Kimihurura (‘Kimi’) is a very popular area of town for foreigners. Maybe it’s the central location or the nice houses or the multiple restaurants to choose from or just the frequency of rooms becoming available here as younger people move in and out of the city. Who knows. But you’re bound to know plenty of people who live in this area.
Kimihurura is as close to the geographical centre of Kigali as it gets, so you’re well-positioned to travel to other parts of town. If you live well inside the residential areas of Kimi, you might have to walk awhile to get a moto on the surrounding main roads, so having a car in this area is handy. Motos that you catch here will be used to charging higher prices because of the constant stream of newbies, so this might be one area where it’s a good idea to set the price before taking a ride. Roads here used to be diabolical but most of them have now been paved (sometimes twice!).
Accommodation in Kimihurura
Aside from being home to numerous restaurants and NGOs, Kimihurura also a fine supply of lovely homes with a beautiful view of town. The homes aren’t as grand or new as those in Nyarutarama, but they are more manageable with much nicer, more established gardens. This area is very popular and central and the prices reflect that. You’ll definitely pay more here for a smallish, run down house than you would for a brand new mansion in Kibagabaga, for example.
A house on its own might be too expensive for most, but there are lots of people in this area who share and it’s common to see rooms coming up for rent in an already established house. This is a great way for single people or couples to avoid all of the hassles of finding and setting up their own place and moving into an existing house is the easiest way to meet your new Kigali group of friends. It seems like houses in this area have a high turnover rate as muzungus cycle in and out of the city. If you don’t live here but you’re a social person, you’re bound to find your way to someone’s house at some point for a party or some other gathering.
For something more temporary, there are a few places to stay in this area including the Rubanguras Apartments which seem to be a serviced apartments type of thing (with a nice pool but a strangely creepy Chinese restaurant on site), the relatively new Cozy Safari and Amaris Hotels, King’s Guesthouse (also home to City Arts), Mandela Guesthouse, Mijo Hostel, Eco Air, and Zenith Hotel. I know basically nothing about any of these places except that they’re in Kimihurura and there’s central.
- Discover Rwanda – This is probably Kigali’s original backpacker’s hostel, moving from Kacyiru many years ago into a cool building at the bottom of the Kimihurura hill. It’s a great space with a small bar and restaurant on the balcony and good rooms for the price. They’re tied in some way to the Aegis Trust and staying here will help fund their important work.
- Hellenique – This place has long been a Kigali enigma filled with mystery and intrigue. It’s been around for years and it seems like the sort of place where dodgy deals were once done. It has a certain old school vibe about it that’s weirdly charming. I’ve never seem the rooms but they’ve got a cool pool with a view.
- Mamba Club – Mamba Club is a wondrous place where all things happen! It’s a hostel! It’s a bar/restaurant! It’s a pool! It’s a beach volleyball court! It’s a bowling alley! Seriously, it does it all. Plus they also host fairly regular events and it’s a fun place to hang out. But back to the rooms… they’ve got a few hostel-style rooms upstairs including dorms, which are a hard thing to come by in Kigali. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a good option for people who want to be in a social, buzzy place and wouldn’t mind some noise from the bar.
- The Nest – This is a cozy little guesthouse that seems well-run to a high standard. The accommodation is simple but nice, clean, and everything you could need at a good price.
Restaurants & Cafes in Kimihurura
Places to eat and drink are in abundance in Kimihurura and you’ll find all sorts of types of food here. It’s one of the best areas of town for eating and if you enjoy going to restaurants, you’ll probably find yourself in this area quite often.
- Africa Bite – Nice garden with a good buffet for Rwf 3,000. Both times I’ve been there, though, they’ve run out of items and were pretty slow to replace them which meant missing out on certain things.
- Borneo – Borneo is a small Indonesian restaurant that’s hugely popular at lunch for its affordable, vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, and delicious buffet. I don’t know much about Indonesian food but this place will give you a great sample of lots of dishes, especially if you’re a buffet regular because they rotate the dishes. Go for the peanut sauce, if nothing else!
- Car Wash – This might not be in Kimihurura but it’s close enough, located at the bottom of the hill heading towards the town side. This is a popular place to get nyama choma, though I’ve never tried it. The pork dishes are good and it’s a popular place to watch football. The open air seating is nice.
- Chapati / 4 Blooms – These two fast food joints with the same owners have combined forces for their location in Kimihurura. You’ve got a selection of chapati burrito-like things and burgers, hotdogs, and fries to choose from here.
- Greek Taverna – Formerly known as Hellenique, this Greek place is under new management and it’s getting some good reviews. I loved the extremely weird vibe of the old place and I’m sad they got rid of the wooden boat in the middle of the restaurant, but the food is ok, the wine is cheap, and there’s a great view from their balcony.
- Gusto Italiano – I don’t know anything about this place except that when I pass by at late at night on weekends, they always seem to be blaring music obnoxiously loud. I deduce by the name that it’s an Italian place. I’m so clever.
- Kigali Art Cafe – This is a really charming cafe located at the top of Kimi near the junction heading towards Kacyiru. It’s a lovely space with a nice menu, a lot of coffees and drinks to choose from, and they even roast their own coffee. It’s a nice spot to park up awhile with your laptop.
- Kimy Gourmand – This creperie is tiny but they’ve got an excellent choice of both sweet and savoury crepes plus a nice selection of ice cream sundaes. The speculoos ice cream with caramel sauce is a personal favourite.
- Kiseki – This used to be a full service Japanese place with breakfast, lunch, and dinner but these days they close at 3pm. I’m not sure what happens in the world of Japanese breakfast, but their lunch buffet has some sushi, tempura, and I think you can still get some a la carte things as well.
- Lalibela – Delicious Ethiopian food at a good price. If you share a meat or veggie platter between three people, you’ll all have plenty to eat and not spend much at all.
- Lavana – This is a new Italian place owned by an American that has really taken things to the next level for events. They seem to have something interesting happening a few times a week including movie nights, dancing, spoken word, international sports on the big screen, and loads more. Plus their pizza is really good and they have a fantastic lunch deal.
- L’Epicurien – This French place has been around for several years now and it’s established itself as one of Kigali’s better restaurants. They have a good lunch menu and it’s a good place to come for some French food like steak tartare and fois gras.
- Mamba Club – Mamba is more of a place to come to play volleyball, bowl, swim, or drink. Or all of the above. It’s not really known as a place you’d come to specifically for food, but if you happen to be here then they do pretty good burgers and brochettes and that sort of thing.
- Now Now Rolex – These guys have taken the Ugandan rolex and upped its game by offering a variety of different flavour combinations. My personal favourite is the bacon and cheddar. They’ve got a cool outside seating area, a great selection of imported beers, and it’s popular for a late night snack and drinks.
- Papyrus – Over the years, Papyrus has gone from a mega popular party spot and then somewhere along the way it morphed into a mediocre Asian restaurant. It has a really lovely view and it’s a decent place to come for a drink.
- Poivre Noir – This is one of Kigali’s best restaurants and a favourite for many people. The chef/owner is Belgian and he and his wife have really put together a fabulous menu that ranges from burgers (the best in town) to salmon to shrimp to a few great steak options. Their Parmesan mushroom starter is one of my favourite things in Kigali.
- Pure Africa Coffee – A cafe with a view! Their upstairs seating area is perched atop Kimihurura with a nice view across to the city. It’s small up there but bright and airy and relaxing, so see if you can get a table upstairs. Their menu isn’t huge but it’s decent and their coffee is nice.
- Repub Lounge – One of my all time favourite Kigali restaurants, Repub Lounge is a new iteration of Republika. The name changed when they moved from Kiyovu to Kimihurura. I was sad to see them move out of the neighbourhood at the time, but Kimi is so central that it doesn’t matter so much and I’d honestly travel far for this place. I love their brochettes and the vibe is very relaxed and cool and it’s a great place to start a night out.
- Soy Asian Table – This is the new kid in town but it’s managed by the team (person?) who used to run Zen and then the restaurant at Papyrus. Soy is a step above both places with a beautiful interior that’s had a lot of thought put into it, an enticing menu of great Asian food, and a really good selection of tasty cocktails.
- Sundowner – My favourite place to come for nyama choma (roasted goat) with kachambari (Rwandan salsa) and a delicious sauce. So good and always a lot cheaper than I expect it to be.
- Tchichi – I know very little about this place except that it’s in the same compound as Now Now and Kigali Art Cafe and I think they have an affordable Rwandan lunch buffet, one of the few places in the area.
- Twistiblendz – A small smoothie bar with two locations. They offer a bunch of different types of fruit smoothies and healthy juices and they have some super foods like moringa and spirulina to kick things up to the next healthy level.
- Zaaffran – They’ve moved from their long time location in Kiyovu but they live on in a smaller form! Zaaffran have downsized to a takeaway place with a very small and uninviting seating area out front. The food is still as amazing as always and they’re one of my favourites for Indian in Kigali.
Nightlife in Kimihurura
Kimihurura isn’t packed with choices for going out late but it doe have a few of the more popular places for the boozy and dancey foreigner crown. Plus, if you’ve managed to make some friends then you’ll probably be invited to a lot of house parties in this area. People who live here seem to be the house-party-having types.
- Envy – This is a proper nightclub, located on the bottom level of the massive Papyrus building. As with most clubby type places, Envy charges a cover but pop in and see if it’s busy first before paying. The real action, though, is the fun outside area where people hang out smoking and eating brochettes and cheesy potatoes into the wee hours.
- Now Now Rolex – This rolex joint was mentioned above for food, but it’s also a great place to come for drinks, especially late at night where they’re one of the few places in Kigali that serve food until late.
- Papyrus – When I arrived back in 2010, Papyrus was located in the same building that Trattoria (which may or may not be closed at the moment) is in now and it was, by far, the most popular place in town for foreigners. When it was shut down for some mysterious violation, people had no idea where to go an countless muzungus could be spotted wandering the hills of Kimi, lost and in search of somewhere to dance. Ok, thats an exaggeration. But times were tough, my friend. But then Papyrus reopened in a huge building not so far away and regained its former glory for awhile. But people are fickle and, these days, it’s not as popular but it’s still got a great view and I think it’s popular for watching football.
- Sundowner – This place has always been more of a restaurant type place but when Paypyrus closed, it took on more of a late night party venue feel and stays open very late on the weeks, usually playing 90s dance hits. Which is awesome. Bond 7 whiskey here is cheap at Rwf 3,000 for a small bottle which has lead to some very crazy nights. At least for me.
Shopping in Kimihurura
One downside to this area is the lack of shopping options. Things are a lot better than they once were, but it’s not as well stocked for groceries as you would think for such a popular area.
- Delightful – This small shop seems to have changed its name each time I pass by. It’s well stocked for alcohol (and I’ve even found the ever-elusive Savanna Dry here) and basics, but that’s about it.
- Patel Grocers – This is the recent addition that lifted Kimihurura out of its status as a grocery shopping wasteland. This place is small and doesn’t look at that impressive from the outside, but it’s full of surprises. It’s packed with imported treats including a good supply of cheese and a whole aisle of mysterious things from India. They’ve got booze, bread, chocolate, produce, and all of the basics and you could do a pretty decent shop here.
Though it’s a bit sparse in the groceries department, Kimi is fairly well-stocked for Rwandan souvenirs and other random things. There are a few small shops in the area near B-Life bar that are worth a look.
- Abraham Konga Collections – This is one of the best one-stop souvenir shopping spots in Kigali. Abraham had one of the first small jewellery and souvenir shops back in the day in town near La Galette and it’s been great to see how his business has grown. Now he takes over two buildings and I think there’s even an upstairs area now as well. He’s got all of the usual souvenirs but also a section for jewellery, much of it made by him out of melted brass locks and cow horns. Items have prices on them so it’s a hassle-free shopping experience.
- The Design Bar – If you’re in need of some help or inspiration decorating your cavernous, red-floored, concrete Rwandan bunker-house, pop in to this little design studio located inside The Nest Guesthouse. Teri has some items for sale and also offers interior design services.
- Kiseki – This Japanese place hosts some ladies from the neighbourhood who sell fresh produce between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. They’re trying to help support these women without given a handout, so next time you stop by for some sushi, you can leave with some groceries.
- The Pottery & Art Boutique – Rwanda has a long pottery tradition and this is the best place in Kigali to come to find a great selection without having to sift through loads of other souvenirs. It’s pottery-focused and they have lots of beautiful things. It’s located in the same compound as Now Now at the top of Kimi before turning towards Kigali Heights.
- Touch of Rwanda – This is a second branch of the clothing shop that’s inside Caza Keza. It’s a clothing brand designed by Shema Charlly and people seem to rave about her stuff.
- Ubugeninyarwanda Art – This place wins for the most epic name. It’s not much to look at and if you blink you might miss it, but along KG 28 Avenue right before Lavana you’ll see a bunch of guys working outside a small building. They make chunky wooden furniture and also beautiful carved wooden signs.
Recreation & Entertainment in Kimihurura
One of the best spots in the city for recreation is Mamba Club which is a restaurant, bar, bowling alley, swimming pool, and volleyball court all rolled up into one. They also have table tennis, pool, and I think I even saw a dart board there once. Plus there’s a kids’ area with a jungle gym and even a trampoline.
The roundabout near parliament is a popular place with runners and it’s busy in the evenings and has a nice vibe. It’s 1 km around so you can easy keep track of how far you’ve gone. If you’re looking for a velodrome experience, bring your bike. There’s a nice park in the middle which I’m told is open to everyone but I haven’t tried to step foot in there recently, so I’m not sure.
City Arts have moved into the same building as King’s Guesthouse and they still offer all of the same full schedule of adult and kids dance classes as before. It’s been around for years and if you’re into dance, this is someplace you need to check out.