Kampala City Tour
Most visitors to Uganda come for the wildlife, primates, and cultural safaris. These safaris usually take them to the countryside, leaving very little time to explore and discover the hidden treasures of the capital-Kampala.
Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. This bustling city is also the social and economic hub of the country. The city has a population of over 5 million people during the day and 1.5 million at night.
The name Kampala originates from the many impalas that were present on the present-day Old Kampala Hill during the 19th Century. Kampala sits and spreads across a series of 7 prominent hills. Although others will argue that Kampala was built on more than 7 hills i.e. 23 hills, great emphasis was placed on the 7 hills.
A Kampala city tour will present opportunities to discover these gems through the social interaction with the multitudes of local people from across the country and also through visiting some of the social, religious, cultural, and historical sites which reveal the history, identity, and social life of Ugandans.
Described below are some of the must-visit sites during a Kampala city tour.
The National Museum
Situated only 2km from the city center, the National Museum is the oldest of its kind in East Africa, first started at Fort Lugard in 1908 and in 1942 when was relocated to Makerere University at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts. Today, the National Museum is found in Kitante along Kiira Road, a place it has been since 1972.
The National Museum is a collection point of pre-colonial African history and African traditional music instruments which all reveal the lifestyle of traditional Uganda. The four key sections of the museum are; ethnography, ethnohistory, music, and archaeology.
Old Kampala National Mosque
Located on Old Kampala Hill, the Old Kampala National Mosque also known as the National Mosque is the principal mosque for the Islamic community in Kampala.
The construction of the mosque was an initiative of Idi Amin Dada in 1971. Following his overthrow, the mosque project came to standstill until 2003 when construction resumed and was completed 2003 with funding from the late Libyan president-Colonel Muammar Gadhafi.
The mosque was officially opened in June 2007 and named Gadhafi mosque in recognition of his financial support towards the Muslim community. Following his death in 2013, the mosque was renamed Uganda National Mosque.
The mosque was constructed with two floors and has a sitting capacity of 35,000 people, making it the biggest in the whole of East Africa. The structure of the mosque represents 3 different cultures i.e. Arabian, African and European, giving it an impressive appearance.
Before a tour of the mosque, the dress code is strictly observed. Men are expected to wear trousers or shorts, they should extend below the knees. If the shorts are deemed too short, a kanzu will be provided. Women are given a headscarf and sarong to cover up.
The highlights here are the main hall and the 45m high minaret with over 272 steps which will give you the best view of all of Kampala once you ascend to its top.
Located on Kasubi Hill is the burial ground for the fallen kings of legendary Buganda. The Kasubi tombs are also the former palace of Sekabaka Muteesa and were later 1884 converted into a burial site for Buganda royals.
At the center of the main building lie four royal tombs. Due to their cultural significance, the Kasubi tombs were recognized and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2001.
The National Theatre is the center of Uganda’s culture and it was the first modern theatre in Uganda. Built with a sitting capacity of 400 people, the main purpose of its construction was to provide an insight into Uganda’s cultures to the small community of expatriates who were residents in Kampala.
Today, you can visit the National Theatre for live performances of plays, Ugandan movies and so much more.
Located along Speke Road, the independence monument was constructed right after independence, with funding from the British colonial government.
The independence monument is a unique and iconic landmark that represents the freedom Uganda gained from the British in 1962. The 6m high sculpture is the site where Uganda received her independence over 60 years ago.
Ndere Cultural Centre
Uganda’s cultural diversity can all be experienced at the Ndere Cultural Centre. Founded in 1986 with the main objective of showcasing and promoting Uganda’s cultural diversity, Ndere Cultural Centre exhibits Uganda’s cultural diversity through music, dance, storytelling, poetry, and performing arts.
The Ndere Troupe that performs here composes of individuals who represent over 30 indigenous languages to give you a taste of every corner of Uganda. Nothing lights up your evening or weekend like watching the live performances of traditional dance and music to rejuvenate your mind after a hectic day.
The Kabaka’s Palace, also known to many as the Mengo Palace or Twekobe Palace is located on Lubiri Hill and was Ssekabaka Mwanga II’s chosen site after his coronation in 1884.
The palace later became Ssekabaka Edward Muteesa’s site until 1966 when Idi Amin, following the then Prime Minister-Obote’s orders drove him out. Ssekabaka Edward Muteesa flee the country and went to exile in the United Kingdom.
The army consequently took over and camped in the palace where they caused a lot of atrocities. The soldiers built a torture chamber where Idi Amin and Obote’s victims met their cruel death in the underground cells. Victims were taken into the torture chambers blindfolded and were never seen again.
Each of the 5 chambers/cells, built with two metallic doors and without ventilation was packed with 200 individuals and below the chamber doors was a 2m ditch containing electrified water to guarantee the death of everyone who was put in the cells. Once put in the torture chamber, victims would die of either suffocation and hunger or electrocution.
Upon confirming the death of the tortured victims, bodies would be packed in lorries and driven to be dumped in Kabaka’s Lake and Lake Victoria.
Today, the palace is back in possession of the Buganda kingdom, with a tourism office inside its gate where you will get an informed guide to take you around as he recounts the collection of dark events that transpired there.