For the typical traveler, Zambia may not be high on their list of places to visit. Most travelers have probably never heard of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city! They probably think there are not a lot of things to do in Lusaka.
But for travelers who like to go off the beaten path, Zambia is a destination not to be missed. From the famous Victoria Falls in Livingstone, to the beautiful national parks filled with animals, Zambia fits perfectly into the quintessential image of Africa – wild and beautiful.
Much like Africa is more than just lions and giraffes grazing in the Serengeti, Zambia is more than just breathtaking landscapes and natural wildlife. It’s a country rich in culture, industry, and ideas. I recently spent two weeks in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city, and had a great time experiencing what the city has to offer.
Take the time to explore all the things to do in Lusaka
If you’re planning on breezing through Lusaka on your way to Vic Falls, why not reconsider extending your stay by a few days? There are so many things to do in Lusaka, even for families! If you’re not convinced, here are ten fun things to do in and around Lusaka that will make it worth your while.
Learn about Zambian history at the National Museum
I’m really into museums. I think it’s because I’m actually kind of a nerd at heart. I love learning about a place and its history. As far as museums go, the National Museum is nothing to write home about, but if you want a glimpse into Zambian culture and history, this is a great (and cheap!) place to start.
At the time of my visit, they had a photo exhibit of Zambian photography over the years, and also an exhibit of Zambian life in the village, complete with life-size wax models. Start your Lusaka exploration here, and then work your way to the other fun activities.
Shop for local handicrafts at Kabwata Cultural Village
For those who are into traditional arts and crafts, the Kabwata Cultural Village is not to be missed. They have artisans from all over Zambia selling crafts ranging from paintings to wood sculptures, musical instruments to jewelry.
I loved seeing the different crafts, and even bought a painting for myself, as well as souvenirs for my family. The vendors are friendly, and won’t pressure you too much to buy anything.
Do some people-watching at the mall
There are some pretty wealthy people living Zambia. It is evident in the abundance of malls, restaurants, and amenities within the city. There are a variety of malls to choose from. My top picks include the open-air Arcades, the upscale Manda Hill, and the newer East Park.
Many of these malls have movie theaters too. So if you’re in the mood to catch a film, you can have your pick. For me, I just prefer to sit down at a restaurant or cafe and observe the people passing by.
Get a glimpse of local life at Soweto Market
For a more authentic or local shopping experience, head into the city center, or “Town” as the locals call it. The main market is the Town Centre Market, where you can buy any kind of goods you can possibly think of.
For me, I preferred the Soweto Market, which is just a few blocks southwest of Town Centre Market. I love walking through local markets, as there’s an energy and vibrancy there that is often lacking in grocery stores or shopping centers. When you visit, though, beware of pickpockets. Be sure not to bring anything of value with you.
Feel like a local on a city bus
Speaking of local experiences, one of my favorite ways to get to know a city is to use the public transportation. Unfortunately, Lusaka’s city bus routes are a bit difficult to figure out. Most visitors will opt to use a taxi, which is not that expensive.
But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at riding the public bus. Many of the bus routes run along the main roads, like Cairo Road, or the Great East Road. An easy bus ride to try is the one from Arcades Mall into Town, which only costs 5 kwacha per ride. Riding the bus can be fun. And it will give you a taste of what it’s like to live like a local.
Have a family day at Orange Tree
One of the other things to do in Lusaka that’s not to be missed is to try the many restaurants that Lusaka has to offer. Lusaka has a large expat community, and it’s evident in the assortment of cuisines you can find in the city: American, European, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese.
A friend of mine has a husband who works as a chef at a new restaurant called Orange Tree. I think it’s now one of my favorite places to eat in the city! There’s even a playground on the restaurant grounds, so the kiddos can play while you enjoy a nice meal.
Dine in style at Latitude 15 Degrees
When it comes to a nice meal in Lusaka, though, the prize has to go to Latitude 15 degrees. It’s a hotel, restaurant, and spa. While I was in Lusaka, I met up with some friends for dinner one night, and was thoroughly impressed with their food, service, and overall décor of the place.
You can certainly tell, this is where the “other half” of Lusaka dines. In terms of things to do in Lusaka, this is one of the fancier and upscale options. After our meal, we took a tour of the grounds, and even got a peak at one of the rooms. Pretty impressive!
See animals at Munda Wanga Environmental Park
Zambia has some amazing big game in its national parks, but in a city like Lusaka, you’re hard-pressed to find any of those kinds of animals. When it comes to wildlife related things to do in Lusaka, the closest thing is Munda Wanga Environmental Park. It serves as a sanctuary for injured or rescued animals, and rehabilitates them for entry back into the wild.
During my visit I saw animals like zebras, monkeys, and porcupine. There’s also a beautiful botanical garden that’s worth strolling through, and a playground for kids. It’s about 16 kms outside of Lusaka, so hire a taxi, or if you’re feeling adventurous, catch a bus from central Lusaka headed towards Chilanga or Kafue.
Visit with crocodiles at Kalimba Reptile Farm
Another fun excursion is the Kalimba Reptile Farm, where you can see an assortment of snakes and crocodiles. We saw black and green mambas, as well as crocodiles that were twice the size of me!
It’s not that far from Lusaka, so you can easily do a quick morning or afternoon trip. If you’re into fishing, there are also fishing ponds at the farm, so you can catch your own fish if you like.
Check out elephants at Lilayi Lodge
One of my favorite things to do in Lusaka in terms of animals was visit the Lilayi Elephant Nursery. The nursery is located in the same grounds as Lilayi Lodge, which is about 35 km outside of Lusaka. Lilayi Elephant Nursery is managed by the Game Rangers International, who help rehabilitate the rescued baby elephants. Many of these elephants were orphaned due to poaching, and will stay at nursery near Lilayi Lodge for three years. At that point, they will be transferred to another rehabilitation center until they are fifteen years old.
Once the elephants turn fifteen, they are reintroduced back into the bush. The elephants at Lilayi Lodge spend most of their time roaming the reserve, which is pretty big and has plenty of trees and brush to make the elephants feel like they’re in the bush. Every day between 11:30 am to 1 pm, the elephants are brought to the viewing area so that visitors can see them eat and play. At the time of my visit, there were two baby elephants, who were quite cute to watch.
Experiencing Lusaka for yourself
There are so many fun things to do in Lusaka! The ones I listed here are just the tip of the iceberg.
I didn’t get to come to Lusaka with my kids, but I wished that I had because I think they would have had a blast all the things to do in Lusaka, and seeing what life in Africa is all about. If you’re planning a trip to Zambia, consider spending a few days in Lusaka. You won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to Zambia? What’s on your list of things to do in Lusaka?
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