Top Places To Visit In Kampala On Any Budget

April 10, 2019
Tips & Tricks, Uganda

Where should I visit in and around Kampala on any budget?

How big is Kampala?

Kampala City covers up to 7.5 square miles. At a population of 2.5 million, Kampala has the fastest growing populations.

Kampala lies in the confine of 7 hills: Kasubi, Mengo, Kibuli, Namirembe, Rugaba, Nsambya and Old Kampala. The city has over time enlarged its boundaries.

History of Kampala

Kampala was one of the largest colonial administrative headquarters. It became a capital city in 1962 when the Fort Lugard headquarters were stationed in the city. These were moved to Entebbe in 1905 and then moved back to Kampala. Many people believe that the move was made to avoid an easy attack of the capital city, Entebbe that was in close proximity to Lake Victoria.

Kampala is found in the central region of Uganda. Central region was historically occupied by the Baganda. The city was a designated hunting ground for the Kabaka  Mwanga and Muteesa (the Buganda King). It is believed that due to the hills, valleys, wetlands and vegetation, the place had many Impala (Antelopes). The British nicknamed it the hills of Impala. The word eventually stuck but gradually modernized to Kampala.

Why should I visit Kampala?

It is no surprise that with such a rich history. Kampala lacks for no entertainment during the day and the night. The city is a bustle of activity and there are so many fun things that a tourist can do in Kampala. The city has infectious energy and vibrant people. It is evident that Kampala and boredom are nothing alike. There is so much to do during day and night throughout the year,

During day one can choose the various number of historical places, religious monuments, markets and a huge share of attractions.

Museums to visit in Kampala

Uganda Museum: The Ugandan Museum captures the beauty in the culture of the people of Uganda dating back from the pre-colonial period. When Uganda was a protectorate of the British Empire, Governor George Wilson called for the gathering of objects of interest throughout the country to be collected and displayed.

The governor specifically wanted ethnographic material (artefacts that characterise people and cultures with their customs, habits), this collection was initially housed in a small Sikh temple at Fort Lugard on Old Kampala. A large number of artefacts ornament the place.

It is located on Kira road in the Kamwokya suburb just 15minutes away from the city center. One can purchase a variety of books and enjoy a quiet picnic on the museum grounds. The museum is also a 5-minute walk to acacia mall where a large range of restaurants and shopping options are available.

Social Innovation Academy (SINA)Museum. This is an example of a community museum in Uganda. The museum is located in Mpigi just a few Kilometers from the Kampala Business centre. The museum is a collection of social innovations by youth around the country. These include houses built by plastic bottles, floors built by glass, art among others. This museum has recycled up to 600,000 plastic bottles that also empowers the community around it.

The museum also offers tourists the opportunity to experience and recreate the life of a Ugandan living in rural settings from land cultivation to sleeping in a grass thatched structure. The museum is a great way to experience culture and innovation at the same time. It gives an accurate experience of who the people are.

Gallery Antique Museum. The museum is one of the few art museums in Kampala and Uganda. It is a collection of tribal art from functional or utilitarian items of everyday use to ritualist objects. The museum is visited only on appointment and collects from around Africa. The gallery is located in Luteete, Gayaza road. The museum among others has chairs and stools, shields and headrests, masks and musical instruments. The place is great for art enthusiasts and collectors.

Great Lakes Museum.  If you have a longer stay in Uganda, a trip to the museum is a great way to learn about different tribes. The museum was opened in 2014 to preserve and promote the history of the surrounding tribes like the Bakiga, Ankole, Banyarwanda and Baziba. It is located at the great lakes hotel in Rushenyi.  The museum is equipped with a collection of artefacts and information on the clans of different tribes.



Historical places to visit in Kampala and Uganda

If you are looking out for the best historical tours in Kampala. You could start from:

Mengo Palace:  Rumor has it that while in exile, Ssakabaka Muteesa II saw and admired the construction drawings of a building and brought them back with him. He then ordered construction to begin and at the cost of £ 5 million, the structure was completed in 1958.

It was however sad that in the 1970s, the palace became a notorious army barracks and was later turned into a prison and torture chamber for Idi Amin. It is evident that the palace is one of those places in Kampala whose history has not diminished its former glory.

The palace is situated at about 2 miles from the city centre along Kabaka Anjagala road loosely translated as “the king loves me road.” It is commonly referred to as Bulange in Luganda (The local language). It houses the Buganda parliament and serves as the headquarters of Buganda Kingdom. Visiting the palace takes one back to the magical existence of kingdoms in Uganda.

Kasubi Tombs:  According to the Buganda traditions, the Buganda kings do not die, they are not buried as such. They go on to live in the Kasubi tombs. The tomb is taken care of by their wives. It is built entirely out of grass and vegetal materials. The tombs are a great place to capture the cultural history of Buganda kings in Kampala.

Nakayima Tree: On a good day, one will find several worshipers circling the Nakayima tree. The locals believe that Nakayima was the favourite medium for King Ndahura and lived in the tree. They believe that because of his stay in the tree, the tree can grant wishes especially those pertaining to fertility, riches and marriage. The Bachwezi were a tribe of Demigods that disappeared the face of the earth without a clue. Certain rituals must be taken while circling the tree to receive any favours. Although the tree is 143 kilometres from Kampala, it is one worth taking.



Religious attractions and monuments to visit in Kampala

From temples to mosques and cathedrals, Kampala offers great religious monuments to visit.

Bahai Temple. The Bahai faith was introduced to Uganda by Enoch Olinga who first had contact with it in 1946. The Bahai only have one mother temple in every continent and that temple is found in Uganda, Although the religion was banned and their leader, Olinga, killed during the Amin regime, the religion manages to keep a good following. Entrance to the temple is completely free to all but one can make a small contribution to the patrons.

If a picnic in Kampala is what you have in mind, Bahai is just the place for you. The temple sits on a 50-acre lawn and offers quiet from the bustle of the city. It is located in Kikaya Hill just about 5 kilometres away from the city business district.

Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine.  On 3 June 1886, 32 young subjects of Kabaka Mwanga II of Buganda, were sentenced to be burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. The name “Namugongo” is derived from the word Omugongo, a Luganda word for the back of the body. During the journey to the execution site, the prisoners were dragged on their backs. The Baganda would say “abassajja baabatutte namugongo” meaning “the men were dragged on their backs”

Annually on 3 June, Christians from Uganda and other parts of the world congregate at Namugongo to commemorate the lives and religious beliefs of the Uganda Martyrs. 22 Catholic martyrs were canonized by Pope Paul VI on 18 October 1964 and are regarded as saints in the Catholic Church. A basilica has been built at the spot where the majority of them were burned to death. The shrines offer a great way to learn the individual history of each martyr. The shrines are found 8kms north from the city centre.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe. This is the oldest cathedral in Uganda and is the provincial cathedral of the Church of Uganda. Apart from the cathedral architecture, one can catch a glimpse of the Church Organ. The organ at the cathedral was built in 1931 by The Positive Organ Company (1922) Limited. In 1952, after twenty years of service, the organ was in need of an overhaul and this work was entrusted to Alfred E. Davis of Northampton, England. The organ gave a further twenty years of service, but after Idi Amin seized power in 1971, it deteriorated seriously during the years of unrest. The cathedral offers great services that one can enjoy on a Sunday in Kampala.

Gaddafi National Mosque. The Mosque is located at Kampala Hill in Old Kampala. Completed in 2006, it seats up to 15,000 worshipers and can hold another 1,100 in the gallery, while the terrace will cater for another 3,500. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya commissioned the mosque as a gift to Uganda. It is the largest mosque in East Africa. Its position on top of a hill also offers a fantastic view of the city. Female visitors must appear well dressed according to Muslim expectations. Climbing the hill may become one of the fun things that you can do around Kampala during the day.


Markets to visit in Kampala

Uganda has a great variety of activity filled markets, they offer a variety of options from organic fresh food to used textiles to gadgets and electronics all together. The markets are great places to visit during the day as well as on Sundays when most of the attractions are closed down for the weekend.

Owino Market: Although its size has reduced with time, Owino market remains one of the most popular markets in Uganda. It is located in the confines of Nakivubo stadium and has a wide array of shopping options ranging from spices and traditional medicines to old electronics and gadgets. Once you get in you will probably be overwhelmed by the range of options. The size of the market may also make finding your out just a tidbit complicated. The market occupies around 7 hectares. It was created in 1971 in order to relocate 320 traders by Kampala City Council from Nakasero Market.

Nakasero Market. Under the advice of Reverand MCKAY, Nakasero Market was established at the Lubiri (Palace of the Baganda). In 1905, The market was moved to Kagugube under a temporary structure that grew into the current market. The market is located at the foot of Kampala and boasts of an open area and built area. The market offers a variety of fresh organic fruits, foods and meats. Its located just at the edge of the central business district. The market is a cheap place to get kitchen goodies. Visiting Nakasero remains one of the single best things to do in Kampala.

Crafts Village market. The crafts market is the perfect place to grab yourself some souvenirs for you and your family and friends back home. There are 3 common crafts markets available. One is located behind National theatre and another behind National theatre and is open every day. Another takes place every Friday in Nsambya along Ggaba road and provides great bargains because you are dealing directly with artisan rather than resellers. The markets have local and imported crafts including craft sandals, shirts, shorts and dresses. Wooden carvings, baskets, beads, soapstones, toys, pictures, greeting cards amongst other items.


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