Kampala is the capital city of Uganda and is in the South Central part close to the shores of Lake Victoria and is by far the largest with several attractions to keep you occupied for a couple of days. Kampala has been transformed from a looted shell to a thriving, modern metropolis as a forward looking capital.
Kampala is Uganda’s national and commercial capital bordering Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. Hills covered with red-tile villas and trees surround an urban center of contemporary skyscrapers. Kampala is a relatively safe city. It is fairly safe to walk or take matatus around some areas at night. The city is divided into five boroughs that oversee local planning: Kampala Central Division, Kawempe Division, Makindye Division, Nakawa Division, and Lubaga Division. The city is coterminous with Kampala District. Surrounding Kampala is the rapidly growing Wakiso District, whose population more than doubled between 2002 and 2014 and now stands at over 2 million.
Kampala was named the 13th fastest growing city on the planet, with an annual population growth rate of 4.03 percent, by City Mayors. Kampala has been ranked the best city to live in East Africa ahead of Nairobi and Kigali by Mercer, a global development consulting agency based in New York City, U.S.
In December 2015, Google launched its first wi-fi network in Kampala.
Kampala is served by Entebbe International Airport, which is the largest airport in Uganda.
Boda-bodas (local motorbike transport) are a popular mode of transport that gives access to many areas within and outside the city. Standard fees for these range from USh:1,000 to 2,000 or more. Boda-bodas are useful for passing through rush-hour traffic, although many are poorly maintained and dangerous.
Kampala Boda-boda Motorcycle Transport
In early 2007, it was announced that Kampala would remove commuter taxis from its streets and replace them with a comprehensive city bus service. (In Kampala, the term “taxi” refers to a 15-seater minibus used as public transport.) The bus service was expected to cover the greater Kampala metropolitan area including Mukono, Mpigi, Bombo, Entebbe, Wakiso and Gayaza. As of December 2011 the service had not yet started. Having successfully completed the Northern Bypass, the government, in collaboration with its stakeholders, now plans to introduce the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Kampala by 2014. On 12 March 2012, Pioneer Easy Bus Company, a private transport company, started public bus service in Kampala with an estimated 100 buses each with a 60-passenger capacity (30 seated and 30 standing), acquired from China. Another 422 buses were expected in the country in 2012 to complement the current fleet. The buses operate 24 hours daily. The company has a concession to provide public transport in the city for the next five years.
In 2014, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and a China transportation company signed a Memorandum of Understanding, that they would at some point begin embarking on building a light rail system in Kampala, similar to the one recently completed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Features & Sites
The main campus of Makerere University is in the Makerere Hill area of the city. Kampala also hosts the headquarters of the East African Development Bank on Nakasero Hill and the Uganda Local Governments Association on Entebbe Road. Kampala was originally built on seven hills, but as its size has increased, it has expanded to more hills than seven. The original seven hills are:
- The first hill in historical importance is Kasubi Hill.
- The second is Mengo Hill.
- The third is Kibuli Hill, which is home to the Kibuli Mosque.
- The fourth is Namirembe Hill, home to the Namirembe Anglican Cathedral.
- The fifth is Lubaga Hill, the site of the Rubaga Catholic Cathedral.
- The sixth is Nsambya Hill.
- The seventh is Kampala Hill (Old Kampala). A mosque was built with monetary assistance from Libya on the hill in 2003, with a seating capacity of 15,000 people. The completed mosque was opened officially in June 2007.
The city has spread to Nakasero Hill, where there are some hotels, including the Grand Imperial Hotel, the Kampala Hilton Hotel, the Kampala Intercontinental Hotel, the Imperial Royale Hotel, the Kampala Serena Hotel, the Kampala Sheraton Hotel, and the Kampala Speke Hotel.
There are also Tank Hill and Mulago Hill. The city is expanding rapidly to include Makindye Hill and Konge Hill.
Other features of the city include the the Ugandan National Theatre, Nakasero Market, and St. Balikuddembe Market (formerly Owino Market). Kampala is also known for its nightlife, which includes several casinos, notably Casino Simba in the Garden City shopping centre, Kampala Casino, and Mayfair Casino. Port Bell on the shores of Lake Victoria is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away.
The Ahmadiyya Central Mosque in Kampala is the central mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which has six minarets and can hold up to 9,000 worshippers.
While more than 30% of Kampala’s citizens practice urban agriculture, the city of Kampala donated 32 acres to promote urban agriculture in the northeastern parish of Kyanga.
Other Features & Sites in Kampala
Kampala is not necessarily known for its sightseeing and I don’t think they had the old taxi but Kampala nevertheless has some sites that are definitely worth visiting. If you are travelling round and planning to sight see in Kampala I would suggest that one to two days is plenty to see its attractions. For this reason I have painstakingly put together my list of things to see – and ranked them for your viewing ease.
1. Gadaffi Mosque, Old Kampala
The mosque boasts the best view of all of Kampala from the top of its minaret. The mosque itself is also an impressive building and tourists are allowed to walk around it at will and taking photos. Built by former Libyan leader/dictator Colonel Gadaffi it is Kampala’s largest mosque. Entrance is 10,000 UGX and women are given a headscarf and sarong to cover up and then taken around by a guide.
2. Kabaka’s Palace and Idi Amin’s Torture Chambers
The palace is the historic seat of the Bugandan king, located on Mengo hill exactly one mile up from the Buganda parliament. It is largely unoccupied these days due to the horrific functions it took under the rules of Idi Amin and president Obote. Amin built his torture chamber here, which saw the murder of an estimated 300 people, basically anyone stronger or smarter than Amin.While you cant go in the palace itself you can get a guided tour around the torture chambers (10,000 UGX) which offers a harrowing, but important, insight into Uganda under Amin. Authentic messages of desperation written on the walls in human excrement and blood remain to tell the tale.
3. Ba’hai Temple
Located on Kikaya Hill off the Gayaza road this is the only one of its kind on the African continent and definitely worth a visit. Located quite far out of town, it also boasts the best green space in the whole of Kampala, with extensive grounds.If you are of a spiritual nature or just curious about the Bah’ai faith then I recommend a visit.
4. Namirembe Cathedral
The main draws of this cathedral is the great view it has across Kampala. It is one of the most beautiful of Kampala’s Christian cathedrals.For those of you interested in theology or looking to worship – this one’s a protestant church.
5. Lake Victoria
When you visit Uganda you would obviously want to check out the second largest freshwater lake in the world! A good way to see the lake is by taking a short boat tour on it. You can get a half day boat cruise for around US $80 from Kampala, or even out to Ngamba Chimp Island to see some wildlife about a 45 minute trip depending on the weather.
6. Uganda National Museum
It is the biggest and oldest museum in Kampala.Purporting to showcase Uganda’s cultural heritage with displays of ethnological and natural-historical exhibits. It could definitely do with a bit of a spruce up, creative revamp. There’s plenty to interest you here with a varied and well-captioned ethnographic collection covering clothing, hunting, agriculture, medicine, religion and recreation, as well as archaeological and natural-history displays. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday (10.00am to 6.00pm), Sunday and Public Holidays (12 Noon to 6.00pm) and entrance is 1,000 UGX (500 shillings for children) for Ugandans and 3,000 UGX (1,500 UGX for children) for foreigners.
7. Rubaga Cathedral
This Cathedral is for the Catholic persuasion and is located on one of Kampala’s many hills so views are great. Kampala is fabled to have 7 hills. It in fact has 22 but Rubaga is one of the original ones and, therefore, worth a visit for historical reasons. The cathedral also boasts a memorial to the first African Catholic bishop in Uganda martyred for the cause of bringing Catholicism to Uganda and is the current headquarters of the Catholic Church in Uganda.
8. Kasubi Tombs
Kasubi Tombs is listed among the Unesco World Heritage sites and are of great significance to the Buganda kingdom as the burial place of its kings and royal family. The huge thatched-roof palace was originally built in 1882 as the palace of Kabaka Mutesa I, before being converted into his tomb following his death two years later. The tombs were destroyed in an arson attack in March 2010, however, and are still being rebuilt, with no end to the work in sight at present.
9. Parliament House
Open to the public, a visit to parliament is an interesting way to spend an hour or two. You can either tour the building, or see the government in action – parliament sits from 2.30pm Tuesday to Thursday and is conducted in English. You need to visit the public relations department (Room 114) to arrange a visit, and make a written request to see question time. Usually you can arrange a visit on the spot. You’ll need to bring an identification card and be decently dressed.
10. Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine
A historic site in Kampala located in Namugongo, this shrine marks the spot where Kabaka Mwanga II ordered the execution of 14 Catholics who refused to denounce their faith, including church leader Charles Lwanga who was burnt alive on or around 3 June 1886 – which is now celebrated as Martyrs’ Day. The shrine represents an African hut but looks more like something built by NASA than the Catholic Church.
11. Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine
The Martyrs’ Shrine is a Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to the Ugandan Martyrs.The church is located at Munyonyo, Kampala in Central Uganda. Munyonyo is located approximately 13 kilometers by road, south of KampalaMunyonyo Martyrs Shrine is the martyrdom place of leaders in Royal enclave,Uganda Martyrs killed by King Mwanga
12. Independence Monument
The Independence Monument is in many ways one of the most important pieces of Uganda’s heritage. Located along Speke road in Kampala, just opposite Standard Chartered bank, the construction of the Independence Monument was funded by the British Colonial government in the days leading up to Uganda’s first independence celebrations on October 9, 1962. Depicting a man unwrapping his child and raising it to touch the sky, the towering sculpture signifies a new born country let free from the bondages of colonization.
Sheraton Kampala Hotel
A five star hotel located on Ternan Avenue in the city Center An elegantly designed with luxurious and very spacious rooms, with easy access to the city center with exquisite gardens.A top Kampala Hotel. Ideally located in the heart of Kampala City,Sheraton.It welcomes travelers with a relaxed ambience and a dazzling array of upscale amenities Website
Kampala Serena Hotel
A five star hotel situated in Kampala, this luxury hotel is within 3 km of The Acacia Mall, British High Commission, and Mulago Hospital. Uganda Museum and Uganda National Museum. Along with a full-service spa, this hotel has a restaurant and an outdoor pool. WiFi in public areas is free. Additionally, a health club, a bar/lounge, and a poolside bar and the rooms feature free WiFi, balconies, and 24-hour room service. Other amenities available to guests include satellite TV, minibars, and separate bathtubs and showers. Website
Speke Resort Munyonyo
Speke Resort and Country Lodge is a luxurious resort located on the shores of Lake Victoria in Munyonyo, 12 kilometers from the heart of Kampala City. This resort is spread over 50 acres of pristine area just outside the city of Kampala.The resort extends for more than 400 meters along the shores of Lake Victoria and it accommodates leisure travelers, business and executive groups, weddings, and special events. Website
Golf Course Hotel
Adjacent to the Uganda Golf Course, this modern hotel features a lush garden, contemporary swimming pool, a restaurant overlooking the golf course and a bar. Offering a range of room types, the air-conditioned units come fitted with a seating area, flat-screen cable TV and minibar. Extras include a safe and the en suite bathroom has a spa bath. Free WiFi is available in all areas. The hotel offers an array of activities from tennis, squash and golf. The sauna offers guests an escape to unwind and relax, and guests who wish to enjoy a workout can make use of the fitness center. Website
Speke Apartments Kampala
The Speke apartments provide modern serviced apartment features in some of the best residential areas of Kampala. The Speke apartments are ideal for executives and their families who come to Kampala for a short to medium stay. The apartments are set in their own pleasant grounds just near enough to offices and shops. The apartments are self contained units equipped for 4 people and are fully furnished and equipped with all the gadgets required for a a home. Website
Imperial Royale Hotel
Imperial Royale Hotel is a 5-Star hotel, which epitomizes gracious living and offers great value for money. Centrally located in the heart of business center. Conveniently located in the heart of Kampala, this luxurious hotel is among the best in Uganda for accommodation, conferences and conventions. Website
Fairway Hotel and Spa – Kampala
The Fairway Hotel is a hotel in a garden, the unique setting with the main building surrounded by trim lawns, flower bushes, shady trees and magnificent palm trees which were planted some 45 years ago. The Hotel is located on a four and a half acre plot. The sweeping views from the rooms include the lush Kitante valley, Kololo hill and the Kampala 18 hole golf course. Website
Cassia Lodge is located off Gaba Road on Buziga Hill, one of the highest hills of Kampala close to Lake Victoria. The environment is cool with an astonishing view on the lake as well as the city and its suburbs. Website
Emin Pasha Hotel
Emin Pasha Hotel is centrally located and within walking distance to Kampala’s business district. The hotel is Kampala’s first boutique Hotel, amazingly serene and Calm.It is set in leafy-landscaped gardens, and it is an equatorial version of the country house hotel. Distinguished, unique, intimate and centrally located within walking distance to Kampala’s business district, it is amazingly tranquil and peaceful. Website
Protea Hotel Kampala,
A 4-star hotel in Kololo. 35 km from Entebbe Airport, the brand new Protea Hotel Kampala offers 4-star luxury and 5-star service. 59 rooms and 11 suites, all en-suite and air-conditioned; restaurant, bar, satellite television, air-con. Close to gym, tennis and squash courts etc. Also includes a Business Centre, wireless internet throughout, currency exchange, 24 hour room service and Reception. Website
A mid range price hotel which is well established with lots of parking, swimming pool, gym, wifi,apartments; near large Shopping malls but can be noisy on a concert/wedding weekend.It is the only hotel with its own fully fledged mosque. Website
Located in the central location right next to Sheraton is a well-maintained Bed & Breakfast Hotel with nice gardens and a bar and on-site Wi-Fi available. Rates are low, making this good value for money. Website
Fang Fang Hotel
Centrally located near UWA offices and situated on Ssezibwa Road in Kampala,it has clean rooms, air-conditioning available, hot running water, a great Chinese restaurant on the premises with nice garden seating, and is not overpriced. Website
Golf Course Apartments
Golf Course Apartments are fairly near the Golf Course Hotel but with fair prices and comfortable apartments. Offers swimming pool, gym, sauna, tennis court, garden. Kitchens fully equipped for self-catering. Daily maid service, cleaning,laundry. Pleasant green environment away from traffic noise. Website
Speke Hotel, City Center,
It is situated in City Center, Kampala. Different from the upscale Speke Resort in Munyonyo. It is located on a busy street where prostitutes ply their trade at night. But that doesn’t take the charm away from this place. The rooms are clean with wooden floors and clean toilets, AC, WI-FI and Indian Restaurant. Website
Quick Kampala Facts
Size: 189 km2 (73 sq mi)
Location: Central Uganda
Desc: Kampala is the capital and largest city of Uganda.
Areas of interest: Kampala Central Business District, Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namirembe Cathedral, and more….
When to Visit: Anytime of the year.