TRAVEL GUIDE ON KAMPALA IN UGANDA
Kampala Introduction - Location, Attractions & HistoryOnce called the City of the Seven Hills, Kampala sprawls till the northern shore of iconic Lake Victoria. Located in the heart of Uganda, the metropolis has been its de facto capital since the 14th century, when King Kato Kintu, the founder of the Buganda royal dynasty, chose the region for his administrative base. Future Buganda kings welcomed Muslim traders and British explorers. This nexus of cultures can still be enjoyed by traveling around the fusion city of Kampala (best time to go), where you can experience a melange of colonial and contemporary architecture, ancient royal monuments and the generous hospitality of Uganda’s warm and welcoming people.
Taking its name from the Luganda language’s term for “Hill of the Impala,” Kampala is built on what was once undulating green hills, fields of grass and wetlands. Today, it is a fascinating, cosmopolitan city with many attractions and tourist hotspots. A 50-kilometer (30-mile) part toll drive from Entebbe International Airport, metropolitan Kampala welcomes many guests on safari vacations and business people. Visitors to the five districts can spend their days enjoying the city’s heritage architecture, National Museum, and local craft galleries before whiling away their evenings sampling Uganda's widest range of restaurants and nightclubs.
- Formerly called the City of the Seven Hills located in the center of Uganda - north of Lake Victoria.
- Takes its name from the Luganda term for “Hill of the Impala”
- Capital of the country since the 14th century when King Kato Kintu moved his administrative base here
- Melting pot of cultures including traditional and contemporary elements
- Has a wide selection of attractions to pique the interest of all kinds of visitors
Travel Guide Content - Start Here
|1. What Are The Other Experiences Around Kampala?|
|What Are The Areas Of Interest In Kampala|
|2. Historical Overview Of Kampala|
|3. Insider Guide To The Neighborhoods Of Kampala|
1. What Are The Other Experiences Around Kampala?
- Has a plethora of shopping malls and craft centers offering global and authentic Ugandan products
- Selection of leisure options such as restaurants, cafes, night clubs, cinemas, and more
- Makindye District offering watersports and aqua activities on Lake Victoria
What Are The Areas Of Interest In Kampala?
2. Historical Overview Of Kampala
- Location of the 1881 Kasubi Tombs, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. Mengo Hill in Kampala used by the British as their capital on arrival in 1890
- Capital of the country post-independence when Milton Obote became president. Site of political and social turmoil under the rule of Idi Amin
- Now a peaceful city showcasing rebuilding efforts with modern construction and infrastructure
Post-independence, Milton Obote became the first president of Uganda, serving for about nine years before being overthrown in a military coup by former sergeant Idi Amin. The rule of the late Amin ushered in a dark era of political and social turmoil, during which Uganda declared war against neighboring Tanzania. As the capital, Kampala took the brunt of not just the war, but also Amin's attempts to evict the Asian population and attack resident Jews. Idi Amin's 1979 exile to Libya returned the country to peace, marked by a large-scale public effort to rebuild the country. Spending holiday time in both the city and the country, you will see many signs of the rejuvenation efforts in the form of elegant new construction and glittering facades.
3. Insider Guide To The Neighborhoods Of Kampala
Central Kampala - Key Takeaways
- Administrative hub of the city
- Heritage building blending beautifully with contemporary structures giving the town a unique character
- Lugard Fort on Old Kampala Hill and various other tourist attractions
Of particular interest to visitors is Lugard Fort on Old Kampala Hill. Built by Captain Lugard, the first Governor of the British protectorate, the fort stands as a reminder of Uganda’s colonial past. The Uganda National Mosque and Nommo Art Gallery at Nakasero are some other special attractions. If you would like to go holiday shopping while in Kampala, you can find fabulous craft stores within the central region.
Lubaga (also known as Rubaga) - Key Takeaways
- Historical significance as the residential base of the Buganda kings from 1724 to 1884 when the royal palace burned down
- Given to the Catholic White Fathers who built Rubaga Cathedral on the location
- Other attractions include Kabaka’s Lake, Lubiri Palace, Buganda Parliament, and Kasubi Tombs Crafts store
Lubaga is also famous for many other tourist attractions such as the Kasubi Tombs, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Serving as a burial site for the four kings of Buganda, the incredible structure was built entirely of natural materials. When spending vacation time in Kampala, you can shop for exquisite souvenirs and mementos at arts and crafts markets such as the Musigula Mbugo, Andrew’s Artistry, Kasubi Tombs Crafts store and Sikyomu Drum Makers at Busega. The scenic Kabaka’s Lake, the oldest surviving man-made lake in Uganda, along with Lubiri Palace and Buganda Parliament are other places of interest.
Kawempe - Key Takeaways
- Located on the northwestern area of Kampala about eight kilometers from the city center
- Baha’i Temple, only one on the African continent on Kikaya Hill
- Makerere University, known for its impressive and stately architecture
Also located within Kawempe is the famous Makerere University. With impressive architecture, the university was famous as the only center for higher learning in East Africa until 1954. It lies about three kilometers to the north of the city center, atop Makerere Hill. The educational institution also serves as a research facility and conference venue.
Makindye - Key Takeaways
- Offering views of Murchison Bay, the southeastern section of Lake Victoria, and Wakiso District
- Home to famous artists, upscale nightlife events and political figures
- Possibility of indulging in various water activities on the lake along with horseback riding and birding excursions
Makindye also offers lakeside accommodations that provide opportunities to enjoy a range of water activities. Go canoeing and fishing or take an evening cruise for stunning views of the setting sun over the water. Horseback-riding and birdwatching are other enjoyable activities to do while spending vacation time in the Makindye district.
Nakawa - Key Takeaways
- Has several avenues for entertainment including an amusement park, aquatic center, and fitness center visited by locals
- Location of the esteemed Makerere University Business School
- Venues for enjoying sporting events and sampling the delicious cuisines of Uganda
Get a taste of Kampala’s love for sports with visits to the Lugogo cricket and tennis grounds. When you’ve worked up an appetite, taste the delicious nyama choma (meat barbecue) at the Kyadondo Rugby Club or indulge in local cuisine. More notable attractions that you must explore on your trip are the picturesque Mutungo, Naguru and Mbuya Hills, the Nakawa Commonwealth Veterans Cemetery, and Port Bell Pier. The pier on the eastern edge of the district serves as the prime terminal for goods and commuter vessels plying Lake Victoria.
What Attractions & Tour Activities To Experience During Your Kampala Visit?
- Incredible melting pot of cultures and historical remnants dating back to the time of the traditional kings of Uganda
- Various architectural wonders that showcase religious tolerance and harmony
- Shopping expeditions for authentic arts and crafts and global merchandise
- Visit conservation sites such as Serenada Eco Tourism Wilderness, Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center, Uganda Reptile Village
- Experience a diversity of spiritual attraction sites such as Africa’s only Baha’i Temple, mosques, Hindu temples, a Jewish Synagogue, cathedrals and a remnant of the Bachwezi Empire - the Nakayima Tree
Our Top 12 Tour Activities In Kampala - Things You Can Do & See
Activities Content - Start Here
1. Tour Of The Baha’i Temple
- One of the only such temples on the continent of Africa
- Standing on a 50-acre property on Kikaya Hill
- Spectacular architectural design created by Charles Mason Remey
2. Shop At The Craft Village On Buganda Road
- Shopping at the Crafts Village where handcrafted items are available
- Enjoy a bargaining session which is an acceptable pursuit
- Selection of canvas art, colorful textile, pottery, musical instruments, beaded jewelry, souvenir utensils and many more
3. Visit The Uganda National Mosque
- Standing on the site of the Captain Lugard’s Fort that was dismantled during the reign of Idi Amin
- Construction commissioned in 1972 and eventually completed in 2006
- Stunning specimen of Islamic architecture showcasing fabulous pillars, sparkling glass chandeliers, and intricate mosaics
During your visit to the mosque, don’t forget to take off your footwear at the doorway, wear modest dressing that covers your legs, chest and hands, and the women need to wear a headscarf. When your visit to the interiors praying halls is complete, you can request your guide to climb to the apex of the minaret for stunning views of Old Kampala. Although the Mosque was commissioned in 1972, construction halted upon the dictator’s exile in 1979 and the mosque was not completed until 2006. Today the mosque is one of the region’s largest, with space for 15,000 Muslim worshippers.
4. Rubaga Cathedral Viewing
- Also called St. Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga, built on land donated in 1889 by esteemed Buganda King Mwanga II (Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II Mukasa)
- Built in Romanesque styles much like the structures in South America and Europe
- Final resting place of first African Catholic bishop in Uganda
5. Uganda Museum Visit
- Located on Kira Road close to the British High Commission in Kampala
- Culture village designed to educate visitors on the heritage of Uganda
- Peaceful gardens where vacationers can spend time
6. Namirembe Cathedral Viewing
- Also called Saint Paul's Cathedral Namirembe, and is the oldest Protestant Church in Uganda
- Dismantled and reconstructed four times since its original establishment in 1890
- A beautiful organ is one of the most striking features
7. Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center Visit
- Sanctuary showcasing few of the rich and diverse wildlife of the country
- Rehabilitation home to some of the Big Five of Africa along with a range of other terrestrial life
- Sightings of avian life, reptile and children’s recreation area
Located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the heart of the city, the UWEC houses some of Africa’s Big Five, including the lion, leopard, baby elephant and rhino. You can also see red-tailed monkeys, giraffes, waterbucks, chimpanzees, zebras and the Uganda kob. Among the avian life, look out for the African fish eagle, peacock, shoebill stork, ostrich and pelican, to name a few. The center also has a children’s recreation area and reptile section. Please note there are photo opportunities for petting and feeding; however, AfricanMecca does not recommend engaging in these activities if you decide to visit the center on your own accord.
8. Serenada Eco Tourism Wilderness Trip
- Can be reached by taking a 35-minute boat ride from Ggaba Beach
- Sanctuary comprising of a papyrus jungle, tropical forests, a beach, and landscaped gardens
- Sightings of more than 220 diverse species of avian life
9. Tour Of The Hindu Temples In Kampala
- Shree Sanatan Dharma Mandal (SSDM) located close to Nakasero Market
- Built out of sandstone without the use of steel girders or nails, a marvelous architectural specimen
- Decorated on Diwali with thousands of small candles called dewas and traditional dance celebrations during Navratri
10. Uganda Reptile Village Excursion
- Located on the highway connecting Kampala and Entebbe
- Experienced snake handlers to display and educate visitors on the characteristics of the specimens
- Certain species known to live for up to 40 years
11. Kampala Jewish Synagogue Visit
- Located on Mbogo Road in Kibuli, center for the Jewish faith
- Houses the Monaco Institute of Science, which offers learners lessons in the Hebrew language and literature
- Fixed timings from Monday to Saturday when worshippers and visitors can visit
12. Excursion To The Nakayima Tree
- Remnant of the Bachwezi Empire ruled by three kings, Ndahura, Mulindwa and Wamara
- Center of folklore and myths that whisper about their sudden disappearance
- Held in reverence by Ugandan women who offer prayers to the spirit of Nakayima who lives in the tree
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WHERE & BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KAMPALA
Kampala offers a diversity of accommodations, from the boutique chic Latitude 0 Degrees to the larger luxuries of Kampala Serena Hotel. The deluxe property options are Humura Resorts and Emin Pasha Hotel.
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KAMPALA ACTIVITIES & TOUR ATTRACTIONS
Experience city tour activities and attractions in Kampala - visit the Baha'i Temple, Craft Village on Buganda Road, mosques, Hindu & Jewish temples, cathedral viewing, Uganda Museum, Serenada wilderness etc.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT KAMPALA
The long dry season starts around the middle of December, January and February, and is considered the best time to visit Kampala in Uganda. The alternate best time to visit is June, July and most parts of August.
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EAST AFRICA SAFARI BOOKING TRIP IDEA FOR KAMPALA IN UGANDA
When visiting Kampala, we recommend combining it with Bwindi Park for your gorilla safari trek, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Kibale (chimpanzee safari) alongside your city tour visits of Entebbe.
You may optionally extend out to other wilderness areas such as Mgahinga to track down golden monkeys and gorillas in the same park, Jinja for whitewater rafting on the Nile River, Semliki, Lake Mburo or Kidepo for an offbeat wildlife tour.
You can end your vacation on the beach at Lake Victoria or even extending out to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar or Lamu, or even Mombasa.
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