Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is a very green city with leafy trees and grassy areas breaking up the concrete. In typical Malawian fashion, it's quite a laid-back city with social highlights revolving around visits to the local nursery, shopping in Old Town, or a couple of drinks at the golf club.
It is divided into Old Town (to the south) and New Town (to the north), with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary between the two. Old Town is more popular with visitors as it's home to markets, craft stalls and attractive cafes, restaurants and pubs. New Town is focused more on business, with office buildings, banks and embassies.
Located in central Malawi, Lilongwe itself isn't a major tourist draw. However, a large expat population has given the city a distinctly cosmopolitan feel, making it the perfect stopover for travellers heading to game reserves and beach resorts.
Many trips to Malawi begin at the Lilongwe International Airport, and the city makes for a pleasant introduction to the country, though those not travelling on business seldom stay long. Tourists in transit also take advantage of the shopping in Lilongwe, which is the best in Malawi.
Old Town Mall is home to impressive art and craft galleries, a grocery store, travel agencies and upmarket clothing stores. Crossroads Complex, at the Mchinji Roundabout, also boasts gift shops, a post office, ATMs and fast food outlets. It is a good idea to capitalise on these amenities, particularly for banking, as ATMs are scarce outside of urban areas.