Kampala - The Capital City
Kampala (pop: 1.5m) is a dynamic and engaging city, with few of the hassles of other capitals in the region. It's safe to walk around virtually everywhere in the daytime and many of the city's leafy hills have pleasant restaurants with a surprisingly diverse selection of cuisines.
This is a city full of stark contrasts. From the impossibly chaotic jam of central Kampala, with streets packed with shoppers, hawkers, and mind-boggling bus stations, one can easily head up Nakasero Hill with broad tree-lined streets, expensive hotels, and foreign embassies.
Modern-day Kampala (or 'hill of impala') has grown out of the traditional capital of the Buganda kingdom. Beginning with the arrival of the British who had originally placed the seat of government in nearby Entebbe, the city has expanded to encompass over 40 hills and valleys and to become the economic, political and cultural capital of the country.
Nearly all of our tours will spend at least one night in the capital city, and there are several worthy attractions that may interest you.
The huge thatched-roof palace is of great significance to the Buganda kingdom. The Unesco World Heritage-listed site was tragically destroyed in an arson attack in 2010, but reconstruction has recently begun (this time with more fire-resistant fibers). The four most recent kings in the lineage are buried here, and as per tradition, the families of their widows have constructed their homes in the compound surrounding. Interesting guided tours are available.
Uganda National Museum
Considered one of the best museums in East Africa as much for its contents as for the building design, there's plenty here to hold your interest for an afternoon. In addition to the collections covering archeology, ethnography, geology, and natural history, there is an interactive display of traditional musical instruments and even an old Model T Ford. A number of different tribal huts has been constructed in the back garden which can, of course, be toured as well.
Once rumour got around that a man named Owino had staked out a small spot under the eaves of the Nakivubo stadium to sell his wares, many other sellers got the same idea. Today, hundreds of stalls have been set up offering everything from traditional medicine and second-hand clothing to televisions and hot meals. Finding your way through the maze of mostly wooden structures can be a challenge, but it is part of the fun!
Bicycle Tours Around Kampala
These popular tours are designed by our partner Uganda Bicycle to combine recreation with the highest safety standards. Explore some of the less visited parts on the outskirts of Kampala, including craft shops, schools, local villages, and green areas. Bikes can also be hired if you'd like to go solo.
Kabaka's Palace in Mengo
Built in 1922, this former home of the Buganda king has also served as army barracks during the Obote and Amin administrations before becoming a museum. Though visitors cannot enter the building itself, the guide will give you a good overview of the recent history of the kingdom and the palace grounds including a visit to the armory which was allegedly used by Amin's henchmen as a torture chamber.
Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by expansive and well-kept gardens, this temple represents the center of the Bahai religion on the African continent. It is worth a visit both to learn about the history of the Bahai as well as to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala. Bring a packed lunch and enjoy the peace and relative quiet.
Old Kampala Mosque
The prominent National Mosque was begun by Idi Amin in 1972 and finished in 2007 by Colonel Gadaffi with the assistance of Moroccan and Middle Eastern craftsmen. Guided tours take visitors through the main payer hall and up to the top of the minaret for commanding views of the surrounding city. Female visitors must cover shoulders and legs (shawls are available for hire) and no visits allowed during Friday prayers.