Kampala as the administrative and commercial centre has so much for you to learn about Uganda. As you make certain observations at food markets, cultural sites, and on the streets. You will understand the present situation. Like a chaotic marketplace the streets may seem, Kampala road is the main street and transit route for those going through the city. The downtown area around Taxi park and Aponye mall to Owino market and Ham shopping center, where products sold at affordable prices attract crowds that never seem to fit into space, and the traffic to navigate through to get where you want to go. People call this chaos. But, nothing should scare you at all. Some areas might be disorderly, but Kampala is not one of the dangerous cities to worry about your safety. Ugandans are some of the friendliest people on earth. That makes for a place of good vibes amidst all the chaos. It should just give you an impression of how far men and women get on to put food on the table. If you intend to explore Kampala we believe you should get a local tour guide to show you around. It will prove less of a duty than a pleasure. Other than visiting the cultural and historical sites, there are several ways to spend a day in Kampala including taking a boda boda ride, walking tour and the 7 hills, nightlife or musical festival experience, cooking or performing art class.
Note: There’s a robust debate on how to transform Kampala capital city now. Big infrastructure projects are already bringing some relief such as the flyover, pedestrian, and cycling zones.
Kampala city’s historical hills
There are 7 hills that Kampala was founded of which only 6 offer some historical and cultural attractions. Back in time, the area was much of hills and swampy valleys that are now under settlement, the reason why floods are still a challenge. In particular, the hills are the origin of the name Kampala having been a habitat for Impala and its meat was nice to the Kabaka of Buganda kingdom. “Akasozi K’empala” was the term used to refer to a hill with the most antelopes. The British capt. Frederick Lugard arrived and set up a camp on old Kampala hill just next to Kabaka’s palace at Mengo hill on the west side. So, the term was shortened into the English language as Kampala, which in time became official. The hills are some of the best Kampala city attractions, each with its own unique history.
Mengo, cultural attractions of Buganda
One of the must visit Kampala city attractions is Mengo hill, home to Kabaka’s palace and Bulange the legislative assembly house. The Mengo Royal Mile Walk from the palace to Bulange is lined with sculptures representing totems of clans in Buganda. Having existed for the last 600 years, Mengo hill tour offers insight into the culture of the kingdom. Besides, you will also learn about how the post-independence political conflicts began with the attack on the palace. President Idi Amin’s torture chambers and Kabaka’s lake are some of the sites worth visiting whilst at Mengo.
Old Kampala hill
Next to Mengo, the Old Kampala hill’s biggest draw is to climb some 304 stairs to the top of the minaret of Gaddafi mosque. You will appreciate the view and how the city has expanded. Entry into the mosque cost is 20,000 Uganda shillings or $5 per person. Taking pictures inside the mosque is allowed. Outside the mosque compound where Lugard camped with his army and an old Maxim gun that is kept at the Uganda national museum.
Situated less than 2 km from Mengo and 4 km from the city centre, Kasubi hill is the final resting place of Buganda kings. The Kasubi Royal Tombs were inscribed on UNESCO world heritage in 2001. A decade passed and malicious people set fire and destroyed it. The hut was rebuilt in accordance with the social customs. Visitors are all allowed to take photos and may even enter on permission to look at the sacred objects.
Rubaga and Namirembe hills
Just adjacent to Mengo, the two are religious sites with Rubaga Cathedral for Catholics and Namirembe for the Anglican. You can even attend evening mass at Rubaga in the evenings.
The best place to eat in between Mengo and Kasubi is 2K restaurant, which serves local food.
On this hill stands the oldest and most prestigious Makerere University. The hill has been preserved with trees into a bird sanctuary and such a cool place to observe the living conditions in a world of academia. The University guesthouse and student guild campaign offer food and drinks. Whilst at Makerere, you may explore the nearby slum area of Katanga to see the underserved communities. Consider going there with things to give or donate what you can.
Uganda national museum
A must visit of the Kampala city attractions, the Uganda museum is 1 km from Makerere and 2 km from the city centre. It is open from 9 to 5 Monday to Saturday and costs 10,000 ug shs for adults and 5,000 for kids under 12. There’s a restaurant for you to get food. Behind the museum, you can explore the different traditional housing styles.
The fresh food market at Nakasero hill a few blocks below Kampala road is so vibrant with over 10,000 people coming there daily to get foodstuffs. You should get out of the car and do some walking around. Everybody from high ranks in society to a garbage collector is at the market to buy everything and gives you an intimate encounter with people. If you’re an artist and like to perform, Nakasero market is the place to express yourself.
St. Balikuddembe market
Perhaps one of the underrated Kampala city attractions is St. Balikuddembe formerly Owino market. Located in downtown Kampala, Owino was the largest before being reduced to put up the Ham shopping mall and football stadium. The multipurpose marketplace attracts over 20,000 people and walking through you will see on display a variety of things from food, new and secondhand clothing to shoes, bags, and African crafts. Visit Owino together with Gaddafi mosque and Mengo. While there, you visit the Uganda Police fire brigade headquarters, the Hindu temple, and see the new overpass still under construction.
Coffee at Last
Those intending to have some coffee, you’re dearly invited to join the Coffee at Last family on Makyinde hill. The cafe offers delicious fast food, wine, and accommodation at Mahari Guesthouse. Sports people will love it here. The place is just opposite Makindye country club (former American Embassy), where you can play different games like tennis and Yoga.