Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. With a population of 1,208,544 (2002), it is the largest city in Uganda. It is located in the district of Kampala at 0°19'N, 32°35'E, at 1,190 m (3,900 ft) above sea level. Kampala City is situated 40 km north of Uganda's international airport at Entebbe on Lake Victoria, and is spread haphazardly over seven hills. Its name comes from a Kiganda expression – kasozi k’empala – meaning the hill of antelopes (impala). Kampala is the the largest city in the country. The city gets its name From Impala (Aepyceros melampus) a medium-sized African antelope that used to roam the jungles where Kampala seats today. will amaze you with its beauty, culture and hospitality before you venture the rest of the country
Kampala is also popularly known as the city on many hills because it is spread over 10 hills. With a population of approximately one million, it's on the small side for a capital city and retains a small town charm. People passing each other in the street often know each other and stop for a chat. Local clientele mix in the bars and restaurants and shopkeepers greet regular customers warmly.
The city centre is vibrant with shops, roadside traders, markets, and the mind-boggling matatu (minibus taxi) stands providing local color and atmosphere. The Nakasero fresh food market just off the city's main drag is one of the most colorful places in East Africa with piles of bananas, pineapples, tomatoes, mangoes and every fruit and vegetable you can think of - and some you can't - ugly jackfruit or matoke (cooking banana). Kampala is the gateway city for visitors to Uganda and is one of East Africa's most laid-back and friendly cities and you will undoubtedly pass through it en route to a safari in Uganda's national parks.
History of Kampala
nitially Mutesa I, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda, had chosen the area that was to become Kampala as one of his favorite hunting grounds. The area was made up of hills and wetlands. It was an ideal breeding ground for various wild animals, particularly a species of antelope, and the impala, in whose name the city was named Kampala (the area of Impalas).
The city grew as the capital of the Buganda kingdom, from which several buildings survive, including the Kasubi Tombs (built in 1881), the Lubiri Palace, the Buganda Parliament and the Buganda Court of Justice. Severely damaged in the Uganda-Tanzania War, the city has since then been rebuilt with constructions of new buildings including hotels, banks, shopping malls, educational institutions, hospitals and improvement of war torn buildings and infrastructure.
Arab traders from Zanzibar set foot in Buganda in the 1840s, using established trade caravans. Trade was conducted at the King's Court. The Arabs came for ivory and slaves in exchange for their firearms and cotton clothes.
-Before 1890, Kampala acted as the centre of interstate trade with other Kingdoms. Buganda exchanged crafts, barkcloth and foodstuffs for millet, pots, iron tools (hoes and spears), cattle products from Bunyoro and Ankole.
-The name Kampala comes from a Impala, a type of antelope which used to graze on the slopes of Mengo. The name 'Hill of the Impala' was given specifically to the hill on which Captain Fredrick Lord Lugard, a British administrator, established his camp (Fort) on December 18, 1890. The Baganda translated Hill of the Impala into kasozi ka'Impala (pronounced ka Impala and eventually ka mpala).
-In 1890, Kampala was declared headquarters of Uganda's colonial administration.
-Originally, the city was limited to a small area of about 50 square kms. But today, with a population of about 1.5 million people of different ethnic backgrounds, the city's geographical boundaries stop at Najjanankumbi on Entebbe Road, River Mayanja on Masaka Road, Banda on Jinja Road, Mpererwe on Gayaza Road, Busega on Mityana Road and Kawempe on Bombo Road.
-1906: Kampala attains township status.
-January 1, 1949 Kampala becomes a municipality.
-March 1962: Kampala is declared capital of Uganda seven months before the independence on October 9.
Kampala is the capital city of Uganda in East Africa. Over 1 million people live in Kampala making it Uganda's largest city. Kampala was the capital of the Bugandan Kingdom several hundred years ago. Today, Kampala is a modern looking city, with outlying townships spreading far beyond the original "seven hills" the city was built upon. Many of Kampala's more modern buildings were built in the 1980's since the city suffered significant destruction during the "Liberation War" between Tanzania and Uganda in the late 1970's.
Things to Do in Kampala
Here is the complete list of attractions and things to do in Kampala. Before we go to the list, you might want to check out the top activities in Entebbe town or tourist attractions in Mbarara. You might also want to hire a car in Kampala. Here are the key attractions in Kampala.
Old Kampala sits at the original Kampala Hill. It is where the first administrative blocks were built before the city expanded and most administrative buildings were shifted to a more central location. Old Kampala stands out because of the unique old colonial and Indian style architectural buildings. It has changed a little recently with more modern shopping malls but still offers the best opportunity to see how Kampala looked then and now.
The Gadaffi Mosque
This is the largest mosque in Uganda with the capacity to accommodate over 15,000 worshippers. It was Idi Amin Dada who first started building the mosque in 1972. It was only completed in 2007 with a generous donation from Colonel Muammar Gafaffi of Libya. The mosque is built on top of one of the 7 major hills of Kampala and at the spot where the colonial capital was located. Climbing to the highest point of this mosque provides arguably one of the best views of Kampala city. The administrators of the mosque have been considerate enough to allow tourists visit the mosque and take photos at a small fee of about $3. Visitors are led around the premises by an in-house Tour Guide. Women are required to cover themselves with a headscarf (available at the offices) before touring the place.
This is the most popular mosque in Uganda. Kibuli Mosque is regarded as the entre of Muslim activities in Uganda. It is where the top Sheiks reside. The mosque lies on one of Kampala’s original 7 hills (Kibuli) offering great views of the capital city. Prince Badru Kakungulu of Buganda donated the land where the mosque stands to the Muslim fraternity in Uganda.
The Buganda Parliament (Bulange)
The Buganda parliament holds sessions every month where several issues pertinent to the Kingdom are discussed. The Kabaka (King) of Buganda only attends the beginning and last sessions of the year. His role is to open and close the sessions. In the earlier centuries before the coming of the colonialists, these sessions were held under a large tree and then to mud grass-thatched buildings. The parliament building received a major facelift with modern buildings around the time of independence. A guided tour around this building will provide fascinating insights about the history of the Buganda Kingdom, the fifty six clans and formers kings.
Kabaka’s Palaces in Mengo and Lubiri
The Mengo palace building is built on top of one of Kampala’s major hills (Mengo) and close to the Buganda parliament (Bulange). The Mengo palace has largely been abandoned since the Kabaka Mutesa II was ousted by President Milton Obote in 1996. The palace later played a terrible role during the regime of Idi Amin Dada. A notorious torture chamber was built here by Idi Amin were over 250 people were murdered at different points during his rule. Amin was ruthless to anyone he saw as a threat to his rule.
Most of the building is closed to visitor but you can request for a guided tour of the torture chamber within the palace at a fee of $3. While at the Chambers, you will listen to distressing stories of the people killed including top businessman, politicians, soldiers and basically anyone who seemed a threat to the dictator. The walls at the cambers still bare blood and human waste as a reminder of the terrible ordeal the inmates faced. The Kabaka currently stays in the Lubiri palace. Lubiru is the official palace but the Kabaka has other palaces in Banda next to Kyambogo University. Check out our article about the things to do in Dar es Salaam.
The Kabaka’s lake
This Lake is 200 ft deep and is the largest manmade/excavated lake in Africa. The Lake is found in Nbeeba and was built by Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda to connect the Kings palace to Lake Victoria while also providing an escape route during major wars. The Kabaka took part in the digging process to encourage his subjects. Clan leaders of Buganda consider the lake sacred and occasionally gather to clean it. This beautiful lake is now a tourist attraction on its own and offers a perfect atmosphere for relaxation, boat rides/racing and bird watching. There are several accommodation facilities around the lake for those who wish to spend more time around the place.
This one of the several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uganda. This large grass-thatched building is a very important site to the Baganda people. It is also among the leading tourism sites in Uganda. It is the burial ground for 4 of their former kings. The Baganda believe that their kings do not die but simply disappear to another world. While at the tombs, you can spot the large hut holding the tombs, the royal clothing, hunting tools and other monuments of these past kings. The royal guides will share with you stories about each of the kings and the roles they played during their reign and history of the Baganda people. The site is taken care of by descendents of the Kings wives.
The Ba’hai Temple
The Ba’hai Temple is built on Kikaya hill near Gayaza road. The temple is special because it is the only one of the Ba’hai faith in Africa. It is a magnificent building sitting on a large piece of land that offers a serene environment for relaxation and bird watching. The temple grounds are also a favorite place for meditation and are frequented by people from all religious backgrounds. From its raised position, the Ba’hai Temple provides great views of Kampala city and the surrounding suburbs. If you are interested in knowing more about the Bah’ai faith, then you should attend their morning Sunday service.
Uganda Martyrs Shrines in Namugongo
The Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo is located close to the Kampala-Jinja highway and is one of the most visited religious sites in Africa. In June 1886, about 32 Christians were burnt alive or simply speared to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga for their refusal to denounce Christianity and the Muslim faith in favor of the traditional Buganda religion. After accepting them in the beginning, the Kabaka grew to hate all foreign religions, seeing them as a threat to his rule. The Kabaka was particularly angry that the some of his pages were no longer obeying some of his orders after their conversions. The Shrines are built to remember the young and brave converts who refused to denounce their faith even after undergoing great pain and suffering. Over one million people congregate in Namugongo every 3rd of June to honor the lives of these Martyrs. The Shrines in Namugongo offer opportunities to learn something about the history of Christianity in Uganda. The Roman Catholic shrine in particular has a beautiful environment for relaxation, meditation and prayer.
This is arguably the most beautiful cathedral of the Anglican faith in Uganda. It is also known as St. Paul’s Cathedral and was built in 1919 making it the oldest in Uganda. Namirembe Cathedral sits on a spot with great views of Kampala city. The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda (Anglican Church) resides in a building next to the cathedral. If you are a member of the Anglican Church and are looking for a good spot for worshiping, then this might just be the place to go to. The cathedral also has a graveyard with remains of Ernest Cook and Bishop Hannington (murdered in 1885 on orders of Kabaka Mwanga). Ernst Cook was the nephew of Sir Albert Cook (a colonial administrator) and is credited for having built the large Mengo hospital. While visiting the cathedral, don’t miss to check out a small hut housing the large drums used to call worshipers for service. You can complete your tour of the cathedral by having tasty lunch at the Namirembe guest house.
Rubaga Cathedral is built in one of Uganda’s main hills offering good views of the capital. It is where the headquarters of the Roman Catholic faith in Uganda is located. Before the Cathedral was built in 1914, one of the palaces of Kabaka Mutesa I sat on the land. His son Kabaka Mwanga II later donated the land to the French Catholic missionaries. The construction of the current church started in 1914 and ended in 1925. Ironically, the cathedral was built in memory of the 22 catholic martyrs of Uganda burnt in Namugongo under the orders of the same Kabaka who gave out the church land. While on a visit to the church, do not forget to visit the burial ground of the first African catholic bishop and later Arch Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka. Entering the church is free but donations can be made at the church offices.
Owino Market was recently renamed St. Balikuddembe market but the locals still prefer the name “Owino”. Owino market is located near the main Kampala taxi park. It is the busiest market in Kampala and attracts thousands each day. It is a chaotic market but with traders selling almost anything from clothes, shoes, fresh fruits, food and traditional medicine. You can find second-hand designs in great condition from the best designers around the world. You can also buy your own fabrics and have it sewed by expert local tailors. Owino market will give you a different perception of the city of Kampala – especially if you are coming from the more glamorous residents in Muyenge or Kololo. Be ready to haggle to get the best price and lookout for goons who are always looking for a good opportunity to snatch your bag or jewelry. Better to move in a group or with a trusted local guide to avoid being bullied into buying something you don’t want or at inflated prices.
Craft Markets, Art Galleries and Monument
If you are looking for local crafts for house decorations or souvenirs within Kampala, then you might be spoilt for choices. There are several permanent and temporary shops/markets that sell locally made jewelry, sculptures, paintings, fabrics and art pieces. You can visit the large crafts shop at the national theatre or go to Gerald’s Antiques for old stamps and Ugandan bank notes. Exposure Africa has beautiful jewelry and wood carvings while Uganda Crafts 2000 ltd has great paintings and traditional bitenge women’s wear of all colors. If you need more Kitenge designs then visit the Kampala Fair, Bold for African designs, Def.i.ni.tion (including T-Shirts), Banana Boat and Quality Hill (Those also include eye-catching Congolese designs).
The independence monument was built during the months leading to Uganda’s independence in October 1962. It is close to the Sheraton hotel and is a structure of a man lifting up a child towards the sky (signifying how the country was let free after colonization). The monument is made of sand, cement, wire mesh and iron bars. A lecturer of Makerere University Gregory Maloba from Kenya was the sculptor responsible for implementing the design. A more recent monument was put up at the Kololo Airstrip to commemorate 50 years of Uganda’s independence.
Lake Victoria for the beaches and boat cruise
Lake Victoria is one of the two largest freshwater lakes in the world. A boat cruise around Lake Victoria can take you to some of the best spots in Kampala and Entebbe. You can even go to beautiful islands like Ngamba and Ssese. There are a number of companies offering boat cruises around the lake at a good fee. Ensure that you go with a reputable company offering well-maintained boats. Most of the boats stop at different landing sites and islands for sightseeing, refreshment and lunch (fried tilapia and chips). If you aren’t interest in the boat cruises, you can relax and swim in the numerous private/hotel-owned beaches in Ggaba and Munyonyo. The beaches include KK Resort Beach, One love beach, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Gaba Beach Hotel, Mulungi Kabaka’s Recreation Center and Kawuku Water Sports Club. These beaches and facilities offer opportunities to take part in sport fishing, bird watching, canoeing, horseback riding and much more. You should also read our article about the the best things to do in Mombasa.
The Uganda National Museum
The Uganda National Museum was founded in 1908 by the British Governor George Wilson making it the oldest and largest museum in Uganda. The museum was built to showcases the cultural heritage and historical milestones in the country covering religion, clothing, agriculture and medicine among others. The museum has different sections, each showing the culture and natural resources of the country. Several artifacts like local music instruments and ancient hunting tools (spears, bows, and arrows) are on display for those who can pay an entrance fee of about 7 US Dollars.
The Ndere Centre
This cultural Centre is found outside the city centre in an area known as Kisasi. The centre showcases the cultural heritage of all tribes in Uganda through traditional music, dance and drama among others. The centre offers opportunities to learn how to cook local dishes and dance to local tunes. If you are not interested in learning the local dances, you can just lay back and watch beautiful traditional dance performances from the famous Ndere Troupe.
Kampala is a city with countless supermarkets and large shopping centers. The Garden City Complex is one of the most popular shopping centers in Kampala. It’s got several supermarkets, shops restaurants, bookshops and jewelry shops. Other large supermarkets include Game and Nakumatt (Acacia Mall and Oasis Malls). Most of these large shopping malls accept international credit cards.
Restaurants and other eat-outs
As the capital city, Kampala brings together tribes and cultures from different parts of the country. Each tribe has its own special dish. Why not visit one of the top town restaurants and taste some of the local dishes available like “mattoke” (smashed cooked bananas) or “Kalo” (mingled millet bread). 2K Restaurant serves the best Ugandan dishes like steemed beef and Luwombo using natural and fresh Ugandan ingredients.
Bars, Nighclubs and other Hangouts
Kampala is a city that never sleeps. If you want to spend your evening partying, dancing and eating then check out Deuces, Bubbles O’Learys or Big Mike’s. They all serve beer and organize local comedy shows that bring together Uganda’s middle class. For the best and most recent 3D blockbusters, look no further than Century Cinemax. The National Theatre organizes comedy nights, drama, dance, live music and movies accompanied by beer, food and soft drinks. The Otters Bar with its beautiful gardens serves beer, snacks and pizza. The Musicians Club brings together Uganda’s local artists for great live performances attended by Kampala’s working class and expatriates. Other popular hangouts include Cayenne for the best live music and DJ’s. Iguana is a favorite hangout for expatriates while the Rock Garden is considered one of the cool places to be for great rock music. The best and oldest mainstream nightclubs are Ange Noir and Club Guvnor along industrial area. Both play the latest international club hits including African music up to the wee hours of the morning.
|Languages spoken||Luganda, English|
|Currency used||Uganda Shillings (UGX)|
|Area (km2)||189 km²|