Kampala is the capital of Uganda and home to 1.6 million people. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa and in this article you will find out what the 10 best things to do in Kampala are. So, whether you like markets, shopping, historical sites, or a place to sit down for a cup of coffee – this guide has the best you can find in the capital of the Pearl of Africa.
1. Boda-boda tour
If you only have a day in Kampala and want to make the most of it, then I highly recommend you book a boda-boda tour! It is hands down the best of the things to do in Kampala! Boda-bodas are the Ugandan version of a motorcycle taxi, so it’s like a tour of the city, but on a motorbike. The main reason why it works so well is that Kampala has a lot of traffic and it’s easier to navigate through it on a motorbike. On this tour you’ll see a few of the places on this list, and more.
We chose one of the most popular options on Tripadvisor and paid $25 per person, they had a discount at the time. The tour took about 4 hours and we were on one motorbike each. Make sure you book a tour with helmets, you do not want to spend your holiday in a hospital.
Good to know: if you opt for a boda-boda tour, or take a motorbike taxi in general in Kampala, do NOT take out your phone during your ride. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and make sure your bag is safe as well. While we didn’t experience any theft during our trip to Uganda, we were warned several times by the locals to make sure to keep our phones tucked away.
2. Nakasero Market
If you’re looking to buy some souvenirs or just wander around the market, then make sure you visit the Nakasero Market. The market is divided into an open area where you’ll find fruits and fresh produce, and a closed area, where you’ll find electronics, shoes, clothes, and souvenirs.
During our tour, we were taken to a viewpoint of the market to take pictures. You’ll notice quite fast that Ugandans really dislike having their photos taken. If you’re like me and don’t want to get up people’s business with your camera, then I suggest you go further away and bring a zoom lens with you. The tour guys told us the locals get particularly upset at this market – I could hardly get permission to take pictures of matooke (green bananas).
3. Uganda National Mosque (Gaddafi Mosque)
The mosque was definitely one of the best highlights for the best things to do in Kampala! The Gaddafi Mosque is regarded as the largest one in Africa, accommodating up to 35,000 worshippers at any time. So, since this is an active mosque, you will be required to dress appropriately. Make sure your clothes cover your shoulders and knees and if you don’t have a scarf with you, they will lend you one when you purchase a ticket.
While the mosque itself was beautiful, there is one major feature here that you cannot miss – the Minaret. From the top, you’ll see 360 views of Kampala and the seven hills of the Ugandan capital.
The entrance fee is around $5 USD and this includes any clothes you’ll have to borrow to enter.
4. Kabaka’s Palace (Lubiri Mengo)
Kabaka’s Palace is home to the former king of Buganda Kindom, Kabaka and was built in 1922 in Mengo, Kampala. The palace is famous for its history, culture and architecture. With the presence of four gates of entry by royalty for different occasions, to the presence of a torture chamber, this is one of the top things to do in Kampala.
The entry fee to Kabaka’s Palace is $15 USD and the tour is included in the price.
5. Idi Amini Torture Chamber
Idi Amin, or the ‘butcher of Uganda’ served as the second president of Uganda from 1971-79. The torture chamber was originally built as an armory but ended up being a gruesome place where over 200,000 Ugandans lost their lives to terrible torture. This place is definitely the grimmest of all the things to do in Kampala and you could just opt to see the palace in case the torture chambers are too much for you.
The entrance fee to Idi Amin’s torture chamber is $15 USD. It is included in the one you pay to see Kabaka’s Palace as the torture chamber is at the palace.
6. Bahá’í Temple
Sitting on 52 acres of land, the Bahá’í Mother Temple of Africa is the only Bahá’í temple in Africa and one of only nine around the whole world. The temple is a unique architectural building and was built between 1958 and 1961 on Kikaaya hill in north Kampala.
The temple is only open on Mondays and Sundays, so make sure you plan your visit accordingly to avoid disappointment. Due to its peaceful, park environment, many people go there to relax, have a picnic, or meditate.
Learn more about the Bahá’í Faith here.
7. Bandali Rise
If you want to party like the locals and experience one of the best things to do in Kampala, then make sure you don’t miss out on Bandali Rise. An area filled with clubs, restaurants, and bars, it’s where you’ll be able to get a beer or a cocktail to the sounds of party tunes and dance the night away! We went to a place called Thrones and the vibe was great.
8. Buganda Craft Village
Just in case you didn’t find a unique souvenir at the Nakasero Market, you’ll definitely find something at the Buganda Craft Village! We bought souvenirs for our families here and they ranged from handmade chess boards to key chains with a comb. The sellers here were super calm and no one was harassing us to shop, so we really enjoyed walking around the market.
9. Kasubi Royal Tombs
One of the most famous things to do in Kampala, The Kasubi Tombs are both an active religious place and a burial ground for the previous four Kabakas (kings), so rituals are frequently performed here. The built and natural elements of the Kasubi Royal Tombs site have important historical, traditional, and spiritual values, and the place was declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2001.
The entrance fee to the Kasubi Royal Tombs is $5,50 USD for non-Ugandans and $1,50 for Ugandans.
We only spent a couple of days in Kampala, but we managed to see that there are many local gems in the city that you must visit! Here are a few we managed to visit and some that were suggested to me by locals as well:
Nkwanzi Scents – hand-crafted scented candles, the perfect gift for anyone! If you’re looking for a ‘useful’ souvenir to take back home, then I highly recommend it.
Latitude Chocolate – if you find yourself around Acacia Mall and want to have a coffee with some locally produced chocolate, then this is the place to visit.
Moonbean Chocolate Factory in Bugolobi – chocolate-making workshops where you can make your own chocolates.
Good Glass – recycled glass products.
Kampala Fair – Kitenge homeware and clothing if you have some space in your luggage.
Banange Brewery – Located on Kyaddondo Road in Nakasero. Perfect for those who enjoy a fancier local craft beer.
When to visit Kampala
The best time to visit Kampala, Uganda is literally all year-round. Due to its location by the equator, the temperatures are steadily around 25°C during the daytime. Uganda has most tourists in summer and around Christmas time, so expect the prices to be a little higher during the busier tourist months.
How to get around in Kampala
I suggest you opt for a motorbike taxi known as boda here. You can book them via the apps Safeboda or Uber to avoid riding on an unsafe boda. Make sure to ask them for a helmet. This is the fastest way to get around Kampala and the best choice if you don’t need to go too far.
If you are going further away then I suggest taking an Uber car. Both are very affordable, Uber is just easier to use since you most likely already have the app and payments set up.
Where to stay in Kampala
We chose to stay at Villa Kololo and loved our time there. It was in a good area, easily accessible, with a good breakfast and a great restaurant. Otherwise, I would also recommend looking at Latitude O Degrees and Amin Pasha Hotel as well.
I hope you enjoyed this article on the best things to do in Kampala! Make sure you check out all the other posts from Uganda here as well.
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