Lusaka is a vibrant city, one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa.
Though it often takes a backseat to Zambia’s major tourist sites, it is steadily establishing itself as a well-rounded tourist destination in the region. As Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka has cemented its position as the melting pot for the country’s 73 tribes and the international cultures that inhabit it. Here, you can experience some of the best contrasts of cultures on the continent. While most visitors come to the city for business or access to Zambia’s notable tourism hotspots, Lusaka now offers a great blend of experiences for nature, art, food, and lifestyle enthusiasts.
To enjoy all that Lusaka has to offer, I recommend staying longer than 72 hours. Still, hopefully, with this curated road map, you can see, taste, and experience some of the city’s best adventures within three days. And if you’re a Lusaka resident interested in exploring more of your city, this is for you too.
Day 1 / Friday
Get your day going with a nutritious bite at the Garden Buddha Café near Lusaka’s central business district. You will surely get some of the freshest farm-to-table meals like the house buddha bowls, which will keep you nourished for the rest of the morning. The café grows various plants and sells supplies you can purchase to spruce up your garden.
A stone’s throw away from the café, you will find Lechwe Gallery. The gallery houses contemporary mixed-media visual art created by budding young artists and established artists from around the country. You could also pop into #Social, just a few steps away from Lechwe Gallery, to grab a mocktail to enjoy as you immerse yourself in the art.
Side note: For businesspersons needing space to close off pending work deliverables, pop into the BongoHive, Elunda Spaces, Africa Works, or The Works at Latitude 15, which offer top-notch coworking spaces.
After visiting Lechwe Gallery, you can kick things up a notch by getting a taxi or driving to the city’s southeastern side to experience Zambia’s youngest national park. It is significant to note that Lusaka has joined Nairobi as one of Africa’s capital cities with a National Park on its doorstep.
The Lusaka National Park offers nature-based activities like picnics, camping, bicycle trails, walking safaris, hikes, and self-drives. Visitors can see several species of herbivores, including the protected white rhino and various antelope species. However, the park’s highlight has to be the Elephant Nursery, which was, until recently, located at Lilayi Lodge. Run by local NGO Game Rangers International (GRI), the nursery provides an observation deck where you can see the elephant calf’s up close during their daily feeding time. You will be able to witness just how intelligent, playful and naughty they can be.
Staying within the national park, you can also visit the Wildlife Discovery Centre, also run by GRI. Here you can also learn about some of the conservation work done in different Zambian National Parks. Look for the installation featuring 1,000 snares recovered from the South Luangwa National Park alone.
If you work up an appetite after visiting the Park, I recommend you head back to the leafy Woodlands suburb to Afrigonia (aka Cilantro). It is one of Lusaka’s first fine dining restaurants where you are sure to have a meal whose aesthetic, portion sizes, and flavor are curated to ignite the senses. I recommend you select the tilapia ceviche, slow-cooked lamb shank, or their infamous surf and turf; it is all exquisite.
Take note of nearby sights and attractions. You can visit Saucy Mukosa to cool off by enjoying some of their homemade gourmet ice creams in waffle cones; my favourites are the cookies and cream and cheesecake. You could also grab some essential wooden, woven or ceramic pieces for everyday living or gifts at Saucy or go next door to a local fashion house, Kamanga, to get some clothing or accessories. Alternatively, you can channel your inner van Gogh by signing up for a Paint and Sip session within the same premises, or you could ease into the afternoon at the 37d Gallery.
37d Gallery is one of Lusaka’s chicest galleries
which showcases the acclaimed work of emerging and well-known local artists. The gallery has a good blend of various visual art forms dotted around the property. The gallery also supports the StArt Foundation with proceeds from all art sold by local and international artists who showcase their work. So, you would be supporting a good cause when you buy art here.
While at 37d, you should peep into Jagoda, Zambia’s longest-established fine jewellery store. You will get to see or even buy various gemstones mined in different parts of Zambia and later polished and sold by resident jewellers. It has dramatically complemented the art experience on my previous visits. The gallery also contains a little café, so keep this in mind next time you’re in the area.
End your day by toasting to the weekend at The Other Side, Latitude 15° hotel’s eclectic wing, tailored to enable guests and residents to drink, eat, and unwind to the euphonious sound of the live band that is featured on most Fridays. The Other Side has a quirky and whimsical vibe, and they serve some of the tastiest canapes and cocktails on this side of Lusaka.
If this boutique environment is not your kind of vibe, you can get to 1903, Lusaka’s Harley Davidson Café located at the Lewanika Mall food court. 1903 is a biker bar that also hosts live performances from local artists. Their resident chef is one of Zambia’s most celebrated culinary minds, so there is no doubt their food and music will leave your stomach and heart full.
Day 2 / Saturday
A visit to Lusaka is never complete without experiencing the hospitality of one of its luxury safari lodges; Chaminuka or Lilayi Lodge. They all have unique landscapes and game drive experiences. However, Chaminuka is my top pick for its combination of nature-based activities and foodie experiences for visitors of all ages; you could spend the whole day there.
For an all-inclusive fee, Chaminuka offers day visitors the opportunity to see various bird and wildlife species on the game drives, including the lion, elephant, and buffalo, three of Africa’s Big Five. In addition, you could take horse rides around the property, boat rides on the lake, or indulge in tasting several varieties of cheese made on-site. You could also take an art tour around the property, which infamously holds Zambia’s most extensive private collection of local and international art. The lodge now provides coffee roasting, local coffee and food pairing, wine and cheese pairing, and the cheese and game fondue dinner experience at additional rates. (If a wine-tasting session is more your thing, you can find that at Lilayi Lodge.) You can also purchase cheese made on-site at Chaminuka from the Kaposhi Farm Shop.
After a day spent at Chaminuka, I recommend you stop by next door at Ciêla Resort to experience the Botanica restaurant’s gastronomic multi-course dinner.
The different courses, like the Luangwa, dried fish tom yum, have a contemporary spin on local traditional cuisine that takes your taste buds on an exquisite journey of texture and flavor from everyday ingredients. Then again, you could visit The Brewery within Ciêla to enjoy local craft brews made in the microbrewery on-site as you bite into some American staples.
Suppose you are feeling less ambitious about safari experiences but are eager to get out and about for the day. In that case, I recommend visiting Nkwashi Estates, The Cross Park, and Paintball Mania, all on the outskirts of Lusaka’s Leopards Hill Road. You can do several activities there, like fishing, boating, swimming, quad biking, and paintball.
Day 3 / Sunday
Lusaka seemingly takes a back seat on Sundays as most people deliberately take a step back to prepare for the week ahead, work-life stability and rest are a big part of the work culture, and you will seldom find certain businesses open on Sunday.
However, do not despair; there is still more you can experience, starting with a yummy brunch at one of Lusaka’s best bistro-styled cafés, 3 Trees. The restaurant has consistently served nutritious meals and drinks over the years. I always enjoy having their smoothies, cold-pressed juices, nachos bowls, burgers and the occasional seafood platter. It helps that their airy and spacious outdoor space under Jacaranda trees also allows you to enjoy a cool breeze as you ease into your Sunday afternoon.
You can then visit the Arcades Sunday Market or Kabwata Cultural Village to see and buy local art, fabric, clothing, jewelry, and curios made and sold by various creatives and vendors from all corners of Zambia and neighboring countries. The vendors usually are very friendly and open to bargain.
Suppose you are up for a much slower afternoon. In that case, you could visit Pazuri for a leisurely afternoon on well-maintained lawns with several swimming pools and woodland acacia trees, where you will see ostriches, giraffes and antelopes roaming the extensive grounds. On the other hand, you could visit
Monkey Pools to unplug in a lush setting. This spot is prime for picnics or some light reading courtesy of its quiet surroundings, well-manicured lawns, and the dreamy series of clear pools fed by subtle streams.
Side note: On your way to Monkey Pools, you could pass by the Zeela Art Gallery for some solitude and spiritual reflection. There, you will be surrounded by tall trees that have art woven into the very fabric of its indoor and outdoor surroundings. Alternatively, if you’re interested in taking in some Zambian history while in Lusaka, visit Chilenje House
(the former home of Zambia’s founding father, Kenneth Kaunda) and the Lusaka National Museum.
You can then wrap up your Lusaka adventures by having a taste of some local delicacies at Mpoto Yathu or Thornpark’s matebeto restaurants, which serve traditional delicacies like ifisashi (vegetables in peanut sauce), ifinkubala (mopane worms/caterpillars) and kapenta (dry sardines) which are enjoyed by numerous locals who frequent the two eateries. Alternatively, you can dine at Lusaka’s quintessential barbecue spot, Grandaddy’s, which serves some of the best charcoal-grilled food; I recommend their pork ribs. Grandaddy’s has an indoor and outdoor seating space where you can enjoy Afropop and House music from resident DJs or catch up on live sporting events from the weekend on their large screens.
With all these different experiences under your belt, you will have some great memories and a lingering impression that eventually draws you back into the city’s essence.
Images by Bongani Kumar, 37d Gallery, Ciela Resort, Kalichi Pictures and Saucy Mukosa