Many would say the most fascinating city to visit on a Uganda tour is, without a doubt, Kampala city, Uganda’s national and commercial capital city. Some of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet exist here, along with some of the most iconic landmarks and most notable history.
The Uganda museum, Lubiri palace and the Ndere centre are just a few of Kampala’s attractions. The city can be explored on a guided or self-drive trip because car rental in Uganda is so quick and cheap from as low as US$25 per day, and a driver from US$15 per day. If you are wondering what other activities the city has to offer, read on for our best thirteen picks of things to do in Kampala city.
Relive History in the Uganda Museum
The Uganda Museum was founded in 1908; it is the biggest in Uganda and the oldest museum in East Africa. The collections in the Uganda Museum include hunting equipment, playable musical instruments, weaponry, and archaeology among others. The museum is a great place to visit while on a Kampala city tour.
Explore the Kabaka’s Palace
Locally known as the Lubiri, The Kabaka’s palace is the official home of the King of the Buganda Kingdom “Kabaka”. It was constructed in 1885 and located at the pinnacle of Mengo hill in Kampala. On your visit to Mengo palace will expose you to ‘Empukku’; former Idi Amin’s torture chambers cave inside the Lubiri, Zakariya Kisingiri’s house, one of the oldest and magnificent houses in Buganda located along the Royal Mile, the gardens and monuments, Bulange Lukiiko parliament, and the Central Broadcasting Station (CBS), ‘Lukoma Nantawetwa,’ Kabaka’s roundabout (junction) on Rubaga road.
Visit Kabaka’s lake
The largest man-made lake in Africa, the Kabaka’s lake was established by Kabaka Mwanga and the 52 clans of Buganda between 1885 and 1888. It occupies an area of around 2 square km and runs about 200 feet deep on an average. Located 5km from Kampala city centre in Ndeeba between Ring-Road and Nabunya Road. Initially, the Kabaka intended for the lake to link his Lubiri Palace to Lake Victoria and the other palace he had built at Mulungu hill near Lake Victoria and it is said that the channel would also serve as an escape waterway during conflicts.
The Kasubi Tombs is a world heritage site and burial grounds for the kings from Buganda kingdom which you should visit while you are in Kampala. Found on Kasubi hill, 5km on Kampala Hoima road. The place has a main burial tomb which is the biggest in Africa hence the main attraction for most visitors due to its scrupulous architecture. Other small tombs are used by caretakers and houses for some of the kingdoms royal regalia. There are four kings buried in this place so far.
Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine
Located along Kampala-Jinja highway is the Namugongo martyrs shrine, one of the most distinguished shrines in Uganda and an important site among Christians in Africa. It was built to honour the 32 young Christian converts (Including Anglican and Catholics) who were martyred on refusal to denounce Christianity by the Kabaka Mwanga II on Thursday 3rd June 1886. People from all over the world congregate at Namugongo martyrs shrine every 3rd of June to celebrate the lives of these martyrs.
Namirembe Cathedral is located on Namirembe hill adjacent to Rubaga hill. The hill was donated by Kabaka Mutesa I to the early missionaries in 1877. A Church was built at the site in 1880s and upgraded to the Cathedral in 1890. It is the seat of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church (Church of Uganda).
Rubaga Cathedral is located on the top of one of the original seven hills that make up the city of Kampala, that is Rubaga hill, about 5 Kilometers north-west of the City centre, Visible in all angles. Rubaga hill was formerly a palace of Mutesa I but was donated to Bishop Hirth by his successor Mwanga in 1889. Rubaga Cathedral was opened on 31st October 1925 and it is the seat of the Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda. St Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga is indeed a city landmark hardly missed by visitors coming to the pearl of Africa.
Trace Islamic footsteps in Gaddafi Mosque
Gaddafi National Mosque also known as Old Kampala National Mosque is situated at Old Kampala Hill in Kampala, Uganda. The mosque is the headquarters of the Islamic faith in Uganda and also doubles as the headquarters of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, the organization which takes care of all Islamic affairs in Uganda. It seats up to 5,000 worshipers and can hold another 1,100 in the gallery, while the terrace will cater for another 3,500. You have to be decently dressed to visit this mosque.
Escape the city to the Baha’i Temple
Situated on Kikaya Hill just 7 km from the heart of the city on Kampala, Gayaza road. The Bahai Temple is the only temple of the Bahai faith in the whole of Africa making it one of the unique Uganda tourist attractions. This temple is of international importance and attracts followers of the Bahai faith from all corners of the world. The temple also welcomes anyone who would like to visit and even participate in prayers. The quiet surrounding and serene environment additionally attract people to come for meditation and relaxing as well as enjoying the different scenic views of Kampala city.
St. Balikuddembe Market
Visiting downtown Kampala takes you to St. Balikudembe market popularly known as Owino. This market sprawls around the Nakivubo, near the taxi park and it is perhaps the busiest in Kampala and is usually filled with a lot of people. Here you can find all sorts of goods for sale, but it is most popular for its wide range of second-hand clothes from Europe, Asia and the USA.
Be advised that this place also attracts pickpockets so remember to be on your guard as you traverse this part of Kampala city. Taking a tour guide with you when visiting this place will be much safer.
The Parliament of the Republic of Uganda
The Uganda Parliament is located along Parliament Avenue in Central Kampala. Visiting this building can only be done on appointment in the public relations department. You can either tour the building or see the government in action during the setting weeks. Prepare to be thoroughly checked by security personnel at the gate therefore bring an identification card and be decently dressed.
Enjoy Ndere Centre
The Home of Cultures, Ndere Troupe and headquarters of Uganda Development Theatre Association was opened in 2003 to be the home of Uganda’s best cultural dance groups, built on 9 acres of well-maintained green, beautifully flowered walkways and shaded by very mature fruit and other African trees. The rare and unique architectural features combing of artistic creativity with a simplicity that takes African forms, materials, colours and construction to unprecedented heights. The Centre is tranquillity at its best – enabling you to enjoy Traditional dance, music and drama with modern arts using traditional instruments.
Go shopping at the Craft Village
Exposure Africa is the biggest craft market in Kampala located on plot 15 Buganda road, Kampala city. It avails craft from all parts of Uganda and across borders with over 30 stalls and with most items found here are shipped from Kenya but not many Ugandan sellers would want you to know about that. You will find different prices for similar items and the best thing is to bargain.
Therefore, next time you are planning a safari in Uganda, don’t miss out exploring Kampala city and visit all the amazing places mentioned above. You need about 2-3 days to visit all, but if you have limited time in Uganda, you can choose which places to visit and which places to leave out.