Butare City, the capital of Huye District, is a small city with a lot of flare. Although it is not as popular or as populated as the capital city, Kigali, it is a must in places to visit when traveling to Rwanda. The main campus of the National University of Rwanda is located in Butare and many of its inhabitants are University students and professors. Many travelers and expats visit Butare since it is a well-known travel destination in East Africa. Although Ikinyarwanda is the primary language in Rwanda, you will find many French and English speakers. When speaking with Butare native, Diane Mushimire, she expressed that the climate of Butare is her favorite part of the city. She says that the weather is almost perfect year round, and prefers it to Gisagara District and Kigali city, where she also spends a lot of time.
Because Butare is nowhere near as large as Kigali, this city is a lot easier to navigate, with most of its attractions located in walking distance from one another. This is definitely a plus when it comes to seeing as much as possible during short visits.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural village about an hour motor ride away, Butare is the closest city to me and it’s where I go for meetings with my fellow volunteers in the South. It’s a place where I am reminded that foods other than rice, beans, and plantains do in fact exist! From my experience as an expat in Butare, there are a few places I think all people passing through the city must check out!
If you are visiting Butare for an overnight visit, I highly recommend Beaux Arts as a place to stay. This hostel is often visited by travelers who are passing through Butare for a short stay or weekend. A double room costs 7000 Rwandan Francs per night ($10), so it is definitely affordable if you are on a tight budget!
If you have more money to spend on accommodations, Hotel Faucon has been highly recommended by many visitors. They’re also a well-known dinner spot for both locals and visitors. If you’re looking for pizza in Butare, this is definitely the place to go!
The Chinese Restaurant
Among visitors and locals alike, The Chinese Restaurant is a popular spot to grab lunch or dinner. As one of the few Chinese restaurants in the country, and the only one located in the Southern Province, it is a nice change of cuisine for many people traveling around the country. Meals range from chicken, beef, and vegetable noodles, to egg rolls, sweet and sour chicken, and rice dishes. Meals range from 2500 to 6000 Rwandan Francs ($3.50 to $8.50). The service is extremely quick, which is often not the case at restaurants in Rwanda; you won’t wait for more than twenty minutes for your food!
Inzozi Nziza is the only place you can find real ice cream in Butare. In addition to ice cream, Inzozi is a great spot to visit for breakfast and lunch. My favorite dishes are the avocado, egg, and chapati sandwich, the french fries with salad, and the vanilla and chocolate ice cream swirl with sprinkles. There is also outdoor seating available which makes for a great place to relax, do work, or read.
Cafe Connexion is known as one of the best coffee places in Rwanda. This is a great place to stop by in the morning if you have some time to grab a coffee or latte. They also grind and package their own light, medium, and dark roasts for only 4000 Rwandan Francs ($5.70) a bag. This cafe has a beautiful atmosphere, and is the perfect place to start your morning in Butare.
Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda
The Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda is located in Butare, and is often visited by travelers and student groups passing through. This museum displays the history and culture of Rwanda, through many artifacts and exhibits. Popular highlights of the museum include the interactive basket weaving lessons and the traditional dance performances.
Handicraft Cooperative Store
If you’re looking for souvenirs, gifts, or are just interested in seeing some amazing hand-crafted Rwandan crafts and artwork, I strongly recommend that you visit the Handicraft Cooperative Store to that is located next to Cafe Connexion. This store is filled with handmade crafts from artisans around the Southern Province, with items that include baskets, wall art, earrings, wallets, bags, and statues. If you’re looking for variety and would like to support local artisans in Rwanda, this is the place to shop.
By: Vanessa Da Costa