Maputo might be best-known for its stunning colonial and art deco architecture, its flaming piri-piri chicken stands, and its pretty sundowner spots, but there’s a practical side to the city by the sea. If you want to track down the best place to get online, get a pedicure or pick up some souvenirs, here’s our practical guide to Maputo.
The grand Hotel Cardoso has one of the best business centers in Maputo. Non-guests can buy internet vouchers for the price of 150 Mets per hour. There are two new laptop PCs available for use, and you can print for a small fee. Best of all is the fact that the Wi-Fi connection works pretty much everywhere in the hotel, so you can kick back on a sun-lounger in the gorgeous hotel garden while you send Instagram pictures (or work emails) to those back home.
The small internet cafe a few doors down from Super Spar supermarket on Avenida 24 de Julho also offers internet connection (although not Wi-Fi) at far more reasonable rates than the Hotel Cardoso. Printing costs 20 Mets per page, and there’s a scanner, too.
If you’re planning on staying for a while in Maputo, it might be worth picking up a USB internet key or an internet sim for your mobile device. Cellphone providers MCel and Mobicel both offer (speedy) pre-paid options, starting at 1000 Mets for 3G data.
Swim and sunbathe
Maputo has a couple of public pools, including the national swim team’s training pool on Avenida Ahmed Sekou Toure. Entry there costs 150 Mets, and you can swim laps from Mondays to Saturdays. It’s worth avoiding busy times, such as the after-school rush or when classes let out at the university down the street.
Clube Desportivo de Maritimo on the coastal Avenida Marginal has one of the best pools in the city. Non-members can swim and use the ocean-side sun loungers for the price of 400 Mets. Just beware; the pool isn’t heated and during the winter it can get icy cold.
The Polana Serena hotel is Maputo’s most upmarket hotel and non-members can swim for 1000 Mets per entry. The pool isn’t big enough to swim laps, but it makes a nice Sunday outing, especially if you make a day of it and stay for brunch (from 600 Mets per person) too.
Hair and beauty
When the Southern Sun Maputo reopens after renovations, its beauty salon will be worth a visit. Run by a British lady, good cuts and coloring are available. In the meantime, the Polana Serena hotel — though slightly pricier — has staff who can cut both African and European/American hair.
On Avenida 24 de Julho, the unnamed Chinese-run hair salon (next door to the pie shop and the small Levi’s store) does great straightening blow-outs for the bargain price of 400 Mets.
If your feet are in need of pampering, head to the hair salon in the tiny mall above Super Spar on Avenida 24 de Julho. Pedicures (800 Mets) and manicures (800 Mets) are thorough here, and there’s a good choice of nail polish colors.
Venus Spa at 229 Rua Kabiriti Diwane is home to Maputo’s best waxers. It also offers manis, pedis, relaxing massages, and thrice-weekly yoga classes. If you’re looking for a deeper tissue massage, you can try the two Chinese massage studios on Avenida Julius Nyerere and Avenida Amilcar Cabral. Hour-long massages cost 1000 Mets.
FEIMA — the center for artisanal crafts, gastronomy, and flowers — is located inside the tranquil Parque dos Continuadores, just off Avenida Mao Tse Tung. You can shop here for jewelry, wood carvings, pretty rattan bags decorated with Mozambican capulana cloth and paintings. Once a month, a gastronomy fair is held, while a good selection of fresh Mozambican flowers is sold behind the center. The Centro Cultural Franco-Mozambicano (CCFM) also has a good souvenir store, stocked with postcards, fair-trade lotions and potions, CDs, jewelry, and clothes.
For something more upmarket, head to the beautiful galleries at Cafe Dhow. There, you can pick up everything from woven Swazi placemats to silky capulanas and sleek, sky-high wood carvings. Prices are at the top end of the scale.
Mima-te is one of Maputo’s hippest places to shop. The designers are twin sisters Nelly and Nelsa Guambe. Inspired by the informal thrift markets they shopped at while growing up, they now operate one of the most stylish “upcycling” stores in the region. Check out their pretty creations at Bairro, Bistro e Mercado de Ideias over at 562 Avenida Julius Nyerere, or visit their online store at www.mimate.bigcartel.com.
For more practical purchases, the city’s best mall is Mares, on the Avenida Marginal towards Costa do Sol restaurant, and about a twenty-minute drive from the city center. South African supermarkets Shoprite and Woolworths sell food items, while Woolworths also stocks basic clothing for men, women, and kids. On the lower level of the mall, there’s a swimwear store and a good bookstore that has a great selection of coffee table travel books on southern Africa, Portuguese language supplies, and a very small English-language fiction section.
American citizens will want to note that the central Maputo Shopping Center, a lower-grade mall that also includes a movie theater, is off-limits. The owner was declared a Drugs Kingpin by the Federal Government and American citizens found to have shopped there are liable to be fined.