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Things to do in Kampala

muzungu pilgrim Uganda Martyrs Catholic Shrine Namugongo

Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, is a cosmopolitan mix. At times, deeply traditional, at other times as modern as anywhere in the 21st-century… on this particular day I was a pilgrim at the Uganda Martyrs Catholic Shrine at Namugongo

Kampala – affectionately known by some as KLA – is a great place to live. This crazy, noisy, congested city can drive you nuts at times but there’s always something going on.

Eh! I hardly know where to start.

What’s for breakfast?

Okay, let’s start the day with coffee. Cappuccino is my personal weakness, and can now easily – although not cheaply – be found in most major shopping centres, big hotels and urban areas. Some of my favourite coffee shops include Coffee at Last in Makindye, Endiro and Cafesserie in Kisementi, Le Petit Village at Quality Hill on Ggaba Road, Café Kawa in Tank Hill, Muyenga and Café Pap in Parliament Avenue and Ntinda. Dancing Cup in Bugolobi and Prunes in Wampeyo Avenue are popular Saturday hang-outs. Cafe Java’s – at various locations – always have excellent service. These also serve African tea. Here’s a Lonely Planet writer’s list of nine cafes to visit in Kampala.

What’s the perfect accompaniment to morning coffee? Croissants (yes!) or beef sambosas (samosas) and of course the number one Ugandan delicacy, the famous rolex! (“Rolled eggs” omelette in a chapati). Katogo (steamed savoury banana with beans or meat) is a popular Ugandan breakfast. I love it!

man making rolex Kampala

Man making the muzungu a morning rolex in Nakawa market, Kampala

Muchomo roasted meat Kansanga, Kampala

Muchomo roasted meat on sale in Kansanga, Kampala. A busy stall is usually a good sign!

Coffee/tea break over, Kampala’s markets are excellent. There’s a market for everything but you have to be ready for haggle. Expat tip: go with a Ugandan friend, unless you want to pay ‘muzungu price’ for every other thing.

Fancy a spot of shopping?

Popular Kampala markets are Nakasero (fruit, vegetables, spices and grasshoppers) and Nakawa (everything – and slightly cheaper than the markets in town). I love Ggaba market on the edge of Lake Victoria. It’s a great place to pick up brightly coloured Tanzanian cloth (as well as all your fruit and vegetables, the cheapest mukenne and other fish, fresh or dried). (The maze-like Owino was once the best place for second-hand clothing, shoes and bags but vendors were evicted in 2017 to make way for developers).

If you’re into arts and crafts and souvenir shopping, head to the extensive Buganda Road craft market in ‘Daisy Arcade.’ There are a small number of craft shops behind the National Theatre too.

Feeling arty?

Artist Reagan Kangole specialises in recycled art

Artist Reagan Kangole specialises in recycled art

Kampala has a small but thriving art scene and most exhibitions are free. The best way to be in the know about what’s going on is to sign up to their email newsletters or follow them on Facebook. Kampala art galleries include Nommo Gallery, Afriart Gallery on Kira Road and Afriart on Seventh (in the Industrial Area) and Umoja. The Uganda Museum has occasional art shows, in addition to the permanent historic displays. The museum is very dated but still has a certain appeal. It’s definitely worth a visit, particularly if you have a guided tour. The Alliance Francaise / Goethe Institute always have a busy timetable of events too.

The National Theatre in central Kampala has a programme of dance, drama and art. There are regular shows and jam sessions and it’s the main venue for the annual epic event that is the Bayimba Festival. The best way to find out what’s on at the National Theatre is to visit in person or look for their monthly flyer. You can also visiting their web site or call +256 (0)414 254567.

Experience Uganda through music and dance!

Traditional dancers at Ndere Cultural Centre, Kampala

The traditional dancing at Ndere Cultural Centre, Kampala, blew me away. What a welcome!

The Ndere Troupe’s show is the perfect introduction to Uganda for new visitors, but honestly everyone should watch this brilliant show, more than once! This highly professional show is a must-see celebration of Uganda and Africa – through traditional music and dance. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night shows. The Ndere Centre is on the Northern Bypass. Read my blog about Ndere’s sensational musical and cultural experience.

Did you know, Kampala has the best nightlife in East Africa?

Bayimba International Festival of the Arts. National Theatre, Kampala. Geoff Walker

Bayimba International Festival of the Arts. National Theatre, Kampala. Geoff Walker

Don’t take my word for it, dive in! My friends from Nairobi love this party city. Downtown Kabalagala is famous from here to Kigali to Goma to Bujumbura and Dar – and every part of East Africa in between.

Acacia Avenue, Kisementi, Bugolobi and Muyenga are some of Kampala’s popular nightspots with new bars and restaurants opening all the time. Ugandans love to party anywhere! Every neighbourhood has several bars. If you like your beer cheap, just sit on a wooden bench outside your local shop. Local ‘pork joints’ are usually good value for money too (unless you’re a vegetarian of course!)

Kampala’s Industrial Area has the city’s best known nightclubs: Club Silk, Guvnors and Ange Noir, but you don’t need to go to a nightclub to dance. Have a few drinks and we will dance anywhere in UG!

Guide to eating fish, Lake Victoria - Diary of a Muzungu

Required drinking: Uganda waragi! Click on the fish to read my guide ‘Where to eat fish on Lake Victoria’ – Ggaba, Kabaka’s Landing Site, Mulungu, near Munyonyo

This page is work in progress – it merely skims the surface of Kampala!