A Brief City Guide to Kigali, Rwanda
There are countless other attractions, activities, and souvenir shops in Kigali, here are just a few.
When I arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, the first thing I noticed (even in the dark, as we drove through the city at 11pm local time) was how clean the city is. Many cities in the United State could really take a page out of Kigali’s book on how to proudly present a city.
As the days continued, I spent most of my time working on the 5th and 6th YALI Connect Camps (read more) but was still able to find time to explore and learn about the history of this country.
Here’s a brief city guide of Kigali, Rwanda:
HEAVEN RESTAURANT: Located at No. 7, Street KN 29 Kiyovu – Kigali (Google Maps understands the address), the Heaven restaurant/boutique hotel quickly became my favorite hangout in Kigali. From the vegetarian quesadilla, to the coriander-infused Nile perch, to the fish tacos, (and everything in between) you can’t go wrong. Heaven has an open patio eating space and can accommodate groups of any size. It also has a partnership with and hosts a gift shop of fair trade goods produced by members of Azizi Life, which you’ll read more about in a minute.
THE BISTRO: Search “Urban by CityBlue” to find this delicious and cost-efficient restaurant mere blocks away from Heaven. The Bistro is the restaurant on the 4th floor of Urban, another hotel here in Kigali. Had I not found Heaven first, The Bistro would have been my favorite place to eat– hands-down. From an incredible view, to a chef who was eager and happy to accommodate our party of 30, this restaurant deserves five stars. The service was the fastest I experienced in Kigali. Urban also has a rooftop bar (The Sky Lounge) with an even better view and a classy-casual atmosphere.
BOURBON COFFEE: Though the coffee at this restaurant (brews from five different parts of the country) is well-known, the food also deserves some recognition. The menu offers a few kid-friendly options (spaghetti!) as well as delicacies that those of any age can enjoy. Several locations in Kigali offer ample opportunities to enjoy a brew or to buy some to bring home. If you can’t get enough, the company, which focuses on a “crop to cup” model, now has a few U.S. locations in the Washington DC area.
SOL E LUNA: If you’re looking for what Americans consider Italian food, head over here. From pizza to pasta and several meat dishes, Sol e Luna (sun and moon) has you covered. The view, if you arrive while it’s still light out, is also quite nice.
CHEZ ROBERT: Two words – garden seating. Though many other restaurants have foliage, Chez Robert is the only one I visited that was immersed in nature (you can also sit inside or on a patio). The food was so-so, but generally inexpensive.
NAKUMATT: Your one-stop-shop for everything from snacks to a full set of furniture. Nakumatt was my go-to for anything we needed for the conference that wasn’t already provided. The only thing I didn’t find there was thread in a color other than lavender…but luckily the Mille Collines (my hotel) provided a sewing kit.
GORILLA TREKKING: There are numerous organizations that offer this for about $750 U.S. dollars (including Azizi Life, though I think their experience is more expensive). Unfortunately this was out of my price range this time around, but a few other people on the trip went trekking and had a wonderful time. Make sure the organization is credible though – my friends had a little issue with forged papers.
KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL: You can’t come to Rwanda without learning something about the genocide that tore this country apart in 1994. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is an exceptionally well-done museum and gravesite combination. There are also several churches (Ntarama is the most well-known) in and outside of the city that commemorate this horrific event and played a significant role of some sort. For all of the above, bring tissues.
POOLS: I stayed in the Hotel des Mille Collines (the one from the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, which was actually filmed in South Africa but that’s not the point), which has a nice outdoor pool. Since Rwanda doesn’t get particularly cold, there are many outdoor pools that are open to the public. As a guest at the Mille Collines, I had free access to the pool, but anyone can come and get a day pass here or at several other pools in the city.
AZIZI LIFE (again): In addition to offering quality day- or week-long cultural experiences, Azizi Life also sells the fare trade goods produced by artisans. The main office is in Muhanga, and there is an Azizi Life gift shop connected to Heaven Restaurant.
CAPLAKI CRAFT VILLAGE: I could have spent all day at Caplaki. There are between 20-30 enclosed booths that host artisans selling everything from woven bowls to hand-carved angels. Make sure to barter here – many times the artisans’ original ask was very high because many people here assume Americans all have a ton of money (some do; I don’t). I also drive a pretty hard bargain, which apparently comes as a surprise to some people. If nothing else, it is really fun to talk to some of the artisans here; every one has a unique story to tell.
Of course, there are countless other attractions, activities, and souvenir shops in Kigali that you can find using sites such as TripAdvisor (or by simply getting lost…which is surprisingly easy to do). Did I miss something major? Let me know in the comments!