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Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, is usually seen as a stopover city for travelers on the way to Victoria Falls or the national parks like South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi, but it has some interesting things to see and do if there on a short layover. Here’s how to spend 24 hours, from game drives to sundowners.
Grab a morning cup of joe and check out the art scene
Enjoy breakfast at the boutique hotel or backpacker hostel you’re staying at, then grab a coffee at the one of the best coffee shops in Lusaka, before heading out to explore. The Lusaka Museum displays Zambia’s political history from pre-colonial to post-independence, and can be browsed in an hour. Alternatively, if visiting on a Tuesday or a Thursday, 37D Gallery by the Start Foundation in Kabulonga is one of the best places in Lusaka to view contemporary art.
Stock up on souvenirs
Searching for gifts at the market to take back to friends and family? Head to the Kabwata Cultural Village in Kabwata township for authentic souvenirs such as key chains, baskets and wooden items. The village is open daily from 8am to 6pm. If staying closer to the Great East Road and visiting on a weekend, the Pakati Market at the Arcades mall has several stalls with traders selling souvenirs.
Pro tip: As there are no prices written on the items for sale, traders tend to overcharge tourists. Find out the range of prices from locals, then bring your best bargaining and haggling skills.
Help save elephants
Head to the Elephant Orphanage at the Lilayi Lodge between 11.30am and 1pm to see rescued orphaned young elephants being fed (feedings are at 11.45am daily). Visiting the elephants is free, but a donation is suggested which goes towards work on conservation. Stay for lunch at the lodge and finish the afternoon with a game drive or horseback safari in the vast estate which boasts wildlife such as zebra, antelopes and giraffe. In need of relaxation? Treat yourself to a massage at the spa on the premises.
Go on a game drive
For a cheaper alternative, visit the Lusaka National Park off Leopards Hill Road in Lusaka East. The park has a rhino, giraffes, antelopes and other non predatory animals. Entrance to the park is USD$3 per person. Afterwards, have a late lunch at Sugar Bush restaurant which is a fifteen-minute drive from the entrance of the national park, or Latitude 15 which is off Leopards Hill, the main road that leads to the park.
Pro tip: There are no buses that go to the national park, so booking a private vehicle is the best transport to get there.
Have a sundowner and do a pub crawl
Enjoy the sunset and the view of Lusaka’s busy Great East Road while sipping a cocktail from the Cloud 9 Bar at the Protea Hotel, which is among the best bars in the capital city. Have dinner at the Steakhouse Restaurant next to the bar, or walk over to the East Park Mall where there are several fast food and more upscale restaurants serving everything from chicken and fries to steak and sushi. For desert, have a scoop or two of Gigibonta’s delicious sorbet, or try their crepes. There are several other bars at the mall such as Chicagos, Al Capone’s Lounge, and Keg and Lion to end the night.
Enjoy live music
Some hotels and restaurants have cover bands that have residencies at their establishments – fans of live music will appreciate O’Hagans Irish Pub and Grill in the suburbs of Woodlands on Thursday evenings, The Intercontinental Hotel on Friday evenings, or the Misty Restaurant at Levy Mall. Guests staying at Latitude 15 have access to the ‘The Other Side’ property on the same premises, which has live music on Friday evenings.
Pro tip: Some lounges and bars have a strict dress code such as no sneakers and caps. Be sure to check the entry requirements in advance.