5 Best Things to Do in Kigali, Rwanda

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Heading to Rwanda and looking for things to do in the capital city of Kigali? This guide has all the best things to do in and around the city so you can enjoy your time in the “land of a thousand hills.” 

As an ex-pat in Uganda for the last few years, I’ve had the chance to explore many East African cities, including Kigali. Even though it’s a large city, I found it to be very peaceful, which was a nice change from living in Kampala, Uganda. 

The local people are friendly and helpful, even though many speak limited English. I definitely am itching to go back to this beautiful green city! 

I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time, just like I did, if you use this guide to find the best places to go, eat, and sleep!

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1. Kigali Genocide Memorial 

This should be your first stop when visiting Kigali. It’s one of the top things to do in Rwanda, so you can learn more about the culture and history of this beautiful country. 

The Genocide Memorial Museum commemorates the more than 800,000 Tutsi people killed in the Rwandan Genocide, which lasted just 100 days. 

It’s a very emotional experience, especially in the last few rooms of the memorial, as there are hundreds of photos of the victims. There are even clothing and toys once belonging to the young children. 

After touring the two levels of the museum, you can go outside to the gardens where many of the people were buried. It’s called the Gardens of Reflection, and it’s a solemn but beautiful place. 

Many Rwandan people who survived the genocide visit the gardens often to pay their respects to their family members and put flowers on the graves. 

The Kigali Genocide Memorial is located at KG 14 Ave, Kigali, Rwanda. It’s open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entrance is free, but please consider making a donation to support the memorial. You can also rent an audio headset for a few dollars to learn more. 

genocide memorial kigali, rwanda flag blowing in the breeze, memorial building surrounded by trees, buildings and hills in the distance

2. Gorilla Trekking 

To go gorilla trekking, you’ll go to Volcanoes National Park, about two hours outside of Kigali. Gorilla trekking takes a large budget and time to plan, so make sure you prepare ahead if you decide to do this activity. 

The government only issues 96 permits per day, so definitely book in advance. 

Trekking can only be done with a permit and a licensed park ranger. The rangers spend years and years studying gorillas and are very knowledgeable about their habits, lives, and behaviors. 

People go gorilla trekking for a few days, or you can even spend a few weeks, depending on your time and budget. 

Each day, the park ranger will take you on hikes in the park where the gorillas can be seen. 

Some of the hikes are short, while others keep you on your feet for several hours. Make sure to ask the ranger for a schedule so you can physically prepare yourself. 

You can find more information about gorilla trekking on Rwanda’s official tourism page here. You can see the cost of permits and purchase them online here. To mainstream the process and make it easier, I recommend paying a tour operator to purchase the permits and schedule the trip for you. 

gorilla sitting very still and looking right at the camera, things to do in rwanda, things to do in kigali

3. Nyamirambo Women’s Center 

This center is one of the best things to do in Kigali for those wanting to get some fantastic souvenirs to bring home. You can find anything made in traditional Kitenge fabric, so every item is stunning. 

They have something for everyone, including laptop bags, stuffed animals, children’s and adult clothes, embroidered makeup bags, ties, etc. 

You can also see the local women in the back with their sewing machines making everything. 

The center only employs local women and teaches them how to sew and tailor. It’s a great place to get unique items and support local people. 

You can also do walking tours and cooking classes here if you have extra time. The neighborhood of Nyamirambo is a great place to do a walking tour because you can see local homes and have lunch at a local spot. 

The Nyamirambo Women’s Center is located at KN 132 St, Kigali, Rwanda. They are closed on Sundays, open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and open every other day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours and classes can be booked here. 

If you’re interested in a Kigali walking food tour, check this out!

4. Inema Art Center 

If you love art and are interested in local Rwandan art, the Inema Art Center is one of Kigali’s best things to do. The galleries have pieces from famous Rwandan artists and new artists creating their first pieces. 

The center also has weekly workshops for local children wanting to learn art. You can buy art from the gallery or pieces from the other exhibits, including jewelry and leather. 

The Inema Art Center is located at KG 563 St, Kigali, Rwanda. They are open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. 

5. Drink Some Coffee 

Rwanda has amazing coffee, and there are fantastic coffee shops in Kigali. 

  • Question Coffee. This is the best place to visit in Kigali to try local coffee beans. The coffee shop also works with local women farmers for fresh beans and products. 
  • Inzora Rooftop Cafe. This cafe is one of Kigali’s most talked about coffee shops in Kigali because of the amazing view. When it’s rainy or windy, they put a tarp around the rooftop terrace, so you don’t get as good of a view as sunny days. They have great coffee, and I loved the oatmeal and peanut butter cookies. 
  • Mocha Cafe Rwanda: This is a nice fusion coffee shop with a mix of Middle Eastern and Rwandan choices. They have seasonal drinks as well, made with local herbs and flavors. 
woman sorting coffee beans, coffee shops in kigali, best things to do in kigali

How to Get to Kigali

You have a couple of options to get to Kigali, including taking a bus (if you’re already in Africa) or flying. There aren’t currently train options for arrival in the city.

Getting to Kigali by Bus

I was already in Uganda when I went to Kigali, so I took the bus from Kampala to Kigali. I seriously do not recommend this unless you’re on a tight budget. The bus was over 15 hours long, and the border stop was challenging. 

If you do take the bus, only take Trinity or Volcano, as these are the safest. Even though the bus leaving in the morning takes longer because of traffic, the overnight buses are a no-go. 

I hear of too many accidents because the drivers drive full speed, and it’s not worth it. 

downtown kigali, cars and motorbikes going down the road, things to do in rwanda

Getting to Kigali by Flight

The Kigali airport has many international flights if you prefer flying. You can fly directly from many places in Europe and Africa. 

Flights to Kigali, Rwanda, usually have a few connections if you’re coming from Asia or North America, but the airport is still very easy to get to. 

Tip: Americans can get visas on arrival for Rwanda, but the immigration was stringent compared to other African countries I’ve been to. They want to know the EXACT address of where you’re staying. 

They even call the hotel or Airbnb to confirm your booking. So, make sure you book your accommodation before arriving in Kigali. 

How to Get Around Kigali

The easiest and best way to get around Kigali is to hop on the back of a boda (motorbike). It’s mandatory to wear a helmet, and all drivers have an extra helmet to put on. 

If the idea of wearing the same helmets as others doesn’t appeal to you, make sure to bring your own!

You can find boda drivers on all streets. Make sure to negotiate the price before they start driving. 

high up view of the mountains and buildings in kigali city, places to visit in kigali, things to do in kigali

Nightlife in Kigali

Kigali has great nightlife if you want to experience the city after dark. Rwanda has a huge dance and bar culture, so it’s worth going out at least one night while you’re in the city. 

Here are some of the best bars and nightclubs to check out for a fun night of dancing and drinking:

  • Choma’D: This was my favorite place because it was laid-back and more of a bar and late-night eats place rather than a club. They have really nice cocktails. The bar has long communal tables, so it’s an excellent chance to meet other people. 
  • Sundowner: This spot is very popular with ex-pats and digital nomads. They get really busy on weekends, and you can find people dancing until the very early morning hours. 
  • Envy: If you want a true clubbing experience, Envy is one of the best places in town. It’s even open until 8 in the morning, making it one of the top spots for those who love dancing. There are also 24/7 food vendors on the same street, making grabbing late-night snacks or an early-morning breakfast easy. 

When to Visit Kigali

I really enjoyed my visit to Kigali because the weather was cool and there wasn’t too much rain. This isn’t the primary season for tourism, so hotel prices were also very low. 

Most people visit Kigali from June through September because the weather is dry and very warm. 

I went in March when the weather is usually rainy and a little cold. Many days I was there, it was surprisingly sunny, so we still had a good time with just a few rain showers here and there.

Best Places to Stay in Kigali

Budget—The Nest Kigali: If you want to stay in one of the best budget hotels in Kigali, The Nest is the perfect option. They have complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi. It’s within walking distance of many different attractions and restaurants, so you can save money on transportation by booking a room here. 

Mid-range—Kigali Marriott Hotel: Just 15 minutes from the City Center, this hotel is full of amenities and puts you right in the heart of the city without breaking the bank. The floor-to-ceiling windows give you stunning views of the city. They have a bar and restaurant on-site, as well as free parking. Make sure to also take advantage of the free fitness classes on certain days of the week!

Luxury—The Retreat: If you have the money to treat yourself while in Kigali, I recommend booking a suite at The Retreat. They have a pool, spa, and fitness center. It’s in a very central area, so you can get to the Kigali Convention Center and Kigali City Market in just a few minutes. 

kigali raddison hotel and convention center lit up at night, where to stay in kigali, hotels in kigali

Best Restaurants in Kigali

  • The Hut Kigali: This is one of the top restaurants in Kigali, so you have to give it a try. It’s also a boutique hotel, but many people come here for the food rather than for accommodation. They have a huge menu, so everyone in your group should be able to find something that they like. 
  • Poivre Noir: This is the best spot to go if you’re craving French food while here. They also have a huge dessert menu and wine selection. 
  • CasaKeza: This was my favorite place to eat while in Kigali, as Spanish tapas is one of my favorite things! They have a beautiful garden where you can sit outside and eat. They even have Spanish classes and music nights on certain nights of the week. 
  • Repub Lounge: If you want to try some traditional Rwandan food but aren’t sure where to go for the best dishes, I recommend going to Repub Lounge. Some of the best traditional dishes are matooke (green banana stew), sambaza (fish local to Rwanda), and fish steamed in cassava leaves. 
  • Now Now Rolex: This is the best place for Rwanda street food as it’s more of a dining establishment and much cleaner than food stalls. They also serve local beers and cocktails. 

The Best Things to Do in Kigali Are Waiting For You!

I hope this guide helped you plan an amazing trip to Kigali! There are endless things to do and see, but these are the things I did while in this incredible city that I found most fun!

Are you heading to Kigali soon? Which of these places are you going to visit first? 

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