10 Free Things to Do in Kampala

10 Free Things to Do in Kampala

Whether you’re a backpacking traveler, an NGO worker on a budget, or a frugal oil tycoon, everyone wants to get something for free sometimes. Kampala has all sorts of perks for those with the cash. Here is a list of some the best things to do without spending any shillings.

  1. Visit the Baha’i Temple – There is only one Baha’i temple on each continent, and Africa’s happens to be in Kampala. The beautiful domed cathedral sits on a hill surrounded by peaceful gardens, and since the Baha’i are such an inclusive faith anyone is welcome to tour the grounds or to enjoy a Sunday service.
  2. Brave Owino Market – In the heart of downtown Kampala is a post-apocalyptic seeming market that seems constructed more out of scraps and whimsy than anything load bearing. In the tight, muddy halls of this indoor/outdoor bazaar you can find almost anything. Designer jeans? Check. Pink boa? Check. Fedora complete with feather? Check. 70s era disco suit? Pick your color. But beware, pickpockets abound and women are often harassed when alone.
  3. Attend a Local Church Service – Whether you are among the faithful or not, Ugandan church services are so full of energy it’s hard not to enjoy them. Try to find one where dancing is a big part of the worshiping. You’ll burn more calories than an aerobics club at Kabira.
  4. Ogle Parliament – Being the capital of Uganda, Kampala has some pretty great sights, including Uganda’s parliament building, conveniently located on Parliament Avenue. You can’t go into the building without an appointment, but it’s pretty fun to stand in front of it and think about the decision happening inside that will shape this 50-year-old country.
  5. Meander Through the Art Galleries – The art scene in Kampala is taking off, and the galleries are proliferating and improving to match. Check out Tulifanya, Afriart, MishMash, the Makerere gallery, Umoja, and by the time you read this, probably others.
  6. Find the Monuments – Kampala has some great historical monuments, including one for independence, one unveiled for the Commonwealth meeting in 2007, and one unveiled just this year for the 50th anniversary of independence.
  7. Play Football/Soccer – Whether you’re a novice or you played collegiately, Kampala has a match for you. Pitches abound near schools and kids will gladly welcome you into a match. And pickup matches of more serious players abound on weekends.
  8. Learn to Salsa – Free classes are held at both the National Theater and Lotus Mexicana. Check online for dates!
  9. Witness the Old Taxi Park – In downtown Kampala the de facto beating heart of the city is the Old Taxi Park, with the ubiquitous white and blue taxi-vans pumping in and out in a way that, from above, evokes nothing so much as a swirl of busy ants. There are a few great vantage points to be found (and photographed from).
  10. Watch a Sunset – With all its hills, Kampala is prime sunset country. Climb a hill, find a vantage point, cozy up with some good company, and watch one of nature’s great gifts.

Do you have favorite free things I didn’t mention? Leave them in the comments!

BONUS: Almost Free Stuff

  1. Tour the Gaddafi Mosque – At only 10,000 shillings, this is one of the best deals in Kampala, especially if you climb the spire and get a view of the whole of Kampala.
  2. Take a Matatu to Jinja – For only 5,000 shillings you can take the 2-3 hour journey to Jinja, source of the Nile River. Once there you can find plenty of other ways to spend money, or you can find a quiet spot on the river and enjoy a few peaceful hours.
  3. Boda Tour of Kampala – Take a ride around Kampala on the back of one of the ubiquitous boda boda motorcycle taxis. Arrange your own for cheap, or hire a pro like Walter’s Boda Boda Tours. Either way, there’s no more authentic way to see this exciting city.

About James

I'm a writer and a founder of Ember Arts, a company that uses craft jewelry as a front for helping women achieve their dreams. I've been in and out of Kampala since 2006 and just can't get enough of the Indian food. Could do without the traffic, though. Contact me at james@livinginkampala.com.