Rolling hills for miles lead to valleys and hillsides dotted with houses. Small skyscrapers mark the city skyline. Motorcycles buzz around. People walk around, dressed well, with friendly smiles on their faces. Kigali, the heartbeat of Rwanda, is a wonderful city and unlike most capital cities in Africa. This bustling metropolitan area in Rwanda is very clean and safe. There are several sights of interest to see during a stay in Kigali that will leave an impression on your trip.
Guest post by Timon Peskin
Blog: Beard and Curly
What’s the best time to visit Kigali?
Kigali is best visited during the dry months of June through September. There is also a shorter window of dry months between mid-December and early February. Typically, Rwanda is a jumping point to visit the mountain gorillas, which is best to seen during the dry months.
What’s good to know about Kigali?
With a population of over 1 million people, Kigali is the center of transportation, culture and arts in Rwanda. Kigali hit global news in 1994 because of the genocide that took place. Over 1 million people were massacred in just 100 days. Since that time the country has united and prospered better then many of it’s African neighbors. The rolling hills of Rwanda do not cover a large area, as each corner of this country can be visited in just a few hours drive. Many come to Kigali to head to Volcanoes National Park, home of the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Whether your stop is one day or multiple days, Kigali is the place to learn more about the unique history behind Rwanda and experience a true African culture.
One Day in Kigali Itinerary
Top things to do in Kigali, Rwanda
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Kigali.
Start of your day with a stop at the Genocide Memorial
While it is a sight hard to see, the Genocide Memorial cannot be missed. Be prepared for a gut wrenching and extremely sad experience. It is an amazing museum as well as burial grounds for an estimated 300,000 people. It does an excellent job explaining the issues in Rwanda, what led to the genocide, why it occurred and the results. It also goes beyond Rwanda to talk about other past genocides as a memorial for those victims all over the World.
Stop at the Belgian Memorial
10 soldiers who protected the Prime Minister, were taken by rebels to a military compound and slaughtered. They fought back with only two handguns and the standoff lasted hours. The Belgian memorial stands where the massacre occurred, with the building untouched showing the damage done by rebels. There are 10 stones that represent their brave lives.
Walk to Hotel Rwanda
This famous hotel is actually named Hotel des Mille Collines, but known as Hotel Rwanda from the critically acclaimed movie released in 2005. The movie depicts some brief history, but turns to the story of this hotel acting as a refuge and safe house during the genocide of 1994. The management and workers risked their own lives by helping save so many, giving shelter inside the hotel. Nearly 1,300 people took refuge here. Come walk around the hotel grounds and stop in for a coffee. Rooms start from $280 USD.
Grab lunch at a traditional Rwandan buffet
Rwanda is known for their lunch buffets. They cook an assortment of food for a set price. Typically, you can get chicken, meat stews, vegetable soup, fried fish, rice, french fries, potatoes, saute vegetables, and a cabbage salad. Kigali buffets are usually priced between 2,000 Franc to 3,000 Franc (~$2.50 – $3.50 USD).
Spend the afternoon at the Kimironko Market
The excellent Kimironko market has it all. Enjoy the many rows of fresh fruits and vegetables. Food stalls are separated by category like aisles in a supermarket. Following the food, there are hundreds of stalls for home gadgets, electronics, clothing, crafts, and eventually at the far end, fabrics. Fabrics are a specialty in Rwanda with beautiful bright patterns and excellent tailors for women’s dresses and clothing. Buy one sheet of fabric for 5,000 franc ($6) and have it made into a dress, skirt, or tops for an additional 5,000 franc.
Where to stay in Kigali?
Kigali has several neighborhoods to explore. With a wide range of accommodation, we recommend staying in the Remera neighborhood.
There is an abundance of restaurants, budget guesthouses and high end hotels. Most offer shuttle services to and from the airport, a 10 minute drive. While there are several hostels in Kigali, guesthouses also function very similar with dormitory rooms and breakfast included.
For a mid-range stay, we recommend Five to Five Hotel with rooms from $75 USD.
For a high-end hotel, we recommend Hotel Chez Lando with rooms from $130 USD.
Extra tips for visiting Kigali
– Days can get hot in Kigali so be prepared for the hot sun (bring your sunblock). However, once the sun goes down, the temperature drops in the evening due to the higher elevation of Kigali. It is good to bring layers or a light jacket/hoodie for the evenings.
– Kigali has local mini-bus transportation called matatus. They have many routes and cover all of Kigali, but it could get confusing and timely. It is best to hire a taxi or moto-taxi while in Kigali between all of your sights.
– Nighttime in Kigali is safe and you should not feel in danger if you are out after dark. With that said, there are always opportunists, so be cautious about where you are after dark.
– Make your trip to Kigali even more exciting! Check out Tripadvisor for all the activities and organized tours in Kigali or around the area. Make sure to purchase your tickets to all the attractions right away to skip the queues.
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