Known as K’la City by locals, Kampala is a traveler’s delight for those looking for a taste of Uganda’s rich culture and history. After eating local food items and shopping in open-air arts and crafts markets, your short 24-hour stint is likely to whet your appetite for more.
Often referred to as the “City of Seven Hills,” Kampala, the Ugandan capital with over 1.6 million inhabitants, is a microcosm of the country’s deep cultural diversity. It is the country’s political, historical, cultural, and commercial epicenter. The bustling city is divided into five boroughs: Kampala Central, Kawempe Division, Makindye Division, Nakawa Division, and Lubaga Division. Each area exudes its own charm and is worth exploring. Historically, as its nickname suggests, there were seven hills that made up the city, however, over time as Kampala expanded, the number of hills that were incorporated into the city increased.
Any trip to Uganda starts and ends in Kampala, a city of ferocious contrasts. Experience a blatant exhibition of modernity and urbanity juxtaposed with ancient traditions and free wildlife. You will notice a steady stream of shiny high-rise buildings erected along the Kampala skyline, while rows of impoverished huts in the foreground provide a contrasting image of the old and new.
There are a few methods of transportation that can get you around the city. For the fast and the fearless, take a ride on the back of a boda-boda (motorcycle taxis) or for a less dangerous option, try the matatu, a commuter taxi with preset routes. For the most freedom and convenience, call a private hire taxi that can take you around the entire city and into the outskirts, starting from UShx. 20,000/day (UShx. 2,400 = $1).
1) Start your day with an appetizing breakfast in the breezy courtyard of Cayenne Restaurant and Lounge or in the sculpted gardens of Emin Pasha.
2) Marvel at the beautiful architecture of the Mother Temple of Africa, the Baha’i House of Worship—one of seven in the world. Though time is scarce, spend a few minutes to absorb the stunning panoramic views of the city from top of the hill.
3) Wander through the endless stalls at Okinawo Market. Be sure to hold on to your belongings, as it is a prime spot for pickpocketing. Watch out for aggressive hawkers trying to persuade you to look at their inventory; they may literally pull you in.
4) Wander around the chaotic streets of downtown and make a pit stop at the Parliament building and Independence Memorial. Uganda gained independence from Great Britain in 1962.
5) A small nibble from a roadside vendor coupled with a glass of fresh fruit juice makes the perfect midday snack. Try the rolex, a typical Ugandan street snack that consists of an omelet and vegetables enrobed in a moist flatbread or a sambosa, a flakey pastry filled with minced meat.
6) Head over to the Arts and Crafts market to buy souvenirs and small trinkets from local artisans and vendors. Do not be alarmed if you hear the term “mzungu” being tossed at you; it is an endearing term for “foreigner,” often used by children.
7) Ugandan coffee is considered one of the best in the world. Sample an aromatic cup, or two at 1,000 Cups of Coffee or soak up the flavor by chewing some coffee beans.
8) Dine at Ekitoobero Restaurant for an authentic Ugandan meal full of tasty local dishes like matoke (steamed green bananas topped with creamy peanut sauce) and posho (a stiff cornmeal-type cake).
9) Grab a drink at Boda-Boda Bar in the Garden City Mall, one of two malls in the city. Stop for a quick dessert run at New York Kitchen, located in the underground parking structure of the mall.
10) Unwind from the busy day with live music at the National Theater and Cultural Center. You can find local bands and musicians performing original folk songs and covers almost every night.
11) Party the night away with locals at Iguanas for a true flavor of the Ugandan nightlife or mingle with other expatriates at Bubbles O’Leary in the upscale neighborhood of Kololo.
It’s advisable to slather on lots and lots of mosquito repellent and sunscreen before you head out the door.
With more time on your next visit, be sure to book a safari at one of Uganda’s many impressive national parks or a white water rafting experience in the nearby town of Jinja.
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I’m Nyssa. I started The Cultureur in August 2012, almost a decade after contracting the travel bug while on a Model United Nations conference in Russia and Finland.
And from there, when I took the first step in solo international travel and decided to study abroad in college,
there was no looking back, and I ended up living, studying, working, and volunteering in 6 countries (the U.S., the UK, France, Iceland, India, and Germany) and traveling to 50+ others.