Rwanda is sometimes called the "Singapore of Africa" and it is the capital Kigali that has contributed to that nickname.
Kigali, located in the middle of the country, is bustling, colorful, impresively clean and safe. Kigali has a lot to offer, including excellent coffee, tea, basket weaving, great restaurants, bars, art galleries and social initiatives. Kigali is also leading the tech revolution of East Africa and is the gateway for gorilla tracking.
11 Best Things To Experience in Kigali:
1. Take a guided tour of the city
If it is your first time in Kigali, take a guided city tour to learn more about the history of the country, the city and the local culture.
Yambi Tours & Adventures offers several private tours highlighting the city's old town, art galleries, local markets, and history, as well as experiene the local cuisine and cooking classes.
Convention center in Kigali
2. Pay your respect at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
Don’t miss the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The museum commemorates the genocide against the Tutsi, orchestrated by the primarily Hutu government in 1994, when in just three months, almost one million people had been slaughtered. 259,000 of them are buried in mass graves at the the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Kigali Genocide Memorial offers permanent exhibitions, photo galleries and recordings document this large-scale massacre, which is still so little known.
3. Stroll around Nyamirambo colorful neighborhood
Explore Kigali’s Muslim neighborhood, Nyamirambo, which offers a wide variety of small boutiques and typical restaurants where locals meet to enjoy traditional Rwandan food.
4. Visit Nyamiramno women's center
Located in Kigali’s multicultural Nyamirambo district, the Nyamirambo Women’s Center is a non-profit initiative intended to provide Rwandan women with the education and training needed to find employment. The ladies who work here use their skills to create high-quality children’s clothing, accessories, and home decor products out of traditional fabrics, all of which make stunning souvenirs while funding the center’s community programs.
Make sure to sign up for one of their popular walking tours, too. After a traditional snack and a lesson in Kinyarwanda, you’ll follow a local guide on a tour of Nyamirambo’s houses, independent businesses, and mosques, and afterward, enjoy a traditional lunch at one of the ladies’ homes.
5. Visit Inema art center
Founded in 2012 by two brothers with a passion for supporting and showcasing emerging Rwandan artists, the Inema Art Center is now one of the best contemporary galleries in the city, featuring the work of emerging and established artists from around the world and serving as a studio for 10 artists-in-residence, who typically work across a broad spectrum of different mediums.
The Inema Art Center hosts workshops and training programs for the next generation of Rwandan creatives, including weekly classes for orphans with artistic abilities, traditional dance programs for children, and a crafts program for women.
6. Visit Niyo art gallery
There are plenty of beautiful galleries in Kigali, but Niyo Arts center is probably my favorite one. It is a community art center that is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of Rwandan community through ART (Painting, sculpturing, music, dancing, drumming and poetry). It hosts 17 artists in residence from Rwanda and Uganda whose 40% of the profit from the sales of their art work is donated to NIYO FOUNDATION, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to supporting children and women in the vulnerable communities around Kigali.
After browsing through the art exhibition, you can take a break in their cafeteria and taste the excellent cup of coffee.
7. Experience the Question Coffee
The Question Coffee is listed as one of the 5 must-visit places in Kigali .
Since 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested in the innovative training of coffee farmers and producers, bringing smallholder farmers up through the coffee value chain. These long-term investments have led to a partnership with Sustainable Growers, home of Question Coffee Cafe & Roastery, a social enterprise, and the Coffee training Academy. By drinking this coffee, you are investing in women farmers as they produce high quality products that increase economic independence for themselves and their families.
8. Explore Kimironko Local Market
Kimironko is an authentic local market that must not be missed when visiting Kigali! It is the busiest and most popular market in town where you will find souvenirs and crafts. You will get lost in this maze of colourful aisles, full of fruit, vegetables, spices, clothes, hardware and electronics, which is also perfect place for discovering Rwandan crafts and vibrant African fabrics, such as kitenge.
It is a chaotic, loud, and often overwhelming local market, but it serves as an authentic insight into daily life in Kigali. Please note that all prices here are considered to be negotiable.
9. Climb Mount Kigali
Hike to the city’s highest point. Among local villages and lush forests, this easily accessible route takes you to the heart of nature. With a wonderful view over Kigali, sunrise or sunset is a magical moment from this spot!
10. Discover the story behind the Hotel Des Mille Collines "Hotel Rwanda"
Once the grandest hotel in the capital, Hôtel des Mille Collines was immortalized by the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, which followed the story of Hutu manager Paul Rusesabagina, who sheltered hundreds of Tutsi refugees here during the Rwandan Genocide.
11. 1000 hills distillery
Founded in 2014 by two gentlemen with a love of fine whisky, stunning views and a strong sense of pride in working with local communities.
They produce locally five unique Made in Rwanda, triple distilled liquors, such as a Coffee Liqueur, Vodka, Light Spiced Rum, London Dry Gin and Single Malt Whisky. Unlike most alcohol companies, social impact is at the heart of this company.