Serena Hotel Polana ranks as one of the most famous historic hotels of the world. Designed in 1922 in the ‘palace style,’ by one of the world’s then most prominent architects, the hotel’s guest list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of world politics in the years leading up to and during World War II.

The hotel stands in the centre of Maputo, which was formerly known as Lourenço Marques, and is the capital of and largest city in Mozambique. A prominent Indian Ocean port, the city was named after the Portuguese navigator Lourenço Marques who founded a settlement here in 1544. In 1787, a Portuguese fort was established, which was later destroyed, and the existing city dates from around 1850. In 1895, the construction of a railway to Pretoria, South Africa caused substantial growth within the city and, by the 1900s, it had established itself as a flourishing port.

When Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, the city was renamed in honour of Maputa, a legendary chief who once ruled the region.  A cultural melting pot, Maputo reflects a strong Bantu and Portuguese heritage, which incorporates South African, Arabian, Indian and Chinese influences.