Biggest Cities In Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda's capital and largest city. Editorial credit: Jennifer Sophie /
Kigali, Rwanda's capital and largest city. Editorial credit: Jennifer Sophie /

Rwanda is located in the central region of East Africa, and covers an area of 10,169 square miles. It shares borders with Burundi, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. The majority of the country is covered by mountains and savannas. The population size is approximately 11,262,564. Of these individuals, a significant percentage live in the country’s urban areas. This article takes a look at some of the most populated cities in Rwanda.


Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is the most populous city in the country with 745,261 residents. Estimates of the entire metropolitan area indicate a population size of over 1 million. This city consists of 280 square miles in the center of the country and sits at 5,141 feet above sea level. Kigali is relatively new in the history of Rwanda and was established in 1907 under German colonial power. It did not become of the capital of the country until 1962, the year of Rwandan independence. Since becoming the capital, it has grown in population. This city was a central part of the Rwandan Genocide that occurred in 1994. The economy of this city relies on the nearby tin ore mining operations, from where the ore is brought into the city for processing.


Butare, sometimes known as Huye, is located in the southern region of Rwanda, and has a population size of 89,600. This city was previously the colonial capital of the country, then called Astrida. It is also the site of the first Catholic mission in Rwanda, established in 1900. Today, however, it is known as the educational capital because of the large number of universities located here. Butare is home to the North Gate University, the National University of Rwanda, the Rwandan National Institute of Scientific Research, and the Nyakibanda Seminary.


Gitarama is the third most populous city in Rwanda with a population of 87,613. This population size represents a growth of approximately 3,000 people since 2002. This city is located in the central part of the country at around 5,945 feet above sea level. During the political turmoil of the 1994 genocide, Gitarama served as the temporary political center of the country. Today, several administrative offices of Muhanga District are housed in Gitarama.


The fourth most populous Rwandan city is Ruhengeri,currently housing approximately 86,685 residents. It lies in the northern region of the country and is the capital of the Musanze District. The economy here relies on tourism because of its closeness to the Volcanoes National Park and famous mountain gorillas of the area. Additionally, Ruhengeri is close to Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo. Sometimes the city is simply referred to as Musanze. This is because of a government attempt to erase name associations with some places after the tragedies of the 1994 genocide.

Other major cities in Rwanda are listed in the chart below.

Urbanization in Rwanda

After the horrific Rwandan genocide of 1994, when ethic Hutu officials with governmental power oversaw the killing of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsi people, many of the residents of Rwanda were displaced from their homes and resettled in other areas. This resettlement resulted in unplanned urban expansion and the establishment of marginal communities. Today, however, the government of Rwanda has adopted land use policies in an attempt to more adequately use land while promoting environmental sustainability and reductions in urban poverty. Because of this, the country is experiencing significant development within its urban areas. This development has had the unexpected consequence of actually pushing marginal communities out of urban areas and into rural communities as they can no longer afford real estate in the cities.

Biggest Cities In Rwanda

Rank Biggest Cities in Rwanda Population in 2015 Census
1 Kigali 745,261 (Estimated 1 million+ metro)
2 Butare 89,600
3 Gitarama 87,613
4 Ruhengeri 86,685
5 Gisenyi 86,323
6 Byumba 70,593
7 Cyangugu 63,883
8 Kibuye 48,024
9 Rwamagana 47,203
10 Kibungo 46,240
11 Kibeho 21,456

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