Best Things to Do in Kigali – Our 24 hours in Kigali Rwanda

Best Things to Do in Kigali – Our 24 hours in Kigali Rwanda

Kigali Rwanda is not on many people’s bucket lists. The only reason we went was as a convenient end point to our Ugandan/Rwandan safari. However rather than just being somewhere to rest our heads for 24 hours we found out that there is lots to do with 24 hours in Kigali. Here is our guide on to the best things to do in Kigali. . 

Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you!

Where to stay in Kigali, Rwanda

When putting together our itinerary, we decided to stay at the infamous Milles des Collines hotel (of Hotel Rwanda fame), now a Kempinski hotel.

In a way the choice, or lack there of, of suitable hotels led to us staying here is a great symbol of my apprehension of going to Rwanda. You see outside of the Rwandan genocide, I knew nothing about the capital city of Rwanda. A look in the tourist guides provided little other information about the city  and what to do in Kigali away from the information it provided relating to the Rwandan genocide.

As we arrived late in the evening where it is always to difficult to gauge what a city is really like, I looked towards our next day in the city with some apprehension.

Best Things to do In Kigali Rwanda

Best Things to do In Kigali Rwanda

Best Things to do In Kigali

The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

Our main stop, as I think is the case with many tourists was the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The centre has beautiful grounds that serves as a cemetery for over 250,000 people who died in the Capital during the Genocide. The scale of this memorial only serves to emphasis the extent of the atrocity. Inside, the centre is given over to explaining how the genocide came to pass, historical context and how the international community did little to prevent or intervene. A shameful blemish on reputation on the rest of the international community.

What you need to know about visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre:

It was without a doubt the most upsetting place I have ever been. The sheer scale coupled with the stories of survivors had me in tears. The stories of children caught up in the Genocide were the most harrowing. There were some stories of heros that risked their lives for others that were uplifting and a welcome relief but not enough to counter the effects. Though uncomfortable, I am really happy that we visited the Memorial.

Looking for Rwanda tours check out this post!

Craft Market 

After we left the Genocide Memorial, we wanted to explore what other things to do in Kigali. Our first stop was an artisan craft market. It was only once we had left the genocide memorial that you began to notice the ages of the people in capital, the missing generation and notice the literal scars on the residents of Kigali.

Despite this, I came away from Kigali with a feeling of hope. It is remarkable that the city doesn’t have more problems. There is not an ongoing quest for retribution. Instead, I saw a city rising from the ashes and trying to move towards a better future. Initiatives by the Kigali City Council such as once a month mandatory street cleaning for all residents, make it feel like a city of the rise. It was one of the cleanest places I have been, and I don’t just mean in Africa. More recently it has embraced the no car days to encourage exercise and community gathering. It feels like a city looking towards a different and better future.

Our lasting impression of Kigali Rwanda

In the end I was glad that I went to Kigali and the Genocide Memorial. But most of all, I was glad I stayed at the Milles des Collines. It was here, where Paul Rusesabagina let over 1000 people take refuge,  that I had time to reflect on Kigali and my short time there. It reminded me that there are always people, however few that will put there lives at risk for the sake of others.

My hopes for Kigali in the future is that they can diversify and create a country that is defined by more than just its Genocide and its springing off point to see gorillas as it is such a lovely and safe place to visit!

If you, like me, would like to plan a more in-depth Rwanda itinerary then check out this post by our friends at Mini Travellers

Best things to do in Kigali Rwanda

Best things to do in Kigali Rwanda


  1. August 29, 2016 / 12:10 pm

    I’ve loved my travels through Africa though I have to say I am not so sure I would love a stop in Rwanda. But if you have to pass through I think staying somewhere that had some meaning would be at the very least interesting.

    • August 29, 2016 / 4:12 pm

      It was surprisingly pleasant. It was a really beautiful city and countryside surrounding it. I think people immediately think of the genocide but there is a lot more to see there.

      Uganda was also a beautiful country that I would heartily recommend

  2. August 30, 2016 / 10:46 am

    I spent about a week in Rwanda a few years back. I had some time to kill after traveling in Uganda and that was the most convenient place. I quite enjoyed it (I also ventured to Virungas and some other out of Kigali genocide memorials) and it was a really interesting place. Likewise I noticed similar things about the locals as you have identified and share much of the same sentiment. Kigali fellt very European in comparison to Kampala for example. It was a strange place but I’m glad I went there, even if a lot of what I saw was incredibly sad and shocking.

    • August 31, 2016 / 4:25 am

      I was really surprised too about the different between Kigale and Kampala. Amazing how different though only a small distance from each other.

      Like you I feel glad that we went though it was very sad and hard to listen to at times

  3. tots2travel
    August 30, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    Fascinating. Depths of despair really but makes you thankful for being alive.

    • August 31, 2016 / 4:23 am

      Thank you. Yes, it makes you appreciate everything so much more listening to what some people have been through

  4. August 30, 2016 / 6:58 pm

    I admit, it’s the first thing that came to my mind – I wonder how long it’ll be before that changes? But how fascinating to see the real city today and great that it’s so much more hopeful than the tragic past. Having been to Auschwitz, I can imagine how hard it must be to visit the memorial and hear about the horrors but definitely worth going to bear witness, and remembering those who did help. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • August 31, 2016 / 4:23 am

      Yes I think its the first thing everyone thinks of. Sites of memorial are very difficult places to go while on holiday but really important. The best tonic however is to see the start of the city’s recovery but very important that we never forget

  5. August 31, 2016 / 2:55 am

    Just reading about the Kigale Genocide Memorial Centre and imagining the genocide is sending shivers down my spine. It’s nice to read about how the city is recovering well though. #CityTripping

    • August 31, 2016 / 4:16 am

      Yes, I was very happy that we could take something positive away. We had a good time in Kigale and really hope the city remains on the same path!

  6. August 31, 2016 / 4:40 am

    Learning about the Genocide sounds essential to visiting Kigale, although I’m sure there’s much more to the city than that. It sounds like it would be a lot like visiting Germany, another place known for Genocide and atrocities that we can all learn from. I think that’s the important part when visiting a place like that. Learning why these unfortunate events happened can hopefully prevent us from letting the same things repeat.

    • September 1, 2016 / 4:49 am

      Well put. The closest thing I could think of comparing to was Germany. I personally found this more difficult due to the fact it happened so recently. I really hope people do learn a lot in Kigali but also come away with a more diverse view of the city

  7. September 1, 2016 / 6:55 am

    I guess Rwanda, for me at least, will always be associated with the genocide – but it’s no bad thing to remember the atrocities that took place. I can still recall the news reports, so sad to think this happened in supposedly modern times. #citytripping

  8. September 2, 2016 / 8:30 am

    I can understand your apprehension staying at Milles des Collines and visiting the memorial center, while traveling on holiday. It must have brought on deep reflections on humanity and the atrocities that are committed in the name of war.

  9. September 3, 2016 / 7:54 pm

    It must have been an incredibly emotional visit but very interesting. It reminds me a little of my travels in Cambodia…another difficult history to look at and digest (in relatively modern times) but hugely important to learn and get perspective. Cambodia too I felt was lifting its way out and that the people seemed happy to be alive and free. Thank you for the insight and sharing on #citytripping

  10. November 17, 2016 / 9:32 am

    Visiting tragic sites and memorials is very difficult on holiday but I think it’s so important in order to reflect, remember and learn from in order that these things never happen again. I’ve been to Auschwitz and the Killing Fields in Cambodia and both places were hugely upsetting and difficult to visit and I can only imagine it was the same in Kigali. Thanks for sharing your interesting and sympathetic thoughts about this little known city. #FarawayFiles

    • November 17, 2016 / 9:44 am

      Thank you for your lovely and insightful comment – I think remembrance as you say is very important

  11. November 17, 2016 / 10:35 am

    What a brave move, to visit a place so imbued with sadness and loss. But the memorial and the hotel are such important reminders of how we need to hang onto our humanity, and try to prevent such things from ever happening again. #Citytripping and #FarawayFiles

    • November 20, 2016 / 7:28 am

      Thank you. I was apprehensive at first but so glad we made the decision to visit

  12. November 17, 2016 / 11:39 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience in Kigali. The scale of that tragedy is unfathomable. Now more than ever we need to demonstrate compassion and understanding. If the people of Rwanda can manage this despite their tragic past, so should we.

    • November 17, 2016 / 11:48 am

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Agree on every point

  13. November 17, 2016 / 2:52 pm

    I was very moved by reading the account of the genocide in ‘A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali’ which takes place at the Mille Collines so it’s fascinating reading your account of a visit there. It must have been so upsetting visiting the genocide memorial but ultimately uplifting to see the people of Rwanda rebuilding their lives in such a positive, life-affirming way. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

    • November 17, 2016 / 3:17 pm

      It was very upsetting but important to see and I felt they were moving forward as a country

  14. November 18, 2016 / 8:44 am

    As much as it was heart-breaking to visit the memorial, I feel that people need to visit these memorials to remind ourselves that such horrible historical events should not take place ever again. Am really happy to learn that Kigali is moving on to a better and brighter future 🙂 Thanks for sharing! #farawayfiles

    • November 18, 2016 / 12:39 pm

      Thank you – it was the most heartbreaking place I’ve ever been too but I’m really pleased we went

  15. November 18, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    What a moving post! Thank you for sharing. I’ll admit the only thing I know about Rwanda is from the film Hotel Rwanda that I saw when I was younger. I feel it’s very important to visit places like this memorial, even though it is deeply upsetting. It’s important to acknowledge and learn about these things. Rwanda has been on my list for a while, and it’s not often you read about people going there. (Loved that they have no car days! Everywhere should do this!) #farawayfiles

    • November 18, 2016 / 7:40 pm

      Thank you, I appreciate you saying that. You really should go, it is beautiful country full of friendly people. We only had 24 hours at the end of our Uganda trip where we went trekking to see chimps and gorillas plus other great Safari adventures. More posts on Uganda on the blog if you are interested ?

  16. November 21, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    Wow. What an experience. Heavy sigh. I think it is important to visit places like this if we are able. You were brave to face your emotions and I appreciate your perspective. Thank you for casting a light of hope on a place with heavy historic connotations and for including it for #FarawayFiles. – Erin

    • November 21, 2016 / 3:50 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am glad we went though faced with some difficult truths

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.