Previously known as Lourenco Marques, Maputo, Mozambique's economic, political and cultural capital, was hit hard by the war. Although no fighting occurred there, the city was overwhelmed by neglect. Before the war, Maputo had graceful, tree-lined streets, cafes, a good variety of restaurants, vibrant nightlife and the colorful Central Market. Today, the city remains swollen with refugees and crumbling from a lack of resources to rebuild it. Nevertheless, there has been some progress in putting the place back together, and Maputo is slowly regaining its charm, aided by its lovely coastal setting. The touristic center is tranquil and safe.

It now has several impressive hotels, and many new nightclubs and restaurants have opened, with some even acquiring a certain trendiness.

Maputo has a distinctly laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere not found anywhere else in southern Africa, and visitors will come across once-beautiful Portuguese-style buildings that add to the city's considerable charm. Other sights include the cathedral, the Alvaro Castro Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the Revolution, the National Arts Museum, the railway station and several interesting markets. The Polana, the city's old colonial hotel, has been returned to its former glory and—if you can't afford to stay there—is worth a visit just to take in the atmosphere.

The Marginal (pronounced mar-zhee-NAL) is a tree-lined boulevard along the coast, which leads to Costa do Sol (3 mi/5 km from the city center), a nice restaurant with a nightclub. It is not recommended to walk alone along it.

The better beaches are north of the city. Excursions can be made by ferry to Inhaca Island, visible from the mainland, to see its beaches, marine biology museum and nature reserve. There is only one hotel on the island, but camping is permitted in some places.

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