Sarah Kingdom our resident African expert, offers a lowdown on Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
Zambia is best known to travellers as home to the Victoria Falls and some sensational National Parks, but most people don’t give the capital, Lusaka, a second thought. But to reach most of the country’s attractions you’ll have to pass through Lusaka, the largest city in the country and one of the fastest-developing cities in southern Africa.
Lusaka can be confusing and overwhelming for visitors unfamiliar with its busy shanty towns, unplanned neighbourhoods, bustling markets, high-walled suburbs and dusty tree-lined streets. New buildings are springing up everywhere and the roads aren’t quite keeping up with development, so peak-hour traffic is chaotic! But there’s more the Lusaka than meets the eye and it’s worth spending a little time here and getting a feel for the country and its people.
Lusaka’s markets are a hive of activity, with thousands of stalls operating throughout the city. Crazy and congested, Lusaka City Market with its over 400 stalls is worth a visit. Lively and packed to the rafters, the goods on sale probably aren’t of much interest to the average traveller, but it’s still a great way to experience local culture and great for budding photographers to get some ‘street life’ shots.
If you find the local markets a little daunting and you’re in Lusaka over the weekend, visit the Pakati Sunday Craft Market in the car park at Arcades Shopping Centre for crafts, souvenirs and gifts – prepare yourself for some good-natured bargaining.
A definite place to visit is the Lusaka Collective. More than just a shop, this is a collective in the true sense of the word, with a commitment to supporting small local businesses and grassroots artisans – 75% of sales proceeds go directly back to the producers. All products on sale are Zambian and made by some of the most creative artisans from around the country.
There are three branches to visit, the Longacres branch, the International Airport store, and an outlet at the Lusaka National Park. The Longacres store is located within one of Lusaka’s smallest markets and just outside the Collective’s doors you’ll find colourful street art and a collection of traditional street food vendors.
If you are looking for a ‘no filter’ Zambian experience, sign up for a tour of Bauleni Compound (township) with In&Out of the Ghetto. This is a small non-profit organisation that aims to empower youth and encourage them to take an active role in the development of their community. A 2-hour walking tour will give you insights into the historical, cultural and social background of a traditional Zambian township. You’ll visit the local markets, the small local clinic, the local school and also call in at In&Out’s community centre. Proceeds raised go to support community projects.
On the outskirts of town, Lusaka National Park is Zambia’s newest and smallest national. See giraffe, eland, zebra, sable, wildebeest and more. It’s also home to the Game Rangers International Wildlife Discovery Centre and the fantastic Elephant Nursery, where orphaned elephants are rehabilitated before being reintegrated back into the wild.
The contemporary 37d Gallery exhibits and sells artwork by local Zambian and international artists. The Gallery is a non-profit organisation, supporting a charitable trust and income generated is used to fund projects for disadvantaged children, workshops and scholarship programmes. The Lechwe Trust Art Gallery houses the country’s most comprehensive collection of contemporary Zambian art, with more than 300 hundred paintings, prints, ceramics and sculptures.
Where to stay in Lusaka
Would it surprise you to learn that a standard shipping container can hold around 25,000 tin cans? That’s a lot of baked beans! Have you heard that in Kyrgyzstan you can visit Dordoy Bazaar, constructed from over 7,000 recycled shipping containers? Would it surprise you to learn that in Lusaka you can stay in a hotel made entirely from repurposed shipping containers?
My top pick for accommodation in Lusaka would be Cargo88 – a brand-new creative gem in town. The hotel takes contemporary design and innovation to heights not seen before in Lusaka. With 73 rooms, built from 172 recycled shipping containers, this is real urban chic, with super friendly service and a great location.
There’s a range of stylish rooms, from very affordable standard rooms, through deluxe and executive rooms, to two opulent penthouse suites complete with chandeliers and plush decor. The hotel restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and if you want to dine out, the nearby mall has a good selection of restaurants, all within walking distance. There are meeting/conference rooms available, and a spa that will be opening soon.
Lusaka has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, and there are plenty of reasons to spend a few days in this cosmopolitan city rather than just passing through. Lusaka gives travellers an authentic African city experience and an opportunity to taste the essence of Zambia.
Tell Me More About this lowdown on Lusaka
You can find out more about this lowdown on Lusaka by visiting Zambia Tourism
Corner of Great East Road and Thabo Mbeki Rd, Lusaka.
A standard twin room starts at $100/£80, Deluxe Rooms from $150/£120, Executive rooms from $190/£150, and the two lovely penthouse suites start from $250/£200. There’s also one family room that sleeps 5 (1 Single Bed, 1 Queen Bed & 1 Bunk Bed) that’s priced at $150/£120. For bookings contact email@example.com
The Restaurant: The Cargo88 restaurant serves breakfast to in-house guests only. Continental breakfast is included in the room rate, and a cooked breakfast is available at an extra cost. Lunch and dinner options range from light bites to burgers and pasta and is available from 12pm till 9pm daily. The Main Bar and the Rooftop Bar are open till 10pm daily and offer a good range of spirits, wines, beers, cocktails and mocktails.