Kigali: in detail
Kigali trips: the full story
Rwanda is a small country, with its modern capital, Kigali, at the centre. From here the roads radiate outwards, like the spokes of a wheel, and hence on most Rwanda holidays you'll occasionally spend a night here as part of any itinerary. It’s a pleasant city scattered over several hills with enough to do to keep visitors occupied for a couple of days, easy to walk around with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants for sustenance.
One of the first things most people notice is that, particularly for an African city, Kigali is spotlessly clean, partly because plastic bags are banned in the country but also because of a universal service called Umuganda when everyone gets together on the last Saturday morning of each month working on community projects like keeping streets clean, tending to gardens and helping neighbours. Do bear this in mind should you be on holiday in Rwanda during this time – many shops and businesses will be closed for the morning.
Hotels in KigaliKigali’s accommodation options are spread around the city and range from smart four or five star hotels to lower budget bed and breakfasts. While many are of a good international standard, our top pick being the stylish and comfortable Heaven Retreat, or are stayed in for the historical value such as Hotel des Mille Collines which was the location of the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, you should be aware that service can sometimes be slow in bars and restaurants. Take a look here to see our recommended hotels in Kigali.
What to do in Kigali
Shopping in KigaliThere are a number of smart shopping malls in Kigali city centre with some chic boutiques and coffee shops. But if you’re after something more authentic, take a stroll around one or two of its lively markets, you'll usually be met with great friendliness. If you like browsing for curios and souvenirs from your Rwanda holiday, pay a visit to the Caplaki handicrafts cooperative, which sells a variety of local crafts.
Alternatively, the lively Nyamirambo area of Kigali is regarded as the most vibrant quarter of the city, known for its excellent tailors and hair salons, as well as its many bars and cafes. As with any city, take care if visiting at night but during the daytime, Nyamirambo Women’s Centre offers interesting walking tours around their neighbourhood that takes in their own craft shop, a typical Rwandan meal and the local market too.
Kigali Museums and the Kigali Genocide MemorialKigali’s museums include the State House Museum and the Natural History Museum, both of which are worth a visit if you’re in town, with the latter having superb views over the city.
Perhaps the city’s best known landmark, and with good reason, is the insightful and moving Kigali Genocide Memorial, standing amid beautiful rose gardens and fountains. The memorial sets out the history preceding the genocide in Rwanda and also explains other genocides around the world. It includes poignant displays of victims’ photographs and belongings, bringing the realities of the atrocities to life. While it might seem an unusual tourist attraction and can be upsetting, it helps to put into context the causes of the genocide and enabes a better appreciation of just how far the country has moved on in the intervening years. It also plays a vital role in educating Rwanda’s future generations about their country's history.
Where to stay in Kigali
Our suggestions for places to stay in Kigali