THINGS TO DO IN KAMPALA
Uganda is best with amazing tourist attractions talk of the national parks like Bwindi impenetrable , Elizabeth national park, Murchison falls national park, Kidepo valley national park, Kibale forest and lake Mburo national park plus more other 4 national parks. Tourists can take part in amazing activities like chimp trekking, game drives, boat cruise, gorilla trekking, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting in jinja and visiting the islands on lake Victoria to mention but a few.
Most of these attractions and activities are found in the country side, a tour of the capital Kampala is not a priority for most tourist. Kampala is by far the largest urban center in Uganda and sits on 7 major hills which are the Makerere hill, Mulago hill, Kabuli hill, Old Kampala hill, Rubaga hill, Mengo hill, Kololo hill.
Before the British colonial government turned it into the major administrative center, the are was covered by the grasslands and wetlands which attracted most of the antelopes and the Kabaka Muteesa 1 the king of Buganda was his favorite hunting ground. The colonial administrators named the area Kampala because of its large number of impala roaming the area.
There is so much to see in the fast growing city of about 1.5 millions people, it is recommended that you set aside the whole day in order to get to spot the attractions in the city. The best and common means of transport is by use of boda bodas( motorcycle), these bikes are very efficient in traversing through heavy traffic and affordable.
Things to do in the Kampala city
Old Kampala: old Kampala sits on the original Kampala hill, it is where the first administrative blocks where built before the city expanded and most administrative buildings were shifted to a more central location. Old Kampala stands out because of the unique old colonial and Indian style of buildings, a lot ha changed with the recent buildings of modern shopping malls but the old buildings still exist which offers the best opportunity to see how Kampala looked like.
Kabaka’s palace in Mengo and Lubiri: The Mengo palace building is built on top of Kampala’s major hills(Mengo) and close to the Buganda parliament(Bulange). The palace has been abandoned since Kabaka Muteesa 2 was ousted by President Milton Obote in 1996, his replacement Idi Amin Dada turned a section of it into a notorious torture chamber. Over 250 people are believed to have been killed at different points during Amin’s regime. Amin was ruthless to anyone .
Most of the building is closed to visitors but one can request for a guided tour and pay $3, where you get to here the sad stories of the people who were killed including the businessman, politicians, soldiers, and anyone who seemed to a threat to the dictator. The walls at the chambers still bare blood stains and human wastes as a reminder of the terrible ordeal the inmates faced.
The Kabaka currently stays in the Lubiri palace which is the official palace but the Kabaka has other palaces in Banda next to Kyambogo university.
The Buganda parliament(Bulange)The parliament holds sessions every month where several issues are discussed concerning the kingdom. The Kabaka(king) of Buganda only attends the opening and closing sessions, before Uganda was colonized these sessions were held under a large tree or grass thatched buildings. the Buganda parliament received a major facelift with modern ones around the time of independence, a guide tour around the parliament will provide its history of the Buganda kingdom and its 6 clan sand the former kings.
The Gaddafi Mosque: Its the largest mosque in Uganda with the capacity to accommodate over 15,000 worshippers. Idd Amin Dada started building the mosque in 1972 but it was completed in 2007 with a generous donation of Libya.
Climbing to the highest point of this mosque rewards tourists with one of the best views of Kampala city, the administrators of the mosque have been considered enough to allow tourists visit the mosque and take photos at the small fee of about $3. Women are required to cover themselves with a headscarf (available at the offices) before entering the mosque.
Kibuli Mosque: This is the most popular mosque in Uganda where top sheiks reside thus being regarded as the center of all Muslim activities in Uganda. Th mosque lies on Kibuli Mosque offering great views of the capital city. Price Badru Kakungulu donated the land where the mosque is standing to the Muslim fraternity in Uganda.
Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo: The shrine is locate close to the Kampala-jinja highway and is one of the most visited religious sites in Africa. In June 1886, about 32 Christians were burnt alive or simply speared to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga , there crime was refusing to denounce Christianity and the Muslim faith after accepting them in the beginning. Kabaka grew to hate all the foreign religions seeing them as a threat to his life.
The Kabaka was participating angry that some of his pages were no longer obeying some of his orders after their conversations, the shrines were built to remember the young and brave converts who refused to denounce their faith even after undergoing great suffering, over one million people congregate at Namugongo very 3rd of June to celebrate the Uganda martyrs day. It offers opportunity to learn the history of Christianity in Uganda and it has a beautiful environment for relaxation, medication and prayers.
Namirembe cathedral: It is the most beautiful cathedral of the Anglicans faith in Uganda, its also known as St. Paul’s Cathedral and was built in 1919. The cathedral sits on a spot with great views of Kampala city. The Archbishop of the church of Uganda resides next to the cathedral, the cathedral has graveyards with the remains of Ernest Cook who was a nephew to Albert Cook (colonial administrator) who is credited for having built the large Mengo Hospital and Bishop Hannington (murdered in 1885 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga).
While visiting the cathedral don’t miss out to check on the small hut housing and large drums used to call worshipers for service.
The Uganda National Museum: The museum was founded in 1908 by George Wilson ( British colonial Governor) making it the oldest and largest museum in Uganda, It was built to show case of the heritage and historical milestones in the country. Several art crafts like local music instruments and ancient hunting tools (spears, bows and arrow) are displayed for those who can pay about $7 for the entrance.
The Ndere Center: this cultural center is found outside the city center in the area known as Kisasi. The center showcases the cultural heritage of all tribes in Uganda using traditional music, dance nd drama among others, the center offers opportunity to learn how to cook, local dances performances are done if your interested you can join and learn with the famous Ndere trip.
Uganda Parliament Building: The building is located right at the city center., a tour around the parliament will make you experience the good political systems where you can witness the parliament in action as members of parliament tackle some of the current issues facing the country while also proposing and preparing the bill for approval by the president. Parliamentary sessions are opened up on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4pm.
Sports grounds: The Mandela national stadium locally known as Nambole stadium its a place to go when one wants to watch the top local teams like KCC, SC, Villa, Express and URA in actions. Apart from sports the stadium accommodates large number of political gatherings and Christians crusades. Other sports grounds include Lugogo Rugby club is a favorite hangout for the youths who come tow watch their favorite rugby teams tussle it out among themselves.
Mulago Hospital: Its the largest hospital in Uganda, it was built 3.5 kilometers away from the main city center. Mulago Hospital started as a treatment center in 1913 before being upgraded to a referral hospital around the 1950’s, it is the major doctors and nurses operating across the globe.
Makerere University: Makerere university is the oldest and largest university in Uganda, its one of the best 10 universities in Africa and is Uganda’s main center for research. The university is close to the city center and was built on one of Kampala’s original; hills( Makerere hill). The university began as a technical school in 1922 and later became part of the new university of East Africa, under that arrangement it began offering degrees from the university of London .
In 1970, the university became independent after the university of East African split into three main universities- Makerere University of Uganda- University of Dares Salaam in Tanzania and the university of Nairobi in Kenya. The universities had produced prominent Alumni including presidents like Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and former president of Uganda Milton Obote.
Kabaka’s Lake: This lake is 200 ft deep and its the largest man made lake/ excavated lake in Africa. The lake is found in Ndeeba and was built by Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda where he wanted to connect the palace with lake Victoria where he also wanted to make an escape route in case of a war or revolt by his subjects. The Kabaka took part in digging to encourage his subjects .
To this day, clan leaders of Buganda consider the lake sacred and occasionally gather to clean it. this lake offers a perfect atmosphere for relaxation, boat rides/racing and bird watching and for those who wish to spend a night near the lake there are beautiful accommodations.
The Baha’i Temple: The Baha’i Temple is built on Kikaya hill near Gayaza in Kampala, its a special temple because it is the only one of Baha’i faith in Africa. The temple is a magnificent building sitting on a large piece of land which offers a serene environment for relaxation and bird watching, its grounds are also a favorite place for meditation and are frequently by people from all religions backgrounds. Baha’i temple provides a great view of Kampala city and the surrounding suburbs because is on a raised position and if you are interested in knowing more its good to attend the Sunday service.
Owino Market: Owino market was recently renamed St Balikuddembe market but later the locals still prefer the old name. The market is located near the main Kampala taxi park, its the busiest market and attracts thousands of shoppers every day. Owino is a chaotic market but one can find almost anything from clothes, shoes, fresh fruits, food and traditional medicine, The second hand designs in the market are in great conditions and come from the best designers around the world.
Owino market will give you a different perceptive of the city especially if you are coming from the more glamorous residents like Muyenga or Kololo be ready to haggle to get the best price and lookout for goons who are always looking for an opportunity to snatch your bag or jewelry. Its better to move in a group with a trusted local guide to avoid being bullied into buying something you don’t want or an inflated price.
Apart from Owino there are other markets like; Nakasero market which is found with in the city center and has the best place to shop fresh food, grains, and electronics. This market has all types of vegetations and fresh fruits and its surrounded by a storied large building which has the best hardware and electronic shops.
Wandegeya market is located close to Makerere university and a favorite shopping place for university students and pother city dwellers staying in the suburbs of Kamokya, Ntinda, Bugolobi and Kololo. This market is where the best Rolex (omelets and grain) are made , it also has offices, boutiques, restaurants and some of the best joints for roasted chicken, goats meat and pork. Visiting these markets will enable you to understand and experience the Ugandan culture but you need to be good at bargaining in order to avoid being charged a lot of money especially to the foreigners.
Independence monument: The independence monument was built just before Uganda’s independence in October 1962. It is close to the Sheraton hotel in Kampala, the monument is a structure of man lifting up a child towards the sky(signifying how the country was left free after colonization). The monuments is made of sand, cement, wire mesh and iron bars. Gregory Maloba, a lecturer of Makerere university was responsible for implementing the design, another independence monument was put up more recently at the Kololo airstrip to commemorate 50 years of Uganda’s independence.
Lake Victoria for Beaches and boat cruise: Lake victoria is one of the two largest fresh water lakes in the world, a boat cruise on the lake victoria can take you to some of the best spots in kampala and Entebbe. Most boat cruises end up in the Ngamba and ssese islands.
There are a number of companies that offer you with boat cruises around the lake at an affordable fee ensure that you use a reputable company that offers well-maintaining boats. Most of the boats stop at different landing sites and islands for sightseeing, refreshments and lunch( fried Tilapia and chips).
If you are not interested in boat cruises you can relax and swim in the numerous private/hotel owned beaches in Ggaba and Munyoynyo, these beaches and facilities like Gaba beach hotel, Kawuki water sports club and Mulungi Kabaka’s Recreation center offer opportunities to take part in sport fishing, birding, horseback riding canoeing and much more.
Restaurants and other eat outs: Kampala brings together tribes and cultures from different parts of the country, Each tribe has its own special dish. Why not visit one of the top town restaurants and taste some of the local dishes available like “matooke”( smashed cooked banana) and “Kalo”( mingled millet bread).
2k restaurant serves the best ugandan dishes like steamed beef and luwombo, mediterraneo restaurants is an italian restaurant offering tasty italian pastas and pizzas. another italian restaurant is cantine Divino offering expensive wine with good food. For the best Mexican food, visit Little Donkey for their tacos, nschos and burritos.for Belgium food visit Le Chateau which serves Belgium food washed down withcold Belgium beer.
khana khazana, masala chaat house, Haandi, Great Indian Dhaba prepare the best Indian food in town, Mama Ashanti prepares the best west African dishes like egusi while Yujo Izakaya specializes in Japanese food( sashimi and sushi). You can also visit Tamarai for the best Thai food or Miso Garden for Korean food and Japanese dishes.
Those interested in game meat visit the Lawns. The more established restaurant brands offer intercontinental meals and include Café Javas, Nandos, New city Annex Hotel, La Fotaine and Casablanca in Kololo.
Bars, Nightclubs and other hangouts: Kampala city is a city that never sleeps. If you want to spend your evening partying/ eating, check out Deuces, Bubbles O’Leary’s or Big Mike’s, they all serve beer and organize local comedy shows that bring together Uganda’s middle class. For the best and most recent 3D blockbusters, look no further than century Cinemax.
The National Theater organizes comedy nights, drama, dance, live music and movies accompanied by beer, food and soft drinks. The otters Bar with its beautiful gardens serves beer, snacks and pizza. The Musicians club brings you together Uganda’s local artists for great live performance attended by Kampala’s working class and expatriates. and many more clubs. The best and oldest mainstream nightclubs are Ange Noir and Club Guvnor along industrial area , both play the latest international club hits including African music up to the wee hours of the morning.