Kigali travel report, tips – infos for the capital of Rwanda

One day in Kigali – Rwanda’s capital

Kigali is not only the capital of Rwanda, but also the economic and cultural center of the country. Doing business here will attract most tourists in Rwanda if they do not do a road trip through Uganda and Rwanda like me.

If you want to pronounce the name of the city like locals, it sounds more like chi-gali than ki-gali. In the local language Kinyarwanda the letters “ki” are pronounced as “chi”.

If you want to read more about Rwanda, Uganda and my road trip:

Kigali is known to many from the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda”. These were also my first shocking touches with Kigali and Rwanda. Shocked at the movie at that time with the knowledge that this should be a factual report. Did I have so little of the world at that time? From that point on, I wanted to learn more about this country.

I began to buy books and films about Rwanda and do research on the internet (book tips at the end of this article). Ultimately, this led me to a nearly 4-week road trip, which of course I had to visit Kigali. Here we stayed for two nights. Nevertheless, I did not visit the Hotel Rwanda – the Hotel des Mille Collines. To contradictory are the statements about the real happenings in the hotel and the “true” story of Paul Rusesabagina. Nevertheless, I recommend the book to read the movie.

Although other parts of the country are more appealing, at second glance Kigali has wonderful places to offer that do not open up at first glance.

My first impression of Kigali?

On our trip from Kivu Sea to Kigali, we were able to pass and enjoy wonderful landscapes for hours. After the calm and serenity in the nature of the last days on Kivusee and before that in Mount Ghahinga and Bwindi National Park where it is very quiet, the first impression of Kigali was: Dusty, hectic and according to. In short: We wanted to get out quickly into nature.

At the entrance to Kigali, Google Maps directs me to a street where a market takes place. Although motorists occasionally drive through in front of us, I do not want to risk driving over the goods of the people spread out on the ground. Therefore, we first look for a bus station to turn around and leave the street as quickly as possible.

The last attempt to find our hotel with Google Maps on this trip: We land in the middle of a market

Finally, we ignore the commands of our Navis and navigate the larger main roads to our accommodation, the Gloria Hotel. Two days ago, it had taken just under two hours to book this hotel through with bad internet. Somehow it worked out well. The hotel is newly renovated, the room was huge and almost three times as big as the small hut of the last nights at Kivusee.

After we have unpacked the most important, we make a rough plan of what we want to discover the next two days.

View of Kigali and its hills

My highlights in Kigali (+ tips)

That Kigali is not only hectic and loud we should discover in the evening and the next day. Therefore, I summarized my visited places and experiences here.

My tip for Kigali: Organize a taxi driver for your planned visits. He drives you from place to place and waits when you visit the places. From the Inema Arts Center, our driver was pleased because he had never been there before. His English and French were pretty bad, the communication still worked somehow.

For the taxi driver (were originally 4 hours, at the end it was 6 hours) we paid with tip 32,000 RWF (about 40 euros).

Inema Arts Center Kigali

The Inema Arts Center was founded in 2012 by the two brothers Innocent and Emmanuel Nkuranga. Hence the name Inema. Inema means on Kinyarwanda also “blessing, gift or a talent to have, to care for or receive”.

By chance and Tripadvisor we landed here. African Contemporary Art is really exciting. Especially as the two of them take the time to talk to us about their biggest challenges in Rwanda over a coffee and cinnamon buns and to show us around in their small but fine gallery. The studio in the courtyard, where some unfinished works of art by Emmanuel are also part of our private tour.

In order to bring art closer to the poorer population, the brothers invite to a regular workshop with children. Emmanuel shows us impressive works that have been created! Incidentally, the Inema Art Center offers space for 10 to 13 artists, all of whom exhibit a wide variety of African contemporary art.

For this purpose, women are trained as part of a promotion program by Innocent, including sewing, so that they can then sell the manufactured goods (leather handbags, purses, bracelets and necklaces) in the shop.

In addition, there are regular workshops with the “next generation”, in which, in collaboration with the orphanage, 10 -17 year old children have the opportunity to discover their artistic veins. In the special AWAM showroom, the works of the younger artists are offered for sale.

You can also admire the art of the brothers and other artists of the center here:

  • Meze Fresh
  • Urban Hotel
  • Carnegie Melon University (Rwanda)
  • Heaven restaurant (my favorite restaurant see tip has its own showroom of the Inema Arts Center also hanging in the restaurant everywhere pictures of the guys)

Further information about the Inema Arts Center

  • It does not cost entry here, a small donation, the brothers and befriended artists of the Inema Arts Center.
  • in the Inema Café you should take your time and take a break. There are really delicious cinnamon rolls, coffee and of course other soft drinks.
  • Follow the Arts Center on Facebook for updates on regular events.
  • Website of the Inema Arts Center
  • Website of Emmanuel
  • Website of Innocent
  • Address: KG 563 Street in Kacyiru district

The artist’s studio – here works of art by Emmanuel still waiting to be completed

Exhibition of discarded VW Beetle in the Inema Art Center a project of

The colorful house is not only the home of the founders but also of the Inema Art Center The brothers Innocent and Emmanuel (from left to right) founded the Inema Art Center in Kigali

Kigali has been the capital of Rwanda since the independence of Belgium in 1962 and is located in the center of the country. Originally built on Mount Kigali with an elevation of 1850 m, the founding but rapidly growing city now stretches over several hills, which are also around the 1600 m altitude. From Kigali paved roads go star-shaped in all parts of the country.

Through this wind the streets, before you suddenly in the middle is in the largest city of Rwanda with 1.2 million inhabitants. The city never looks big, because the settlements are located between Mount Kigali (1850 m) and Mount Juli (2000 m). Many small hills make the city appear much smaller than it is.

But the upswing of the country can be seen here on every corner: Everywhere is being built and the city is surprisingly clean – even if so many dusty roads are still left from the time before the 1994 genocide.

Heaven Restaurant & bar

A truly heavenly place is the Heaven Restaurant & Bar, which is one of the culinary highlights of Kigali. The food is rather higher category for Rwandan standards, but really delicious. Especially the guacamole with Matoke chips! In addition, you have a great view of Kigali from the large covered open-air platform. The atmosphere is very relaxed and enjoyable, if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

After spending a wonderful evening here, I bought a book when leaving the restaurant, which I would have better read before visiting. In it the founder Josh Ruxin tells how he came from San Francisco to Kilgali, from NGOs, the help in orphanages to the own restaurant “Heaven” – a wonderful story to this great place.

As a result, I learned that in heaven first orphans and later all Rwandans have the interest to get an education in the hotel and catering industry. Many of them are still working in the Heaven Restaurant or in the adjacent Boutique Hotel. He also talks about challenges in Rwanda and what experiences he and his wife have made over the years. A great book (watch here)!

  • Website of the Heaven Restaurant & Boutique Hotel
  • Address: No. 7, KN 29, Kiyovu

Heaven really has a heavenly atmosphere! View from the roof terrace in Heaven Restaurant

Kigali Memorial Center

To commemorate the genocide, the Genocide Museum in Kigali was opened in 2004. It’s not the only memorial in and around Kigali, but one that gets under your skin. After the visit, I no longer felt the need to look at more of the atrocities still visible in the Nyamata Curch and Ntamara Church memorials.

I have been dealing with the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda for a long time and yet it is particularly frightening, moving and incomprehensible how naively the world has looked away. The history of Rwanda is shown in the museum with many pictures and videos. Alone a 10 minute film with pictures and statements of survivors at the beginning of the visit leaves hardly an eye dry.

It is also bad that the guide in the museum (even part of the film, has lost all relatives and reports about it) with us wegschudligt. Why? Just because we shed some tears? That’s nothing compared to what happened to him.

Outside the museum building there are mass graves, where still today found bones, which are excavated again and again, are buried. A long wall serves as plaques with all the known names of the victims. Unfortunately, this is always supplemented with new names.

  • Admission: Admission is free, but donations are very welcome
  • I recommend you an audio guide. These are even offered in German for 15 USD (or 11250 RWF) and I recommend.
  • If you want to take pictures inside the museum you have to pay 20 USD extra. But who wants pictures of atrocities? When watching the atrocities, I lost all desire to take pictures, which is why you will find here also few pictures of the Memorial Center.
  • The museum is hard to get to on foot or outside, so take a taxi.

next to the other offers you souvenirs and crafts that you better buy in other places directly from the producers in the smaller communities. Exhausting too, that you can not only cross the street without being asked by the seller in the shop. Courtesy almost forbids one to pursue this request. After the 10th loading but exhausting.

Much better to visit the right market, which was located diagonally opposite our hotel. But whenever we were here in the evening, the market had already closed.

Experience: My attempt to book a Kigali City Tour

Very optimistic, I wrote an email to the Rwanda Tourism Board on the day we arrived and wanted to book a Kigali City Tour for the next day according to their website. According to point 6 on their FAQ page of the website you should please write an email and reserve the tour.

Unfortunately, I was told quite quickly (for African conditions very fast) that this was not possible. I was only directed to contact the tour operator directly (with a link). This is a list of 30 – 40 tour operators in Rwanda. At the speed of the existing internet in the hotel and the waste of our precious time a frustrating time consuming thing.

A recommendation did not want to pronounce. After visiting the fifth website to sellers I gave up in frustration and went to the front desk. Here we were advised to rent a taxi driver and explain exactly what we would like to see. Unfortunately, the country is not ready yet. Most websites are unfortunately confusing. Why on the tourism site for Rwanda on the city tours, if you can not book with them, opens up to me still not.

How safe is Kigali?

After traveling to East Africa for almost three weeks when we arrived in Kigali, we did not even think about safety in Kigali. Only when leaving the hotel in the evening much on us: At each corner was a police officer with an AK47 around the neck. By the way, street lighting does not exist and the noise at night on the streets and sidewalks is just as it is during the day.

We did not feel insecure at any time, even though we, as MuZungus (whites), of course, all looked at us. I say that traveling in Rwanda is generally safe. Only when driving you should be careful. Bad accidents often happen here because people can not drive at all (in my opinion).

Travel guide for Rwanda

Here is a report on my travel guides for Rwanda.


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