Butare town used to be the largest and most important city in Rwanda prior to 1965 before it lost out to more centrally to Kigali a strategically located city of Rwanda. Butare today holds site of several academic institutions, including the country’s largest university, and is considered the intellectual and cultural pulse of Rwanda. It is also an attractively compact and sedate town of shady avenues emanating from a main street lined with comfortable small hotels and breezy terrace restaurants.
Attractions in Butare include the superb National Museum, which houses perhaps the finest ethnographic collection in East Africa. Absorbing displays of traditional artefacts are illuminated by a fascinating selection of turn-of-the-century monochrome photographs, providing to pre-colonial lifestyles and subsequent development of Rwanda into a modern African state.
Butare is underlined by a visit to nearby Nyabisinu, formerly known as Nyanza, the traditional seat of Rwanda’s feudal monarchy. The impressive Royal Palace at Nyanza, an enormous domed construction made entirely of traditional materials, has been painstakingly restored to its 19th century state and is now maintained as one of the Rwanda’s national museum.