Kigali city tour experience

Kigali city tour experience : Kigali, the capital of Rwanda possesses natural beauty, good weather, and endless rolling hills. Rwanda is also one of the safest countries to visit and while its capital city Kigali is also considered to be the cleanest country in Africa and interesting place to always stay with a rich cultural heritage, friendly people, great local cuisine and excellent accommodations.

Kigali Genocide Memorial Center

Before going out of the capital and to Rwanda’s famous national parks, you will probably want to visit the Genocide Memorial Center in the capital Kigali. The Museum holds the remains of about 250,000 people who were brutally murdered by the Interahamwe (Hutu extremists). The centre is divided into three sections – one for children killed during the genocide, another for adults and the final for genocides that have occurred in different parts of the world.

While at the site, you will learn a lot about what transpired before, during and after the 1994 genocide. You can watch short videos about the tragic event or listen to what the resident Guides have to say. The experience can be emotional but the main purpose of the displays is to teach people (especially the young generation) about the horrors of genocides so that it never happens anywhere else again.

State House Museum

The State House Museum is the former presidential palace. The last president to occupy it was Habyarimana. Habyarimana’s plane crashed in the palace compound after being shot at. The shooting down of the presidential plan is what sparked off a genocide that had already been planned but not fully implemented. The palace is now a museum where visitors can go to learn about the events leading up to the genocide and kind of life lived by president Habyarimana. The plane wreckage can still be seen in the compound.

State House Museum
State House Museum

Local Dance Performances

One of the fastest way to understand the culture and traditions of the people of Rwanda is to watch a performance by one of the Intore Dance Troupe. All the good hotels organize evening dance performances for guests as they relax and end the day. The quality of the Intore Dance is measured by the excitement, energy and grace of the performer. The dance may be interrupted by folk stories or other narrations related to the Kinyarwanda culture. Observers are always encouraged to join in at some point.

Kimironko Market

One of the quickest ways to understand the kind of life lived by people in a new place is by visiting their main central market. Kimironko market is where everyone goes to for cheap fresh fruits, vegetables and food. There are many different products that tourists simply visit the different stalls and get what they feel is best. An extension of the market specializes in quality second hand clothes, shoes, handbags and suits. If you are wondering where to get good local fabrics or Kitenge at a good price, then Kimironko is the place to go to.

Inema Art Center

This Art Center was started by two brothers with the aim of supporting and promoting local artists. The Center has got some of the best contemporary artisan products in the country. You can find displays from some of the finest artists in the country and abroad. The center organizes workshops and training sessions for upcoming artists and especially those who are less privileged such as orphans. On a typical visit, tourists are shown around the facility as they shop for souvenir from the different galleries. There are also dance performances from a resident Intore cultural group. The art pieces at the Inema Art Centre can be bought online as you wait for shipment. After visiting Inema, you might also wish to go to Ivuka Arts Centre to learn about their community projects and shop for more art pieces.

The King’s Palace Museum in Nyanza town

In the past, Rwanda was ruled by a King with the last being King Rudahigwa Mutara III and his replacement King Musinga Yuhi V.  Lack of acceptance by all tribal groups and conflicts with the Belgium colonizers led to the abolishment of the kingdoms.  What now remains is the palace in Nyanza. The palace has been turned into museum for visitors who are interested in learning about the country’s past. The palace was built during the reign of King Rudahigwa Mutara III and with support from the Belgium government. If you are visiting the southern part of Rwanda or are on your way to Nyungwe National Park, ensure that you stop at the Museum. The Museum has artefacts and information dating back to over 200 years ago. Unfortunately, many of them were stolen or destroyed during the 1994 genocide. King Mutara and his wife Rosalie Gicanda (Killed during the genocide) are buried on a hill close to the Museum.

The King’s Palace Museum in Nyanza town
The King’s Palace Museum in Nyanza town

Kigali Convention Centre

This Centre is one of the most prominent buildings in Kigali. Its architecture is very impressive but what makes it well-known is that it is where most of the major conferences/meetings are organized. Apart from the conference hall, the facility also has a 5-star hotel known as Radisson Blue and large shopping centres. The Kigali Convention Centre is excellent for photography, shopping or as a place to have lunch. The Centre lights up during the night in a way that is second to no building in the country.

Mamba Club in Kigali

Are you wondering about where to hang out for the evening or night while in Kigali? Mamba Club is a very popular recreation centre for an evening of fun and mingling with the middle and upper class of Kigali. They organize different recreational activities like swimming, foosball, volleyball, billiards and Ping-pong. Mamba Club has the city’s only bowling alley. Go with your family, colleagues or friends to Mamba Club and have an amazing time till late in the night. The food is excellent and drinks are served from a well-stocked bar.

The National Museum of Rwanda

Now known as the Ethnographic Museum, the site was built in 1989 and is found in Butare – A town found 80 kilometres away from the capital Kigali. It is a favourite stop for tourists visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park. The Museum offers opportunities to learn about the culture of the Banyarwanda. The museum’s 7 galleries showcase artefacts, photos, cultural tools and ancient artifacts (pottery, instruments, traditional regalia and woodwork) dating over 500 years. After checking out what is in the gallery, you can watch Intore dancers entertaining guests.

Local Food

Rwandan food may not be top of anyone’s list of key attractions in the country but still worth noting. The popular local cuisine is a combination of the best that East Africa has to offer. Apart from the fresh cow milk already discussed earlier, you can try grilled meat, Isombe, somboza, akabanga and a variety of local brochettes. Urwagwa is a popular type of banana beer which the locals take after work or on weekends. All the high-end hotels and restaurants prepare local food but Repub Lounge is a favourite for expatriates living in the area.

Nyamata Church

If you want to learn more about what transpired before, during and after the genocide in Rwanda, you must visit this church. About 10,000 Tutsi’s sought shelter in the church hoping that they would be safe but where all killed by the merciless Interahamwe. The Hutu extremists used grenades to open the church doors and before killing all who were inside. Visitors to the site can still see human bones, bloodstained clothes and bullet holes in the church. About 50,000 people are buried in a mass grave outside the church.

Nyamata Church 
Nyamata Church 

Nyamirambo Women’s Center

 This non-profit centre is found in Nyamirambo district which is part of Kigali. It was founded to train women so that they can acquire skills to create their own jobs or become gainfully employed. The women at the centre are taught how to create quality clothing using local fabrics. The women also produce home decoration products, beautiful beads and other souvenirs. The centre also organizes walking tours around the neighbourhood for visitors who want to mingle with the local population. When you visit this centre, ensure that you purchase something to support the women.

Volunteer during Umuganda

One of the reasons for the remarkable cleanliness of the capital Kigali is the monthly “umuganda” and a government ban on careless disposal of plastic bags. Umuganda is a community service which is compulsory for all citizens in the country. It is organized every last Saturday of the month with the president a participant. Organized committees from each neighbourhood decide on what to work on each month. One can be required to clear any litter on the roads, cut unwanted grasses/bushes or repair a broken public facility. After work is done, everyone gathers to discuss any other issues that may be affecting the community. Umuganda has helped create a sense of togetherness and patriotism among the people of Rwanda – something very important but still lacking in many African countries. You can join in as a volunteer and help clean up a road, repair a house/school or medical centre.

Helicopter Tour: Helicopter tours in Kigali are arranged by Akagera aviation for those who want to get an aerial view of Kigali and the countryside. A helicopter tour can cost anywhere between US$500 to $4500 depending on a specific route. Regardless of which route you choose to take, expect to be rewarded with beautiful views of Rwanda’s 1,000 hills and the majestic Virunga volcanoes.  Helicopter tours can also be arranged all the way to Nyungwe National Park for amazing views of the vast forest and the vast Virunga ranges going all the way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. All flights start and end in Kigali.

Hotel des Mille Collins and other luxury hotels in Kigali

This 5-star hotel was made famous by the movie “Hotel Rwanda” in 2004. The movie is based on the true story of a Hotel Manager who hid over 1200 people in the hotel rooms during the 1994 genocide. Tourist love visiting the prestigious hotel not only because of the role it played during the genocide but also because of the quality of services offered. It has 112 luxury rooms, a swimming pool, restaurant, a fitness centre and more. Visit the hotel and count yourself among those who have visited the most famous hotel in Rwanda.

Kigali city also has one of the best accommodation facilities in East Africa and other hotels to stay while in Kigali include; The Marriott Kigali Hotel, Grand Legacy Hotel, Obumwe Grand Hotel, Radisson Blue Hotel, 5 Swiss Hotel, Kigali Serena Hotel, 2000 Hotel, Heaven Restaurant and Boutique Hotel, just to mention a few.

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