Kenya’s capital city is the traveller gateway for safari adventures into East Africa, however, this modern and buzzing metropolis has plenty of charm of its own if you know where to look. Amid the high-rise office buildings and daily bustle there are some real gems, such as the heart-warming elephant orphanage.
Then there are the city’s excellent museums and pulsing nightlife districts. It’s not hard to see why eating out is a popular pastime in this city either, with an eclectic mix of flavours and cuisines that reflect the region’s rich and diverse culture and history. Make sure you visit for more than just a weekend to watch Kenya’s biggest city unfold before your eyes
To see a range of Nairobi’s diverse offerings you’ll have to blaze a few different trails. First: museums. Begin at Museum Hill outside the city centre where the National Museum showcases fascinating insights into Kenya’s cultural and natural heritage. From here, hop in a taxi and head to the original farmhouse of Karen Blixen, which is now a captivating museum – it’s a must for fans of the film Out of Africa.
Upon returning to the centre, stop off for a tour of the Kazuri Bead Factory. This wonderful fair-trade organisation empowers disadvantaged local women with jobs making beautiful handmade beads and pottery, which tourists can purchase. Then it’s time for a walk on the wild side. Get up close to the rare Rothschild Giraffe, which is only found in East Africa, at the Giraffe Centre.
Move on to Nairobi National Park, which is just a stone’s throw from the city, where you may be lucky enough to see black rhinos, lions, zebras, giraffes, leopards or cheetahs. Also within the national park, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a must-visit rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary for elephants and black rhinos.
Eat and Drink
Get ready for a delightful culinary journey when visiting Nairobi. The local Kenyan speciality to try is nyama choma, a selection of meats (usually goat and sheep) grilled over an open fire. Wash your meal down with a beer – the local favourite is Tusker.
Nairobi’s food scene has a distinct international flair – along with fresh seafood eateries you’ll find plenty of Indian, Thai, Japanese, Italian and Ethiopian restaurants, as well as classic burger joints. The vibrant Westlands area has a great selection of quality restaurants and sophisticated bars.
The locals love to party, and the city is known for its bustling nightlife. Bars, nightclubs and pubs in Nairobi are frequented by locals and expats alike, who are all looking to let their hair down after a long day.
Where to Stay
Hotels and guesthouses are everywhere in Nairobi, with many of the big international chains based around the city centre. Many visitors like to escape the chaos of the city and seek out something with more character in the upper-class outer suburbs. Langata and Karen deliver manors, wildlife lodges and even luxury ‘eco-glamping’ tents and tree houses for an exotic stay.
Nairobi is a fantastic destination to pick up unique handicrafts, art, clothing and furniture that you simply won’t find back home. North of the city centre, the Village Market is an upscale shopping and entertainment complex that feels more like a resort. Chic locals and expats favour this place for its fashion, art, crafts and trendy restaurants.
Get all your souvenirs and curios in downtown Nairobi at the lively City Market, which is a sightseeing experience in itself. From woodcarvings and drums to jewellery and traditional fabrics, it’s all here. Just be ready to bargain.
Nairobi Like a Local
Kenyan coffee is world famous, so don’t miss the opportunity to sit amongst the locals and sip a cup at the java houses around the city. Tea is also big here and the locals are heavy-handed on the milk and sugar. Ask for ‘chai’ when you want to order a cuppa.