Top 17 Things to See and Do in Kigali

| Jean Claude Akarikumutima / Unsplash
Leah Feiger

Kigali, while not yet Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, or Kampala, is still slowly becoming an East African capital to reckon with. This vibrant city is no longer sleepy, as restaurants, bars, galleries, and activities abound. Check out this guide for the top things to see and do in Kigali.

1. Shop at Kimironko market

Market, African

Kimironko market
Courtesy of Annette Swale
Of Kigali’s many markets, Kimironko market is one of the best and the biggest. Second-hand clothing, fruit and vegetables, fish, fabric, and baskets are all sold in this covered complex. Spend some time haggling for avocados before buying gifts for everyone on your list – Agaseke baskets are beautiful, unique to Rwanda, and sold by the dozen at Kimironko.

2. Pay your respects at the genocide Memorial

Museum

Bouquet of flowers for one of the victims of the Rwandan Genocide, Kigali
Rufio / Unsplash
Rwanda’s 1994 genocide was an undeniably tragic event, and the Kigali Genocide Memorial does an excellent job of commemorating it. A visit to the memorial is unforgettable, as the attached and informative museum teaches visitors about the events before, during, and after the genocide.

3. Drink coffee

Cafe

Rwanda produces some of the best coffee in the world. Available everywhere from Costco to Starbucks, trying coffee while in the actual country is an absolute must. Question Coffee, a cafe and roastery linked to Sustainable Harvest (a coffee importing company), makes some of the best cups in the city. Also check out Inzora Rooftop Cafe as another coffee shop option.

4. Do a Go Kigali tour

Architectural Landmark

For an in-depth experience of Kigali, look no further than Go Kigali tours. These half or full day tours, led by Rwandan guides, take visitors through five neighborhoods on an action packed day of sightseeing, eating, and learning about the city. The tour visits markets, milk bars, local restaurants, Mt. Kigali, and more in the course of just a few hours, and is a great way to see this beautiful city.

5. Check out the Gaddafi Mosque

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

One of Rwanda’s most impressive mosques and structures, the Gaddafi Mosque was not actually constructed by Muammar Gaddafi. However, it was named as such for the road that Gaddafi did build that runs parallel to the mosque. The mosque’s official name, though no locals refer to it as such, is the Islamic Cultural Center. Located in the Nyamirambo neighborhood, the mosque also serves as school, clinic, and community center for the surrounding area.

6. Mount Kigali

Natural Feature

Mt. Kigali looms over the rest of the city, providing a mountainous and hilly backdrop for residents. This beautiful mountain can be hiked, biked, or driven up, and the views from the top, on a good day, stretch on for miles.

7. Visit a milk bar

Cafe

Cows are incredibly important to Rwandan culture, and symbolize wealth, prosperity, and identity. Cows are still used today to pay a marriage dowry, or bride price. Milk is, as a result, also very important culturally, and small shops dedicated only to milk (called milk bars) are classically Kigali. Milk bars in the Nyamirambo or Kimisagara neighborhoods of Kigali are often the best, and are designated as such with the phrase ‘Amata Meza’ (meaning fresh milk in Kinyarwanda) and a drawing of a cow on the door.

8. Eat big fish in Nyamirambo

Architectural Landmark

Nyamirambo, Kigali’s Muslim quarter, is one of the city’s most vibrant areas for bars, restaurants, and general merriment. Big fish, otherwise known as a large tilapia grilled with onions and spices, is one of Nyamirambo’s specialties. Grab a friend or two (one big fish can feed several people), and head to Green Corner or Ten to Two Panorama for some of the city’s best.

9. Chez Lando

Hotel

Chez Lando – a restaurant, hotel and Kigali institution. Serving up some of Kigali’s best brochettes (grilled meat or fish on a stick), chips, and cold beers, Chez Lando is located right on the busy Remera Roundabout.

10. Watch a soccer game at Amahoro Stadium

Stadium

Fans at Amahoro National Stadium
Located in the Remera neighborhood, Amahoro is the largest stadium in Rwanda with a capacity of 30,000. Soccer matches are held there regularly, as Rwandans from all over Kigali come to support their teams. The two most popular teams of Kigali are Police FC and Armée Patriotique Rwandaise FC (called APR), with league champions Rayon Sports FC based in Nyanza, the southern province of Rwanda. Games are a reliably rowdy, loud, and fun affair.

11. Inema Arts Center

Art Gallery

Kigali’s art scene is on the rise. Unique and contemporary Rwandan art can be found all over the city, and Inema Arts Center houses some of Kigali’s best and brightest talent. The gallery was founded by brothers Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza, and hosts the work of fourteen different Rwandan artists. In addition to beautiful pieces, happy hours (check them out on Thursday!), yoga classes, and other events can be found in their creative space.

Check out Kigali’s recent changes

Kigali is a city on the move. New buildings, stores, and even roads are common, and no area in the city demonstrates this fact more than the Kacyiru roundabout near the Kigali Convention Center. The Convention Center, completed in 2016 and one of Kigali’s most interesting (and colorful) buildings is attached to the Radisson Hotel and across the street from the also new Kigali Heights shopping center. Grab some homemade ice cream from Delizia Italiana in Kigali Heights, and walk around the picturesque roundabout.

Visit the Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace, once home to President Habyarimana, is located in Kanombe, a neighborhood near the airport. The remains of the presidential plane are still visible on the grounds, and the crash is credited as the reason for the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. A visit to this museum is an interesting one, and few photographs are allowed to be taken onsite.

Murals of Kimisagara

With the help, leadership, and assistance of Kurema Kureba Kwiga, an arts-oriented organization dedicated to spreading public and community art in Rwanda, beautiful murals have been popping up all over the city. Community members and students in Kigali’s Kimisagara neighborhood assisted in making murals on their own stores, homes, and buildings, so walk through the neighborhood and check them out.

Nyabugogo Bus Terminal

This might sound strange (as in, who’s proud of a bus terminal?!), but Nyabugogo is a classic Kigali spot. Buses from all over Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania meet up here, making the terminal chaotic, diverse, absurd, and ultimately, amazing. You never know who you’ll meet at Nyabugogo!

Wedding Roundabout

Located right next to the Kigali Convention Centre and at the intersection of KN 5 Road and KG 7 Avenue, the wedding roundabout is a Kigali must. A physical roundabout, the garden and fountain at the center is where many local Rwandans go to take wedding photographs. It’s not uncommon to see several couples and wedding parties lining up and waiting their turn at the roundabout, and it’s undoubtedly a spot in the city beloved by all.

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