Top 8 Things to Do in Kigali City Today, Rwanda
Things to Do in Kigali, Rwanda; 1. Go On a Guided Tour of the City, 2. Kigali Genocide Memorial, 3. Nyamata Church, 4. Discover the Story Behind the Real-Life Hotel Rwanda, 5. Kimironko Market, 6. Nyamirambo Women’s Center, 7. Inema Art Center, 8. Sample Rwandan Specialties Alongside the Locals.
Kigali, Rwanda’s capital since its 1962 independence from Belgium, is roughly in the country’s geographic center, making it a natural entrance for visitors and a great base for visiting the country’s best attractions. Plan to spend at least a few days in the city rather than just passing through if you have the time. While the Rwandan Genocide ravaged Kigali in 1994, it has since been rebuilt as one of Africa’s cleanest and safest capitals. Skyscrapers and start-up businesses stand out against the beautiful greenery of the surrounding hills, while contemporary art galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants contribute to the city’s global appeal.
The 8 Top Things to Do in Kigali, Rwanda
Go On a Guided Tour of the City
Take a guided tour of Kigali to discover more about the city from the locals. You’ll be able to hear stories about the many areas you’ll be traveling through and ask questions about the culture. Yambi Tours & Adventures offers a variety of private tours, including food-themed tours with cooking classes, that highlight the city’s old town, art galleries, marketplaces, and history. Meanwhile, Kigali City Tour offers guided tours to several of the places on our list, including the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Inema Arts Center, and Kimironko Market, among other places of interest.
Pay Your Respects at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
After decades of hostility between the two ethnic groups, elements of Rwanda’s Hutu majority government launched a genocide against the Tutsi people in April 1994. Approximately one million people had been slain by mid-July of that year. The Kigali Genocide Memorial, which houses three permanent installations, the largest of which is dedicated to honoring the events and victims of the Rwandan Genocide, has 259,000 of them buried in mass graves. Take a minute to reflect on what you’ve learnt in the Memorial’s serene gardens after you’ve gained an emotional insight into the horrors that molded Rwanda’s recent history.
Bear Witness to the Tragedies at Nyamata Church
Travel about an hour south of the city to the Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial for a more visceral education about the events of the Rwandan Genocide. Around 10,000 Tutsi sought safety within the church compound but were killed when Hutu fanatics blew open the church’s closed doors with grenades. More than 50,000 victims’ remains are buried at Nyamata today.
The original bullet holes in the roof and walls of the chapel can still be seen, and the victims’ bloodstained clothing (together with their personal goods and some of their bones) are placed inside as a terrible reminder of why the events of 1994 must never be repeated.
Discover the Story Behind the Real-Life Hotel Rwanda
The story of Hutu manager Paul Rusesabagina, who harbored hundreds of Tutsi refugees here during the Rwandan Genocide, was immortalized in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, which followed the story of Paul Rusesabagina, who sheltered hundreds of Tutsi refugees here during the Rwandan Genocide. Despite the fact that Rusesabagina’s participation is now disputed, the hotel itself is an interesting piece of Rwandan history. Although its former brilliance has dimmed with time, it remains a magnificent spot to visit for afternoon drinks by the pool or superb local and international food in the fourth-floor restaurant. Consider that the pool was once the only source of water for the refugees besieged inside the hotel as you drink your beverage amid the beautiful flora.
Fine-tune Your Haggling Skills at Kimironko Market
Head to the large warehouse complex known as Kimironko Market, the busiest and most popular market in town, for a really immersive shopping experience, with sellers selling wares from all around Rwanda as well as East, Central, and West Africa. Souvenirs and crafts at bargain prices can be found here, as well as swaths of kitenge fabric that can be transformed into one-of-a-kind clothes by the market’s on-site seamstresses.
Kimironko also serves as a market for Rwandans, with areas dedicated to colorful fruits and vegetables, apparel, household goods, and smelly meat and seafood. The kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and smells provides an authentic glimpse into daily life in Kigali. It’s hectic, loud, and frequently overpowering. Please keep in mind that all of the pricing shown below are considered negotiable.
Take a Cultural Tour at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center
The Nyamirambo Women’s Center, located in Kigali’s cosmopolitan Nyamirambo district, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing Rwandan women with the education and skills they need to find work. The women who work here employ their talents to manufacture high-quality children’s clothes, accessories, and home decor items out of traditional kitenge textiles, which serve as beautiful mementos while also supporting the center’s community projects.
Don’t forget to join one of their renowned walking tours as well. Following a traditional snack and a Kinyarwanda lesson, you’ll tour Nyamirambo’s houses, independent enterprises, and mosques with a local guide, and then enjoy a traditional lunch at one of the ladies’ homes. Online reservations are also available for sisal basket weaving workshops and traditional cookery sessions.
Shop for Rwandan Art at the Inema Art Center
The Inema Art Center, which was founded in 2012 by two brothers with a passion for supporting and showcasing emerging Rwandan artists, is now one of the city’s best contemporary galleries, showcasing the work of emerging and established artists from around the world and serving as a studio for ten artists-in-residence who work in a variety of mediums.
Workshops and training programs for the next generation of Rwandan artists are held at the Inema Art Center, including weekly lessons for orphans with artistic aptitude, traditional dance programs for youngsters, and a crafts program for women. Visitors can view their work in the gallery or visit the gift store to purchase jewelry, linens, and leatherwork made by the center’s students. Keep a look out for live music and dancing performances on a regular basis.
Sample Rwandan Specialties Alongside the Locals
The Inzora Rooftop Café, located behind Ikirezi Bookshop, is a great example of Kigali’s thriving café culture. The rooftop terrace has spectacular views of the city and its surrounding hills, and the house coffee comes from a cooperative that benefits over 2,000 farmers. The food is fit for any Western hipster hangout, with macadamia and chia seed granola and gluten-free brownies on the menu. Everything is sourced locally, from the ingredients to the furniture. For the kids, there’s also a playhouse and a kitchen. The café is a great place to go for a relaxing brunch or some evening beverages with a view. Don’t miss the café’s weekly cocktail and tasting board event on Fridays.
Repub Lounge has a strong following in Kigali, both among travelers and locals, as a place to unwind after a long day. Its African furnishings feature kitenge textiles and hand-crafted furniture to create a welcoming ambience, while the outside deck offers breathtaking views of the city lights. The menu focuses on grilled meats and offers Rwandan and East African cuisine (although there are options for vegetarians). The curry coconut fish is a standout, and the African-style sharing plates are ideal for bigger groups. From the large beverages menu, order a glass of wine or a local beer, then sit back and relax while listening to Afro-inspired live music.