Butare has the National University of Rwanda, which like all educational institutions in Rwanda is bilingual, speaking both French and English. It also held the prestigious Nyakibanda Seminary, the Rwandan National Institute of Scientific Research, the Ruhande Arboretum and a cathedral.
The city of Butare has long been regarded as the intellectual capital of the coutry, while Kigali holds most political power. The Belgian colonial rulers named the city Astrida in honor of Queen Astrid of Belgium. The first Catholic mission in 1900 in the country was only a few kilometers from the town center, at Save Hill.
The National Museum of Rwanda was built in the early 1990s and is a good source of information on the cultural history of the country and the region. It is often referred to in tourist brochures as the finest museum in East Africa.
From 2006, some sources refer to the city as Huye, after the surrounding district, but most Rwandans continue to use the name Butare.