Lilongwe became Malawi’s capital in 1975, a role previously filled by Zomba. It owes its status to Dr Hastings Banda, the country’s first President, who was born just north of the town. The Old Town is distinct and separate from the new Capital City. While the former has all the appearance of a traditional African settlement, the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world. Its gleaming modern buildings in their spacious garden-like settings, contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Old Town. Both of these different parts of the town are worth touring. The modern shops of the City are complemented by the exciting street and walled markets of Old Town. Lilongwe’s range of services and facilities is unsurpassed except, possibly, in Blantyre. Of the modern shopping precincts, Old Town Mall is the best, particularly for those looking for quality souvenirs. As well as African Habitat, with its locally crafted ornaments and furnishings, there is one of Central Africana's galleries: full of fascinating books and modern and historical maps and prints.
The Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary lies between the Old and New towns. Within the Sanctuary is the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - Malawi´s only sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals. It is also the world´s first accredited "People & Wildlife" PAW centre, working with the local people with the key objective of promoting nature conservation that will benefit both the people and wildlife of Malawi.
There are a number of first-class hotels in Lilongwe such as the large and commercially centred Crossroads and the long established and still going very strong Sunbird properties – Sunbird Capital in the Capital City and Sunbird Lilongwe in Old Town. A new addition to Lilongwe's skyline is the 11-floor 5-star President Walmont Hotel, park of Umodzi Park, also home to the Bingu Wa Mutharika Convention Centre (MICC) and managed by Peermont. A short drive out from Lilongwe is the wonderful and luxurious Kumbali Country Lodge. In the heart of Lilongwe Old Town, the old Imperial Hotel was completely rennovated and reopened as the Kiboko Town Hotel, the good value Korea Garden Lodge has a wide range of room types, and up and coming Mafumu Hotel is rapidly gaining a great reputation. Charming and quiet sub-urban guest house accommodation is provided by Heuglin's Lodge and Africa House Malawi. Further out of town,Barefoot Safari Lodge has chalets, permanent tents and pitches.