A relatively young and lively capital, Lusaka took over the mantle of Zambia’s principle city from the former seat of power, Livingstone, back in 1935 – when the country was once part of the British colony known as Northern Rhodesia.
Chosen because of its well-connected location in the southern part of the central plateau, and for its relatively (for central Africa) cool climate, Lusaka sits at an altitude of 1,300m and has grown to become the country’s largest city – a sprawling, rather chaotic metropolis covering 70 square kilometres and home to some 2 million people, one-tenth of the nation’s population. The University of Zambia is also located in the city.
While Zambia is well-known for its spectacular natural wonders, traffic-choked Lusaka is not high on the list of must-see attractions. That said, it is undeniably cosmopolitan, a city with a strong and palpable heartbeat, and for the open-minded traveller it’s worth exploring – with your wits about you – especially if keen to get a little further under the country’s skin.
While there are good, if rather soulless international hotels here, decent restaurants and an interesting national museum, this is not a destination with obvious cultural treasures. So, perhaps the best mindset for enjoying Lusaka is to just people watch and take pleasure in meeting the locals – be it at one of the hectic local markets, at the more leisurely botanical gardens, riding a minibus, joining the fans at a football match or simply sharing your travellers’ tales over a Rhino beer in one of Lusaka’s many local bars.