Though some travelers may be tempted to skip over African cities in favor of luxury lodges and safaris, Kampala’s nighttime offerings are worthy of inclusion on any Uganda safari itinerary.
New York City may be the city that never sleeps, but Kampala city, the vibrant capital of Uganda, is giving the Big Apple a run for its money. “You’ll be sleeping in your shoes” is the rallying cry, with locals partying at all hours – venues will stay open as long as customers are still drinking – and in all places: wine bars in parking lots, pubs-club hybrids with dance floors and pool tables, even Euro-style nightclubs with light shows.
No matter the venues, the music is thumping: a mix of dancehall, East African, South African, and Nigerian music, with some international pop thrown in good measure by Uganda best DJs.
Some of the places you should visit on a nighttime in Kampala city;
Club Guvnor: Club Guvnor is a little bit of Las Vegas in East Africa. There isn’t a dress code – Kampala too is casual for that – but everyone is dressed to impress in their own way (think dresses that are short, not sweet, and guys in buttom-downs). Inside the club is slick and shiny with chrome and mirrors covering nearly every inch of space. Locals pack the space, which can get crowded with folks drinking and dancing; sofas line the walls if you’d rather people-watch.
The Garage Wine: Kampala is far from fertile wine territory. Most wine lists – even at the most upscale places – present just four choices: red dry, red sweet, white dry and white sweet. So when you start to crave something like a Pinot Noir or a Malbec, head to the Wine Garage. After you choose your wine from the shop (which carries an impressive selection of South African, Australian, European and American imports), you can take a seat at one of the outdoor tables. It may seem unusual to Westerners, but throughout Uganda, liquor stores double as neighborhoods bars: You buy your beverage, sit outside, chat with friends. Though it can be hard for tourists to infiltrate a group of locals, the Wine Garage is a little more welcoming than Kampala’s typical neighborhood watering hole, so you can have the experience without the anxiety of barging in on a group of people you don’t know well.
Bubbles O’leary’s: This bar reflects owner Nigel Sutton’s Irish roots: All the furnishings were shipped from Drogheda, Ireland; you’ll see plenty of green and Celtic phrases throughout. (That authentic feel landed Bubbles on The Irish Time’s 2015 list of the 10 best pubs in the world outside of Ireland). The bar might look Irish (though the bar taps don’t actually work), it’s am upbeat Ugandan pub at its core.
Fusion Auto Spa: During Kampala’s dry season (July to August and December to February) means dust, and lots of it. Shoes are brushed daily, clothes are stored in plastic, and cars are washed frequently – which is why the multi-tasking Fusion Auto Spa is so popular. You can get your car washed while you drink Ugandan beers like Bell Lager, Nile, Club or Eagle Extra, with two giant screens, it’s also a fantastic venue to watch sports. The bar is set up in a giant brick-paved parking lot (during the day, there’s more car washing and less drinking), with two bars on both side and a mix of lounge seating and tables; even when it’s crowded, there’s plenty of room to move around.
Club Ambiance: Club Ambiance consists of three regional classic dance clubs, ie. Ambiance Masaka, Ambiance Mityana and the ultimate Club Ambiance Kampala all running under the Lions Disco Group. Club Ambiance Kampala, located at Bukesa Hoima road, the new ultra modern nightlife entertainment spot is open with lounges, The Bank, Hyper, Vieux & Ice.
Red I: Kampalans love their old-school soul and rap music – think a mix of Billy Ocean, Micheal Jackson, and MC Hammer – and Red I is the place to hear it. It’s more of a neighborhood bar, but the central location also makes it the perfect place to start the evening off with a beer before heading to a disco later in the night.
Club Silk: Club Silk, a sprawling bi-level space, is where to check out Kampala’s dance scene. The club is divided into three sections: Silk Royale, Silk Lounge, and Silk Oxygen. Even though each section has its own DJ and state-of-art sound system, the real difference is that Silk Royale skews a bit younger – think college-aged and younger – and allows smoking (which is notable because most clubs in the city don’t allow it, so it’s good to know before you go).
Cayenne: There are two sections to this club: a poolside restaurant, and a bar with dancing on the deck. The restaurant has an extensive international menu (you’ll find fish and chips, pizza, and baked Alaska) and is a great spot for early dinner, where you can watch the dance floor warm up. If you want to eat local, try a curry or tikka masala – Ugandan food is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine.
Casino Simba: Casino Simba is located at the central hub of the Garden City on Yusuf Lule road. This casino is very quite during weekdays and happening during weekends. They organize some programs on Friday/Saturday which includes dance by pretty girls, jazz music and others. They have a variety of games, including various kinds of vending machines. The environment is often comfortable where you can easily play your favorite game without any hassle. The service is also good and they offer drinks and food for the players and the food is so nice. They have Roulette, Card Games, Machine Games etc and the place is wide enough to make yourself comfortable.