I’ve finally put together my Nairobi city guide. In the last few months, several good friends of mine have visited Nairobi for the first time. It’s been fun coming up with itineraries because, it also gives me the opportunity to explore all that’s good and new in my beloved home city.
It seems that many more people are planning trips to Kenya in 2018 – I keep getting requests for tips! This inspired me to put together this post, sharing some of my favourite places.
I thought I’d do things a little bit differently and suggest some combinations of things you can do on the same day. That way, you can plan your movements easily, if you have limited time. But first
Where to stay
I live in this city so, I haven’t tested out that many places to stay but, watch this space!
We have so many world-class luxurious hotels to choose from, if that’s your thing. From the international chains through to smaller, intimate places like Palacina Suites which, is high up on my staycation wishlist.
I have stayed in and can recommend Bidwood Suites which offers great value for money and is more casual than a traditional hotel.
Last but not least, there are several airbnb options in the city. I happen to know the host of this plant-tastic sanctuary personally.
Nairobi city guide: recommended itineraries
If you don’t have to, I’d avoid going to the CBD during the week. Traffic can be too hectic! Instead, go there on a Saturday and take your time. Start off at the Kenya National Archives – learn some history and check out the huge African art collection that belonged to Mr and Mrs Murumbi – our second Vice President and his wife.
Escape Nairobi for an hour or so by grabbing lunch at Malindi Dishes, serving authentic Swahili cuisine – a taste of our coast!
Walk off the itis by making your way to Nairobi’s most iconic building, the Kenyatta International Confernce Centre (K.I.C.C.) and in particular, the rooftop, for 360-degree expansive views of the city.
Then walk over to the High Court parking lot (opposite Re-Insurance Plaza), to check out the Maasai Market. Maasai Markets take place across the city each week but, this Saturday one is the best in my opinion. Expect all kinds of crafts and curios – some indeed very much targeted at tourists. Here’s the opportunity to practice your assertiveness (“no, I’m not interested in that today”) and your haggling! Go a little before closing time (6pm) to get the best deals.
Start off at Le Grenier a Pain, a bakery/restaurant with French quality standards, made by Kenyans. You’ll be spoiled for choice but, make sure to throw in a few pastries, a delicate dessert and some loaves to take home!
Then head a few minutes across the highway to the K1 Flea Market at Klubhouse. It’s a great plan for a leisurely Sunday afternoon. Good vibes, good music and a selection of contemporary Kenyan design.
Begin the day with a walk in Karura Forest, one of the beautiful green spaces that our Nobel Peace Prize winner, the late Wangari Maathai fought to protect. You can easily spend a couple of hours following one of the trails – some complete with waterfalls to enjoy!
Afterwards, head to our most interesting mall, Village Market. Trust me, in a city that’s saturated with cookie-cutter malls, Village Market is refreshing. Grab lunch in the diverse food court, or in one of the many restaurants, representing cuisine from around the world. The new wing has an artisan food walk which, I’m looking forward to eating my way through!
Visit accessory designer Adele Dejak’s shop, the CocoLili flagship for vibrant, printed, made-in-Kenya fashion and the Designing Africa Collective store.
Start off at the Giraffe Centre to see those elegant long-necked beauties up close and get a chance to feed them.
It’s then a short drive to Marula Mercantile for a delicious lunch!
Pop by the headquarters of made-in-Nairobi bag brand, Sandstorm Kenya. They’re always happy to give visitors a factory tour. Meet their great team and see first hand how their exquisite bags are made. Just let them know in advance that you’re coming
Next: to the mall, The Hub Karen, to check out Banana Box and Blue Rhino. These design-led stores offer curated African crafts, fashion, gifts and home decor.
Walk around the corner to one of Nairobi’s best restaurants, Talisman. Sit outdoors, surrounded by trees and a beautiful garden. Sip on one of their delicious flavoured mojitos, as you make room for a dinner you won’t forget!
Loresho + environs day
Visit Wasp & Sprout for breakfast (or brunch on the weekend). It’s a very charming cafe-cum-gallery-cum-shop, featuring an eclectic collection of art, design and artisanal food.
You can walk to the nearby Tribal Gallery (which I’ve featured in detail here). Prepare to swoon, and to start discussions about how you can get these beautiful furniture pieces shipped to your home country!
Hopefully you still have some room left in your stomach because you’re going to need it for this next place (you can see how much I love food by how much it features in this guide!). Zen Garden is a collection of 3 pan-Asian inspired restaurants, in one location, set in a beautiful, zen, garden :). The red dragon sushi dish is a MUST (and this coming from somebody who isn’t that big a sushi fan).
National Park Day
If you don’t have time to go out of town to visit one of Kenya’s famous national parks, there’s one right here! That’s right, Nairobi is one of – if not the only – city in the world with a national park within it’s boundaries. Go early or late for the best chance of spotting the “big guys”.
Out of town day
I know, I know, this is a Nairobi city guide. However, one of the best things about being in Nairobi is, how easy it is to get away for the day. A recent discovery is the absolutely stunning Lake House Tigoni. A charming house set within the most beautiful green grounds and a lake that you can swim in!
There are so many other good day trips and, I’ll update this post as I test them out because, research is essential, right? 😉
A big section of Nairobi’s creativity converges at this Westlands venue. The Alchemist yard features the Made in Kenya Store (fashion and design, including a selection of my Lulu Kitololo Studio goodies); weekly indie art screenings; music gigs; a variety of street food options (including burgers with an African twist, from Mama Rocks); and very artsy surroundings. You can easily spend several hours here. Check out the line-up and coordinate accordingly.
A spin-off of Blankets & Wine (below), Africa Nouveau is a 2 day, 2 night music and arts festival, bringing together creators, curators and fans from across Africa and the diaspora. It’s alternative and it’s fantastic!
Our very own festival which had a successful debut in late 2018. Expect a programme of creative workshops, talks and other interactive experiences, as well as a market with some of our favourite creative vendors. Check out the celebration that was.
Blankets & Wine
Blankets & Wine is East Africa’s premier music experience designed to showcase outstanding musicians in the emerging genres of afro-based music.
Pop Up & Chill
Check out some of my favourite Kenyan design brands.
More good eats
Art Caffe – Several locations around town – a safe choice for a decent, but not necessarily highly memorable, meal.
About Thyme – Good food in a beautiful setting (you must have the chilli mango caipirinha and Sunday brunch is a good bet)
Asmara – Delicious Eritrean cuisine and a really child-friendly environment
Haandi – Nairobi is known for really good Indian food
Java – Another safe choice with branches all over town. Good for the morning after a heavy night!
Seven Seafood – Delicious and innovative seafood dishes, as well as really good steaks!
Sweety Sweets – Go pick up some Indian sweets and fresh chevda and bhajias. They love to give samples so here’s your opportunity to try out something new!
Drinks and dancing?
Kenyans love to drink and to go out. This section will be quite scant as my nightlife knowledge has dwindled severely in recent years. For now, I’ll leave you with Dusit D2 – a beautifully decorated hotel with delicious cocktails and Brew Bistro – a micro-brewery/bar/restaurant/lounge that turns into quite the nightspot after hours.
What are your favourite Nairobi spots?
[All photographs by myself, unless otherwise specified]