Lusaka is the largest city and capital of Zambia. Often overlooked by travelers, there are plenty of reasons to spend a few days in this cosmopolitan city rather than just passing through. Lusaka is a vibrant city with bustling markets, art galleries, several luxury restaurants, and bars.
I had the chance to spend a few days in Lusaka during my trip in Zambia and here is my guide to the 17 best things to do in Lusaka:
1. Walk with Lions or visit Elephants Nursery at Lusaka National Park
Located just 30 km from the city, Lusaka NP is Zambia’s newest but smallest national park. It is home to thousands of species including white rhinos, giraffes, zebras, blue wildebeest, and elephant’s nursery. You can take a guide who will take you on a lion walk. You can try bungee jumping or abseiling.
Visit the Elephant Nursery, where you can see orphaned baby elephants being fed and playing with one another. It opened in 2012 with a mission to save elephant calves from poachers, providing them with a safe and caring environment. Unfortunately, you’re unable to pet the baby elephants as they’ve suffered trauma, plus they’re kept away from close interaction with humans to allow them to be reintroduced back into the wild. If you wish to hear a short lecture about the elephants, arrive before noon to hear a member of staff explain the project to all that are interested. This is a fantastic opportunity for those who love baby elephants and who want to support the great work of the organisation.
2. Visit Sunday Crafts Markets
If you are in town on a weekend, take a trip to the Sunday Crafts Market and explore their selection of hand-made souvenirs. You can find a good choice of jewellery, clothes, artworks, and crafts. If you enjoy bargaining, then this is the best place to be, as all prices are negotiable.
3. Explore Nembo Scenic Park
Located about 11 km from the city centre, it is the perfect place to have a walk with the family, with beautiful lakes and waterfalls. Spread over an area of 47,000 square meters, Nembo Scenic Park is a scaled-down model of the map of Zambia, so you can get a bird’s eye view of the country without needing to take off in a plane.
4. Go on safari in Chaminuka Game Reserve
Go on safari and take a culture tour in Chaminuka Game Reserve, which is located on top of a hill overlooking Lake Chitoka. It is a private reserve that is home to 72 different species of Zambian mammals and reptiles, along with over 300 species of birds. It is located just 25 km away from the centre of Lusaka. You can see lions, cheetahs, ostriches, hyenas, giraffes, and elephants.
Chaminuka Game Reserve
Chaminuka Game Reserve
5. Visit Kabwata Cultural Village
One of Zambia’s traditionally styled trade art centres that still uses thatched-roof huts. There are over 80 resident artist that come from all nine Zambian provinces, allowing for a great variety of wood carvings, drums, bijou, baskets, masks, and traditionally designed fabrics. Also, don’t miss out on lunch at the traditional restaurant in the village.
6. Go shopping at the Arcades Shopping Mall
The Arcades Shopping Mall is a great place to spend a few hours of your day. The mall has a great ambience and every Sunday an outdoor market is hosted in the car park otside the mall offering a vast selection of handicraft and knick-knacks. You will find fast-food outlets, restaurants, cafes, a bookstore, cinema, and a large supermarket.
7. Explore the Pakati Sunday Market
Another of Lusaka’s amazing weekend markets is the Pakati Sunday Market, offering a diverse range of items from jewellery to house décor.
8. Visit Kalimba Reptile Park – Crocodile Farm
It is home to various reptiles including crocodiles, native snakes, tortoises, and many others. You will get the opportunity to learn about each type of reptile at the park and it is a great opportunity for the whole family, especially if you are travelling with kinds. It is located northeast from Lusaka, about 20 km away.
9. View Zambia’s Art at the Namwane Art Gallery
The Namwane Art Gallery is displaying many excellent pieces created by Zambien artist, as well as other African artis. It features a collection of paintings, pottery and a variety of sculptures.
10. Check out Zambia’s National Museum
Discover Zambia’s fascinating history and its culture by visiting the National Museum. You can learn about the rituals and ceremonies created by tribal witch doctors, and you can see sculptures and paintings of ancient Zambian artists.
11. View the Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Built in 1962, the Cathedral of The Holy Cross proudly overlooks the city of Lusaka.
12. Explore the Parays Game Ranch
At Parays Game Ranch, you get the opportunity to get really close to Zambia’s wildlife. You can explore the park at your own pace, seeing a range of animals including zebras, wild boars, white lions. After spending time observing the animals, you can enjoy a barbeque of bush meat.
13. Taste delicious curry at Bombay Lounge
You can taste delicious Indian Cuisine at Bombay Lounge. You will experience fine dining in an elegant setting and can also enjoy a wide range of cocktails and wines.
14. Take a day out visit to Victoria Falls
One of Africa’s greatest attractions is Victoria Falls, also known as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or
“the Smoke that Thunders”. The Victoria Falls is part of Zambezi River, which forms the border between Zambia to the east and Zimbabwe on the west and is easily accessed from both countries - via Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe or Livingstone in Zambia.
From Lusaka you can get to Livingstone by a car, it is 480 km, which is approximately 7 h drive. The easiest way to get to the Victoria Falls is by plane, either to Livingstone airport in Zambia or to Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe.
You don't need a guide to view the falls, but you'll need to pay the single-entry fee, which is currently $30 for adults on both sides. You can also get good views from the Victoria Falls Bridge, which crosses the Zambezi just below the falls. The bridge links Zimbabwe and Zambia and border posts lie at either end.
Apart from these two entrances, the only other way to see the Falls is from Livingstone Island, from above by helicopter, or from below by water rafting or jetboat.
The good news is, no matter which side you stay on, you can easily cross the border to explore the other or to undertake activities, including white-water rafting, gorge swinging, bungee jumping, visiting Livingstone Island or having dinner on an old-fashioned train.
15. Visit Lusaka City Market
The Lusaka City Market is located close to the train station, and it is a great place to experience local culture. It is a busy marketplace where local farmers gather to sell their goods, including fruits, arts, clothes. The place is packed with locals and is a very colorful, exciting environment to be in.