Things to do in Kampala is both Uganda’s capital and largest city. Originally built on seven hills, the city has grown to cover more areas over the years. With an annual population growth rate of 4.03 percent, Kampala is reported to be among Africa’s fastest-growing cities. Over 1.6 million people are living in the city proper.
When we talk about life, Kampala is one city whose heartbeat and the pulse is too potent to miss. Uganda’s Capital has been ranked East Africa’s best city to live in, ahead of Kenya’s Nairobi, and Rwanda’s Kigali. There are just so many things to do in Kampala.
- Here is a list of things a tourist can do to enjoy their time in Kampala:
- Take a city tour; A tour of the city proper should be the first thing to do when in Kampala. There is so much to do, see, and many places to go when in Kampala; movie cinemas, theatres, art galleries, casinos, clubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants, monuments, food, and crafts market, and so much more.
- Visit the monuments and key tourist attractions; Every country has a story and a way of telling it. The ‘monuments’ and ‘tourist attractions’ in Kampala aren’t just inanimate things and grand structures, they are Uganda’s voice. They readily tell the country’s past, it’s present, and the future.
- Historical monuments
Visiting the historical monuments should be a priority when considering the things to do in Kampala. Here are some of the ‘must-see’ historical monuments.
- Uganda museum
The Uganda Museum was founded in 1908 when the then governor, George Wilson ordered all ‘articles of interest’ on Uganda to be procured. Artifacts of inconceivable value are kept at the museum; weaponry, ancient hunting equipment, playable musical instruments, articles of archaeology and entomology.All these and more comprise the collections to see at the museum. Visiting the Uganda museum is one of those things to do in Kampala for every tourist.
- Independence Monument; A national landmark, the Independence monument stands at a height of 6 meters in the heart of Kampala city. A statue of a woman holding an infant and raising it towards the sky, the monument is a depiction of Uganda as a young nation in its wake from the throes of colonialism. The Independence Monument is worth visiting while in Kampala!
- The Parliament of the Republic of Uganda; The parliament of Uganda was established in 1962 after the country received her independence. Since arranged tours of the parliament are allowed, a Kampala city adventure would be incomplete without visiting one of the country’s most celebrated historical and political monuments.
- Religious monuments; Visiting the several religious monuments should be one of those things to do in Kampala when on a Uganda safari: Uganda martyrs’ shrine, Namugongo Uganda has several martyrs’ shrines but none like the Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs in Namugongo. The grand basilica was erected to commemorate the sacrificial death of 32 young men (the martyrs), who were burnt to death on 3rd June 1886, on the orders of King Mwanga II of Buganda, after they refused to renounce Christianity.
- Baha’i temple; The Baha’I temple in Uganda is the mother temple of Africa for the Baha’I faith. The grand structure is situated on Kikaya Hill on the outskirts of Kampala. Comprised of a house of worship, massive gardens, an administrative center, and guest house, the property sits on 50 acres of land. The temple is open to visitors everyday between 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
- Gaddafi Mosque; Also known as the Uganda National Mosque, the Gaddafi mosque was built by the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. The mosque is a grand structure that seats up to 15,000 people, another 1,100 in its gallery, and 3,500 more in its terrace.
The other significant religious monuments in Kampala that are worth visiting include; Saint Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, the oldest cathedral in Uganda. Saint Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga, the parent cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala.
Exploring the cultural monuments is one of those things to do in Kampala when on a city tour or Uganda safari. Must-see monuments include:
- Kabaka’s Palace (Lubiri); The Mengo palace (Lubiri) is the official residence of the king (Kabaka) of Buganda Kingdom. The Baganda people are the biggest tribe in Uganda. The king’s palace is a historical site; it was once an army barracks, an underground prison, a torture dungeon, an execution site, during the horrid reign of Idi Amin, one of Uganda’s most notorious dictators.A visit to the palace also offers one a chance to explore the adjacent ‘Bulange’. This is a building that houses the Lukiiko (parliament) of Buganda. Though there are restrictions, tours and visitations are allowed at the palace.
- Kasubi tombs; A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasubi tombs is a burial site for the kings of Buganda, and members of the royal family. The site is situated on Kampala’s Kasubi hill and sits on 64 acres of land. Even after the 2010 massive fire outbreak at the site, the tombs are still a very famous tourist attraction.
- Kabaka’s lake; The Kabaka’s lake (Kayanja ka Kabaka) ranks high on Kampala’s list of tourist attractions. The lake is recognized as the largest man-made lake in Uganda. It was dug out by members of the 52 clans of Buganda between 1885-1888 on orders of Kabaka Mwanga II.
- Ndere Cultural Centre; Opened in 2003, Ndere is the home of Uganda’s best dance groups, famously known as the Ndere troupe. Ndere is known for communicating the diversity and wealth of African culture through dance, music, performing arts, poetry, and storytelling. Live performances are held at the center on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evenings.
Other significant cultural sites to tour in Kampala include; Naggalabi Coronation Site, Twekobe, Sir Edward Mutesa I monument, and the Wamala tombs.
Experiment with local and exotic dishes
Kampala is undoubtedly Uganda’s food hub. The various eateries, restaurants, and hotels spread throughout the city offer the savoriest dishes imaginable. One of the things to do in Kampala is to taste the food!
Must-taste delicacies include Rolex and Luwombo, Kampala’s ‘signature’ dishes.
2k Restaurant, St. Anthony Restaurant, Spectrum Labonita, Mama Ashanti, Namayiba Park Hotel, and Ekitoobero Restaurant are some of the places to go for tasty local/Ugandan dishes.
100 Cups of Coffee, Sam’s restaurant, The Lawns, Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, Centenary Park, New York Kitchen, Haandi Restaurant, Domino’s pizza, food hub, Piato restaurant, Casablanca, Cafe Javas, and The Kampala Carnivore, are a few of the places you can visit for exotic and international food.
Experience Uganda’s nightlife
Kampala is fondly referred to as ‘the city that never sleeps’.
Clubs, casinos, and bars are lit with swarms of night lifers daily. The ‘zombie’ party starts throughout the city when the sun goes down and does not end until the dawn breaks.
Laftaz Comedy Lounge, and Kyoto bar in Centenary Park, Bubbles O’Learys – Irish bar, and Big Mike’s bar at Acacia Avenue, Koko bar in Ntinda, Club Guvnor, and Club Silk in the Industrial Area, are some of the night lifers’ favorite hangout spots.
The list of things to do in Kampala cannot be exhausted but one thing is sure, anyone visiting Uganda’s capital for fun, holiday or adventure will have the time of their life!