36 Hours in Kigali, Rwanda

4) 9 A.M. Coffee Talk

Rwanda’s hills, volcanic soil and temperate climate make it ideal for growing coffee, but while the world loves Rwandan java, most locals never touch the stuff. A handful of new fair-trade coffee shops are slowly changing that. At Question Coffee, beans grown by women farmers are roasted in-house by smiling baristas. Pair a creamy cortado (2,500 francs) with a cinnamon-dusted pretzel (1,000 francs), baked down the road at The Women’s Bakery, and delivered fresh each morning.

5) 10 A.M. In the Heights

At the foot of Mount Kigali — the highest of Kigali’s hills, with an elevation of more than 6,000 feet — sits Nyamirambo, one of Kigali’s most diverse districts. Early risers can enjoy panoramic views of the city after scaling the mountain’s summit (start at the Sun City Hotel and then head straight up), but those who prefer a later start should head directly to the Nyamirambo Women’s Center, an N.G.O. combating gender-based violence through the power of needle and thread. The center houses a vibrant sewing shop where local seamstresses transform colorful kitenge — the bright, batik-printed cotton fabrics ubiquitous across East Africa — into dazzling souvenirs, and it also offers a lively walking tour every day at 10 a.m. that takes visitors into Kigali neighborhood life. Tours run two and a half hours and are offered daily; stops include a milk bar, a women’s hair salon and a secondhand clothing market (15,000 francs; call ahead).

36 Hours in Kigali, Rwanda
The pool at the famed Hotel des Mille Collines. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times

6) 1 P.M. The Big Fish

Rwanda is a landlocked nation, but its freshwater Lake Kivu keeps fishermen in brisk business. At lunchtime, make your way to The Green Corner, a no-frills Nyamirambo institution, for “The Big Fish,” a mouthwatering, slow-roasted whole tilapia that you eat with your hands. Pull up a plastic chair, order a round of Mutzig beers with your fish (beers 1,200 francs; fish 10,000 to 15,000 francs, depending on size) and relax — it can take an hour for your food to appear, but you won’t regret the wait.

7) 4 P.M. Frame of Mind

Kigali is filled with interesting art galleries, but none are quite so vibrant — or have such an endearing back story — as Niyo Art Gallery. A humble Rwandan home that has been transformed into a small, colorful museum, Niyo features local artists who have agreed to split their profits with the Niyo Cultural Center, which protects and educates more than 100 Kigali street children and also offers them training in traditional music, drumming and dance.

8) 6 P.M. Hotel Rwanda

In 1994, when Paul Rusesabagina sheltered hundreds of Tutsi refugees within its four-star walls, the Hotel des Mille Collines was the last word in Kigali luxury. Today, the rooms of the real-life Hotel Rwanda are a bit worse for wear, but downstairs at the enchanting poolside bar, the allure remains. Order a drink and make a toast to Rwandan history: At twilight, it is immensely pleasant to sip something cold and watch the city light up below.

36 Hours in Kigali, Rwanda
At the Repub Lounge, there’s live music, flowing carafes of wine and a striking view of Kigali’s twinkling lights. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times

9) 8 P.M. Ready, Set, Brochette

Rwandans can’t get enough of the brochette — skewered cubes of grilled savory meat or fish. To sink your teeth into some of the best brochettes in Kigali, head to the festive Repub Lounge, where there’s live music, flowing carafes of wine and a striking view of Kigali’s twinkling lights from the patio. For hungry groups, the African-style house specialty — in which the kitchen selects 12 dishes for sharing — is an unbeatable deal (brochettes, 7,000 francs; house specialty, 16,000 francs per person).

10) 11 P.M. Go Underground

Kigali isn’t exactly known for its party scene, but there are a number of rollicking dance clubs and nightspots if you know where to look. One of the best, Papyrus, sits within stumbling distance of Repub Lounge. Upstairs, Papyrus is a restaurant, bakery and lounge, but in the basement, it’s a sweaty, full-volume disco that only really gets going after the clock strikes midnight (cover charge, 2,000 francs).