King’s Palace Museum is located in the Old town of Kigali, Rwanda. The palace was built in 1897 by the Belgian King Leopold II as his official residence. The palace served as the official residence of successive Rwandan Kings until 1962 when it was abandoned and later turned into a museum.

The museum was inaugurated on 24th June 1964 and houses various items related to the history of the Kingdom. This includes thrones used by the kings, royal regalia, jewels and currency used during the monarchical era. The museum has a rich history dating back to 1888 when the museum was first proposed to be built by the French Colonial Government.

The project faced several obstacles owing to political unrest in the region and lack of funding which delayed the construction of the museum. In 1894, the French Authorities decided to abandon the project and moved the objects stored at the museum to the Ethnological Museum in Vincennes in France.

The project was revived in 1896 after the signing of an agreement between France and Belgium to jointly fund the construction of the Palace of Justice for the Kingdom of Rwanda. The King’s Palace was finally completed in 1897 and served as the official residence of successive Rwandan Kings until 1962 when it was abandoned and later turned into a museum.

The construction of the museum was started by the French Architect Antoine Tardieu and continued by the English Architect Hugh Knyvett. After the outbreak of the First Rwandan War in 1959, the palace was used as a hospital and was later occupied by forces from the invading Congolese army.

After the war, the building was renovated and restored as a museum by the British Government in 1964 to commemorate the life of King Yuhi VI who had passed away the previous year. The museum opened to the public on 24th June 1964 and has been popular ever since. Visitors can admire the famous Golden Throne and royal regalia worn by past monarchs and learn about the history of the Kingdom of Rwanda.

King's Palace Museum
King’s Palace Museum

The exhibits of the museum have been visited by several heads of state over the years including Presidents Bill Clinton of the United States, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prince Charles of the United Kingdom. The popularity of the museum also led to its selection as one of the filming locations for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Last King of Scotland” in 2006.

The museum was closed briefly in 1994 when the country was devastated by the genocide but re-opened the following year with a smaller collection of artefacts including some rare items such as a royal drum and crown that once belonged to King Rudahigwa III. Today, the King’s Palace Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rwanda attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Visitors have praised the building for its majestic architecture and spectacular views over Kigali. The museum is open seven days a week from 8 am until midnight and admission is free for all visitors.

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