Drinking and dancing
Drinking is as much a part of Kampala culture as religion. Beer is available all day every day, and you are almost never out of sight of somewhere to get alcohol. All the local beers are great Nile Special, Pil, Bell Beer, Club Beer, Tusker Beer, watch out for ESB, “Extra Strong Brew” which will floor you, and for the committed drinker there is Uganda Waragi, a local gin distilled from bananas.
Ugandan music is mixture of happy-pop and happy-reggae and is so relentlessly happy. Music in pubs and clubs is generally a mix of Ugandan and R&B, and dancing is mandatory.
Drinking establishments fall into three categories: pubs proper (including the places where most of the muzungus usually hang out); African-style clubby-pubs, hybrids with dance floors and pool tables; and clubs proper, which are like European nightclubs but with Ugandans being in the majority, they are great!!
- Muzungu places
Bubbles O’Leary’s on Acacia Avenue is a authentic-feeling Irish pub. This bar is a must. It seems to have become the new 'Just Kicking', with large gatherings; especially at the weekend. They do a good range of pub food, music and an even better mix of people.No matter what you do in Kampala, Bubbles is the place to go! from cold beers, a friendly chat or a game of rugby on the box! you cannot beat this place! DJs every weekend with a 5,000/- cover charge. Great place!!
Fatboyz in Kisementi is slightly less muzungu-orientated and has great live music and comfy chairs, although it can get short on space. It’s a really nice place just to hang out before or after eating out.
Kyoto Restaurant on Shomoni Road just up from the golf course is the place to go on Friday night and they have good Music. Staff are very welcoming. It is usually one of the places guaranteed to be part of a Kampala pub crawl. kyoto like Bubbles has a cover charge on the weekends
- African/less muzungu places
Mateo’s on Kampala Road is a cocktail bar, rather expensive but the cocktails are good. Some nights it teems with people getting ready to go to Rouge (see below). There are loads of tables outside, good for chilling out. A good place for pre-club drinks.
Wagadugu opposite the pubs and restaurants in Kisementi is a refreshing change from those places; here you hardly see a white face. Beer is also much cheaper and there is a balcony where you can sit and look over Kisementi.
Sabrina’s Pub on Bombo Road, and is a very large pub with a huge stage that has live music several nights a week. There are two bars, serving cheap beer and food, and one pool table. The music tends to be a bit intrusive, given that there is no real dance floor.
The Venue on top of Garden City Shopping Centre is a great place to have a drink and eat pub food: it’s high up, meaning it is airy and cool, good when the day has been hot. They show football on several televisions. There is a beautiful view of the city below. Good atmosphere and class.
City Bar boasts one of Uganda’s snooker tables which is immaculately maintained (unlike the thousands of decrepit pool tables in Uganda), so if you’re into snooker give this a look. It’s expensive, though, at 5.000/= ($2) an hour. Apart from that, the pub is nice to sit in, resembling a larger pub in central London. Is definitely a place fr all the sharks out there.
Kabalagala/Kansanga (Sin City at it's best)
Kabalagala is teeming with little bars and pubs in addition to these ones, so don’t feel confined! They’re all good places to go and have a drink and a boogie all night long.
- Al’s bar in Kansanga is legendary. Open 24/7 for drinking, dancing and all manner of debauchery, this is where those Kampala revellers who survive until the small hours generally end up. It generally doesn’t kick off until at least 2am, though, so plan to get there at the end of the night. Loads of hookers of all types. It is also swarming with ‘women of the night’ (hookers, more or less) who are there to find muzungus, and they can be very forward in their approach, gropping is part of the scene as is pub brawls, so be careful.
- Capital Pub in Kabalagala is a giant pub/club with several bars, 8 pool tables, a huge vaulted ceiling and nooks and crannies everywhere. On certain nights, notably Mondays, it heaves with people, including its fair share of prostitutes, some of whom are a sight classier and more difficult to spot than in Al’s Bar. In my mates’ words, though, “it rocks!” and is almost a guaranteed good night out. As with Al’s bar, it doesn’t get going until late, so leave it until about 1am before getting there.
- Half London Pub in Kansanga is more sedate than the last two, with a bar, some pool tables and a small dance floor. The music pumps out loud, but somehow it never gets going as much as Capital or Al’s bar.
- Hunters Pub in Kansanga on Sunday is a must-see for anyone who likes Reggae but be careful as it is a bit dodgy. The entire Rasta crowd of Kampala congregates in a happy drunk delirium and dances all night to pumping Reggae. If this is your cup of tea, go see it and enjoy.
Central City Area
The middle of Kampala is full of places—here are just the few that we found.
Victoria Tavern on Kampala Road is a modern-style pub with chrome tables and chairs, and gets very popular especially on Wednesdays. It has a good dance floor in a separate room and the DJ will let you search through the mp3s on his computer! It’s much bigger than it appears with lots of areas behind.
Jokers on Buganda Road is a large house containing several bars, many eating/drinking areas and a stage. It hosted a big Reggae party for Bob Marley’s birthday recently which was so good that I went several times afterwards, but it never got quite as kicking again. If there’s another concert there, though, definitely give it a look.
TLC on George Street near the Central Police Station is a large place with several dance floors and chill-out areas, expensive pool tables, good food and cheapish drinks. It even has a swimming pool, although no-one seems to know how you get to swim in it. It gets very popular indeed. The crowd is a mix of European and African, as is the music. We like TLC.
Whoever invented the concept of Steak Out on Buganda Road is a genius. It’s a club/pub with a steakhouse attached, so you can eat bits of dead cow while drinking your favourite beer. There isn’t really a dance floor but past about 12 the place jumps anyway.
Club Obbligato on the Port Bell Road near the big clubs charges for entry most nights, bizarrely, which is probably why it’s usually dead, although this ensures there are no prostitutes. But it has live music of often very good quality, and you can catch big-name artists there, especially Afrigoband, Uganda’s best African band, on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rock Garden, part of the Speke Hotel, has a well-deserved reputation for seediness, even though it is fairly up-market and expensive. It has a dance floor and a circular bar with a large eating area outside, pool tables, and lots of televisions showing sport. A muzungu (white) male visitor will find himself draped with women in under 5 minutes.While some may like this it can get to be too much for some it may be hilariously funny, depending on how you handle it! Serves food until late in the night.
On most nights there is a cover charge at these places, although the less popular nights are sometimes free. Cover charge is usually between 3,000/= and 7,000/= ($2-5), with the upstairs sections a little more expensive at 10,000/= to 15,000/= ($5-8).
Club Silk http://www.clubsilk.co.ug/silk/ is a medium-sized club with two floors and several bars. You pay extra to get upstairs (“Silk Royale”) which seems to be a matter of status (or the extra choice) rather than of quality, since everyone I’ve met prefers the music downstairs and the drinks are the same. Perhaps you pay to get away from the lurid, psychedelic artwork on the walls downstairs. Campus night on Tuesday is great; the DJs downstairs are awesome, drinks are cheap and the crowd is young students. The first Friday of every month, which is a trance and techno night playing old European stuff, enormously popular and the place is packed to the gunwales.
Ange Noir is much bigger, attracts more muzungus, and is where all the big names that come to Kampala go out (like Shaggy). I prefer the music and DJs at Silk, but with Ange Noir it’s the whole experience that counts. The big nights are Wednesday (Ladies go free downstairs and half price upstairs), Thursday (Campus night), and Saturday when the big names in east Africa perform, and on these nights you can hardly move for people. Like Silk you pay extra to go upstairs (“Ange Mystique”) but this time it’s really worth it, because Ange Mystique is an absolute warren of different rooms, bars and dance floors, each playing something different.
Volts Club on Entebbe Road, http://clubvoltsuganda.com/nites.html good music and lighting and one of the best nightclubs in Kampala but unfortunately a bit out of the city centre. It is usually packed, has great theme nights and a lot of fun.
Rouge on Kampala Road is a new and fancy place, like a trendy London Bar, it attracts Kampala’s Yuppies. The interior and the atmosphere are very stylish (even the toilets are stylish, which is very rare in Kampala). There is a big chill-out area and a small dance floor. The music is good and is not too loud, so you can dance but still have a good chat. The drinks shelf is very well stocked wit a wide variety. It’s in the centre of the city, so it’s within a walk or a cheap taxi ride from almost anywhere including the restaurants.
Hotels with bars
Sheraton Hotel slightly up the hill from the centre of town has its own “Rhino bar” which is great on Friday and Saturday nights, when it teems with people heading out later to Ange Noir and other places
You’d be raving mad to miss the National Theatre on a Monday night, which is a giant (and gaining every week in popularity) jam session in a courtyard outside where anyone with the courage can play music alongside Uganda’s top artists (and some brave but awful ones). The atmosphere has to be experienced to be believed, a tipsy malaise of happiness and appreciation of good music. On the last Monday of every month there is an even bigger festival with several thousand people, and you’re almost guaranteed to see some big Ugandan names there.
Live nights at other places
- Club Obbligato has live music most nights, mostly African music from various countries.
- Sabrinas has an open mic night a bit like the National Theatre’s jam session, on a much smaller scale (although as a performer you are dwarfed by its immense stage). There is a resident troupe of Congolese dancers there whose dancing is worth a look at least once; they have muscles in their hips that we muzungus don’t even know exist!
An oasis just 2 km from the city centre
Kampala is a fantastic city to go out in. There is something different going on until late every night, so you never get bored.
and it is relatively safe, much safer than other African cities and proberly as safe as any big city in developed countries.