork of Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and his associates, but don't miss his 1892 Casa de Ferro (Iron House), or the elegant, century-old Maputo train station with its domed roof and wrought-iron lattice work (designed by an Eiffel associate, it’s currently under renovation).
Independence Square: This sprawling plaza, centered around a statue of Samora Machel (the first president of Mozambique), is worth seeing for the buildings that fringe it: the city's neoclassical City Hall and the white concrete art deco Cathedral of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
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Who It's Best For
Urban Explorers: This coastal city boasts layers of architecture, pockets of culture, and a vibrant café and nightlife scene. Urban dwellers will enjoy uncovering its hidden gems.
Shoppers: From lively produce and fish markets to well-curated handicrafts fairs, shoppers will appreciate perusing Maputo's marketplaces for mementos.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Malaria: Maputo falls within a moderate-risk malarial zone. Be sure to check in with the CDC and your doctor about taking necessary precautions.
Elissa Garay is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.