Have you been wondering about the things to do in Kampala? Then you are in the right place. The capital of Uganda is a bustling hub of tourism activity. There is something for everyone here, from gorgeous sceneries to city nightlife and fine dining. A few days ago, we had taken a sweeping glance over Uganda. Today, let’s look at the capital more closely.
Kampala is located on the shore of Lake Victoria, which is Africa’s largest lake. The city has hills covered with beautiful red-tiled villas as well as towering skyscrapers. Downtown Kampala is a cool place to spend a day or two in museums, shops, and restaurants. There are lots of activities outside the city as well.
- BookOnBoard’s Guide to Kampala
- List of top 10 things to do in Kampala
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kampala
- Wrapping up
- Explore Africa
BookOnBoard’s Guide to Kampala
The city of Kampala got its name from the hordes of impala that used to roam here on the hills. So, you’ve been wondering what should you do and where should you visit Kampala. Don’t worry, here we are with a guide full of information about this beautiful African city.
Let’s see the most important information about the city and its surroundings. For example, Best Places to visit in Kampala, Cheapest places to stay in Kampala, Most popular places to eat in Kampala, Fun things to do in Kampala, Affordable hotels in Kampala, Low-cost flights to Kampala, Kampala Holiday Packages, etc.
List of top 10 things to do in Kampala
- Visit the Uganda Museum
- Buy some crafts and arts
- Be amazed by the royal tombs
- See the national mosque
- Learn about the Buganda kingdom
- Shop at Owino
- Spend half a day in the cathedral
- Ride the Boda Boda around town
- Enjoy the great lake
- Pay respects at the Baha’i temple
The National Museum of Uganda
This prestigious museum was founded over a hundred years ago. If you wish to learn more about this beautiful, colorful country, you have to visit the Uganda Museum. Indeed, it is the oldest national museum in Africa and therefore merits the top position in your best places to visit in the Kampala list.
The Uganda national museum showcases the cultural heritage and historical milestones of the country. It covers clothing, religion, agriculture, medicine, weaponry, handicrafts, pottery, musical instruments, and much more. Several sections structure the museum in different eras and subjects. The entry fee here is around seven US dollars.
Craft and Art Markets
Kampala or Uganda altogether is famous for African artistry and handicrafts. For this reason, you’ll be spoilt for choice if you decide to try getting some local souvenirs. Buying local crafts is one of the top things to do in Kampala. There are several markets specializing in these sorts of goods. The permanent ones among them are also called crafts villages.
You can find several types of artifacts here. For example, locally made jewelry, sculptures, paintings, fabrics, art pieces, old stamps and notes, wood carvings, traditional kitenge (women’s wear), bold African-style t-shirts, prints, baskets, pottery and so much more! The crafts village behind the National Theater is especially rich in variety. In the temporary crafts markets, some artists will even make something customized for you.
One of UNESCO’s world heritage sites is located in Kampala, housing the burial grounds for 4 of the Buganda kings. These large grass-thatched buildings are a major tourist attraction in Kampala. According to the Buganda people, kings do not die but just shift to another realm. The huts hold many African royal artifacts accompanying the tombs. Such as royal clothing, hunting weapons, monuments, etc.
While visiting the site, don’t forget to hear stories from the royal guides. In solemn tones, they will guide you back to ancient times. Now the tombs are protected and maintained by the descendants of the royal wives. For an additional thrill, you can also visit the Wamala Tombs only 11 km away. These are lesser-known but are no less attractive.
Uganda National Mosque
Also known as the Gaddafi Mosque, it was built in 2007. This is the biggest mosque in Uganda and probably also the most famous one. It can house over 15,000 worshippers at a time. Also, the gallery and the terrace will cater to another 4,500 people or thereabouts. This mosque was a gift to Uganda from Colonel Muhammad Gaddafi, for the benefit of the Muslim population here.
The Mosque is open to any visitors, not just Muslims. However, do remember that you need to dress decently while visiting here, showing as little skin as possible and covering your head. The mosque is on top of one of the 7 hills in Kampala. Accordingly, climbing the minaret of the mosque will give you the best panoramic view of the whole city.
The Buganda Parliament
Bulange houses the Buganda kingdom’s administration and parliament. Here, chiefs from the fifty-six clans and former kings held sessions under large trees in ancient days. Then they did so in mud huts with grass-thatched roofs. In 1958 the new building was erected. Nowadays, the parliament holds sessions every month supervised by the current Kabaka (king) of Buganda.
The Buganda Parliament offers guided tours to visitors. You can learn fascinating insights about the Buganda people, their lives, their politics and history here. Do note that ladies should not wear pants while in Bulange. It’s a good place to learn about the history and culture of Uganda.
This market in Kampala is so famous that it has taken a place before in our Uganda Travel Guide as well. Sitting near the main Kampala Taxi park, it’s by far the busiest market in Uganda. Thousands of visitors come here every day. You can find anything in this chaotic market from grains to clothes, fruits to traditional medicine.
The Owino market shows a stark contrast from the fashionable, modern parts of Kampala. You will get the taste of a true African market here. Be warned that it’s well known for petty criminals lurking about – pickpockets and such. Also, they will ask for ridiculous prices from foreigners. Make sure you visit Owino in a group and with a local guide-cum-haggler with you.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Arguably the most beautiful cathedral in Africa is located in Namirembe. It sits atop a great hill in Kampala with great views all around. If you are of the Anglican faith, it is a great place for worship in Kampala. However, for others, it is still a great landmark and place of peace and contemplation.
The Cathedral also houses the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda. The graveyard accompanying the church offers you the last resting places for Ernest Cook and Bishop Hannington, who was executed by royal order. Don’t forget to see the drums calling people to assembly. After visiting the church, you can get a great meal at the Namirembe Guest House.
Kampala City Tour
There is no better way to travel around Kampala City than using Boda Bodas. These bike taxis are cheap, fast, and can navigate through complex traffic jams. While they are definitely not the safest options, they can get you to various vantage points in the city fast. A Boda Boda tour of Kampala is greatly recommended.
While on tour, you can visit the various art galleries, smaller museums, markets, theaters, dining places, monuments, and more. It will save you the trouble of climbing the hilly city. Also, this helps you avoid most of the traffic jams that are frequent here. Not to mention, this way you won’t get lost wandering in the back alleys of Kampala.
Being a major city on the shore of a great lake means great opportunities for tourists, naturally. Victoria Lake is the largest lake in Africa, and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. There are some great freshwater beaches on the lakeshore in Kampala. You can relax in many lakeside private resorts in Ggaba and Munyonyo.
Furthermore, Kampala is the hub for many boat tours and trips to Lake Victoria. You must visit the Ssese Islands and Ngamba Islands. Also, you can take fishing or boating cruises over the Lake. Small islands on the lake will give you a great opportunity to escape the busy city life and go camping privately.
The Baha’i Temple
Last but not least among the things to do in Kampala, the Baha’i temple is one of a kind. It’s the only worshipping place for the people of the Baha’i faith in all of Africa. Consequently, it’s a unique place to visit in Kampala. The temple welcomes anyone to visit and also lets anybody participate in the prayers.
Not only that but the temple is also located on top of a hill over a large amount of pristine land. This gives you great views over the Kampala suburbs. Also, it’s a great place to meditate, self-evaluation, and do birdwatching. People from all religious backgrounds come here, believing in the natural energies of the place.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kampala
Which are the most popular places to eat in Kampala?
As the capital city of Uganda, Kampala is a converging point for multiple African tribes. Each tribe has a distinct culture and recipe. This is why Kampala is bursting with eateries offering a bewildering variety of local food. But many of them are not as hygienic as should be. A good bet would be the 2K Restaurant in Kampala. They provide various local cuisines using fresh, safe vegetables, meat, spices, and herbs.
Most good restaurants in Kampala are located in the posh districts of the city like Kololo. Some examples of good dining places in Kampala include the following:
- The Bistro (mixed dining)
- The Lawns (European)
- Tamarai Restaurant (Thai/Asian)
- Mythos Greek Taverna (greek/African)
- Le Château Brasserie Belge (Belgian/European)
- Cafe Javas (hot beverages/Caribbean/Mexican/American)
- Khana Kahzana (Indian)
- Yujo Izakaya (Japanese/Asian)
- Mediterraneo (Italian/European)
Is Kampala safe to visit?
As African cities go, Kampala is relatively safer than others. This is due to the high tourism demand of the hub. You can safely take a taxi to ride around the city. The markets, especially Owino, are known for petty crimes such as pickpocketing and purse theft. And the famous Boda Boda motorbike taxis are notorious for dangerous driving. However, they do get you from point A to point B cheaply and fast. Also, staying out late at night may not be a great idea. Just don’t take any chances and listen to a dependable local guide.
When is the best time to visit Kampala?
The weather around the middle of the year is quite comfortable in Kampala. You can expect most national parks in full fledge around that time as well. So, your best bet would be July to September. However, other people are just as clever, so this is the most crowded time in Kampala as well.
Are there any Kampala Holiday Tours?
The best way to really understand a city is to take a guided walking tour. Kampala has several of these to offer. They range from historical places visits to street food tasting tours. Usually, they last for 3-4 hours. Have some good walking shoes and water or juices for these tours. A good thing about them is that many of them are free.
There are also some Kampala Holiday Packages. For example:
- Lake Victoria island cycling tour
- 1 day Kampala city tour
- Kampala’s best experience
- Half-day Kampala city tour
Also, there are many tours to other attractions in Uganda starting from Kampala.
What do I need to know before visiting Kampala?
- You can visit Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda with the same visa. This is called an Eastern African Community single tourist’s visa and is valid for 90 days.
- You need to get some vaccinations before stepping foot in Kampala, or in any part of the country. Talk to your doctor or a health organization about this.
- Kampala has malaria. Use protection from mosquitoes and pack relevant medicine.
- It’s not a good idea to go wandering around the back alleys of the city.
- Be careful when exchanging currencies. Some Ugandan officials can be very creative with the exchange rates.
- Kampala is a conservative people, so you should dress respectfully. While some modern places in Kampala go quite the other way, covering most of your skin with non-provocative clothing is the norm.
- Instead of giving candies or money to children, you should opt for giving them colored pencils.
- There is a free national wifi service in Uganda for local sim cards.
Are there any low-cost flights to Kampala?
Kampala doesn’t have any airports. The only airport in all of Uganda is in Entebbe. Please visit our Entebbe Travel Guide to get a list of affordable flights there. Kampala is only 30 kilometers away from Entebbe airport with plenty of cheap taxis available.
What are the budget accommodation options in Kampala?
Kampala is a relatively low-budget city, though there are some high-end options. Some of the most affordable hotels in Kampala are:
- Awake Guesthouse & Backpackers – $5
- Lweza Training & Conference Center – $12
- Perfect Motel – $13
- Royal Lake View Gardens – $14
- Papaya Holiday Home – $15
- Angel’s Castle – $15
- Bushpig Backpackers’ Hostel – $16
- Manhattan Guest House – $16
- Harold Suites – $17
As the capital city of Uganda, there are lots of things to do in Kampala. We have tried to give you a short guide about this in this article. We hope you liked it! Please let us know what should we include more. You can let us know your thoughts and suggestions using the comments section below. Please check out some of our other travel guides as well. Till then – kale, tambula bulungi!
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