Kampala City is a piece of jewelry in the rough. This metropolitan city is filled with lots of tourist attractions and activities that any tourist visiting Uganda would love to engage in. Kampala city is named one of East Africa’s happiest cities according to the 2019 World Happiness Report.
The hustling and bustling ‘city that never sleeps,’ is a gem of its own and no wonder most tour operators are including a tour of Kampala city as a priority in their Uganda safari packages. In case you are wondering why you should visit Kampala, well…wonder no more. Take a seat, buckle up and let us give you a virtual insight into this amazing and beautiful ‘City of Seven Hills.’
A Brief History of Kampala City
Kampala City is referred to as the ‘City of Seven Hills’ because it was built on seven major hills, although the city currently covers more than the previous 7 hills which are; Mengo, Namirembe, Rubaga, Kololo/Nakasero Hill, Kibuli, Old Kampala and Nsambya hills. Each of these hills has a unique history attached to it:
- The Mengo Hill was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Buganda during British colonial rule. It acted as the administrative Centre where all decisions regarding the welfare of the Buganda Kingdom were made.
- Rubaga Hill was a base used by the White Fathers Catholic faction during the error of the first missionaries in Uganda. It is on this hill where you will find the Rubaga Catholic Cathedral, a must-see for visitors on a religious tour in Kampala city.
- The Kololo Hill which was previously called the Nakasero Hill or ‘Fort Nakasero,’ was previous a British military base that was built following the British relocating from Fort Lugard in Old Kampala.
- Kibuli Hill is where you will find the current Kibuli Mosque. It is one of the oldest and biggest mosques in Uganda following its completion in 1951.
- Old Kampala Hill is famous for being the base of Fort Lugard, a British military base first established by Captain Fredrick Lugard in 1890.
- The Namirembe Hill is currently where you will find the Namirembe Anglican Cathedral. It is on this hill that the Buganda religious wars of 1888-1892 were fought.
- The Nsambya Hill is one of the seven hills on which Kampala town was built. The hill was given to the British Catholic Mill Hill Mission during the signing of the 1900 Buganda Agreement. It is where you will find the Cathedral of St.Peters Nsambya.
However, present-day Kampala City covers more than the original 7 hills. The city now includes other hills like Mulago, Kikaya and Makerere hills.
Kampala City derives its name from a Luganda Phrase ‘Akasozi ke Empala’ which when translated into English means ‘Hill of the Impalas.’ The city was originally referred to as the Old Kampala Hill, which was a famous hunting ground for the King (Kabaka) of Buganda. The hill had a large concentration of antelope species especially the Impala, hence its name ‘Hill of the Impala.’
The topography of Kampala City: Kampala City covers a total surface area of 189 km² with its highest point as the Kololo hill elevated at 1,311 meters and its lowest point at the shores of Lake Victoria standing at an altitude of 1,135 meters above sea level. The city is a hilly area comprising of lush, green hills, swamps and valleys.
The climate in Kampala City: Visitors should note that Kampala city experiences two wet seasons from August-December and from February-June. The city has no defined dry season given that it experiences a tropical rainforest climate. However, the months of January and July are usually hot.
What to see and do When Visiting Kampala
Tourists planning to take a tour of Kampala City should consider putting the following places on your travel itinerary;
- Kasubi Tombs: The tombs serve as a burial ground for some of the kings of Buganda. It is a cultural belief among the Baganda that a king does not die but rather goes to rest (as in a deep sleep). The Kasubi Tombs also holds the regalia of the Buganda Kingdom. In 2001, the tombs were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for having the most remarkable and unique buildings in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. However, most of the buildings were partially destroyed during a fire that occurred in March 2010. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but reconstruction works were started in 2014 to restore the site back to its former glory and this is being funded by the government of Japan.
- Ndere Centre: This is a cultural Centre where visitors can get an insight into the unique and various cultures that are existent in Uganda. Those visiting the cultural center located in Kisasi, are taken through cooking classes for traditional Ugandan delicacies, traditional dance classes, and performances from the dance troupes at the Centre.
- Bulange and Lubiri: These sites are both located in Mengo and are just a mile away from each other. Lubiri is the official residence of the king of Buganda, while Bulange is the parliament of the Kingdom of Buganda. It is here were administrative decisions are made regarding the welfare of the Buganda Kingdom and its People. The king of Buganda usually visits Bulange twice a year, to open parliamentary sessions and to close the sessions as well.
- The Uganda National Museum: The national museum located on Kira Road in Kamwokya, is a popular tourist destination for all visitors taking a tour of Kampala City. The museum houses a lot of political, cultural and some religious artifacts that tell the history of Uganda.
- Gadhafi Mosque: The Gadhafi mosque is the biggest and oldest mosque serving the Islam faith in Uganda. A visitor can climb up the steps to the highest point of the mosque and have a good view of Kampala city. Female tourists visiting the mosque should carry along with them a descent long dress or skirt or ‘Lesu’ (long cloth that you wrap around your waist), as you will be visiting a religious site.
- Kibuli Mosque: It is also one of Uganda’s biggest and oldest mosques. It is located on Kibuli Hill and is frequently visited the site by visitors on a religious and education tour in Kampala.
- Idi Amin’s Torture Chambers: The torture chambers are one of Uganda’s dark tourism destination sites. The torture chambers were first established as the armory of the British colonial government and later used as a prison by Milton Obote, following his rise to power in 1966. Later he was overthrown by Idi Amin Dada in 1971, who later transformed the prison into a horrific torture Chamber.
- Bahai Temple: The temple is the only Bahai temple on the African Continent and serves the Bahai faith in Uganda. Visitors touring the temple have the opportunity to see the unique architectural work of the temple and its beautiful and serene gardens that make good grounds to hold weddings and also engage in birding activities.
- Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo: The Uganda Martyrs Shrine is located in Namugongo, about 15 km from Kampala city center. The martyrs’ shrine is a religious and cultural base that tells of the history of how 32 Uganda martyrs gave their lives for their faith.
- Rubaga and Namirembe Cathedrals: These two cathedrals are popular religious destination sites. Rubaga Cathedral is located on Rubaga hill while Namirembe Cathedral is found on the Namirembe hill.
- Monuments: There are over six monuments in Kampala city, with the most popular ones being; the independence monument, Sir Edward Muteesa 1 monument, war memorial monument located on Kampala road and it commemorates Ugandan soldiers killed in World War II among others.
- Local Markets: A tour of Kampala City is not complete without a visit to some of the local markets in the city. Some of these include; Nakasero market and the Owino market. Visitors can purchase foodstuffs, spices, clothes and other souvenirs at cheap prices.
- Craft Markets: Kampala City is a busy business hub and visitors looking to get yourselves and loved ones great souvenirs, can do so from the various craft markets in the city like; the Craft Village on Buganda Road, Uganda crafts and National Theater Craft shops.
- Shopping Malls: There are quite a number of shopping malls in Kampala City where you can grab lots of designer clothes, shoes, and even makeup. Some of the popular shopping malls frequented by tourists include; Acacia shopping mall in Kamwokya, Garden City, Lugogo Shopping mall, Shoprite and Forest Mall on Jinja Road to mention but a few.
- Other tourist attractions in Kampala city that will spice up your Uganda Safaris Tour include; the Hindu Temple located just opposite Shoprite clock tower, Lake Victoria, Kabaka’s Lake (a man dug lake), Fort Lugard Museum and others.
Where to Stay while in Kampala City
Visitors planning to stay in Kampala City can find lodging in the various accommodation facilities in the city. These hotels offer visitors a wide range of serves and lodging options ranging from Budget to mid-range and luxury accommodation. These include; Kampala Serena hotel, Marriot Skyz Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, Imperial Royal Hotel, Kabira Country Club, Forest Cottages, Mackinnon Suites, Le Grande hotel, Kampala City Blue hotel, Emini Pasha hotel, hotel Eliana, Ministers Village Guesthouse and so many more.
Hangouts in Kampala City
If you are the type of traveler who loves to have fun and socialize while on holiday, Kampala is the right place for you. The city never sleeps and has numerous bars, eateries, and clubs where visitors can chill, relax and unwind after a long day of adventurous activities. Some of the popular hangout joints in Kampala City include; Club Silk, Casablanca, Bush pig backpackers, Café Javas, Capital Kitchen on Kampala Road, Cayenne restaurant and lounge, Faze 2 restaurant in Nakasero, Go Fish restaurant in Naguru, Club Ambience, Guvnor’s Club and Club Obligato among others.
The people of Kampala City.
Kampala is named as one of Africa’s easiest and most comfortable cities to live in, according to most surveys carried out by travel expatriates. Kampala city is a multi-cultural hub where you will find people from over 56 different ethnicities resonating as one. Despite the numerous cultures which are existent in the city, its people are peaceful, cooperative and very hospitable to each other and to foreigners as well. It is a cultural norm in Kampala City and Uganda at large, to be welcoming towards a guest or visitor. Therefore expect to be met with kindness, a hug and warm smile from the locals in Kampala city.
Languages Spoken in Kampala City.
As a visitor, you won’t need to worry about the language barrier while visiting Kampala. The majority of the people living in Kampala city are learned and have a good command of the English language; so do not hesitate to ask for help in case you are lost or need any other kind of assistance. Uganda has over 56 different ethnic tribes living within her boundaries, therefore you will find that there are quite a number of different languages spoken in the city. However, the official languages spoken in this metropolitan city include; English, Luganda, and Kiswahili.
Getting to and Around Kampala City.
Visitors heading to Kampala City can get flights to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. The airport is the main entry point for all guests traveling to Kampala and Uganda in general. Entebbe Airport is located about 45 km south of Kampala City, which is about an hour’s drive via the Kampala- Entebbe express highway. Upon your arrival at Entebbe airport, you will be picked up by your guide (in case you have one); or you can hire an airport taxi to transfer you to your hotel in Kampala which will cost you between US$25-30 dollars.
While in Kampala city, there are quite a number of transportation means that you could use to get around the city and these include;
- Using public means like taxis, which are easy to identify given their white color, blue spots and have the sign ‘taxi’ on the car’s rooftop. These usually have fixed fares, but you can negotiate with the ‘conductor’ in case you are getting off from a nearby stage.
- Motorcycles, also known as ‘Boda Boda.’ Using a motorcycle is the easiest and fastest way to get around Kampala city and a very convenient option in case you want to beat traffic jam in the city. Visitors are advised to use ‘Uber bodas,’ which are safe and convenient in case you are not familiar with the city and are traveling solo. Some of these include; Safe Boda, Bolt and Uber Boda. All these Boda Boda companies have apps that visitors can download via Google play store or Apple Store.
Any tourist visiting Uganda should not hesitate to include a Kampala city tour in your travel itinerary. Do get in touch with us for the best offers on Kampala City Tours.