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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
The bustling capital of Uganda was once home to the brutal dictator Idi Amin Dada, but oday, Kampala is a large cosmopolitan city, known as one of the safest on the African continent. Wide tree-lined streets, grand churches and government buildings hearken the days of British influence and a large number of new parks and recreational spaces have made Kampala one of the greenest capitals in Africa. It is also the cultural and economic core of the nation, with residents from all of Uganda’s diverse ethnic groups and tribes. Through Kampala’s museums and world-class performance spaces, Ugandans are able to preserve, celebrate, and showcase their rich history and cultural heritage.
The Top 8: What to Do in Kampala
1. Namugongo Martyrs Shrine:
Visit the only ever basilica to be dedicated to African saints. Between 1885 and 1887, Kabaka Mwanga murdered 22 Christian congregants for their allegiance to the church. They were beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1964. They are the largest group of saints to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
2. Uganda Museum:
Want to learn about Uganda’s colorful history and rich culture? Visit the Uganda Museum, built in 1908, to see ethnological and natural-historical exhibitions. Try your hand at playing some traditional Ugandan instruments and peruse the 3,000 volumes in the Uganda Society library located within the museum. There are regular traditional musical performances and visiting exhibitions at the museum, so make sure you don’t miss these!
3. Owino Market:
One of the largest markets in East Africa and certainly the largest in Uganda, this sprawling maze of vendors and stalls selling everything and anything is the perfect place to experience the modern African marketplace. Wear a pair of sturdy walking shoes and be ready to haggle.
4. Ndere Centre:
Want to get a real taste of Ugandan culture? Head to the Ndere Centre and experience Ugandan dance, music, and food. The centre is home to the Ndere troupe, whose members fuse music, drama, and traditional dance with modern arts.
5. Uganda Crafts:
If you’re looking for a place to buy traditional Ugandan crafts, this is it. Well known for their baskets as well as crafts such as jewelry, batik, and musical instruments, this craft shop is certified fair trade, so you can shop with a clear conscience, knowing every artisan is paid for his or her work.
6. Nakasero Market:
Whether you are an avid foodie or just looking for some fresh produce, the Nakasero food market is one of the most vibrant in Uganda, selling fresh local fruits and vegetables, fish, and meats. It is also the largest market in Kampala.
7. Boat Ride on Lake Victoria:
There are several companies that run day cruises on Africa’s largest lake, and a few hours spent out on the water may be just what you need to relax after exploring Kampala’s markets.
8. Kasubi Tombs:
These tombs, built in 1881, are situated on Kasubi Hill in Kampala. Due to a fire in March of 2010, the tombs have under reconstruction: before you travel, check to see if they are open to tourists. They house the remains of four kabakas, or kings of the Buganda kingdom. The first kabaka to be buried here was Mutesa I, a hero to the Ugandan people for his peaceful work with Europeans.
When to Go
Kampala is a pleasant city year-round, but if you’re not a big fan of rain, we suggest visiting in the dryer months, December to February and June to August.