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Best Ways to Spend One Day in Kigali

Spending one day in Kigali is plenty of time to experience the largest city in Rwanda. Kigali is the capital of the country and serves as its cultural and economic center. It’s also the location of the official government offices in Rwanda. Kigali is located in a hilly region in the center of the country. The city is developed on these hills, from the valleys to the peaks, that reflect a lot of the social class differences. Mt. Kigali is the highest elevation in the city.

Kigali is the hub for transportation around the country. Buses are one of the main ways of navigating around the city. There are several stations that can also take you to many of the other major cities in Rwanda. The international airport attracts visitors from around the world to this unique city.


The morning in Kigali could be spent stopping by some of the landmarks in the city for sightseeing. Kigali, as well as Rwanda overall, has a very rich history. A lot of the landmarks, buildings, and celebrations are based around their independence which occurred in 1962.

The largest event in Rwanda’s history was the Rwanda Genocide which occurred in 1994. This event shaped the country that you see today. To get a better understanding of the city, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. This is the most popular attraction in the city because of its significance. The actual memorial is a burial site of over a quarter million people that died during the genocide. The Rwanda Genocide took place in 1994. The memorial center was completed and dedicated on the 10th anniversary. The rest of the center is used to provide visitors with background and information of the genocide.

Also linked to the Rwanda Genocide event is another landmark and museum called the Presidential Palace Museum. This site was actually the residence of a former president of Rwanda. This president’s plane was shot down and was one of the early events that triggered the Rwanda Genocide. The palace is now converted into a museum that showcases a lot of history about Rwanda. Remains of the plane are also held on display here.

Another site to visit in Kigali that gives a lot of context about the city is the Camp Kigali Belgian Monument. This moment consists of ten pillars that represent soldiers killed in an attempt to keep peace before the larger scale genocide.

Eating in Kigali

After spending the morning learning more about Kigali and Rwanda’s history, it’ll be time to experience some of the fine cuisine found in the city. Kigali’s food scene is definitely worth sampling as you’ll come across many dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Before it’s independence, Rwanda was controlled by Belgium. There are a lot of Belgian influences even in the food choices.

One thing you’ll notice while exploring Kigali is that there is a lack of street food vendors. This popular trend is not so common in this city. There are lots of restaurants to visit all around Kigali. These restaurants serve a variety of food. Restaurants aren’t typically visited for lunchtime because of the wait time to receive your food. With only 24 hours in Kigali, you may want to go for a quicker food option.

Buffets are actually very popular in Kigali. A lot of restaurants will have buffet style serving in addition to a regular menu. Some buffets may be open all day while other are only open during specific times of the day such as lunch. The local Kigali way of making the most of a buffet is to pile your plate as high as possible with the various food dishes.

The most famous dish found in Kigali is called a brochette. Brochettes are essentially shish kebabs made with a type of meat or even fish. A side dish often served with a brochette in restaurants is called ibirayi. Ibirayi is also a native Rwandan dish that’s simply their version of fried potatoes.

Things to Do in Kigali

In addition to sightseeing, there are several ways to get active in the city. Kigali has a lot of things to do that make the city a great destination to spend the day.

Kigali can be fun even for family trips. There is an amusement park located nearby the Kigali airport called Bambino Super City. This park is fun for all ages. Kids get the chance to get on rides, enjoy the swimming pool, and even have their picture taken with various animals. There is also a restaurant for dining. Depending on the time that you visit Kigali, you may even be able to catch an event happening at the large conference hall.

Kigali is a city known for its art scene. The art scene is very active and there are several galleries and exhibition centers to support the continuous growth. The Inema Arts Center is a popular place to visit to explore everything from the historic art scene to supporting current local artists. This center showcases art from all around Rwanda. It exhibits paintings, sculptures, and other historical artifacts. The Inema Arts Center also holds several events every month and has a small café for grabbing a snack.

You can’t visit a place like Kigali without shopping for amazing souvenirs. If you’re looking for a local shopping experience, then you’ll surely want to visit the Kimironko Market. This market attracts locals and visitors. It’s a large, covered market and recognized as one of the best in the city because of the variety of goods that can be found here. Right outside the Kimronko Market are vendors selling retail items, souvenirs, and various household items. Inside the market are countless vendors of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Another thing you can do in Kigali is take advantage of one of the many tours that the city offers. African wildlife is famous around the world so there are several tours that take you out into some of the nature reserves to see it up close. You can also enjoy tours that take you around some of the historical neighborhoods in Kigali to explore more of the local culture.

Kigali Nightlife

To wrap up the day in Kigali, you’ll want to get a taste of some of the nightlife found in the city. Since it’s a major working capital, there are tons of options for locals to wind down in the evenings and on the weekends. Nightlife can be found in virtually any part of Kigali.

A good way to start the night off in Kigali is to enjoy a few drinks at one of the many restaurants. This will give a chance for it to get later in the night when the scene really comes alive. There’s a variety of entertainment in Kigali. You can find small local bars with a more relaxed atmosphere or you can find lively nightclubs with people dancing until the early morning. Live music is very popular around Kigali and there are several venues where you can find a great show on almost any night.

Kigali is definitely a city that’s been largely shaped by it’s past. Rwanda is a country that just gained independence not too long ago. Much of the country is in recovery with Kigali leading the way. Its landscape makes it a very scenic city. Simply going around the city will take you to some great sights. There are over one million people who live in Kigali. With this population, there is always something to do in Kigali. Spending a day in Kigali is plenty of time to experience some of the best things that the city has to offer.