Things to Do in Kampala
The British-inspired colonial Lubiri Palace sits on top of Mengo Hill and has long served as the residence of the Buganda King. The sprawling grounds are most famously home to the underground prisons and torture chambers used by the dictator Idi Amin during the 1970s and later by President Obote for the same purpose.
The dark cement tunnels and chambers, originally built for weapons storage, once held political prisoners—sometimes in the hundreds—crammed into small cells raised up on platforms. The channel outside the cells was filled with electrified water to prevent escape attempts. While the water is gone, but the walls still display handprints and messages of despair scrawled in charcoal and mud across the cement—a testament to the atrocities committed by Amin and his secret police.
Kisenyi Slum, located in the heart of Kampala adjacent to the capital's central business district, is a huge area of residence for many impoverished men, women and children. These people, many of whom are refugees of Uganda, live in extremely close quarters, and fewer than half of them have access to water within their homes. Flooding, poor sanitation and eviction are day-to-day threats.
Despite its unfortunate quality of life, Kisenyi has a lively, active atmosphere filled with informal businesses—everything from butcher shops and fruit vendors to furniture and metalworking shops.
Visitors to the Kisenyi Slum have the opportunity to see how local NGOs have started grassroots projects to improve the lives of some of Uganda’s most vulnerable populations. With a local volunteer as a guide, travelers can explore the area and meet some of Kisenyi's residents to gain a clearer understanding of the realities and challenges of life in the slum.
On the south side of Nakasero Hill, one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Kampala, sits the huge and chaotic Nakasero Market. While the top half of the hill is dominated by hotels, embassies and elite residential neighborhoods, market and surrounding area offers a completely different and very vibrant atmosphere.
The large outdoor portion of Nakasero Market specializes in fresh local produce, and it’s one of the most colorful food markets in Uganda. It’s also just about the cheapest option for purchasing fruits and vegetables. For travelers with more adventurous appetites, the market is dotted with vendors selling a favorite local snack, grasshoppers. A large warehouse next to the outdoor market sells cheap electronics, clothes and shoes.