So you've arrived in Kigali and you’re: not sure what to do, can't decide what to do or think that there is not much to do?
Kigali is actually filled with interesting experiences and it’s a city that is one of a kind. Its smooth clean streets take you around the groomed grass and flower beds of the city’s centre, or up to the hills through the suburbs where you can see the houses piling up on the slopes.
If you’re hesitating whether you should stay in Kigali for one day only or longer, we’d say longer - there are so many things to do that one day is not going to be enough. We loved Kigali because it’s such a mix of modern world & old traditions, it’s really a perfect fusion of old and new and the transition between the two is sometimes hard to notice unless you really think about it.
We spent about two weeks in Kigali and we really enjoyed learning what it’s like to live there, both as a local and as an expat. In this post we put together some places & activities that we really enjoyed.
To understand this post better, you may want to read
- What is it like to travel in Rwanda today -
which has general information about visiting Rwanda.
What To Do In Kigali
GoKigali Day Tour
You may remember our Addis Ababa post and GoAddis Tours video we made - the owners of GoAddis Tours actually live in Kigali and here they run the amazing GoKigali Tours. Well, we can’t recommend it enough. Not only the guides are the brightest & most accommodating people ever (like seriously if you just mention to Erik, their top notch guide, that you're dreaming of something, in less than 5 minutes your dream will come true - before you even notice!), but also the things you do on their tours are amazing. You get a taste of Kigali’s cultural diversity going through a variety of suburbs, you visit local eateries and get a chance to get introduced to Rwandan cuisine. You get to see important religious sights, you walk, take a boat, drive and chat to local sellers in the market. Seriously - it’s a great day out and a perfect way to be introduced to the whole new world of Rwanda.
Nyamirambo Women's Centre & Boutique
Nyamirambo is suburb in Kigali and here you can find the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre where women create the most colourful and beautiful pieces of clothing, decorations and accessories. You can visit the centre whilst the women are working but you can also book one of their very affordable tours such as walking, cooking or basket weaving tour. Besides their main location in Nyamirambo, The Women’s Centre also has a boutique on KG5 avenue where you can buy their stunning products.
Murals Around The City
It’s best to see them on a GoKigali Tour, but since there are plenty of them around the city, you may want to also venture out yourself and look for them. The murals that decorate Kigali were created by local artists during Umuganda - the last Saturday of the month when everyone in the country gathers together to work on cleaning, re-building and decorating their country. You can find Kigali murals all over the city. They are down lane ways, behind markets, on the sides of buildings and even on the steps of the National Stadium. The guys from Kurema Kureba Kwiga are responsible for a lot of the artwork and definitely worth checking out.
The Genocide Museum -
To Visit Or Not To Visit?
Although it’s nothing pleasant, it’s absolutely necessary to visit the Genocide Museum in Kigali. Not only you can learn about the country’s recent history, but you can also get a good understanding of the country’s social, economical and cultural development and learn about the strategies that the country managed to come up with to develop at the current pace. The museum is very modern with plenty of different ways to convey information, such as text, photographs, films and interior design. We were completely drawn into the history of genocide and as hard as it was to read about it and look at the old photographs, we felt it was very necessary for us to learn new things which we would not be able to learn in any other way since it’s so difficult to talk about it all.
Motos are the way to get around Kigali. You won’t find many taxis here and even if you do, they’re quite pricey. Motos charge you usually less than a dollar to get to places (unless it’s raining!) and besides a practical function of getting you where you need to go, you can also use them for sightseeing.
It’s important that if you decide to sightsee the city on a moto, you make sure that your driver is trusted and your helmet fits your head well. Everyone in Kigali has to wear a helmet and drivers usually carry one for you, but sometimes they may be too big or the clip may not work properly - and there’s nothing more annoying than holding on to your moto with one hand, and holding your helmet with another hand in fear that it will fall off your head and fly away.
You can use the SafeMotos app to ensure you get a great driver or if you make friends with anyone in Kigali, ask around about a trusted driver - they will surely have somebody that they use on a regular basis.
Where To Shop in Kigali
Sarah Day Design
Right next to Nyamirambo Women’s Centre boutique (not the centre itself!) near the Convention Centre you can find a small and sophistically decorated shop of Sarah Day Design - if you’re in Kigali only for a short time as a tourist, it may be difficult to look at all the chic household items and not being able to take them home, but there is something small too - honey candles and simplistic jewellery may just fit in your bag.
Marriott Hotel may not be your choice but whether it is or isn’t, you should head there to visit GoKigali Boutique - all hand-made & artisanal products in a range of prices. You can find stylish and very unique hand-made clothes there, as well as shoes, jewellery, books & maps (especially the awesome Map of Kigali!), baby gifts, bags and house decorations. Even if you’re not planning on spending much money, just go and have a look at the beautiful African-made products - we would totally buy everything from there!
Markets In Kigali
The Kimironko Market is a huge market a bit further away from the centre. We haven’t seen any tourists there but we heard it’s a bit touristy so local people may not be too keen to chat with you since they have so many other tourists bother them on a daily basis. It’s still a great place to go to - it’s so big but quite organised. You go through different sections of fruit, veggies, flours and spices, homeware and other bits and bobs, and you can stare in awe at the abundance of all the produce. It’s very dark inside so it may be a bit hard to photograph (make sure you don’t use flash as it’s super disturbing to the local people trying to go about their lives).
There are a couple of other, smaller markets, especially the Nyamirambo market that you visit on a GoKigali Tour. Why is it cool to visit it with GoKigali? Because you actually stop by by the stalls and chat to the sellers thanks to your awesome guides who translate everything. That’s how you can get to know a lot about what people sell & buy and you even get to taste, smell and touch all the new things that you may have never seen before (like the fruit tomato that’s sweet, and Zach's favourite passion fruit!).
Where To Eat in Kigali
So Rwanda is not big on street food (you actually won't find a street vendor anywhere!) and whilst you can find a couple of small shops here and there, people mainly eat in eateries, bistros and restaurants. If you want to try something unique and extremely delicious (all in a beautiful setting!), make your way to Poivre Noir. Their menu is simple & sophisticated at the same time - everyone can find something for themselves, whereas the prices are affordable. The owners, Nathalie and John make sure that everything is fresh and prepared meticulously from scratch with a lot of attention. Just try one of their amazing risottos, meats or pastas and you will understand what we’re talking about. We’d come back there even today!
Inzora Cafe & Bookshop
This cool cafe has a small rooftop with views on the city and comfy mattresses where you can lay down. On the main level you will find plenty of tables surrounded by large glass walls with nice views, and a bookshop with plenty of choices for everyone. Their coffees are great but their melted cheese sandwiches are even better!
We visited Baso Patissier a lot of times! They usually have a good WiFi if you need to sort out some online things and their Croque Monsieur sandwich is delicious (and probably big enough to share!). They have all the delicious freshly baked goodies and a great coffee too.
This is the ultimate place to get coffee & fresh pastry. They are a social enterprise that besides running a cafe, has also its own coffee farms and trains local baristas. They pride themselves in specialty coffee which you can buy there, and you can also spend your time mastering your coffee tasting skills on a Coffee Tasting Masterclass.
Where To Stay in Kigali
The Retreat is a boutique hotel right in the centre of Kigali and may not be a place for everyone's budget but if you're considering staying usually in low budget places and splash out once or twice on a unique place, the Retreat should be it!
It's a true oasis and a place where you can take an outdoor shower in a beautiful green setting which simply made our day after a full on walking adventure around the town.
Don't get discouraged though if your budget is low - you can book an affordable AirBnB or check out ->
These are just some of the things that you can do in Kigali, there are plenty more if you just ask around. We really had a great time in this surprising city and enjoyed speeding on the motos through the hilly roads, eating all the new things that we didn’t know existed, and learning about the city through its murals & museum.
We collaborated with GoKigali Tours & Boutique, Povire Noir, The Retreat and Question Coffee on their promo videos and/or photographs but all opinions in this post are as always, our own.
Also, this post contains an affiliate hotel booking links, which means that if you book your accommodation through our links, we will earn a small commission fee. It doesn't affect the price you pay, and we get to sustain our website thanks to these small earnings.