Discover Kampala City, the administrative and business capital of Uganda, through the eyes of someone who resides there. This is a local’s travel guide of what you should expect to see in Kampala. This full travel guide to Kampala comprising of top the famous attractions to look out for.
Home to almost two million people, Kampala is the administrative and business center of Uganda, East Africa. The parliament, banks, insurance companies, art galleries, tech-start-ups, social enterprises, small businesses of all kinds, international humanitarian aids organizations, government offices – they are all here.
Yet, the city Kampala is immensely manageable for any traveler. Spread over 7 hills, it is largely green, sunny, tourist friendly, has quite many of international and local restaurants, and remarkable night life. It is a great example of a 21st century modern African capital city. There is thriving art and music scene, local and international cultures mix very well, and people are so friendly and welcoming that you can greet anyone on the streets without looking weird in any way.
Kampala is central to the Buganda Kingdom, evidently the largest tribe in Uganda. You will hear a mix of English and Luganda on the streets of Kampala. Thought learning a few phrases of Luganda would be to your advantage and will certainly get you a wide smile from almost any Ugandan.
WHAT TO SEE IN KAMPALA
Kampala does not offer many tourist attractions per se since it is more of a business and administrative centre. Though, most travelers to Uganda do spend at least one or two nights here before embarking on their journeys up-country for wildlife safari tours. But Kampala is surely worth a few days’ stay.
To that regard, as someone who has lived in and around Kampala for years, here are some recommendations for what to see:
NDERE CULTURAL CENTRE
Situated in Ntinda, Kampala, Ndere Cultural Centre is home to Uganda’s biggest cultural dance group. Here you will watch artists perform traditional dance and drumming from the various Ugandan cultures.
Lake Victoria is located in the South-East side of Kampala, this is the world’s second largest fresh-water lake. Here, you will find a variety of small local restaurants serving fresh roasted fish, straight from the lake as you enjoy the fresh breath from the lake.
And be sure to order it with chips, and do not be surprised when it is served to you with its head and tail still attached.
THE BAHA’I TEMPLE
The Baha’I temple is the only standing temple of its kind on the continent of Africa, located on Kikaaya Hill, Kampala. The Baha’i believers follow the teachings of the earthly manifestations of God, Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, and Mohammed.
It would be prudent to wear clothing suitable for a place of worship and take all rubbish away with you as you leave. You’re also free to take photos of the grounds and temple exterior, but request not to take photos inside the temple.
THE UGANDA NATIONAL MOSQUE
Strategically located on Kampala Hill, the Uganda National Mosque, was built as a gift by Libya’s then president Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, it seats a remarkable 15,000 worshippers. And it is also home to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
It is open to visitors as long as it’s not prayer time. Head scarves are usually provided for female visitors if they show up not dressed according to Muslim custom. Men are required to wear trousers and shirt sleeves. Photos are welcome, be sure to carry your camera along and this very spot gives an opportunity for an amazing 360degree view of Kampala City
UGANDA NATIONAL MUSEUM
Situated in Kitante, just west of Kololo, the Uganda National Museum is the biggest and oldest cultural museum in East Africa. This museum is well stocked with old maps, photographs, periodicals, and artifacts showcasing Uganda’s rich cultural heritage.
There are mainly two craft markets in Kampala. One being the National Theatre and the other one on Buganda Road, Africa Village. Both are exceptionally well stocked with hand-made jewelry, textiles, beaded sandals, wooden carvings, and batiks. Perfect places to visit if you’re looking for a souvenir after your Uganda Safari tour.
THE KASUBI TOMBS
Located on Kasubi hill, Kampala, the Kasubi Tombs are the burial ground for the previous four Kabakas (Kings) of Buganda which is the biggest kingdom in Uganda. To the Baganda people, their king mostly known as the Kabaka is the unquestioned symbol of the spiritual, political, and social state of the Buganda kingdom.
The Kasubi Tombs is a World Heritage Site. But is important note that due to a recent fire that gutted this place, the main tomb has been closed and you might miss out seeing some of the anticraft, but you should still visit it – since there are a lot of things to see and most importantly, the rich history to discover.
Kampala City also boasts of much more numerous attraction spots than the ones mentioned above, mainly the cultural and religious attraction areas like Namugongo Martyrs shrine, Namirembe Cathedral which is the oldest in Uganda. Here you will also find other unique attractions like The Old Taxi Park located in the heart of Kampala, this park is the main hub for public transport here, you will encounter absolute “organized chaos”, just mesmerizing.