Artist Collin Sekajugo’s local guide to Kigali, Rwanda, from the best restaurants in town to where to find the city’s most stunning view.
Rwandan-Ugandan multidisciplinary artist Collin Sekajugo is known both for his expressive mixed media works as well as for founding arts incubator and gallery Ivuka Arts Kigali. Opened in 2007, Ivuka quickly became a pioneer in Rwanda’s blossoming visual arts scene, encouraging burgeoning young artists to display work and bond over creative pursuits in a country rapidly recovering from a turbulent past.
“To me, Kigali is a captivating city given the various stories embedded in its evolution,” says Sekajugo, who now works between Kigali and Kampala, the Ugandan capital. “From a very humble 60s town to a violently divided 80s city to a shuttered 90s city, Kigali survived a test of horrible times to become Africa’s epicenter for positive change today. One can only characterize Kigali as a city of hope. Every traveler seeking Africa’s true success story should visit this place.”
Colin Sekajugo’s Perfect Day in Kigali, Rwanda
9 a.m. — One Coffeeshop to Rule Them All
Mornings can never get any better than taking a walk along Umuganda Boulevard, one of Kigali’s greenest stretches, to Kigali’s best coffee shop, Shokola Storyteller’s Cafe in Kacyiru. Located on the Kigali Public Library‘s rooftop, Shokola serves both as a cafe and an art space. Explore, eat, surf the internet, read, relax, or check out the art on exhibit.
Enjoy a nice breezy morning at the Kigali Convention Center Gardens or take a bus ride to Nyamirambo to get acquainted with Kigali’s most authentic and vibrant neighborhood. If you love art and traditional dance and drumming, explore the art spaces in the Kicyiru area, especially Ivuka Arts Kigali, Niyo Arts, and Inema Arts Center, the latter of which houses a cafe on site that serves coffee and pastries.
2 p.m. – Bakery Bites or Large Lunch
Before you know it, your body will be demanding lunch. Head back towards the Kigali Business Center and pick up a sandwich at Brioche Bakery or continental lunch from Java House Cafe across the street at Kigali Heights.
A visit to the Caplaki craft village in Rugunga is ideal for passing the time, as well as Kigali’s best-kept secret: Mont Kigali. The hill will give you a breathtaking view of the entire city at 360 degrees.
While Kigali hosts a variety of sit-down garden restaurants, the ambiance at Heaven Restaurant in Kiyonvu is unbeatable. Whether you are looking to grab an evening beer or a glass of the finest wine while enjoying the art on their walls or you’d prefer to sit down for a wide selection of continental, Asian, or American cuisines, Heaven may be the sweetest spot for you.
Depending on how artsy you are, Republika Lounge a couple of blocks away might also sweep you off your feet with its unique African decor, jazzy music, and delicacies.
9 p.m. – Good Vibes Only
Done with dinner and feel like hanging out in a space with positive energy? Papyrus in Kimihurura, it is—my favorite joint in town. A place for pretty much everything: Cold drinks, finger-licking brochettes, fish and chips, great music, and, most importantly, very intriguing personalities.
The Kigali Essentials
Where to Stay in Kigali
Kigali is home to a number of international hotel franchises all scattered around the Central Business District, Kiyovu, Kimihurura, and Kacyiru. Kacyiru is undoubtedly the most popular neighborhood for accommodations for budget travelers, and most of the city’s Airbnbs are found here.
What to Know Before You Go
Kigali is the cleanest and greenest city in East Africa. That being said, every visitor should note that plastic bags are prohibited from entering Rwanda’s borders. A copy of Lonely Planet East Africa or Bradit East Africa always comes in handy for first-time visitors.
How to Get Around in Kigali
Getting around Kigali is pretty easy as there’s a decent public bus system, and moto-taxis—locally known as Moto—are very user-friendly and can get you around faster than any other means of transportation. Regular taxis are also available in most downtown and uptown areas.