The Very Best Things To Do in Kigali, Rwanda

things to do in Kigali

Much like my old adopted home of Medellin, some places struggle to shake off the ghosts of their dark pasts.

Rwanda is coming to the end of that so you can trust me when I say this things to do in Kigali list is legitimate.

Kigali is on an upward curve and I was shocked to see how many expats had chosen to live there to be honest I was taken back by how developed it was (I guess I also have internal conflict when it comes to preconceptions of cities/countries that have endeavoured tough times.

Best Things To Do in Kigali

These best things to do in Kigali are of course my personal preference and I have quite an acquired taste.

This site is primarily an adventure travel blog, so first let’s take a look at the more chilled-out, “normal” Kigali activities before moving onto the more adventurous side of Kigali.

Visit The Genocide Museum

Kigali Genocide Museum in Rwanda showcases photos of the victims of the Rwanda genocide

Much like a visit to Auschwitz in Poland the first stop to try and understand recent Rwandan (sadly) is a visit to The Genocide Museum. 

It stands as a solemn reminder of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a tragic event that claimed the lives of over a million people. The museum is not just a place of remembrance but also an educational journey into the country’s tumultuous history. 

Through a series of powerful exhibits, visitors gain insight into the events leading up to the genocide, the horrific acts that occurred, and the nation’s journey towards reconciliation and healing.

As you walk through the museum, you’re confronted with emotional displays, including photographs, personal items, and testimonies of survivors. The experience is intense and moving, offering a profound understanding of the resilience and strength of the Rwandan people. 

It’s not for everyone and I get it if you choose to miss it out. After living in Cambodia and learning about the Khmer Rouge the reminder of genocide is a bitter pill to swallow, however, a visit here is essential for anyone wanting to grasp the depth of Rwanda’s history and the significance of its current peace and unity.

Know before you go:

  • Location – KG 14 Ave, Kigali, Rwanda
  • Cost – Entry is usually free, but donations are appreciated.
  • Opening Hours – Typically open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with the last entry at 4:00 PM.
  • Time Needed – Allocate at least 2 to 3 hours for a thorough visit.
  • Getting There – The museum is accessible by taxi or moto-taxi from anywhere in Kigali. Public buses also service the area.

Explore The Muslim Quarter

People stand outside a blue and white mosque in Kigali, Rwanda

The Muslim Quarter in Kigali is a vibrant and culturally rich area that offers a unique glimpse into the city’s diverse community. As you stroll through the bustling streets, you’ll be surrounded by the melodious call to prayer, the aroma of traditional foods, and the colourful sights of local shops and markets. 

This neighbourhood is known for its friendly atmosphere and offers a chance to experience the daily life of Kigali’s Muslim community. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to try some local delicacies, such as the savoury ‘sambusas’ or sweet ‘mandazi’, at one of the many street food stalls.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Nyamirambo district, Kigali
  • Cost – Exploring is free, but bring some cash for food and souvenirs.
  • Opening Hours – Best visited during daytime, especially late morning or early afternoon.
  • Time Needed – Spend at least 1-2 hours to get a feel for the area.
  • Getting There – Easily accessible by taxi or moto-taxi from central Kigali.

Party With Locals in Kisimenti

A lady sings into a microphone in Kigali

Kisimenti is the go-to place in Kigali for those looking to experience the city’s lively nightlife. This neighbourhood comes alive at night with its array of bars, clubs, and lounges. 

It’s the perfect spot to mingle with locals and expats alike, dance to a mix of African and international music, and enjoy a drink or two. The area is known for its safe and friendly environment, making it an ideal destination for solo travellers and groups. 

Whether you’re into laid-back bars or energetic dance floors, Kisimenti has something for everyone.

​​Kisimenti is the heart of Kigali’s nightlife, buzzing with energy and excitement. It’s a favourite spot for both locals and travellers looking to experience the city’s vibrant party scene. Here are a few popular bars where you can soak up the local atmosphere:

  • Pili Pili Bar & Restaurant: A trendy spot known for its lively ambience and beautiful city views. It’s a great place to enjoy drinks, music, and occasionally live performances.
  • Cocobean Club: A popular nightclub in Kisimenti, famous for its vibrant dance floor and a mix of local and international music. It’s a perfect place to dance the night away.
  • Bourbon Coffee Kisimenti: While known for its coffee and relaxed daytime vibe, Bourbon Coffee transforms into a lively evening spot where you can enjoy a more laid-back nightlife experience.
  • Envy Club Kigali: Known for its modern design and upscale atmosphere, Envy Club is where you can enjoy a sophisticated night out with a mix of top-notch music and cocktails.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Kisimenti area, Kigali
  • Cost – Varies depending on the venue; carry some cash for cover charges and drinks.
  • Opening Hours – Most places open late in the evening and stay lively until the early hours.
  • Time Needed – Plan for a night out; activities usually start late and go on till late.
  • Getting There – Taxi or moto-taxi is the safest and most convenient way to get there, especially at night.

Visit The Kimironko Market

Kimironko Market in Kigali
Source: Flickr

Kimironko Market is the largest and most vibrant market in Kigali, offering a true sensory overload. Here, you can find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to traditional fabrics and handicrafts. The market is a hub of activity and a great place to observe the local way of life. 

Bargaining is part of the experience, so be prepared to haggle for the best deals. Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs or just soaking up the atmosphere, a visit to Kimironko Market is a must for any window shopper or chronic fridge magnet collector in Kigali.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Kimironko district, Kigali
  • Cost – Free to explore, but bring cash for purchases.
  • Opening Hours – Open daily, usually from early morning to late afternoon.
  • Time Needed – Allow at least 1-2 hours to browse through the market.
  • Getting There – Easily reached by taxi or moto-taxi from most parts of the city.

Adventurous Things To Do in Kigali

When you think of Africa travel your mind immediately jumps to adventure and even though Kigali has almost cemented itself as an expat haven, there is plenty of adventure to be found in Rwanda’s capital, especially if you include day trips.

Akagera National Park Safari

A buffalo stands in the African Savanna in Rwanda.

It might pale in comparison to some of the mammoth parks on the African continent, Akagera National Park, where enough majestic beauties are hiding or hunting for wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers. 

This expansive park, located in the northeastern part of Rwanda, boasts a diverse array of African wildlife, including lions, elephants, giraffes, and numerous bird species. The landscape ranges from savannah to rolling hills, creating a stunning backdrop for wildlife viewing. 

The park also features several lakes, including Lake Ihema, where you can enjoy a boat trip to see hippos and crocodiles up close. A safari in Akagera is not just about animal sightings; it’s an immersion into the wild beauty of Rwanda.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Eastern Rwanda, near the Tanzania border
  • Cost – Varies based on tour operator and length of safari
  • Opening Hours – Open year-round, but best visited in the dry season (June to September)
  • Time Needed – Full-day to multi-day safaris are available
  • Getting There – Approximately a 2.5-hour drive from Kigali; accessible by car or arranged tour

Try All The Funky Coffees!

Black cup of coffee with the words "Kigali" in the centre

Rwanda’s coffee culture is unknown, but the secret is almost out. The country’s high altitude and volcanic soil contribute to producing some of the world’s finest coffee. 

In Kigali, numerous cafes and coffee tours offer a chance to sample a wide range of locally grown and roasted coffees. These funky, aromatic brews range from strong espressos to fruity, lightly roasted varieties. 

Beyond just tasting, many cafes offer insightful tours where you can learn about the coffee-making process from bean to cup. This is a perfect activity for coffee aficionados looking to dive deep into Rwanda’s rich coffee heritage.

Another option is to geek out on coffee and go on your caffeine-filled journey to cafes in Rwanda.

  • Single-Origin Coffee: Rwanda is known for its single-origin beans, which means the coffee is sourced from one region, ensuring distinct flavours. These coffees often have a bright acidity and a clean taste, with notes ranging from citrusy to floral.
  • Washed and Natural Processed Coffee: Rwandan coffee is typically processed using either the washed or natural (dry) method. Washed coffees have a cleaner, more refined flavour, while natural coffees can have a fuller body and a fruitier taste.
  • Bourbon Arabica: The majority of Rwanda’s coffee is of the Bourbon variety of Arabica, known for its deep, complex flavour and aroma.
  • Speciality Coffees: Many cafes in Kigali offer a range of speciality coffees, including espresso, cappuccino, latte, and more. These are often crafted with expertly roasted beans and served with artistic flair.
  • Coffee Tastings and Cuppings: Some cafes and coffee shops in Kigali offer coffee tastings or cuppings, where you can sample a variety of beans and roasts. This is a great way to explore the nuances of Rwandan coffee.
  • Traditional Rwandan Coffee Ceremony: While more common in rural areas, some places in Kigali may offer a traditional Rwandan coffee ceremony. This includes roasting green beans over an open fire, grinding them with a mortar and pestle, and then brewing the coffee in a clay pot. It’s a cultural experience that also allows you to enjoy freshly made coffee.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Various cafes and coffee shops in Kigali
  • Cost – Varies; generally affordable
  • Opening Hours – Most cafes open from morning till evening
  • Time Needed – Around 1-2 hours for a coffee tasting or tour
  • Getting There – Most cafes are centrally located and easily reachable by taxi or moto-taxi

Hike to Rebero

Sunset at Rebero, outside of Kigali in Rwanda

For those who enjoy combining light physical activity and stunning city views, a hike to Rebero is a must-do in Kigali. 

Located just outside the city, Rebero offers panoramic views of Kigali and its surrounding hills. The hike is moderately challenging and takes you through beautiful landscapes and local neighbourhoods, giving a glimpse into the daily lives of Rwandans. 

At the top, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views, especially at sunset. It’s a peaceful escape from the city hustle and an excellent opportunity for nature photography.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Just outside Kigali city
  • Cost – Free, unless you hire a guide
  • Opening Hours – Accessible throughout the day, but best experienced during daylight hours
  • Time Needed – Around 2-3 hours for a round-trip
  • Getting There – Reachable by taxi or moto-taxi; consider hiring a local guide for the best experience

Mountain Biking on the Congo Nile Trail

A narrow passage on the Congo Nile Trail

Experience the thrill of mountain biking along the Congo Nile Trail, one of Rwanda’s hidden gems. This trail stretches along the stunning shores of Lake Kivu, offering challenging terrain and spectacular views. 

The journey takes you through rural villages, coffee and banana plantations, and dense rainforests, providing a unique perspective of Rwanda’s countryside. 

The trail is suitable for experienced bikers, but there are also sections that novices can enjoy. It’s an excellent way for adventure seekers to explore Rwanda’s natural beauty while getting an adrenaline rush.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Extends from Rubavu to Rusizi along Lake Kivu
  • Cost – Varies based on bike rental and potential guide fees
  • Opening Hours – Best tackled during daylight hours
  • Time Needed – Full-day to multi-day trips available
  • Getting There – Start points are accessible by car from Kigali; many opt for organized tours

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Savannah

Hot air ballon flies through the sky at sunset

For a truly unique adventure, a hot air balloon ride over the savannah areas around Kigali is an adventure experience that might hurt your purse strings, but it’s worth it for special occasions.

Soaring above the rolling hills and plains, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the gorgeous landscapes and possibly spot wildlife from above. 

This tranquil journey at dawn offers a quiet and awe-inspiring perspective of Rwanda’s natural beauty. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Various locations around Kigali and other parts of Rwanda
  • Cost – Premium activity, prices vary by operator
  • Opening Hours – Usually at sunrise, weather permitting
  • Time Needed – Approximately 1-2 hours in the air
  • Getting There – Specific launch sites are typically reached by arranged transport from the operator

Don’t believe in any dreary opinions about Rwanda from any miserable old men down your local boozer – there are plenty of cool things to do in Kigali and Rwanda is the perfect place to get your feet wet for travelling on the African continent.

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Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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