Kampala Travel Guide

Kampala is Uganda's largest city and its chief urban centre. Known for its friendly, welcoming people, and beautiful setting, the city is built over seven hills, and stretches to the shores of Lake Victoria.

While the buildings and other vestiges of urban infrastructure may still have a ramshackle quality and an air of neglect about them, aspects of the city are booming. Tourism, and the presence of NGOs, has brought new money and fresh ideas to Kampala, reflected in the diverse international cuisine, burgeoning local art scene and, inevitably, the increasing number of traffic jams to be found there.

Many visitors come overland from Kenya and find Kampala's relaxed air and reputation for safety a welcome relief from the (comparative) hazards of Nairobi. There is little in the way of must-see attractions in Kampala itself. Some interesting options include the Kasubi Tombs, a former key site that was extensively damaged by fire in 2009, and remains closed; and the Uganda National Museum. The Uganda Railway Station building is worth a look, as it remains a wonderful example of grand colonial architecture.

Some of the most appealing experiences are to be had in the city's vibrant markets. Owino market is a famously chaotic and eclectic place, with everything from original artworks to charity clothing for sale. The smaller Nakasero fresh-food market is very colourful, and stocks fruit and vegetables from all over the region, much of it unfamiliar to western eyes (and palates). For arts and crafts, the roadside market on Buganda Road rewards those with a keen eye, and robust bargaining skills.

Kampala is typically used as a base by visitors, who are en route to the one of the great natural attractions found in its outlying areas. The most popular of these is undoubtedly the gorilla-viewing experience at Bwindi National Park, closely followed by wild chimpanzee feeding at Ngamba Island near Entebbe. The nearby Nile River also offers numerous activities: rafting and jet-skiing in the headwaters is an exhilarating experience, while an excursion or weekend trip to the Ssese Islands is well worth the time as well.