21 Nov Where can I visit in Kampala?
Kampala is a rich and vibrant destination – but it can be difficult to know where to start if you’re planning a day or half-day excursion. We’ve put together a quick guide to some of the top must-see sights if you’re visiting our bustling and dynamic capital city or venturing further afield to explore the surrounding area. In this blog, we’ll be answering the question: Where can I visit in Kampala?
Experience the unique architecture of beautiful Namirembe Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, commonly known as Namirembe Cathedral, is the oldest church of its type in Uganda. Set on Namirembe Hill in Kampala, it is a striking building made of earthen bricks and tiles and features a distinctive red dome. Now home of the main Anglican place of worship in the region, it has also hosted some of the most prestigious weddings in the country.
Unfortunately the site has had a somewhat difficult and challenging history. The original building was abandoned because, being at the foot of the hill at that time, it was too swampy.
The second was badly damaged by thunderstorms and a subsequent building was gutted by fire.
Thankfully the present cathedral, which was constructed between 1915 and 1919, has survived. In 2012, it was the setting for the enthronement of the Most Reverend Stanley Ntagali as the eighth archbishop of the Church of Uganda, a ceremony attended by dignitaries from around the world – including the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
Today, visitors can enjoy a guided tour lasting around one and a half hours, which includes the story of the colonialists’ arrival Uganda, as well as other interesting historical information. After the tour, step outside to enjoy some spectacular 360° views over Kampala.
Discover Uganda’s rich heritage at Uganda Museum
Do you want to understand Uganda’s rich heritage and multicultural past? Then a visit to the Uganda museum is a must. Just a short drive from the city centre, East Africa’s oldest museum is home to a fascinating collection charting Uganda’s indigenous culture, as well as its social, political and natural history.
A tour lasts around an hour and a half where visitors will also find archaeological artefacts, traditional musical instruments and informative displays.
Known as the largest mosque in Uganda and considered among the largest mosques in Africa, The Gaddafi National Mosque is one of the most visited sightseeing spots in Kampala. If you take the one-hour hour guided walk and climb the 304 steps of the Mosque, you will be rewarded with 360° spectacular views of Kampala from its highest point.
Visit Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine, Namugongo
Located in Namugongo, in Central Uganda, just a short drive from Kampala’s city centre, the Uganda Martyrs’ shrine marks the spot where several young Christians – including the church leader Charles Lwanga – were executed by King (Kabaka) Mwanga II, when they refused to denounce their religion. It is thought that they were martyred on or around the 3rd of June 1886, which is now celebrated as Martyrs’ Day, today a national public holiday.
Since it was opened in the 1960s, Namugongo Martyrs shrine has become an important site for Christians from not only Uganda, but across the African continent and the rest of the world. It has been visited by three different popes: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and most recently by Pope Francis.
Leading up to Martyrs’ Day every year, thousands of Christians including clergy, heads of state, and students of religious based schools in Uganda make the pilgrimage to the site.
Restore your serenity on a tour to the Baha’i Temple
In contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kampala, there is peace and tranquillity to be found on a visit to the Baha’i Temple. The beautiful building was built about 40 years ago on Kikaya Hill, just four miles from Kampala. It is also known as the ‘Mashriqu’I-Adhkar’. Translated from Persian, this means ‘the dawning place of the praise of God’. Perched on the hill’s crest, it soars majestically above the beautiful landscape.
Many species of trees can be seen in the carefully tended gardens, while flower beds spread out to form columns that widen from the top to the foothill to symbolise the narrow path to heaven’s gate. This beautiful, tranquil site is not only a place of worship but also a home to a variety of bird species.
The progressive Baha’i faith aims to unite all races in one universal cause and common faith. Knowledgeable guides can share more about the religion when you visit.
Visit Kasubi: royal tombs of the Kings of Buganda
The Kasubi tombs, located around 5km from the centre of Kampala, is a site of historical, cultural and spiritual significance. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, it is the burial ground of four kabakas (kings of Buganda).
Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda, incorporates all of the country’s central region and Kampala itself.
Home to the Baganda people, this ancient kingdom was unified under Kato Kintu, the first kabaka, in the 14th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Buganda established itself as one of the most powerful forces in East Africa.
Meanwhile, Kasubi became the burial ground for four subsequent rulers of the kingdom: Muteesa I, Basamula Mwanga II, Daudi Chwa II and Fredrick Walugembe Muteesa II.
According to custom, the entrance to the site, a gatehouse called Bujjabukula, is protected by guards who stay hidden behind a woven reed screen in order to keep a watchful eye over guests.
Located at Mengo Hill, one of the former colonial administrative areas in Kampala, the Kabaka’s Palace (Lubiri) is the official residence for the ruling King in Buganda and a headquarters for the Buganda Kingdom. The palace is set in huge grounds and was strategically located for administrative and security reasons.
Visitors can spend around an hour learning about its past, from construction in 1885 by Buganda King Mwanga II to more recent times in Uganda’s history. View the chambers, initially constructed as an armoury, and learn about its later use under Idi Amin.
What else is there to do in Kampala?
At Venture Uganda, we can create a bespoke holiday to include a half-day or full-day visit to Kampala including any of the activities above.
Guests can also enjoy sampling the city’s busy markets, as well as its thriving bar and restaurant scene. We’re happy to handle all arrangements, including booking and transportation, as part of our clients’ itineraries.