12 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN KAMPALA CITY & THINGS TO DO – TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
Are you interested to Know the best places to visit in Kampala on your city tour? Kampala is the capital and largest city of Uganda located on the shores of Lake Victoria 40 km from Entebbe international airport in the central region of Uganda. Kampala has a lot of attractions, beauty, culture, hospitality and many tourist activities that will amaze you before touring the rest of the country. Some of the top places to visit in Kampala on your tour include; Kasubi tombs, national museum, Uganda national cultural center, and many religious centers like Namugongo martyrs shrine, Gaddafi mosque, Bahai temple and many more. Below are a few of these in details;
- KASUBI ROYAL TOMBS
Kasubi Royal tombs is UNESCO Site, it one of the best places to visit in Kampala. The Kasubi tombs is a burial ground for the four Buganda kings and the members of the royal family that have passed on. This site is rich in cultural heritage and political leadership of Buganda kingdom. Kasubi tombs lies along Masiro road on Kasubi hill one of Kampala’s seven hills. Buganda kingdom was one of the most powerful in Africa before coming of foreign settlers. Buganda kingdom is one of the few that still believe in life after death. Many traditional ceremonies are carried out here like welcoming the moon, consulting the ancestors, traditional medicine people come to seek blessings of their ancestors as well as the kabaka (present king) in case he needs to travel out of the country. These tombs are maintained by the wives of various kings more so the female descendants of the long deceased wives. The four Buganda kabakas that were buried here at Kasubi tombs include;
Mutesa 1 who was born in 1835 and was crowned kabaka in 1856 as the 35th kabaka of Buganda, died in 1884 and was buried in Kasubi tombs where his palace was located.
Basamula Mwanga 11 took over from his father Mutesa 1 at the time when the Influence of Christianity and other foreign religions had grown, he opposed and killed many people who had converted and he was forced into exile where he died in Seychelles island in 1903. His remains were sent back in 1910 and buried at the Kasubi tombs.
Kabaka Daudi Chwa11, was one-year-old when he succeeded his father Mwanga after his death in 1897, he was helped by Christian regents until 18 years. He died in 1939 and was also buried at Kasubi tombs.
Fredrick Walugembe Muteesa 11 was born in 1924 and succeeded his father Daudi Chwa after his death in 1939. He got conflicts with Sir Andrew Cohen over amendments of Buganda agreement of 1900 and he went into exile in England, he returned in 1955 and became President of Uganda on the day of independence. He again went into exile in 1966 after his palace was attacked by government led by Idi Amin under the orders of Milton Obote, He lived there until he died in 1969 and his remains were brought back and buried Kasubi tombs in 1971.
Kasubi tombs are one of the top tourist attractions in Uganda. This place contains a collection of royal artefacts including traditional musical instruments, weapons, shields, fetishes and a stuffed lion that was once kept as a pet by Mutesa 1. Visitors at Kasubi royal tombs are checked at the gate by palace guards and issued a ticket after providing their details at a fee of 5 Dollars or 10,000 Uganda shillings. This fee helps in the maintenance of the tombs. Kasubi tombs is the only UNESCO world heritage site in Uganda.
In March 2010 the tombs caught fire which destroyed the main tomb and other smaller huts plus some of the items kept inside. Everything is being done to restore and rebuild these them.
2. UGANDA NATIONAL MOSQUE (Gaddafi Mosque)
Uganda National Mosque also known as the Gaddafi mosque is located in an area called Old Kampala on Kampala hill in the city. It houses the headquarters of Islamic faith in Uganda and headquarters of the Uganda Muslim supreme council. The Islamic Moslem council takes care of all people at all levels and takes care of the Islamic affairs of Uganda. Gaddafi mosque is named after the late president of Libya Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. It’s construction started in 1972, by former President of Republic of Uganda Idd Amin Dada and was by then called Old Kampala national mosque, but later it came to a standstill in 1976 up to 2001. When Gaddafi visited Uganda, he was asked for assistance which he gave in form of re-construction of the national mosque.
Construction began again in 2006 and was completed and officially opened in 2007. The mosque was then named after Muammer Gaddafi as Gaddafi National Mosque. In 2013, after his death the name was changed to Uganda National Mosque due to the new Libyan government being reluctant to rehabilitate the mosque in Gaddafi’s name. The mosque sits on 12 acres of land and is known as one of the biggest mosques in Africa. It has the tallest minaret where the muezzin calls Muslims for prayers.
The Uganda National mosque has a sitting capacity of 15,000 worshippers inside the hall, 1,100 people in the gallery and another 3,500 in the terrace. This mosque can be visited by people of all walks of life and can be accessed anytime of the year. It receives many visitors from different origins, countries and culture to explore the beautiful interior and minaret. Visitors pay entrance fees and are given a guide to take them around. If you are interested to visit, you will be required to put on long sleeved shirt and long trousers as a man and women are supposed to veil their heads and out on clothes that cover their bodies. These can be provided at the entrance and returned back after the visit.
- BAHAI TEMPLE
Bahai temple located on Kikaya Hill 6km from Kampala was opened on 15th January in year 1962. Also known as Mashriq I’-Adhakar, it is the first Bahai temple in Africa and one of the 9 Bahai temples in the world. The Bahai faith is all inclusive religion that seeks to unite all races and religions of Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Islamic and non-believers. It is set up on the idea that human rights are a priority in teaching the true values of humanity. Bahai was founded in 1850 by a Persian mystic Baha’u’llah which literally means God of Glory born in 1812. The temple is a unique architectural master piece with a beautiful park like ground, with beautiful trees and green carpet grass in which many people sit and have peaceful moments.
Bahai teaches that heaven and hell are not places but rather states being reached when one does good or bad. The temple has no dedicated day of the week to meet as it is in the Bahai holy law, but rather Bahai followers choose a day that is convenient for them and the temple has a minimum of three prayers where followers adore God under the dome.
Bahai temple is a great place for tourist visits, family tour, picnics and people who wish to have a quiet peaceful time as to enjoy the beautiful environment away from the city noise.
- UGANDA MARTYRS SHRINE NAMUGONGO
The 4th among the best places to visit in Kampala, is Uganda martyrs Shrine Namugongo. This Namugongo martyrs shrine is located off Kampala Jinja road in Kira municipality wakiso district. It is a place where 32 young men were burnt to death after they refused to denounce their faith by order of Kabaka Mwanga 11 (king) on 3rd June 1886. A basilica with a structural design is inspiration from the African hut, built at the spot where Charles Lwanga was burnt to death in slow fire. The Basilica is designed with 22 copper pillars signifying the 22 martyrs and the circular interior contains up to 2,000 seats.
The shrine is surrounded by green compound with many trees leading to a man made pond which according to history, served as cleansing ground for executioners. The 22 catholic martyrs were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964 during the Vatican conference these include Kizito, Balikudembe, Charles Lwanga, SSerunkuma and many more. Uganda commemorates martyr’s day every 3rd of June, a lot of people from East Africa and other countries come to commemorate the lives of these dedicated men of God. Some people choose to walk in honor of the suffering the martyrs went through.
Person to person pilgrims walk with faith though tired and exhausted to pay homage to these men of God. Many pilgrims draw water from the lake believing in its healing powers. For visitors interested in Uganda’s faith based tourism this is a must visit.
- UGANDA MUSEUM
Uganda museum started in 1908 at Lugard’s fort on old Kampala Hill in Kampala city. It is the biggest and oldest museum in Uganda. Uganda museum, currently sits at Kitante hill along Kira road since 1941. Uganda museum exhibits and displays Uganda’s traditional life, cultural heritage, natural history and treasures. You will find musical instruments, traditional waepons, equipments used for hunting and many others. The museum has different sections each showing the culture and natural resources of the country.
- KABAKA’S PALACE (LUBIRI MENGO)
Kabaka is a title given to the king of Buganda kingdom. Buganda kingdom is the largest and one of the oldest kingdoms in Uganda. It holds the capital city of Uganda, Kampala. Kabaka’s palace also called olubiri (palace) is the official residence of the King of Buganda. Every Kabaka of Buganda chooses a hill where he would love to build a new palace and rename it as he wishes. Mengo Kabaka’s palace was built in 1885 by Mwanga Ssekabaka 11 who had admiration of Nkaawo hill on which the Nvubu clan literally meaning hippopotamus clan kept their grinding stones known as Emmengo in local language and so he built his palace here and renamed it Mengo. Mengo palace is the administrative capital of Buganda kingdom
Kabaka’s palace has a lot of attractions to see and learn about especially the Idd Amin torture chambers, these were built by former president Idd Amin himself during his reign in 1971. The dark chambers Were a ditch filled with electrified water that any prisoner who wanted to escape and reached the water would be electrified to death. Mengo also has a fire place(ekyoto) at the entrance that keeps burning whole day signifying that the Kabaka still reigns, a rolls Royce that was one of Kabaka’s great possessions also lies in this palace.
- BULANGE MENGO
Bulange Mengo is the administrative headquarters of Buganda kingdom and is located just a few meters away from Kabaka’s palace on Namirembe hill in Kampala city. It was constructed in 1955 fully funded by Buganda kingdom with a plan brought by Ssekabaka Mutesa II, who had admired a similar building in Scotland while in exile. In the beginning the Buganda parliament conducted their business under trees but around the 20th century a parliament made of bricks was built led by then Prime minister Apollo Kagwa, but with increase in the kingdom’s government, Bulange had to be constructed to cater for the growing number.
Bulange houses the Lukiiko hall, which is the Parliament of Buganda kingdom. The Kabaka’s office, Nabagereka’s office(Queen), Katikiro’s office (Prime minister), the offices of Buganda administration, a Kingdom TV station called Central Broadcasting Station(CBS) and the art gallery center.
Bulange Mengo is a great place to learn about the history of Buganda kingdom, the different clans of Buganda and their cultural norms and beliefs. All the 56 clans of Buganda have their symbols represented on this building and with the help of a guide, you will be explained to the meaning of these symbols. The building’s architectural design is spectacular and worth touring, hence being one of the best placs to visit in Kampala city.
- NDERE CENTRE (Cultural Centre)
Ndere Centre is a home of cultures opened in 2003. It offers great music and cultural dances, affordable accommodation, restaurant, venues for parties and an information center. The Ndere Centre also houses the headquarters of Uganda Development Theater Association (UDTA) and has culture filled nights where the Ndere troop performs and dances.
The performances are about the over 56 tribes in Uganda and East Africa, show casing the different cultures and instruments. These cultural nights happen every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at a fee of Uganda shillings 45,000 for Uganda citizens, USD 25 for non-Ugandan adults and all children 25,000 Uganda shillings / USD 8. These funds help in educating and training some members of the troop so you’re coming helps a lot. Ndere troop got its name from endere which means a flute an instrument that is used in most cultures aims at uniting all people despite their cultural differences. Visitors interested in cultural dance and dramma should include this attraction as the best places to visit in Kampala evening tour.
- NAMIREMBE CATHEDRAL (Oldest Anglican Church of Uganda)
Namirembe Cathedral commonly known as St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe is the oldest Anglican cathedral in Uganda, built in March 1890. It serves as the provincial cathedral of the Anglican church of Uganda and the diocesan cathedral of Namirembe diocese, the first diocese of the church of Uganda.
It has a seating capacity of 4,000 people. Namirembe cathedral went through a lot of transformations to the current church that sits on Namirembe Hill, one of the Seven hills of Kampala city. It was built by British architect known as Arthur Beresford Pite after three churches collapsing due to natural disasters like fire and lightening.
Its construction started in 1915 and was opened for prayers in 1919. A lot of people come for Sunday and weekly services here. Namirembe cathedral is one of the tourist attractions and one of the top places to visit in Kampala regardless of the religion people belong to. Its a place where you can learn about the history of the church and Christianity in Uganda. You can enjoy Spectacular views of Kampala city and the beauty of this building that has been maintained for more than 100 years is worth your visit.
- BUGANDA CRAFT VILLAGE
Buganda Craft village, located along Buganda road is one of the best places to visit in Kampala. It’s the craft market that displays a wide selection of cultural items that define Uganda. It’s one of the best places to buy the African textile (kitenge), sculptures, paintings, sandals, drums, wooden animals, dresses, mats, bags, bracelets, musical instruments, bark cloth, weapons like spears, cards like Christmas cards made of local items like banana leaves, souvenirs and many more.
Visit this craft market to buy gift items to carry along with you back home and keep a memory of Ugandan culture and your tour. All these items are handmade and purchasing some of them impacts a lot on the lives of the locals.
- NAKASERO FRUITS MARKET
Nakasero market is located at the Centre of Kampala city at the foothills of Nakasero hill, one of the 7 hills that make up Kampala city about 50km off Entebbe road. It’s the oldest and one of the biggest markets in the city that started in 1895 in the Lubiri (palace) by the Kabaka of Buganda before it was moved to its current location in 1927. Nakasero market is managed by Nakasero market Vendors and Traders association.
Nakasero market is well known for selling fresh fruits, but many other food stuffs and other products are sold which include electronics, souvenirs, shoes, textiles, spices, vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken, meat and so many more. The Nakasero market is comprised of both an indoor and outdoor sections. It employs many Ugandans from all parts of the country. The markets supplies food stuffs to most of the restaurants in Kampala city and the produce here is fresh from the Ugandan farms.
Nakasero market is open all through the year and its one of the best places to visit in Kampala. It can be easily accessed by every one duo to being located at the heart of Kampala city. Other markets you can visit beside this in Kampala include, Kalerwe market, Wandegeya market, Owino market(St Balikudembe ), Nakawa market and so many more.
- KABAKA’S LAKE
Kabakas Lake is a manmade lake 200 feet deep that was built by Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda kingdom in 1880, to connect his palace to Lake Victoria. This was to provide an escape route during major wars. Kabakas Lake was dug by the 56 clans of Buganda and the Kabaka himself took part. It is the largest manmade lake in Uganda.
This beautiful lake is found in Ndeeba a Kampala suburb and is a tourist attraction offering a good atmosphere for relaxation and perfect birding place having birds like the little egrets, Hadada ibis weavers and many more.