It’s fair to say that the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, doesn’t feature on too many travel bucket lists.  Even having been, I can’t say I’d necessarily go if it wasn’t en route to somewhere else, in this case glorious Tofo Beach near Inhambane.  But it’s not without its attractions or appeal, enough to occupy you for a day or two there.

Arriving in the darkness to any city rarely increases its allure, and the unlit and unkempt side streets as we stepped out to eat after our transfer from Nelspruit weren’t a great advertisement.

However, the morning revealed its heritage, its sights, and its seafront.  Not least the magnificent central train station.

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The best historic buildings are ones that remain alive through daily use and Maputo’s grand old train station does this – it has the feel of a bustling hub as you’d see on old film reels as we saw commuters queue up and depart.

Then from the facade to the trains to the recently opened museum there is history and classic design everywhere. The temporary exhibition of displays of fellow members of the ten most beautiful stations in the world is most enjoyable.

 

A next must see is the fish market, although this epitomised an approach to tourism that felt like everyone saw visitors as an opportunity to be on the make.

First things first – the food is excellent, absolutely delicious. That’s the most important thing, and everyone should go at least once.

However, there’s a lot of hassling for business and then once inside it’s hard to say what’s going on. Basically you buy fish from one person, get them cleaned by another and then another grabs your food and beckons you outside.

The food was well cooked and tasty but the scam is large. We got charged an extortionate rate for the cooking that undermined what was otherwise a highly enjoyable visit.  The thing is – when you stop and consider the amounts you’re being “ripped-off” by, they’re pocket change by our budgets, and the value is all relative to the locality.  So palm them off, grab on to your fish for dear life, and get the best price for your lunch if you must, but you may miss out on some of the experience.

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Next to recommend is the nightlife – in particular pay a visit to Gil Vicente’s.

Having arrived in Maputo on a Tuesday, we decided to check it out due to its famed karaoke night – we arrived at about 11 and there was no band yet and only a few people in there. A long day’s travel had us tired but we stuck around and waited for the band to arrive – they really were excellent.

Once the “karaoke” singers went up the atmosphere cranked up a notch, though this was not your screeching drunks kind of show, the singers were incredibly talented.

A cover charge of 20 mets applies, and a beer is about 10 mets so great value for a night out.  However, expect that those on the door (along with every taxi and tuk-tuk driver in the city!) will have “no change” if you don’t have exact!

A final word on two places we’d recommend to anyone to stay – moderate and more luxurious.

For moderate budgets, Guesthouse 1109 is absolutely gorgeous.  Close to the centre of Maputo, this guesthouse can be missed from the outside, but inside looks like something out of the pages of a high-end design magazine.

The room was spacious with high ceilings, and the bed, shower and wifi were all of the highest quality. The roof terrace area is an oasis of calm in bustling Maputo, with an honour bar and fitness equipment, as well as seating.

A small pool is also available.  Nuno welcomed us and helped us throughout, with advice on restaurants, nightlife and sights around the city. The breakfast was also delicious, finishing off the facilities of a guesthouse of the highest quality.

For more of a splurge, the Southern Sun, near the fish market, is ideal.  The location is great on the seafront, the facilities from bar to gym to restaurant to pool were of a high standard, and wifi and TV in the room were very good.The breakfast buffet in particular had any amount of choice, and a generous 11am finishing time at the weekend!

Guys on the beach sell souvenirs if you want to go down there, and if you want to get out of the hotel there are a couple of good bar/restaurants nearby, including Miramar a short walk away.

So Maputo has enough to diversions for any stopover visitor, and no doubt a lot more beneath the surface for any future pitstop, back to those magnificent Indian Ocean beaches.
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