13 Best Things To Do In Kampala In 2023

Things to do in Kampala

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Things To Do In Kampala

Find the amazing things to do in Kampala before or after your safari in Uganda

Although most people visit Uganda for the wildlife safaris, most Uganda safari tours will start or end in Kampala – the capital, business, finance, and cultural hub of Uganda.

Kampala city is situated in Central region of Uganda, approximately 40 km from Entebbe. The city covers an area of about 189 km2 and has a population of around 2 million people.

Kampala has a reputation for being noisy, dirty, and crowded, but it’s also the beating heart of the country: full of vibrancy, hustle, bustle, and colour.

Originally built on 7 hills, and now sprawling out over 20 hills, this bustling city can be confusing to navigate. But the centre is compact and well-organized, with plenty to see and do for a day or two.

Did You Know?

Kampala originally referred to only the present-day Old Kampala hill.

This is where Fort Lugard was located and the initial headquarters of the British colonial authorities in the soon to be Uganda Protectorate.

Before the British constructed of Fort Lugard, the hill was a hunting reserve of the King (Kabaka) of Buganda. It had many antelope species especially the impalas.

When the British colonial officials were allocated this hill by the then Kabaka (King) of Buganda, they referred to it as “The Hill of the Impala”.

The Baganda people, in whose territory this British settlement was found, then translated “Hill of the Impala” as Akasozi ke’Empala. This was then shortened to K’empala and finally Kampala. Kasozi means “hill”, ke “of”, and empala the plural of “impala”.

Best Things To Do In Kampala

In this post, we cover the best things to do in Kampala. We also give you information on where to stay in Kampala, how to stay safe in Kampala, how to get around Kampala, and more.

1. Take A Walking Tour

The best way to explore the heart of Kampala City is by taking walking tour through the Central Business District. The tour offers a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse of urban African life as locals live it. You get to walk along crowded streets and mix with the locals.

You visit the local markets to discover how traders dealing in fruits, vegetables, food stuffs, and other merchandize conduct business in very congested places. Their hospitality is awesome confirming that Ugandans are indeed friendly people.

You also tour shopping centers and commercial malls to witness a bee-hive of business activities in Kampala – and see the big taxi parks which are the center of chaotic public transport in Uganda.

Your tour also include some of Uganda’s significant landmarks like the Independence Monument, historical places of worship and cultural sites, giving you an insight into the journey of Uganda, her people and cultures.

Things to do in Kampala, Kampala city walking tour

2. Climb The Minaret Of Gaddafi Mosque

A gift from the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, the Gaddafi Mosque is a treat for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Also called Uganda National Mosque, this impressive, copper-domed building is one of the largest mosques in Africa.

It is found on old Kampala hill close to the central business district and can accommodate about 12,000 worshippers. The huge prayer hall is decorated with stained glass from Italy, an enormous blue and red woven carpet, and intricate chandeliers from Egypt.

It is mostly visited for its 60m high minaret. Climbing the 306 steps to the top of the minaret rewards you with a stunning 360° view of Kampala city – the perfect way want to capture an aerial shot of Kampala city without flying a drone

You can even book a dawn visit and watch the sun rise over the city to the uplifting sounds of the call to prayer. It is a must visit place if you want to capture a perfect aerial shot of Kampala city without flying a drone. Gaddafi Mosque is also a perfect place if you want to learn about the history of the Islamic faith in Uganda.

Things to do in Kampala 1
Looking out over Kampala from the roof of Gaddafi Mosque

3. “Boda Boda” Tour

Popularly called “boda boda” in Uganda, the motorcycle taxis are the quickest way to explore Kampala city.

You drive through busy city visiting the popular attractions and landmarks, access nice viewpoints, go to the suburbs and ghettos, visit historical sites, green spaces, eat in local places and taste the African cuisine, etc.

These motorcycle taxis are not for the faint-hearted, but can take you anywhere in the city without being hindered by the crazy Kampala traffic jam. Note that you shouldn’t pick any random boda boda on the street as they’re huge safety risk and account for most accidents in the city.

There are more professional boda boda riders that have been trained and assessed to take visits on the Kampala city tour.

The term Boda Boda originates from the Busia border of Uganda some 50 years ago. The Boda Boda have not always been these motorbikes. These were bicycles ridden across Uganda-Kenya border town of Busia. The name originated from a need to transport people across and between border posts without the necessary travel documents.

The bicycle owners would shout out boda boda (border-to-border) to potential customers, which loosely meant transporting people from one side of the border to the other. From then on, people started referring to motorcyle taxis as boda bodas. Of course, in Kampala, there are no borders being crossed. Nevertheless, the name “boda-boda” remains.

4. Uganda National Museum Tour

The Uganda National Museum is located within the Kampala central division on Kitante road near the British High Commission.

It was created in 1908 by the then British Colonial Officer George Wilson. It is the oldest museums in East Africa and provides an extensive look into the Uganda’s past.

At the National Museum, you will find exhibits showcasing traditional musical instruments, pre-colonial African history, ethnography, and traditional lifestyles of various tribes in Uganda. The museum contains historical artifacts that tell the origin of Uganda, information on the peoples and Uganda wildlife etc.

5. Experience Serenity At The Bahai Temple

A visit to the beautiful Bahai temple offers a spiritual experience of some sort.

There is only one temple of the Bahai faith on each continent and Uganda is lucky to have the one for Africa.

The temple’s stunning architectural design is something that every visitor on the Kampala tour should see. Like all Baha’i temples, it’s a circular 9-sided dome.

Inside, fixed mosaic tiles from Italy line the dome’s arched roof, with coloured glass in the wall panels that came from Germany. The green, amber and pale blue glass tinted windows filter the light coming into the temple, lending itself to an effect of lightness that bounces off the floor, well adorned with Persian carpets.

The temple is set in the middle of lush, green gardens with fields of brightly coloured flowers where many birds and butterflies flutter. Bahai temple welcomes visitors of all faiths to pray and meditate in a serene environment.

Things to do in Kampala

6. Tour Kasubi Tombs Of Buganda Kings

Until the end of the 19th century, Uganda was divided into five kingdoms.

Kampala was the capital of the largest, Buganda, from which the country takes its name.

Sadly not much remains from that time, but you can still visit the Kasubi Tombs, where four of the kings of Buganda, known as kabakas, are buried.

The UNESCO World Heritage site’s grand thatched building that housed the tombs was sadly destroyed in a fire in 2010, but a careful reconstruction is under way.

And taking a tour still offers the opportunity to get fascinating insights about culture and traditions of the Baganda people.

things to do in Kampala, Kasubi tombs

7. Attending Traditional Dance Performance At Ndere Cultural Centre

The word ‘Ndere’ means ‘flute’ in local Luganda language. The cultural center has the biggest and the oldest traditional dancing troupe in Uganda. This highly professional dancing troupe was founded in 1986 as a Uganda culural organisation for universal unity through music, dance and drama.

The centre organizes performances of over 40 different authentic dances and songs of the many tribes in Uganda, accompanied by various indeginous percussive, stringed and wind instruments.

Ndere Cultural Centre is one stop center to see Uganda’s diverse cultures showcased through the different traditional dances and songs. The shows takes place in the evenings on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. It is a perfect place to end your day after a Kampala city tour.

things to do in Kampala

8. Explore Buganda Royal Tourism Circuit

The Buganda Royal Tourism Circuit includes Kabaka’s palace (Lubiri), Bulange Royal Building which houses Buganda parliament (“lukiiko”), and The Royal Mile, which is a path one mile long, connecting the palace to the parliament.

Taking a tour of these cultural landmarks is an educating experience on the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial history of Buganda and Uganda, giving you a lesson about the rich cultures of the black people.

It is a revelation into the spectacular administration systems of a people that are absurdly portrayed to have lived a primitive wild life before the white man arrived.

As an extra to this tour you include the visit to the nearby Kabaka’s lake, a manmade lake.

The lake was created by the young flamboyant king, Kabaka Mwanga, with the intention of connecting to Lake Victoria so he could easily access Lake Victoria and one of his palaces at Munyonyo near the lake.

Things to do in Kampala
Mengo Palace, the former residence of Kabaka Mutesa II and now an official government residence

9. Market Shoppings

Popular Kampala markets include Nakasero (fruit, vegetables, spices, and grasshoppers) and Nakawa (everything – and slightly cheaper than the markets in town. There is also Ggaba market on the the edge of Lake Victoria. It is a great place to pick up brightly coloured Tanzanian cloth (as well as all your fruit and vegetables.

The maze-like Owino was once Kampala’s best place for second-hand clothing, shoes and bags; the packed and chaotic downtown is still the best place for all kinds of bargains.

If you are into arts and crafts and souvenir shopping, there are many craft markets, galleries and shopping centre in the city. If you want typical African crafts, visit the African Craft Village behind the National Theatre or the Exposure Africa market on Buganda Road. Here you’ll find a wide selection of handicrafts including wood carvings, leather and jewellery. If you are a lover of art, Kampala also has great art galleries for you to quench your thirst.

Even none art lover will fall in love with the beautiful and creative art pieces in the different galleries. A number of art galleries are located within the city center and therefore easy to access. One such gallery is the Nomo Gallery.

Things to do in Kampala

10. Visit The Uganda Martyrs Shrines

The Uganda martyrs shrines tour is one of the most spiritually nourishing experiences for a Christian pilgrim.

It is also a great source of history about religion in Uganda. The tour covers martyrdom sites where several converted Christian pages/helpers in the Kings’s Palace were killed.

The pages had disobeyed the orders King Mwanga II of Buganda that were contradictory to their faiths and accepted to die for their beliefs when the king ordered for their killing.

This is a whole day experience where you go tracking down the different sites of each martyr through the chaotic Kampala City before winding up at the pristine grounds of Namugongo Martyrs shrine where many Christians were executed.

11. Tour Saint Paul Cathedral at Namirembe Hill

St Paul’s cathedral is the oldest Anglican Church in Uganda. The vast red-brick building is over 100 years old. It is located on the top of Namirembe hill that offers more stunning views of Kampala city.

Namirembe is a Luganda word meaning ‘mother of peace’, but the history of its foundation was not always so. In 1875, Henry Stanley, the British explorer visited Kabaka Mutesa I’s court and told him about Christianity.

Mutesa I, enthralled by the stories that he heard, asked Stanley to write to Queen Victoria of England and ask her to send missionaries to Buganda. Two years later in 1877, eight missionaries from the Church Missionary Society arrived in Buganda and began to preach Christianity and make conversions.

When Mutesa I was succeeded by his son Mwanga II in 1884, Christianity came under attack when Mwanga, angry that the Christian converts placed their God above traditional loyalty to him as Kabaka, resolved to wipe out the new religion.

Bishop, James Hannington, the first Anglican Bishop of the Eastern Equatorial province was the first victim, killed in 1885 on orders from Mwanga, and in 1886, he put to death 26 of his pages that refused to renounce Christianity.

It was only after Mwanga was deposed and exiled in 1899 that development of Namirembe as the main Anglican place of worship began.

Things to do in Kampala

12. Visit Saint Mary’s Cathedral At Rubaga Hill

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of the Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda, also has a long cultural and political history dating back to the heyday of the Buganda Kingdom.

In the early 18th century, Lubaga Hill was the administrative heart of the Buganda kingdom and its top sat one of the palaces belonging to Kabaka Ndawula Nsobya.

Many of Buganda’s military expeditions, including later ones against the colonialists were planned from Lubaga because of its strategic view. The hill derives its name from the Luganda word ‘okubaga’, which means ‘to plan’.

In 1891, King Mwanga who would later slaughter catholic converts donated Rubaga hill to Catholic missionaries through Bishop Joseph Hirth. Between 1891 and 1914, seven different rudimentary churches were built on the hill.

The first was burnt down in 1892 during the bloody religious wars to be replaced by another, until 1914 when there was need for a more concrete church to cater for the big catholic population around Rubaga. Construction of the cathedral took 10 years and on 31st December 1925, it was consecrated.

Things to do in Kampala 1

13. Dive Into Kampala Night Life

Did you know that Kampala has the best nightlife in East Africa? If you want to get a taste of the famous Kampala nightlife, you can organize a pub crawl and party like a local until morning.

The main strip of bars and clubs is in the city centre along Acacia Ave. Here you’ll find popular favourites Bubbles O’Learys-Irish pub, and Big Mike’s bar and nightclub, which regularly showcases excellent local bands.

And a little further up the road is Cayenne, a one-stop night out boasting a restaurant, poolside bar, and dance floor that keeps hopping until the sun comes up.

14. Taste Local Foods

If music and dancing is not really your thing, Kampala city is also known for is organic delicious food. You will find lots of restaurants and eateries serving a wide range of healthy dishes. There are also amazing coffee places such as Endiro Coffee and 1000 Cups of Coffee.

While in many countries, the word Rolex is usually synonymous with luxury watches, here a “rolex” is a popular street food. As Ugandans have been known to say: “We don’t wear Rolex, we eat them.” Rolex – the snack – is a shortening of “rolled eggs”.

The popular dish, found at roadside stalls almost everywhere in the city, is made from a vegetable omelette with added tomatoes wrapped up in a chapati. It has already achieved some notoriety beyond Uganda and in 2022 the Guinness World Records certified the world’s largest rolex.

A traditional Ugandan buffet is also essential: Shaka Zulu Foods is the favorite among locals.

They serve full lunch buffets of various traditional meals, from pilau to Luwombo – a combination of meats in a peanut sauce with mushrooms and dried fish, all wrapped in banana leaves, steamed over a local stove for hours, and served with matoke, a starchy boiled banana.

For more upscale dining experiences, you can go to Nyanja Lake Terrace, Mediterraneo, Le Chateau Brasserie Belge, and Asian Fusion.

There are also vegan-friendly menus at Holy Crepe and Aleph. Staying true to its big-city energy, there is something to eat for everyone in Kampala.

Where To Stay In Kampala?

Kampala Serena Hotel offers luxurious accommodation right in the middle of the city. The hotel is surrounded by acres of water gardens providing travelers with a peaceful sanctuary.

Latitude 0 Degrees which opened its doors in 2019 is perfect for travelers looking for a bit more privacy while still experiencing luxury. It is ocated in Makindye, just outside the central part of the city.

Located in the outskirts of central Kampala, Le Petit Village is also a tranquil retreat offering vacationers the ambiance of Ugandan village living complete with the amenities and facilities of an economy establishment.

Read More about Uganda Safari Lodges, Hotels, and Camps

How To Get Around Kampala?

Arriving at Entebbe International Airport and getting to Kampala, which is 40 kilometers away, is easiest with a private rental car or via the taxis that are available in abundance at arrivals; the drive is 40 minutes.

The main modes of transport within the city include boda bodas (motorbike taxis) perfect for travelers who like to get around cheaply (download and use the SafeBoda app to hail rides). There are also matutus (public minivan taxis) for the true Kampala experience and, of course, Uber.


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