Lusaka is the chaotic, bustling capital of Zambia, a land-locked country in southeastern Africa. As my first trip to any city on the African continent, Lusaka surprised, intrigued, and overwhelmed me all at the same time. I hope to travel more in Africa and see how it all compares!
I don’t have very many pictures of buildings in Lusaka. It is illegal (a threat to national security) to take pictures of many government buildings, and unless you know Lusaka well, chances are you don’t know what’s a government building and what’s not. So be careful of what you photograph, and always be respectful if you’re told off!
There are lots of things to see and do in Lusaka! But as such a big, busy city it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. Here are my top picks for what to do in the Zambian capital!
Lusaka National Museum
The National Museum should be any tourists starting point in Lusaka. There are exhibits on archaeology, political history, and Zambian culture that help give foreigners a good grasp of Zambia and it’s place in today’s world. My favorite exhibits were on the history of Zambia’s colonization through to independence, and the witchcraft exhibit. Give yourself at least an hour here. Prices are 5 kwacha (~USD $0.50) for locals, or 25 kwacha (~$2.45) for foreigners.
Right next to the museum, this statue is a symbol of the freedom fighters and those who died during Zambia’s fight for independence. Zambia declared independence from colonial rule in 1964.
Embassy Park is a large park of national importance. Three of Zambia’s presidents since independence are buried here—so make sure you see their memorials as you stroll through the park. Prices are 5 kwacha (~$0.50) for locals, or USD$15 or 75 kwacha (about $7.50, the conversion rate here made no sense to me) for foreigners.
Zambia’s Parliament building, the National Assembly, should also be a stop on any visit to Lusaka. Check opening times before you visit!
Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Lusaka’s main cathedral is the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Although Zambia does not specify any denomination in their official religion of Christianity, this cathedral is leased by the Anglican Church.
Mulungushi International Conference Center
Although chances are you won’t actually be attending any conferences at this place, the Conference Center is worth a visit as it has a huge population of antelopes! The center is enclosed with gates and antelopes freely wander around the premises and cross the roads. Be careful of what you photograph here, as I got in trouble for taking pictures of the antelopes near the building entrance!
National Heroes Stadium
This 60,000 capacity stadium is Zambia’s biggest stadium and plays host to all sorts of big events in Lusaka (besides just sporting events). It was formerly called the Gabon Disaster Heroes National Stadium, in honor of the members of the Zambian national football team who died in a plane crash in Gabon in 1993. You can also visit the Monument to the players who died (located next to the stadium) as well.
Kabwata Cultural Village
If you’re looking for local crafts, look no further! You can buy all sorts of handmade goods from bowls to fabric to jewelry at Kabwata Cultural Village. Make sure you haggle with the vendors to knock the price down, it’s expected that you’ll try to make a deal!
Lilayi Elephant Nursery
This elephant orphanage, slightly outside of Lusaka, is home to baby elephants from around Zambia as they are rehabilitated following their rescue in the wild. The elephants are nursed back to health before they begin the lengthy process of release back into the wild. Public viewings of the baby elephants are between 11:30 and 1:00pm every day—on Mondays, it’s free (although donations are always appreciated).
Looking for where to eat in Lusaka? I ate out a fair amount in the capital, and here are my recommendations!
For Lunch: Taste. (by Rootz Design & Lifestyle) The tearoom/ brew bar offers delicious, organic food in a quiet residential area of Lusaka. I would definitely recommend trying one of their milkshakes. Taste. is located within the Rootz interior design store, and has a small pool.
For Sundowners: The Retreat. Hopefully you’ll have sundowners (aka early-evening drinks to watch the sunset) at least once during your time in Lusaka! The Retreat (in the Roma neighborhood) has a restaurant/bar and a pool, and has the perfect viewing area facing west to watch the sunset.
For a Fancy Splurge: Taj Pamodzi. The restaurant at the Taj Pamodzi hotel serves up delicious food and exceptional dessert. If you’re looking for an extravagant dinner in Lusaka, look no further!
Zebra Crossings Café gets an honorable mention due to their fantastic cheesecake.
If you’re thinking of doing a daytrip from the capital, you can’t miss a trip to Siavonga and Lake Kariba! Read the full post here.
The Basics: Zambia has a population of 14.5 million, and Lusaka’s urban population is about 2.5 million. The official language is English, although people speak a variety of languages based on their location. In Lusaka, the most prevalent language is Nyanja. The currency in Zambia is Zambian Kwacha, although prices for some tourist activities will be quoted in U.S. Dollars (and USD is accepted in some places). Christianity is the official religion in Zambia—no denomination specified.
Getting Around: There is public transportation by bus all over Lusaka. The buses are minibuses that almost always are jammed full. Taxis are also popular, although make sure you only take licensed taxis (which have an orange stripe around the middle). Luckily I was visiting my friend, who has a car and drove me everywhere (thanks Kula!). Getting stuck in traffic is fairly common, especially during the rush hours. But don’t worry, there are vendors who sell everything from fireworks to tombstones in the street traffic, so you can get all your shopping done! Driving is fairly hectic—there are few traffic lights, and lots of people just do what they want. As a former British colony, Zambia drives on the left side of the road.
Where I Stayed: I can’t recommend any accommodation, since I stayed with my best friend at her house. My only advice would be to make friends with a Zambian and go visit them!
Lusaka is a hectic, lively city, and an eye-opening introduction for me to the African continent. It should not be missed on a visit to Zambia!
Have you ever been to Lusaka or another capital city in Africa? What did you think?!