Confident and compelling, Kampala is Uganda’s center of intellectual excellence, commercial activity and political intrigue. Although deeply battered and scarred in the 1980s, the forward-looking capital is now filled with new modern buildings, renovated old ones and an infectious spirit that instantly charms visitors. It is cosmopolitan Africa at its best.
Start your exploration of Kampala at the Uganda Museum, where the usual assortment of national treasures is on full display, including cultural artifacts, traditional handicrafts and geological specimens outlining the country’s natural history. What sets the museum apart from others is its wonderfully whimsical interactive musical display. Pluck an adungu harp or endongo lyre, slide your fingers along the strings of an ennanga, blow into an enkwanzi panpipe or bang on an engalabi, a traditional drum made of wood and reptile skin. If you have never played a akogo thumb piano before, don’t worry; the experienced museum guides will show you how.
The spirit of Uganda is fully alive at the Owino Market in Old Kampala. Large and a bit confusing, the market is best explored with a local guide who knows the small, crowded roads. Almost anything you can imagine is on sale there, and if you are willing to bargain, you can catch great deals on everything from clothing to traditional carvings.
The Buganda are Uganda’s largest minority group, and their king lives just outside of the capital on Mengo Hill. The king has limited power and is a figurehead in the country, but most citizens still respect and revere the cultural aspects of Buganda royalty. Visitors can explore most of the buildings in the large Mengo Hill compound, including the Buganda Parliament and the Court of Justice.
To gain a better understanding of the Buganda, spend a day exploring Kabaka’s Trail, which includes six sights important to the people. Their kings are crowned at the Naggalabi Buddo Coronation Site, and the grounds are speckled with traditional huts and a natural throne made from tree roots. The trail also takes visitors by the enchanting Ssezibwa Falls, the Katereke Prison and the Tomb of Nnamasole Baagalayaze. The cultural center there often puts on traditional performances of riveting dances.
For another dose of traditional culture, visit the Kasubi Tombs, first built in 1881. The traditional bark cloth and reed buildings house the tombs of many Bugandan leaders, including Mutesa I and his sons.
At the base of Mengo Hill is Kabaka Lake, the country’s largest man-made lake. Locals fill the waters on the weekends to boat and fish, and the surrounding hiking trails offer a lovely respite from the city.
Spiritually-inclined travelers will find much to enjoy in Kampala. The city is dotted with religious buildings, and one of the most interesting is the gleaming white Kibuli Mosque. The Islamic house of worship dominates the hill that shares its name, and visitors are welcome to explore the beautiful space outside of communal prayer hours.
The Old Kampala National Mosque is also worth a visit, although it is currently under construction. Colonel Gadaffi funded the original building under Idi Amin, planning to create a minaret that could be seen from any point in the city. The unfinished pillar is now being rebuilt on a smaller scale.
Other religious sights to explore include the many enormous Hindu temples, the domed Roman Catholic Rubaga Cathedral and the stunning Baha’i Temple near Kira.
Kampala Geographical Location
Kampala is located on the southeastern coast of Uganda and is its largest city with a population of approximately 1,660,000.
English is the official language of Uganda. It is taught in schools and used in daily life while Ganda is the most widely used Niger-Congo. Ganda is the preferred language for native language publications.
Kampala Predominant Religion
- 42% Roman Catholic
- 42% Protestant
- 12% Muslim
- 3% Other
- 1% None
Freedom of Religion is provided in Uganda but religions must be registered with the government and religions considered cults are restricted.
The Ugandan Shilling is the official currency of Uganda.
It is typically hot and pleasant throughout the year in Kampala with rainfall occurring every month. The wettest months are March, April, and May.
Kampala Main Attractions
- The Uganda Museum
- Kasubi Tombs
- Nommo Art Gallery
Other Attraction in Kampala
- National Theatre
- Gaddafi National Mosque
- Parliament of Uganda