Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan hub that serves as the economic, political, and cultural heart of the country. It is a unique blend of modernity and tradition, with towering skyscrapers standing alongside historic buildings and bustling markets.
Nairobi is also the gateway to the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve and other wildlife attractions, making it a popular starting point for safari adventures. Additionally, the city is home to several museums, galleries, and cultural centers that showcase Kenya’s rich heritage and diverse arts scene.
Despite being a bustling metropolis, Nairobi has managed to preserve its natural beauty with several green spaces such as Nairobi National Park, the only game reserve located within a city in the world. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities from wildlife viewing to hiking and picnicking in the park.
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Attractions & Things to do in Nairobi
1. Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is a unique wildlife reserve located just outside Nairobi’s city center. It boasts a wide variety of animals including lions, giraffes, zebras, and rhinos. The park is especially popular for its accessibility and for offering a safari experience without leaving the city.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning for the best chances of spotting wildlife, and don’t forget to bring binoculars for a closer look.
2. Giraffe Centre
The Giraffe Centre is a conservation center focused on the endangered Rothschild giraffe. Visitors can feed and interact with these gentle giants, learn about giraffe conservation, and enjoy a nature walk in the adjoining forest.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes for the nature walk, and bring a camera for some up-close giraffe selfies.
3. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
This elephant orphanage is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned elephants. Visitors can watch the baby elephants play in the mud and even feed them. It’s a fantastic place to learn about conservation efforts for these magnificent creatures.
Travel Tip: Arrive early to secure a good spot for viewing as the place tends to get crowded.
4. Bomas of Kenya
Bomas of Kenya offers visitors a taste of the diverse cultures and traditions of Kenya. From dance performances to traditional songs and crafts, this is the place to immerse yourself in Kenyan heritage.
Travel Tip: Check the schedule before visiting to catch a live performance, which is the highlight of the experience.
5. Nairobi Railway Museum
The Nairobi Railway Museum provides an intriguing look at the history of the railway in Kenya and its impact on the country’s development. The museum houses vintage locomotives, carriages, and other railway artifacts.
Travel Tip: Allocate at least an hour for the visit to thoroughly explore the exhibits and read the informative panels.
6. Kazuri Beads Women Factory
This is a social enterprise that employs disadvantaged women to create beautiful, handmade ceramic beads. The factory tour provides an insightful look into the bead-making process from start to finish.
Travel Tip: Consider purchasing some beads or pottery as souvenirs; the sales support a good cause.
7. Maasai Market
The Maasai Market is a vibrant, open-air market where you can buy traditional Maasai crafts, art, and fabrics. Each day the market is held in a different location, so it’s also a bit of an adventure finding it.
Travel Tip: Bargaining is expected, so don’t shy away from negotiating the price.
8. Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum is a comprehensive institution showcasing Kenya’s rich cultural and natural history. It offers a range of exhibits, including art, paleontology, and ethnography.
Travel Tip: Visit the adjacent Snake Park for a quick and educational follow-up to the museum tour.
9. Karen Blixen Museum
This museum was once the home of Danish author Karen Blixen, best known for her book “Out of Africa.” The well-preserved house provides a glimpse into her life and the colonial era in Kenya.
Travel Tip: Read “Out of Africa” before visiting for a more enriched experience.
10. Karura Forest
Karura Forest offers walking trails, waterfalls, and diverse birdlife right in the city. It’s a peaceful respite from Nairobi’s bustling streets and a perfect spot for hiking or a picnic.
Travel Tip: Rent a bike to cover more ground in the expansive forest; it’s a fantastic way to explore.
Unique Activities in Nairobi
1. Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Center Tour
Visit the Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Center in Nairobi. Experience close encounters with these majestic animals and learn about conservation efforts to protect them.
Day Trips from Nairobi
1. Lake Naivasha
Just a couple of hours away from Nairobi, Lake Naivasha is known for its stunning natural beauty and abundant birdlife. Take a boat ride on the lake to see hippos and fish eagles up close.
Travel Tip: Bring insect repellent; the area can be mosquito-prone.
2. Hell’s Gate National Park
This park offers geothermal hot springs, dramatic cliffs, and unique rock formations. It’s one of the few parks in Kenya where walking and cycling are permitted, allowing for a more interactive experience with nature.
Travel Tip: Rent mountain bikes at the park entrance for an adventurous way to explore.
3. Amboseli National Park
Famous for its large elephant herds and views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli offers a classic Kenyan safari experience. Though it’s a bit further away, it’s worth the trip for the incredible wildlife and scenery.
Travel Tip: Stay overnight in one of the park’s lodges for an early morning game drive, when animal activity is at its peak.
Where to stay in Nairobi
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, boasts a diverse range of hotels catering to various preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for luxury, affordability, or something tailored to specific needs, Nairobi has got you covered. Here’s a curated list of six hotels in Nairobi, each catering to a unique audience:
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport, an IHG Hotel (★★★★★)
- Description: Featuring free WiFi, a spa centre, and a year-round outdoor pool, this hotel offers top-notch accommodation in Nairobi.
- Price: €172.80 per night
- Rating: 8.7 (Fabulous)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
The Concord Hotel & Suites (★★★★★)
- Description: With free WiFi, an outdoor pool, and a terrace, The Concord Hotel & Suites provides five-star accommodation, ensuring a luxurious stay.
- Price: €95 per night
- Rating: 8 (Very good)
3. Budget Hotel
ibis Styles – Nairobi, Westlands (★★★)
- Description: Located in the Westlands district, this hotel offers a terrace and views of the city, ensuring a comfortable stay without breaking the bank.
- Price: €71.10 per night
- Rating: 7.7 (Good)
4. Hotel for Family
Best Western Plus Meridian Hotel (★★★★)
- Description: Situated in Nairobi CBD, this hotel offers free WiFi and other facilities, making it an ideal choice for families.
- Price: €94.30 per night
- Rating: 8.1 (Very good)
5. Hotel for Couples
Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport (★★★★)
- Description: Set close to the Syokimau Railway Station, this hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and offers a romantic getaway for couples.
- Price: €212.50 per night
- Rating: 8.5 (Very good)
6. Hotel for Solo Travellers
254 Ole Sereni-Nairobi Park View (★★★★)
- Description: Overlooking the Nairobi National Park, this hotel offers an outdoor pool and other amenities, making it a top choice for solo travellers.
- Price: €107.10 per night
- Rating: 7.7 (Good)
Did you know? Facts about Nairobi
- Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The name Nairobi is derived from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to ‘place of cool waters’, a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city.
- Nairobi was founded in 1899 by colonial authorities in British East Africa as a rail depot on the Uganda-Kenya Railway. It quickly grew to replace Mombasa as the capital of Kenya in 1907.
- Nairobi is home to the Kenyan Parliament Buildings and over 1000 major international companies and organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON).
- The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) is one of the largest in Africa and the second-oldest exchange on the continent. It is capable of making 10 million trades a day.
- Nairobi contains the Nairobi National Park and joined the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities in 2010.
- The city lies in the south central part of Kenya, at an elevation of 1,795 metres (5,889 ft).
- The Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) is the only building within the city with a helipad that is open to the public.
- The Giraffe Centre, an animal sanctuary on the southwestern outskirts of Nairobi, was opened in 1983 and breeds the endangered species of Rothschild’s giraffe.
- Nairobi was the site of the 1998 US embassy bombings by Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
- The Standard Gauge Railway, which runs from Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa, was inaugurated by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017. It was primarily built by a Chinese firm with about 90% of total funding from China and about 10% from the Kenyan government.
FAQ about Nairobi
What is the best time to visit Nairobi?
The best time to visit Nairobi is during the dry seasons, from January to March and July to October.
Is it safe to travel to Nairobi?
While Nairobi has a reputation for crime, it is generally safe to travel to if you take precautions. It is advised to avoid walking at night, be cautious of pickpockets, and avoid displaying wealth.
What are the must-visit places in Nairobi?
Must-visit places in Nairobi include the Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Centre, the Karen Blixen Museum, and the Maasai Market.
What is the currency used in Nairobi?
The currency used in Nairobi is the Kenyan Shilling (KES).
Do I need a visa to travel to Nairobi?
Most travelers need a visa to enter Kenya, but some nationalities are exempt. It is best to check with the Kenyan embassy or consulate in your country before traveling.
What is the official language of Nairobi?
The official languages of Nairobi are English and Swahili.
What is the local cuisine like in Nairobi?
The local cuisine in Nairobi includes dishes such as ugali (maize porridge), nyama choma (grilled meat), sukuma wiki (collard greens), and chapati (flatbread).
What is the time zone of Nairobi?
The time zone of Nairobi is East Africa Time (EAT), which is UTC+3.