I’ve spent nearly a month in Kampala (and counting) and quickly realized there is so much to do in this vibrant city! Monuments, museums, and religious sites abound for history lovers. Galleries and theaters offer tons of events and locations to take in local culture. Sports fans will find no shortage of football matches and athletic events. The shopping aficionados will find the market and craft villages endlessly entertaining. Even nature lovers can find ways to stay busy in this fast-moving city. Here are my top Kampala attractions – 36 things to see and do in Kampala, Uganda. I hope to add to this list as I learn and explore more!
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: MONUMENTS & MEMORIALS
1. Independence Monument
See the monument that marks Uganda’s independence from Britain. You might notice this monument on the Ugandan shillings. The monument depicts an adult wrapped in bondage around the legs holding up a toddler into the air who is free from bonds, depicting the new generation of free Ugandans and the importance of the youth in developing this new Uganda.
2. Sir Edward Mutesa 1 Monument
Recognizing the first president of Uganda who was the only person to hold the title of Kabaka at simultaneously, the King of the Buganda kingdom.
3. World War Memorial
Visit the monument memorializing the Ugandans who perished during the first and second World War. As our guide described, the British were initially hesitant to train and employ Ugandan troops but eventually had to enlist battalions to deploy overseas as the wars progressed. This allowed many Ugandans to gain valuable military experience that helped them lead their own armies once they returned home and the wars had ended.
4. The Royal Mile
A mile-long road from the Bulange (the Bugandan parliament) to the King’s Palace also known as the Mengo Lubiri. You can’t enter the palace but you can see some of the historic torture chambers of Idi Amin from the 1970’s and take in the 52 trees along the road signifying the clans of Buganda.
5. Nantawetwa Junction
A junction on the Royal Mile through which only the King is allowed to pass during his journey from parliament to his palace and back. Nantawetwa means “one who cannot be bent or coiled”.
6. Munyonyo Martyr’s Shrine
A memorial to 4 Christians burned for their faith. It’s historically been less well known than the Namungongo shrine memorializing other Christians killed shortly after, but has experience a recent surge in popularity when Pope Francis made it known to the world.
7. Namugongo Martyr’s Shrine
A memorial to 22 Christians killed for their allegiance to Christianity between 1885-1887 by Kabaka Mwanga, a short-lived but turbulent ruler of the Buganda kingdom.
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: RELIGIOUS SIGHTS
8. Kampala National Mosque (aka The Gaddafi Mosque)
A great spot for viewpoints of Kampala, and a relatively new addition to the city built in 2006. A gift from the Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to the Muslim population in Kampala, it was renamed the Uganda National Mosque after Gaddafi’s death in 2013 as the Libyan administration was hesitant to rehabilitate the mosque with Gaddafi’s name still attached. Understandably.
9. Rubaga Cathedral (aka St. Mary’s Cathedral)
A beautiful cathedral built in classic British architecture style that affords views of the entire city of Kampala stretching all the way to the edge of Lake Victoria. It’s also the home church of Archbishop of Kampala.
10. Shri Sanatan Dharma Mandal Hindi Temple
A beautiful work of art in Kampala. The construction was completed in 1961 without any iron bars or steel of any kind, and is the first Shikha Baddha Temple outside of India. There are daily activities along with festivals like Diwali and Krishna Janmashtami celebrated here along with opportunities for volunteering.
11. Baha’I Temple
Photogenic grounds and architecture (though photos are not allowed inside the temple) with Sunday services at 10:30am. A great place to learn about the Baha’I faith in Uganda.
12. Kibuli Mosque
Another spot with wonderful views of Kampala and open to visitors between prayer times (8am-12pm, 2-4pm, and 5-7pm are best hours).
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: SPORTS AND ATHLETIC CENTRES
13. Kyadondo Rugby Club
Home to five competitive rugby team I got to visit the pitch during the Rugby World Cup and watch one of the games and later catch some local club football teams playing. If you’re looking for some local food there are pork skewers grilled fresh which are in high demand. Head there on Saturdays between 9am-1pm to catch a match.
14. Mandela National Stadium (aka Namboole Stadium)
Named after Nelson Mandela, the stadium is primarily used for football matches, you’ll also find volleyball, track and field, table tennis, basketball, and non-athletic events such as concerts and expos. Check their Facebook page for events happening during your visit.
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: CRAFTS AND SHOPPING
15. Owino Market
If you don’t speak Lugandan, I would highly recommend visiting this chaotic market with a tour guide. None the less, I consider this a must see if you want to observe daily life for many Kampala locals. A huge, winding market with a million way to get lost, the Owino Market is home to probably anything you could want to buy. Located across from the taxi park, a site to see in itself, it’s a stop that will likely leave you both exhausted and exhilarated.
16. Nakasero Market
One of biggest markets in town and Kampala’s most famous, this is a great spot for produce, second-hand clothes, and electronics. I found this one a bit less overwhelming though a guide would certainly be helpful. We visited during rainy season and due to a surprise rain storm we didn’t do much shopping, but did get to observe how the practiced vendors spring into action to protect their goods.
17. Uganda Crafts 2000 LTD
A Fair Trade craft shop owned by Ugandans. Over 80% of their items are made in Uganda (which is higher than you might find in many other craft markets who import some of their goods from nearby countries). You can read about the artisans on their website or learn a bit about Fair Trade in this post I wrote when I started Suitcase Six. If you’re interested in learning about how the artisans make their goods it’s even possible to arrange a learning workshop!
18. The Craft Africa
A great spot to buy quality goods like bakewear and djembe drums. More of a gallery feel than you’ll get at Exposure Africa or Uganda Arts and Crafts Village, where many of the stalls sell identical items (many, if not most of which come from Kenya or Rwanda). That said if you’re not worried about finding something specifically Ugandan and are fine with something from East Africa more broadly, these are two great options. Be prepared to haggle for the best prices.
19. Exposure Africa
As mentioned above, this market has countless options for affordable souvenirs from jewelry, artwork, clothing, instruments, housewear, and more.
20. Uganda Arts and Crafts Village
Similarly to Exposure Africa, you can find just about anything at this craft market at a reasonable price, though haggling will help you get the best deals.
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: NATURE AND SCENIC VIEWPOINTS
21. The Kabaka’s Lake
The largest man-made lake in Uganda, the Kabaka’s Lake was originally constructed with the goal of connecting it to Lake Victoria (for both recreational and military purposes). Though this was never achieved, it remains a great place to visit for conservation and tourism, particularly for bird watchers!
22. Speke Hotel
Named after British explorer John Hanning Speke, who “discovered” the source of the Nile River in 1858, this is one of the oldest hotels in Kampala. There are several restaurants and great views of the city. Make this the place you rest your head, attend a conference, or just stop for dinner and take in the history and scenes from the veranda.
23. KK Beach Resort
Not actually a resort, this beach is a great spot to observe the goings on at Lake Victoria and go for a swim if you’re feeling adventurous. There is often music and you can grab food and drinks daily, but its best to check their Facebook page to see if there are any special events going on.
24. Centenary Park
Home to the Centenary Monument commemorating the centenary of the Kampala City Council’s existence, there are several restaurants and a Bridal Garden worth visiting. Open from 8am -11pm. The park grounds are a bit run down and could use a lot of manicuring, but the pool is in great condition and the dining options offer a wide variety of cuisines and cafes.
25. Holy Crepe
Aside from being a delicious spot for crepes, this restaurant also has some awesome views of Kampala that are best observed at sunset.
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: CULTURAL SIGHTS AND CENTERS
26. Kabaka’s Palace and Idi Amin Torture Chambers
The official palace of the King of Buganda, which was converted to army barracks by Idi Amin after his coup in 1966. Attached to the palace are the now infamous underground prison and torture chambers which Amin used to punish any who opposed him. The palace is not open to the public but you can take a guided tour through the torture chambers if dark tourism is your thing.
27. Kasubi Royal Tombs
A UNESCO Heritage site, these tombs held was originally built in 1882 as the palace of King Mutesa I and later converted to his tomb upon his death. Several other kings have been buried there as well. Subject to an arson attack in March 2010 the tombs have since undergone reconstruction. A great place to learn about Buganda culture and heritage.
28. Ndere Cultural Center
Home to Uganda’s Ndere Dance Troupe, this center sits on nine acres of beautiful walkways and boasts several unique accommodations, an onsite restaurant, and weekly performances every Wednesday & Friday at 7pm, and Sundays at 6pm. (At least during dry season – performances may depend on weather during the rainy season). You can also see historical buildings of traditional Ugandan dwellings – all around it’s a great place to absorb some of the culture of Uganda!
29. Makerere University
East Africa’s largest university is over 300 acres and home to around 60,000 students split about evenly between undergraduate and graduate students. Walk through the campus to get a glimpse of student life at one of Africa’s most prestigious universities, established in 1922.
30. Uganda National Museum
Uganda’s oldest and largest museum founded in 1908 with collections spanning 2 million years. That said, I’ve talked with a few tourists who have visited recently and they reported it not being very well kept up.
31. Uganda National Cultural Center
The UNCC is a statutory body in Uganda developed in 1959 with the mission to Preserve, Promote, and Popularize the culture and heritage of the country. Their website says the UNCC is mandated to do the following:
- Provide and establish theaters and cultural centres
- Encourage & develop cultural and artistic activities
- And provide accommodation for societies, institutions, or organizations related to Uganda’s culture and heritage.
As such, you can find a recording studio where artists and create music, an auditorium for performances, lectures, and workshops, and a crafts shop where you can purchase products from their member producers. There’s honestly a ton going on at the UNCC that it could take a whole post of its own so I highly recommend visiting their website to learn more about what’s going on when at the time of your visit.
32. Nommo Gallery
Check out local Ugandan artists in this well reviewed gallery centrally located in the Kampala Central District. The Nommo Gallery was founded in 1964 and serves as Uganda’s National Art Gallery. All of the art is for sale and you can find pieces of all sizes! If you can’t fit a giant canvas painting in your suitcase you’re sure to find some smaller works you can take home with you.
With only a few rooms of art you can see everything in an hour or two depending on how thoroughly you’re scouring the stacked piles of paintings not hanging on display.
The gallery is located very near the State House and when we visited in November 2019, we had to walk through several security checkpoints to get there. The armed guards are friendly enough and if you tell them you’re trying to get to the Nommo Gallery, they’ll point you in the right direction.
On site there is also a restaurant that serves local food. They seemed a bit surprised to have visitors, and the options were slim, but the rice, chapati, grilled plantain, and chicken stew was great (if not a bit overpriced for what you can find elsewhere throughout the city). I highly adding this gem to your itinerary!
TOP KAMPALA ATTRACTIONS: OTHER TOP STOPS AND ACTIVITIES
33. Banange Brewery
If you’re a beer lover then a stop at the Banange Brewery is a must on your Kampala visit. Super cute logos and beer descriptions, plus one (if not the only) IPA in Uganda. It’s fairly new, established in 2017, and growing every day in popularity.
34. Wonder World
Kampala’s amusement park. Most say it has seen better days and is super run down but is a quirky, if not eerie spot that provides an interesting way to spend the day. Not recommended for fans of safety and the reviews online are mixed with most of the best reviews acknowledging the poor state of the park and recommended a visit for just that reason.
35. Lakeside Adventure Park
Technically not in Kampala, this adventure park is an easy day trip about an hour drive away. Perfect for groups or families with active kiddos, you can participate in high ropes courses, obstacle courses, treasure hunts, and wall climbs among other options.
36. Extreme Adventure Park Busika
Also about an hour’s drive out of the city, the Extreme Adventure Park Busika offers a few different options (though it also boasts a high-ropes course). You’ll find paintballing and a bungee trampoline among the activities offered here.
This list has been compiled with a lot of help from local knowledge, and personal experience wherever I’ve been able to explore something on my own. I hope you find it helpful and leave Kampala feeling eager to return soon!