If you are (for some reason) looking to get as far away from Kinyarwanda phrases, babies wrapped around their mothers, and people shouting ‘muzungu!’ at you then Nyarutarama is the neighborhood you’re looking for. It’s a pretty upscale area with huge houses, a few embassies, lots of embassy residences in massive houses, a popular international school, and some nice cafes and restaurants. There are some major NGO offices here and Peace Corps occupy a huge compound not far from the MTN Centre. The streets are all paved, the area is leafy and green, and it’s assumed everyone has a car because buses doesn’t even come down this way (at least not that I found).
Accommodation in Nyarutarama
This is where humongous villas with pools are hidden behind towering fences guarded by armed personnel and security cameras and you’ll see fancy cars passing you by. In short, it’s where many of the rich people live. Well actually, that’s not entirely true. Dispersed among the high security walls are pockets of small mud houses with the random goat and pant-less boy running around, but if what’s been happening in the rest of the city is anything to go by, these people will likely be shuffled on somewhere else in favour of a huge house or apartment block.
Houses in Nyarutarama are mostly huge and if you’re out here as a single person, unless you’re loaded you’ll probably find yourself sharing with housemates. It’s a popular place for families, especially those with a good income. The houses are usually way to big for their purpose and, the ones I’ve seen, seem to build right up to the endge of the land’s boundaries and cover the rest in concrete instead of leaving space for a nice garden like you’ll find in Kiyovu or Kimihurura. It seems like, for the people who own these houses, bigger is always better.
For hotels you have a few good options for mid-range hotels that verge on being a bit more fancy, but there’s nothing here that comes close to the like of the Marriott, Serena, and Radisson Blu. I haven’t seen the rooms for any of the hotels here but I have visited many and Park View Courts, Garr Hotel, Quiet Haven Hotel, Manor Hotel, Elevate Suites, Orient Park Hotel, Villa Portofino, Dmall Hotel, Khana Khazana Boutique, Gorillas Golf Hotel, and Highlands Suites all seem like great options. Flame Tree Village is the only place where I have seen the rooms and they have a nice pool and a sort of an apartment setup with a small kitchen.
Restaurants & Cafes in Nyarutarama
Being a fairly swanky part of town with big houses, Nyarutarama is also home to a few of Kigali’s better restaurants and local bars here are few and far between.
- Billy’s Bistro – This is a relatively new restaurant that’s sprung up along with the Century Park development. It’s recently been taken over by a new chef and it’s getting great reviews, especially their weekend buffet.
- Bourbon – This chain cafe isn’t nearly as popular as it once was due to all of the other awesome options there days, but this location does happen to have a cool balcony and great views across the valley.
- Bwok Bakery – Tucked behind Kijamii Table in the same building that used to hold Rz Manna, this bakery is Korean-run and tied to the Bwok Bistro in Gacuriro. It’s small but packed with some amazing treats including the tiramisu tart which is one of the best desserts in the city.
- Choma’d – This place is a cool hangout spot and especially good for cocktails and a meal before a night out. The tables are on a patio that’s mostly open and there’s no proper indoor seating, but the view is amazing and it’s got a nice vibe. The macaroni and cheese here is pretty good, as is the selection of meat dishes.
- Dae Jang Guem – A Korean place that gets good reviews but I haven’t tried it yet.
- Delhi Darbar – This Indian restaurant used to be called Blueberry (why, I do not know) but they’ve changed their name while keeping the same great food. The restaurant itself is nothing special and I mostly order takeaway here (which is why I still haven’t done a review… I really need to get on that!) The food is great and it’s many people’s top choice for Indian in Kigali.
- Dmall Hotel – This weird cube building popped up about three years ago. It’s a hotel that seems to be focused mostly on Chinese clientele and that means that they have a rather good Chinese restaurant here.
- Hashtag – This is sort of a mashup of various types of cuisines in one place. Within Hashtag you’ll find various different restaurant names, but it’s all one place with food coming from one menu. I think they were going for a food court sort of vibe. The tacos I tried were pretty good, though I ruined them with Gouda which was dumb. I hate Gouda. I’m told it gets pretty lively here in the evenings.
- Kijamii Table – This is mainly a lunch buffet place and the buffet is really great with an unusually large selection of vegetarian dishes. It’s very well-priced and popular. For dinner they have a few different dishes from around Africa. Beautiful Coffee is also located here and the Bwok Bakery is around the back if you want dessert.
- La Poete – This might be the only local bar in this entire area which is impressive considering small Rwandan bars can be found almost on every corner in the city. Well, not here! La Poete is a typical beer and brochettes place but it’s set on the main road with a nice patio to hang out on. I have foggy memories of finding Kigali’s worst toilet at this place, so beware. Hopefully they’ve upgraded.
- Manor Hotel – This hotel has four restaurants, at last count. An Italian place called Marco’s , a Chinese restaurant called Silk, and an Indian place called Shere Sardar perched up top on their roof.
- Mr. Chips – Run by a Canadian who knows food, this is Kigali’s original fast food place. He was originally in a tiny building next to Sonatubes, then in Kimihurura, and how he’s settled out here in a small building with a nice patio out front that makes a nice hangout spot. It’s a very popular place for takeaway on Jumia Food.
- Pan China – This Chinese restaurant is in the same compound as Sakae and it might be run by the same people. They’ve got a nice selection of smoothies and milkshakes and they’re known for their fried chicken.
- Sakae – A Korean/Japanese place with a great view. The atmosphere inside can feel a little cavernous if there aren’t many people there, but outside is really beautiful on a nice day with the view and the fire. This has long been one of my favourite places but I haven’t been in while. You can get sushi here and it gets better reviews than at Zen. The service is very good but, weirdly, they only seem to have guys working here.
- Select – Saying this is in Nyarutarama might be a bit of a stretch but it’s on the road leading to Kacyiru which is sort of in no man’s land as far as neighbourhood definitions go. It used to be the only place in Kigali to get a fancy dinner and I remember having a ridiculously good meal here once, but I’m not sure what’s happening these days.
- Tung – This massive Chinese restaurant is located inside the Century Park complex. The food is reasonably good and the tables make it great for groups, but the real draw here is probably the open spaces and the cool kids jungle gym. The massive grassy area is great if you have kids who need to expend some energy.
- Zen – Zen is Kigali’s original Asian fusion restaurant and they brought sushi and Thai and other wonders to the city way back in 2010. It’s crazy to see how much Kigali has grown in such a short amount of time and now they’re just one of many Asian places. They have very nice outdoor seating beneath a grass roof and the service is always reliable. They have good cocktails and Teppanyaki tables.
Nightlife in Nyarutarama
K Club has opened above Woodlands Supermarket which is located on the way up the hill to Gacuriro. It gets lukewarm reviews but if you want a late night dance session then it’s your only spot in this area, so you’re stuck with it. As this is mostly a residential area you won’t see much action at nighttime, apart from perhaps a late football game playing at Virunga Sports Bar (upstairs at the MTN Centre), dinner at one of the restaurants or a few beers at one of the rare local bars.
- Billionaire’s Club – This is a newish club located inside Manor Hotel that replaced their faux Irish bar. I’ve heard they have karaoke here but that’s about all I know.
- Chillax – This club is located inside the newish Century Park compound along with Billy’s Bistro and Tung. It’s a nicely designed clubby place that’s got a great patio and a nice view. It’s more of a patio hang out place than a cave-like dance club.
Shopping in Nyarutarama
The MTN Centre is located pretty much in the middle of Nyarutarama and is the area’s main shopping spot, even though there’s not much in it. It’s the usual bizarrely designed shopping centre with few actual shops and a lot wasted space. The top floor has Bourbon Coffee and a couple of restaurants, the middle has a hair dresser and lots of random useless space, and the bottom floor has an MTN shop, pharmacy, travel agent, money changer a supermarket.
- Haute Baso – If you’re in search of clothes and souvenirs, this small shop is well-stocked with items they design and make themselves. If you’ve ever seen Paul Kagame t-shirts around, this is the place that makes them.
- Kigali Butchery – The name of this place seems to have changed over the years and there’s always been confusion about whether it’s called the German Butcher or La Galette. Turns out it’s neither. Kigali Butchery is the same store as its always been with a different name. This place has an excellent butcher’s counter, a small but decent product section, a good selection of cheese, and lots of imported goodies. The also sell homemade ice cream.
- Safa Supermarket – You could argue that this is more in Gacuriro but it’s right on the top end of Nyarutarama so I’m adding it. This used to be called Woodlands and, back then, it was actually a decent grocery store with a surprisingly good bakery. They still have a bakery but the shop isn’t nearly as exciting anymore and is really only good for the basics.
Recreation & Entertainment in Nyarutarama
If you’re looking for preppy ways to spend your Saturdays, this neighborhood is where you’ll find the only golf course in town. The Kigali Golf Club has recently been renovated (or built anew, perhaps) and it’s a lovely space overlooking the course with a restaurant, health centre and gym, a nice pool, and even squash courts.
If golf isn’t your thing then the Nyarutarama Sports Club really is the centre of recreation in the area with its tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a (pretty outdated) gym. It also has TV screens if watching sports is more up your alley and plenty of grassy areas to run around on. Manor Hotel has a better gym and a smaller pool, but the pool has a really spectacular view. Villa Portofino also has a nice pool with a view that’s a bit larger and well-stocked with lounge chairs.
For a weekend stroll, may we suggest the path along the lake – a slightly overgrown dirt road shaded by majestic trees, winding across an area of marshlands and untouched forest. There were once plans to develop this green pocket into a proper park but the plan was abandoned and a whole bunch of creepy amusement park characters were left down here, becoming ensnared in the growing plant life. Sadly, someone has cleared these characters away, but it’s still a lovely place for a walk. The other side of the hill (into the valley towards Kibagabaga) also makes a nice spot for a stroll through mango and banana trees.