Nairobi is my favorite African city. When I arrived, my plan was to spend a couple of days exploring. I ended up staying for over a month. Unfortunately, Nairobi has a bit of a bad reputation. Many travelers pass through without even giving the city a chance. They fly in and then head directly to the Kenyan coast or toward the Maasai Mara for a safari without ever experiencing this exciting African capital. I think that’s a real shame. In this guide, I outline the 30 best things to do in Nairobi, Kenya.
This list includes tourist attractions, wildlife viewing, parks, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, nightlife, museums, shopping, cultural attractions, historical sights, and more! Nairobi offers something for everyone.
A Bit of Info About Nairobi
Nairobi is Kenya’s capital and largest city. It is the country’s financial, political, and business center and primary transportation hub. The city of Nairobi was founded in 1899 as a railway depot on the Uganda Railway. Nairobi quickly grew into a prosperous town, serving as a colonial capital until Kenya’s independence in 1963.
Today, Nairobi is a vibrant cosmopolitan city, with a population of over three million people from all corners of Kenya and beyond. It’s the largest city in East Africa. Nairobi is an exciting place to explore, with something to offer everyone. From its bustling central business district to its sprawling suburbs, there is much to see and do in this vibrant African metropolis.
Nairobi has become a major tourist destination. Tourists come to visit Kenya’s national parks and reserves, including Nairobi National Park. Pretty much everyone visiting Kenya will end up in Nairobi at some point during their journey. Nairobi is nicknamed ‘The Green City in the Sun.’ It’s also known as ‘The Safari Capital of the World.’ Most visitors fly directly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
30 Best Things To Do In Nairobi
This vibrant city is full of tourist attractions, markets, restaurants, and more that are sure to delight everyone from nature lovers to culture enthusiasts. Here are 30 of the best things to do in Nairobi.
1. Visit Nairobi National Park
Nairobi is the only city in the world with a full-on safari park located within city limits. Nairobi National Park is located just 4 miles (7 km) south of the CBD. It’s so close that the Nairobi skyline can actually be seen from the national park. An electric fence is used to keep the animals from wandering from Nairobi National Park into the CBD. This is a small national park at just 117 square kilometers. You can go on a safari and be back at your hotel in time for dinner. This makes for a really convenient and unique safari experience.
All of the large animals you think about when picturing a safari can be viewed in Nairobi National Park including giraffes, hippos, buffalo, black rhinos, gazelle, zebra, cheetahs, leopards, lions, wildebeests, hyenas, and more. Nairobi National Park is also one of the best places in the world to see the endangered black rhino.
An elephant conservatory, called David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, is located within Nairobi National Park. This is an orphanage for baby elephants who lost their parents to poaching. You can also visit the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. This is an orphanage for animals that have been abandoned, injured, or unable to care for themselves. At both orphanages, animals are treated and rehabilitated before they are re-released into the wild.
Another popular attraction in Nairobi National Park is Nairobi Safari Walk. This is a raised wooden boardwalk that winds through the national park. Here, you can get some great views of rhinos, leopards, cheetahs, and lions.
Nairobi National Park entry for non-residents costs 4300 shillings (about $43).
There are a number of ways to visit Nairobi National Park. You can take a self-drive safari. This is the most affordable option. If you have a car, you can simply pay the national park entry fee and drive yourself through the park to view the animals. If you don’t feel like driving, you can hire a cab driver to drive you to and around the national park. Prices vary. Some drivers know Nairobi National Park better than others.
Another option is to book a guided tour. For about $50 you can take a group tour to Nairobi National Park. The price includes pick up and drop off at your hotel or the airport. Park entrance is not included. Most tours last about 4 hours. Morning and afternoon tours are available. Private tours are also available if you prefer.
If you are looking for a more traditional safari experience, consider making a trip to the Maasai Mara. For a step-by-step guide on how to visit, check out my guide How to Safari in Kenya for less than $200: Maasai Mara on a Budget.
If you are continuing on to Tanzania after you visit Kenya, check out my article: Maasai Mara vs Serengeti: Where is the Better Safari?
2. Visit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT)
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an elephant orphanage located inside Nairobi National Park. The DSWT works to care for and rehabilitate baby elephants that were orphaned or abandoned due to poaching. They have been operating since the 1970s. The DSWT is also known as the Nairobi Elephant Sanctuary.
After caring for the baby elephants for the first 2-3 years of their lives, they are moved to a reintegration facility. This facility, also run by the DSWT, is located in Tsavo East National Park. When the elephants are ready, they are returned to the wild. Many consider the DSWT to be the most successful elephant reintegration program anywhere in the world. The orphanage was started by Daphne Sheldrick in memory of her husband David Sheldrick, who was a founder and warden of Tsavo National Park.
Because the DSWT is located inside Nairobi National Park, this is a great activity to pair with a safari. The DSWT is only open to the public for one hour per day between 11:00 am to 12:00 noon. Try to arrive early so you can score a spot near the front for the best view.
During your visit, you’ll see the baby elephants feeding and bathing. Sometimes they’ll walk right up to you. One of the keepers will also give a brief talk to explain exactly what the DSWT does. Visiting DSWT is one of the best things to do in Nairobi.
To visit the DSWT, you must make a donation. The minimum donation is 1500 shillings or around $15. You do not have to pay the $43 or 4300 shilling Nairobi National Park entrance fee if you’re only visiting the DSWT. There is a separate entrance so you can bypass the park if you wish. These days, you do have to book in advance. Try to book early. Reservations fill up quickly.
If you become an elephant foster by making a minimum donation of $50, you can schedule an evening visit to see the elephants at bedtime. This viewing is less busy than the morning viewing which is open to the general public.
For more info, visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website here.
3. Visit the Giraffe Centre
For the first time, giraffes recently reached ‘critically endangered‘ status. This means that the world’s tallest species is at risk of going extinct. To read more about what this means, check out this interesting article.
The Giraffe Centre is part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, (AFEW). It was set up in 1979 to care for one of the most endangered species of giraffes in East Africa, the Rothschild’s giraffe. The Giraffe Center is designed to educate the public and help with conservation efforts. They also breed giraffes, rehabilitate giraffes, and release them into the wild.
During your visit to the Giraffe Centre, you can hand-feed the giraffes. There is a viewing platform that allows you to get up close and personal with these tall creatures. There are also a couple of exhibits where you can learn a bit more about giraffes. For more info, you can listen to an educational talk presented by one of the keepers. Across the road, you can take a stroll along the Giraffe Centre nature trail.
The Giraffe Centre is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For non-Kenyan resident adults, the entry fee is 1500 shillings or about $15. The entry fee for kids is 500 shillings or about $5. You can book a ticket in advance but it’s not necessary. You can buy a ticket at the ticket office on-site.
Admittedly, the Giraffe Centre is very touristy. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Nairobi. Pretty much every tour group stops here. School groups also come here. It can get very busy. You’ll have to have some patience when visiting but it’s worth the trip. On average, a visit to the Giraffe Centre takes 30-60 minutes but you can stay as long as you like.
For more info, check out the Giraffe Centre website here.
4. Stay at the Giraffe Manor
If you’re looking for a truly unique and memorable hotel experience, look no further than the Giraffe Manor. This historic hotel is set on 12 acres of private land and is home to a herd of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes. Giraffe Manor is located right next to the Giraffe Centre. Both are part of the same sanctuary.
At the Giraffe manor, guests can interact with these gentle giants throughout the day, whether it’s feeding them treats by hand or simply watching them roam the grounds. Each room at the Giraffe Manor has large windows that overlook the property. You can wake up to a giraffe peeking in at you while you enjoy breakfast. Whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, the Giraffe Manor is sure to exceed your expectations.
5. Visit Bomas of Kenya
Bomas of Kenya was set up by the Kenyan government in 1971 to educate people about the history of various Kenyan tribes as well as to celebrate and preserve their cultures.
At Bomas of Kenya, you’ll find recreations of villages of different tribal groups from around the region. At each village, you can learn about the lifestyle, history, and culture of a different tribe. There are also several exhibits displaying artwork, artifacts, and clothing from various tribes.
Bomas of Kenya also features a large auditorium where you can enjoy traditional music and dance performances. These performances feature traditional string, percussion, and wind instruments as well as traditional dances from 50 different ethnic groups. This is a fun and lively show that also introduces you to the history and culture of the Kenyan people.
You’ll also find a restaurant on-site, called Utamaduni. Here, you can enjoy a range of Kenyan dishes. Visiting the Bomas of Kenya is one of the best things to do in Nairobi.
For more info, visit the Bomas of Kenya website.
6. Go for a Hike in Karura Forest
Nairobi is an intense city. Sometimes you just need to get away for a while to clear your mind. Karura Forest is the perfect place to go to catch a breath of fresh air and enjoy the outdoors. Best of all, it’s located conveniently within Nairobi city limits, just a few km north of the CBD.
This 2570 acre forest contains over 50 km of trails to explore. You can explore on your own, take a group tour, or hire a guide to show you around. Karura forest is great for people of all ages.
Karura Forest can easily be reached by taxi, Uber, or Matatu (shared minibus.) There is an entry fee. Non-Kenyan resident tickets cost 800 shillings (about $6.50). Children’s tickets cost 400 shillings. Karura Forest is open from 6 am to 6 pm every day.
Popular activities in Karura Forest include:
- Walking- Take a stroll and enjoy the trails and scenery.
- Cycling- Bicycles are allowed on the trails. Rentals are available near the entrance.
- Picnicking- Bring a basket of your favorite foods and enjoy them in one of the designated picnic areas. There is a 150 shilling fee to utilize the facilities. There are also several restaurants located nearby.
- Birdwatching- Over 200 species of birds call Karura Forrest home.
- Running- Get some exercise while you’re there.
- Enjoy the natural landscape- There are waterfalls, caves, marshlands, and a bamboo forest. One of the most beautiful features of the park is the Karura Forest waterfall.
- Wildlife Viewing- Several species of monkeys can be spotted in the forest including Colobus Monkeys. You may also be able to spot bush pigs, dik diks, porcupines, dukier, and more.
- Horseback riding- Horse riding tours are available.
- Hiking- Most trails are pretty easy. Check AllTrails to find a hike that suits you.
For more info on visiting, check out Friends of Karura Forest.
7. Take a Stroll Around Nairobi CBD (Central Business District)
Taking a walk around downtown Nairobi is an interesting way to spend an afternoon. The streets are crowded and active. Vendors sell everything from fruits and street food to clothing and electronics on the sidewalks. The city is also surprisingly cosmopolitan. People from all over Africa and the world call Nairobi home. You’ll see business people, tourists, and plenty of normal locals going about their daily life.
There are a number of points of interest in central Nairobi. While you’re out sightseeing, be sure to check out The Parliament of Kenya, Jamia Mosque, Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service Building, The Holy Family Minor Basilica, and Uhuru Park.
If you get thirsty or hungry during your walk, there are plenty of nice bars and restaurants to pop into for a drink or a bite to eat. The CBD has some good food and drink options.
If you prefer a guided tour, consider taking a walking tour with Nai Nami. These tours are guided by young men who are former street kids. They grew up in the slums of Nairobi. These guys know the streets of Naibori better than anyone.
During the tour, you’ll see landmarks, historical buildings, monuments, museums, and more. The guides will also show you some places that you probably wouldn’t find on your own. Some of these places may not be safe to visit by yourself. During the tour, your guide will also share some city history and some of their stories from growing up in Nairobi.
Tip: Be careful while taking photos in Nairobi. Taking photos of government buildings is not allowed in Kenya. You could get hassled or fined if you get caught by the police. Kenyans also don’t like having their photo taken, for whatever reason. Try not to photograph anyone without asking for their permission first. Also, keep an eye out for thieves and pickpockets. The city isn’t called ‘Nairobery’ for nothing. Keep your camera in a zippered pocket or in your backpack while you’re not using it.
8. Visit Kibera Slum
This is a controversial one. Kibera is a division of Nairobi. It is considered the largest urban slum in all of Africa. Population estimates range from 250,000 to over a million people. Most residents live on less than $1 per day. Kibera is also home to a large number of people living with HIV and AIDS. The area suffers from extreme poverty, poor healthcare, and high rates of unemployment.
Kibera is located about 4.1 miles (about 6.6 km) from Nairobi CBD. Kibera slum is about 2.5 square km in size. The population density is extremely high. Most residents live in small shacks that are made from mud and corrugated sheet metal.
You can book an organized tour of Kibera for around $30 or visit independently for free. A couple of companies offer tours of the slum. Some popular options include The Kibera Empowerment Walking Tour and Kibera Tours.
The tour lasts for 3-4 hours. The guides are well-known in the area. Many guides grew up in Kibera. It’s best to visit Kibera on a tour rather than independently for safety reasons. Crime is high here. It’s dangerous to wander around this area on your own.
During the tour, you may visit a school/orphanage, the railway line, a bread factory, some local shops, a biogas center, an HIV management organization, a women’s shelter, and a local’s home. You’ll also walk up to the highest point, where you can take in the impressive view of the sprawling slum. You’ll walk through the dirt paths and winding streets that go through the area. Your guide will also share some history of the neighborhood and some personal stories.
Some people find slum tourism to be unethical. That’s for you to decide. Personally, I don’t see any issue with it. Seeing how others live has value for both tourists and locals. Some of the money earned from the tours also makes its way into the local economy. Kibera is also an open neighborhood that anyone can visit. It’s not a private or closed area.
That said, you will want to behave respectfully while visiting. Try not to take photographs of people living in the area. Most residents aren’t thrilled about people visiting their poor neighborhood as a tourist attraction.
While visiting Kibera, consider buying a cold drink or a souvenir from one of the vendors in the area. This is a great way to support a local family. Any money that you spend here will go directly into the community. Buying something is the best way you can support this community.
You can also visit Kibera independently. You don’t need to take a tour. I didn’t take a tour when I visited. A couple of friends and I took an Uber to the edge of Kibera and then wandered around for a couple of hours. It probably wasn’t the safest thing to do but we didn’t have any issues.
If you decide to go independently, you should make the trip during the day. Be sure to get out of there well before dark. For a step-by-step guide check out my article: How to Visit Kibera Slum Independently Without a Tour.
9. Visit the Karen Blixen Museum
The Karen Blixen Museum is located in the farmhouse where the famous Danish author Karen Blixen lived from 1914-1931. She wrote the book ‘Out of Africa’ about her experience living in Kenya. The book was made into a movie starring Merl Streep in 1985. It won the Academy Award for best picture that year.
The farmhouse has been turned into the Karen Blixen Museum to show how the author lived and what life was like in Kenya during that time period. During colonial times, the house was built on a farm well outside of the city. Now the city has spread all the way to the house.
The Karen Blixen museum lies about 10 km outside of the Nairobi CBD. It can be accessed by taxi, Uber, or matatu (shared minibus). The museum is open 365 days per year from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. The entry cost for non-Kenyan resident adults is 1200 shillings ($12). Children’s tickets cost 600 shillings.
If you’re interested in history, visiting the Karen Blixen Museum is one of the best things to do in Nairobi. For more info, visit the National Museums of Kenya website here.
10. Enjoy Nairobi’s Nightlife
Nairobi offers excellent nightlife. Kenyans really know how to party. In Nairobi, there is something for everyone including high-end bars and restaurants, nightclubs, pubs, and local hangouts. You can enjoy some cold beers, go dancing, listen to live music, sing karaoke, or even play board games. While visiting Nairobi, be sure to try a Tusker, Kenya’s most popular beer.
The Best Bars and Clubs in Nairobi
- The Alchemist- This popular creative hub offers an event space, trucks, live music, shopping, a cinema, and more. Check out their website for an event schedule and list of vendors with a menu.
- Brew Bistro Rooftop- If you’re into craft beer, this is one of the best spots for nightlife in Nairobi at the moment. They have happy hour from 5-7 and offer live music or a DJ. The atmosphere is laid back and chill. Brew Bistro is located on the top of the Fortis tower in Westlands. Check out their website for more info.
- Havana Bar and Restaurant- This Cuban-themed bar offers a good selection of local and international brands. Prices are reasonable.
- Klub House (K1)- This place is famous for its Thursday night reggae party. They also host a flea market on Sundays.
- Club Tribeca- This popular club is located in the CBD. The crowd here tends to be a bit older.
- Black Diamond- This Westlands bar is a great place for dancing. They play great music and offer affordable prices.
- Gypsy Bar- This is a popular Westlands bar. It has a great crowd on weekends.
- B Club- This Kilimani club is well known in Nairobi. Prices are on the high side here.
- 1824 Whisky Bar- This popular bar is located on Lang’ata road. This would be a great place to visit after enjoying a dinner at Carnivore as it’s located just down the street. They offer an excellent selection of whiskies.
- KIZA Restaurant and Lounge- This fine dining African-fusion restaurant is located in Kilimani. It offers a classy atmosphere and excellent food.
- Choices Pub- This is a popular spot for locals and those who love to dance. It’s also a great place to watch sports. They have several large screen TVs. There are also pool tables. Prices are reasonable.
- Simba Saloon- This is the club that is connected to Carnivore restaurant. This would be a convenient place to go after dinner.
- Live at the Elephant- This is a popular live music venue located in Lavington. It gets very busy so you may have to book tickets in advance. Check their Facebook page for a list of events.
- 40Forty Lounge- This Westlands rooftop lounge offers excellent views of the city. The club is beautifully decorated. This place is upscale and expensive but offers great food and drinks.
- Bao Box- This is a great choice if you’re looking for more of a chill-out place than a party. Here, you can choose from hundreds of board games to play at your table. You just pay $10 and can play for as long as you want.
- The Nest Rooftop Lounge- This is a small rooftop bar located at the Tribe hotel.
- Artcaffé at The Oval- This cafe is a popular after work hangout for locals. On Friday and Saturday nights they have music and dancing.
- Zanze Bar- This local bar offers pool tables, karaoke, and cheap beer. On the weekends there is dancing.
Most of Nairobi’s top bars and restaurants are located in Westlands. This is an affluent neighborhood with a large expat population. It’s an excellent place to bar-hop. There are many bars and clubs in the same general area within a block or two.
For more recommendations, check out this great list of Nairobi nightclubs.
Many clubs have absurdly high age requirements to get in. It is common to see 25 and older signs posted outside of clubs. Surprisingly, these age requirements are enforced. I went out clubbing with a few people from the hostel I was staying at and one 21-year-old guy wasn’t allowed in. He ended up going back to the hostel.
Drinks are also a bit more expensive in Nairobi than in many other African cities. Expect to pay around 300-500 shillings for a domestic beer in a club. Generally, the clubs have no cover charge. Some bars have a two-drink minimum. It is customary to tip 50-100 shillings for each round of drinks.
11. Visit The Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum is a nice place to spend the afternoon learning about the region. The museum focuses on four main categories including history, Kenyan culture, nature, and art.
The main exhibit of the Nairobi National Museum is located in the Hall of Kenya. Here, you’ll learn about the history, nature, and culture of Kenya. The Joy Adamson gallery features illustrations and other works by the famous conservationist. The Cycles of Life exhibit teaches about the cultural practices of different Kenyan communities through different stages of life including birth, coming of age, old age, and death. The Great Hall of Mammals traces the evolution of African mammals over time. Here, you can also learn about the geography of the region. The Cradle of Mankind exhibit traces the existence of humans over time. The Historia Ya Kenya exhibit teaches about Kenya’s history. It is divided into pre-colonial times, the colonial period, and independence.
At the Nairobi National Museum, you can also view some contemporary and traditional Kenyan artwork. The museum also has an auditorium where they occasionally show Kenyan films and local musical performances.
Within the national museum compound, you can also visit the Nairobi Snake Park, botanical gardens, an art gallery, some shops, an auditorium, and a cafe. You could easily spend a day exploring this beautiful part of the city.
The National Museum is located about 10 minutes north of the city center in a part of the city called Museum Hill. The museum is open 365 days a year from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Entry to the Nairobi National Museum for Non-Kenyan resident adults costs 1200 shillings ($10). Children’s tickets cost 600 shillings ($5). The entry price is the same for Snake Park. If you buy combination tickets to the museum and Snake Park for 1500 shillings ($12) for adults and 1000 shillings for children.
For more info, visit the National Museums of Kenya website here.
12. Go Shopping at a Maasai Market
The Maasai Market is a great place to buy souvenirs including colorful African artwork, handicrafts, paintings, clothing, jewelry, fabrics, beads, and wood carvings made by the Maasai people. This open-air market is held in a different location every day of the week. It runs from 8 am to 6 pm.
The Maasai Market schedule is as follows:
- Monday- No Market
- Tuesday- Prestige Plaza along Ngong Road and Kijabe Street Park near Nairobi River.
- Wednesday- Capital Center on Mombasa road.
- Thursday- The junction Mall and Ngong road.
- Friday- Langinton Mall and The Village market along Limuru road.
- Saturday- Prestige Plaza along Ngong Road and The High court parking opposite Re-Insurance Plaza.
- Sunday- Yaya Center in Hurlingham.
While browsing the market, keep your wits about you and try not to get distracted. Pickpockets and Scammers like to work in the area. Pickpockets target tourists who are distracted by the pretty artwork and large crowds at the market.
You’ll also encounter fast-talking scammers that will offer to help you negotiate and get a good deal. These guys are actually working with the vendors. They convince you that you’re getting a good deal when you’re really overpaying. They receive a commission in return.
If you decide to make a purchase, be sure to negotiate hard. Offer half what the vendor is asking and bargain from there. The vendors are friendly and polite but they love to overcharge tourists if they can get away with it. Avoid acting overly interested and be ready to walk away if you can’t come to a deal. You can often find the exact same item at a nearby stall anyway.
For more info, check out the Maasai Market Facebook page. Also, check the market locations before going. They sometimes move.
There are also some other markets that sell similar items. The Galleria Mall has a great market that’s open every day. City Market is also worth checking out. It’s located in the CBD.
13. Take a Stroll in Uhuru Park
Uhuru Park is a large city park located in the center of Nairobi. This park holds historical and cultural significance for Kenya. It is the site of many speeches and political rallies. Uhuru means ‘freedom’ in Swahili. Entry to Uhuru Park is free.
Uhuru Park is a nice place to go to take a breath of fresh air. You can stroll along the paths, buy ice cream from one of the vendors, or just relax on a park bench. The park also contains a man-made lake. You can rent paddle boats or sit along the shore and enjoy the view. There is also a skateboard park. Uhuru is a popular place for locals to hang out, particularly on the weekends.
Located just across Kenyatta Avenue from Uhuru park is Central Park. Here, you’ll find a children’s playground, shade trees, and expansive lawns where you can picnic. There is also a large monument celebrating former president Moi.
You should avoid visiting Uhuru park after dark. Thieves can operate in and around the park. You should also avoid going here during any type of political event for safety reasons.
14. Take in the View of the City at the Top of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC)
The Kenyatta International Convention Centre is a 28-story tower is located in the City Square of Nairobi in the CBD. It is the 6th tallest building in Kenya. For a small fee, you can take an elevator to the observation deck on the 27th floor and walk up to the viewing platform.
From the KICC, you can catch one of the best views of the city. You’ll enjoy a 360 degree of Nairobi’s downtown, parks, and buildings as well as the surrounding hills. On clear days, you can even see Mount Kenya. The sunset view is also pretty spectacular.
The KICC is mostly used for conferences and exhibitions. Security is pretty tight here and the viewing platform is not always open. You’ll have to leave your passport with security at the entrance to the building. The observation deck closes at 8:00 pm.
15. Nairobi Mamba Village
This 30-acre farm houses about 70 Nile Crocodiles as well as a few ostriches and other animals. On the grounds, you’ll find a restaurant, lounge, and sitting areas where you can relax and enjoy the scenery. The property also features a man-made lake where you can enjoy a boat ride.
The best time to visit is in the afternoon during feeding time. Watching the ancient species jump into the air to grab a big hunk of meat is a pretty impressive sight.
Mamba Village is located about 13 km outside of the Nairobi CBD in the Karen suburb. The entry fee is 1,000 Ksh (about $10). The village is open from 9 am to 6 pm every day. Once you arrive, you can walk the grounds by yourself or hire a guide. For more info, visit the Mamba Village Facebook page.
16. Eat at One of Nairobi’s Restaurants
Nairobi is a great food city. The local cuisine is influenced by Indian and Arabian flavors. You can sample excellent curries, roasted meats, African stews, and several types of bread. You can also find your favorite western dishes including burgers, pizza, and more if that’s what you prefer. Nairobi has fine restaurants, hip cafes, tourist spots, local markets, fast food, street food, and more. There is something for everyone.
Some Popular Restaurants in Nairobi Include:
- Carnivore- This is Nairobi’s most famous restaurant. Carnivore is a safari-themed restaurant located in the Lang’ata suburb. The restaurant specializes in nyama choma. This is Kenyan style roasted meat. They serve all types of exotic meats including crocodile, ostrich, and rabbit as well as the more common types such as beef, lamb, and chicken. The place is touristy but it is also a lot of fun. The whole restaurant is built around a giant barbecue centerpiece where all of the meat is cooked on traditional Maasai swords over an open flame. Usually, around 10-12 different types of meat are available. They will keep bringing you meat as fast as you can eat it. They also serve great cocktails. The service here is excellent. The only drawback is that this place is expensive. The all-you-can-eat meal costs about $30. They get busy so consider booking in advance if you’re coming with a large group. For more info as well as a full menu, check out Carnivore’s website.
- The Thorn Tree Cafe- An open-air bistro that is famous for its makeshift mail system where travelers used to leave left messages pinned to a tree trunk of a centrally located acacia tree. The Thorn Tree Cafe is located in the historic Sarova Stanley hotel in Nairobi CBD. This is a great place to grab afternoon tea and a slice of cake. It’s a historic spot. Many famous celebrities, politicians, and even royals have stayed at the attached hotel. Visit their website here.
- About Thyme- This modern and popular restaurant serves a mix of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. They also offer some traditional barbecue dishes. They offer a nice outdoor seating area as well.
- Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens- This popular restaurant is located on the historic former estate of Karen Blixen. They offer a mix of international and local dishes. This would be a convenient place to stop for lunch after visiting the nearby Karen Blixen museum. Check out their website here for more info.
- The Talisman- This is often considered to be Nairobi’s best restaurant. Here, you can try an interesting fusion of European, Asian, and African cuisine. They are located in the Karen neighborhood. Visit their website here.
- Diamond Plaza- This is Nairobi’s little India. Here, you’ll find various Indian restaurants and shops.
- J’s Fresh Bar and Kitchen- This trendy bar and restaurant offers serves great food. J’s is popular among locals and expats for its live music and DJs. There are two locations. One in Karen and one in Westlands.
- Tin Roof Cafe- This is a pleasant little cafe located in Karen.
- Burger Hut- This popular burger joint has been in business since the 80s. They serve some of the best burgers in Nairobi.
- Mama Rocks- This famous Nairobi food truck serves African-inspired burgers. They are located at the Alchemist Bar. They now have a second location in Kilimani.
- Nyama Mama- This popular Westlands restaurant specializes in Kenyan food. Particularly nyama choma.
- Mama Oliech’s Restaurant- Another popular Nairobi restaurant. They are known for their fried fish from Lake Nakuru. They are located in Kilimani.
- Haandi- This is one of Nairobi’s most famous indian restaurants.
- Java House- This is a Kenyan chain of cafes. They serve great coffee and pastries.
- Fifteen Roofhouse- This rooftop bar and restaurant offers beautiful views of both Nairobi National Park and the Nairobi skyline.
- Wasp and Sprout- This hip little cafe serves breakfast, salads, soups, sandwiches, snacks, and desserts. They also offer excellent coffee, tea, and cocktails. There is a farmer’s market next door. They also do open-mic nights.
- Nairobi Street Kitchen- This is a street food market. NSK is a great place to sample local foods and beverages. It’s also a great place to hang out. There is live music, shopping, and a rooftop bar.
- Urban Eatery- This place features four kitchens serving up a wide range of different cuisines. You can choose from Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian, and more. They also have a cafe, frozen yogurt, and a bar.
- Habesha- This is an excellent Ethiopian restaurant. They have locations in Kilimani and Gigiri.
- Nyama choma restaurants- All over the city, you’ll find restaurants serving up this Kenyan style barbecue. Some are better than others.
- Kenyan local restaurants- These hole-in-the-wall joints are located in estates all over the city. They are incredibly popular among locals. Here, you’ll see locals hanging around after work with friends and family. They serve local food at affordable prices. You could enjoy a filling lunch for just a couple of hundred shillings.
- Farmer’s markets- There are plenty of local markets all around Nairobi. You’ll find one in every neighborhood. These are great places to buy fresh fruits and veggies. You can also find meat, grains, and more. Many markets also have food stands where you can buy a simple meal. One of the best markets is City Park Market.
- Fast food- If you’ve been traveling in Africa for a while, you may begin craving junk food. You can enjoy some of your favorite American fast-food chains in Nairobi including Dominoes, Subway, Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, and Hardees. You can also enjoy some other fast food chains including Debonairs Pizza, Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, and Spur Steak Ranch. No McDonald’s in Nairobi yet.
Don’t forget to sample some of the local food during your visit. Some popular Kenyan foods that are worth a try include:
- Nyama Choma- Roasted meat. The most common are goat and beef.
- Ugali- A cornmeal paste. This is a staple of Kenyan cuisine.
- Irio- A famous Kikuyu dish that is made of a mix of mashed peas and potatoes with corn.
- Supu- Vegetable soup with ginger, garlic, pumpkin, and potato.
- Githeri- Boiled beans and corn. Sometimes mixed with veggies.
- Kenyan stew- Usually beef, goat, or chicken stewed with peas, carrots, and potatoes.
- Mukimu- Mashed potatoes and peas.
- Chapati- A fried flatbread.
- Mandazi- Kenyan doughnuts.
- Mutura- Kenya sausage. Usually made from goat meat.
- Kachumbari- Diced tomatoes, chiles, onions, avocado, and cilantro.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables- At Nairobi’s markets, you can find beautiful fresh produce.
Consider taking a food tour in Nairobi. Your guide will help you discover some of Kenya’s most delicious dishes from the most authentic restaurants.
Also, consider taking a cooking class to learn how to cook your own African food at home. Cooking classes are a great way to learn about the local Kenyan culture. Some classes even take place in the instructor’s own home. They will show you the ingredients and techniques they use at home.
17. View Some of Nairobi’s Monuments and Memorials
Nairobi is home to a number of monuments and memorials that serve as reminders of the city’s colonial history and local culture. Uhuru Park, for example, is a monument to Kenya’s independence from British colonial rule. The park features several monuments including the National Monument and the Nyayo Monument. Some other famous Nairobi monuments worth visiting include the Kimathi statue, the East Africa Memorial, the Tom Mboya Memorial Statue, and more.
18. Go Shopping for Souvenirs in Nairobi
Nairobi is a shopper’s paradise, offering everything from high-end malls to open-air markets. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, handicrafts, or designer clothes, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
The city’s malls offer a wide variety of stores, including international brands and local businesses. For a more traditional shopping experience, head to one of Nairobi’s many outdoor markets. Here you’ll find everything from fresh produce to handmade goods. In markets, haggling is expected.
A few of the best places to go shopping in Nairobi include:
- The Hub Karen- This is the biggest shopping mall in Nairobi. At The Hub Karen, you will find dining, entertainment, and all the shopping you could wish for. They have many of the most popular international chains as well as local shops and small businesses. The mall is located in the Karen neighborhood of Nairobi. They are open from 9 am to 9 pm. For more info including a store directory, check out The Hub Karen website.
- Village Market- This is a large mall in Gigiri neighborhood. Here, you can buy pretty much anything you need including clothing, souvenirs, and food.
- Yaya Centre- A large indoor mall in Kilimani. Here you can buy electronics, cosmetics, and clothing. They also have a supermarket and food court.
- Gikomba Market- This massive market is located on the outskirts of the city. It’s a great place to buy cheap clothing and accessories. It can be helpful to bring a local friend if you can. It’s easy to get lost here because the market is so big. The vendors are also aggressive. Be sure to negotiate hard. This place can get overwhelming because it’s so crowded. It is an experience though.
- City Park Hawkers- This is a great place to buy fruits and vegetables. Lots of locals shop here. Nearby, you can find some great local restaurants serving affordable Kenyan food. This place is located near Westlands and is also called City Park Market.
- Sarit Centre- This is considered Nairobi’s busiest shopping center. This large mall features a wide range of shops and restaurants.
- Wasp & Sprout- This fair trade initiative sells all kinds of housewares l furniture, crafts, decorations, and fabrics. They also have a cafe.
- Kazuri Beads- This social enterprise employs women with disadvantaged backgrounds. They manufacture and sell jewelry, pottery, and handicrafts. These items make for great souvenirs. You can also take a tour and meet the women. The shop is located in Karen.
- Marula Studios- An interesting shop that sells products that are made from recycled flip flops. They also sell pottery, clothing, and bags. This would be another great place to buy souvenirs.
19. Visit the Nairobi Railway Museum
The city of Nairobi was founded in 1899 as a rail depo on the Kenya-Uganda Railway. The city quickly grew around the depo and became Kenya’s capital in 1907. Rail transport made Nairobi what it is today.
The Nairobi Railway Museum was established in 1871. This small museum documents the history of rail travel in Kenya. It is located across the street from the original Nairobi Railway Station.
At the Railway Museum, you can view exhibits from the East Africa and Kenya-Uganda Railways. There are three steam locomotives that are still operational (these can be viewed by appointment only). You can also view a few early passenger coaches. This can give you a taste of 20th century rail travel. There are also several early diesel locomotives. In addition, there is a working miniature railway. You can also view locomotive 301 which was used to film the movie ‘Out of Africa.’ Of course, there are also plenty of photos of the city of Nairobi and various trains that were used in Kenya.
For some more info about the museum, its exhibits, and East African rail history, click here.
20. Drink Some Kenyan Tea and Coffee
One great tradition leftover from colonial times is afternoon tea time. Kenya is famous for its locally grown tea. If you’re not into tea, Kenya also produces some phenomenal coffee. Be sure to stop by one of Nairobi’s cafes to enjoy a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Some excellent places to go for tea and coffee include:
- Java House- This popular coffee shop chain has 20 locations throughout Nairobi. They serve genuine Kenyan coffee and have won several awards over the years.
- Gibson’s Coffee House- This brand has been operating in Kenya for over 50 years. Their Nairobi CBD shop is incredibly popular. They serve excellent coffees and teas.
- Artcaffe- This coffee shop and bakery has a very popular happy hour. They offer several locations throughout the city.
- Tin Roof Cafe- Another popular coffee shop. They also serve snacks and lunch.
As an American, I admit that I don’t know much about high tea so I’ll leave the recommendations to the experts on this one. If you’re looking for a luxury teatime experience, check out this great guide to afternoon tea in Nairobi.
21. Visit the Nairobi Arboretum
The Nairobi Arboretum is a 74-acre wooded oasis in the heart of the city. It was established in 1907. This is a great place to take a stroll or sit in the shade and relax. Birdwatching is another popular activity here. There is also a large population of butterflies here. If you’re lucky, you might spot some monkeys. Many of the trees are also labeled. You can learn about local plants as you walk.
The Arboretum is also a popular picnic spot. On weekends, you’ll find families enjoying the peace and quiet. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or hoping to learn more about Kenyan flora and fauna, the Nairobi Arboretum is definitely worth a visit.
22. Visit the Kazuri Bead Factory
Nairobi is home to the Kazuri Bead Factory, where beautiful beads and jewelry are made by hand. Founded in 1975, the factory employs over 400 local artisans, most of whom are single mothers. Visitors to the factory can take a short tour. You’ll see how they mix the clay that is used to make beads and pottery. You’ll also see how the beads are hand painted.
After the tour, you can browse the wide selection of beads, jewelry, ornaments, and pottery on display in the gift shop. The Kazuri Bead Factory is a great place to find unique gifts and souvenirs, and it’s also a great way to support local businesses and craftspeople. A visit here takes around an hour.
23. Ride in a Matatu to Experience Local Transportation
Matatus are colorful taxis that transport people all over the city. They act as Nairobi’s public transportation system. A ride in one of these crazy shared minibusses is a great way to experience how the average Nairobian commutes. Matatus also run longer distance routes between cities.
Matatus run set routes throughout the city. When you want a ride, just flag one down going in your direction and hop on. Alternatively, you can find a stop where they wait for passengers. The bus will leave when it’s full.
When riding a matatu, avoid carrying valuables. Secure your phone and cash in a zippered pocket or locked backpack. Keep an eye on your belongings. Pickpockets are common. My phone was pickpocketed on a minibus in Tanzania. Luckily, I was able to get it back. For more tips, check out my guide: How to Avoid Pickpockets While Traveling.
Before accepting a ride, find out the price of your trip. The attendants love to rip off foreigners. Ask a local how much the ride should cost and negotiate your fare before you get on.
Also, know where you’re going. Nairobi is a massive city. It’s easy to get lost if you take the wrong bus. Ask an attendant or a local and they will be happy to point you in the right direction.
24. Go Watch a Sporting Event
Watching a sporting event in a foreign country is always an interesting experience. It is a good way to spend an afternoon, drink some beers, and meet some locals. I’m not really into sports but I enjoy watching a game once in a while.
When I was in Nairobi, I decided one afternoon that I wanted to go see a soccer match. After doing some research online, I found that the Kariobangi Sharks were playing the very next day. The Sharks play in the top level of the Football Kenya Federation system. The game was being played at Nairobi City Stadium.
The next day I took a taxi to the stadium with a couple of people from the hostel. When we arrived, to my surprise, there were only about 10 other people there. No one was selling tickets. We just walked right into the stadium.
I wondered if somehow I had misread the schedule, or maybe I was in the wrong place entirely. We sat down and watched the guys warming up on the field. About a half an hour later the game began. I’m still not exactly sure who was playing, but it was good fun to watch.
Day Trips and Things To Do Near Nairobi
There are a number of places to visit within a couple of hours of Nairobi. In this section, I’ll outline a few popular day trips from Nairobi.
25. Visit Hells Gate National Park
Nairobi is surrounded by some of Africa’s most beautiful scenery. Just a 100 km drive from the city center lies Hells Gate National Park. This small national park features a rugged landscape of volcanic cliffs and gorges. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including zebras, giraffes, and gazelles.
Visitors can explore the park on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback. There are even opportunities for rock climbing and camping. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or simply want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Hells Gate National Park is the perfect place to visit.
26. Visit Lake Naivasha
Lake Naivasha is one of Kenya’s many natural wonders. Located about 100 km from Nairobi in the country’s Rift Valley region, the Lake is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including a large population of hippos and over 400 species of birds.
Visitors can take a boat tour of the Lake to see the wildlife up close. Lake Naivasha is also a popular spot for birdwatching. Whether you’re looking to see some of Kenya’s wildlife or just enjoy nature, a visit to Lake Naivasha makes for a day trip from Nairobi.
27. Go Hiking at Ngong Hills
Ngong Hills is a beautiful hiking spot located about 35 km from Nairobi. Hiking Ngong Hills is a great way to get some fresh air and enjoy the natural beauty of Kenya. The hills are part of the Great Rift Valley. From the top, you can enjoy stunning views of the valley below.
The hike is not overly strenuous and the terrain is easy. The main trail takes about 4-5 hours to hike. There are shorter hikes as well. Along the trail, there are plenty of places to stop and rest and enjoy the views. There are also no wild animals to worry about in the park. You can hike the hills on your own, in a group, or with a guide.
If you’re looking for more adventure, you can also zipline over the treetops. There is also an archery facility. You can even camp in the park.
Ngong Hills is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. There is a small fee to enter. Cash isn’t accepted here. You have to pay with a Visa or Mastercard credit card or debit card or Mpesa.
28. Visit a Tea or Coffee Farm
Kenya is a major producer of tea and coffee. A visit to a tea or coffee farm is a unique opportunity to see how these products are produced. Kenya’s climate is ideal for growing both tea and coffee. The country’s high altitudes result in a rich, full-flavored coffee bean and tea leaf.
At a tea or coffee farm in Kenya, you will have the chance to see the plants being grown, harvested, and processed. You will also learn about the different ways that tea and coffee can be enjoyed. A visit to a tea or coffee farm in Kenya is an unforgettable experience that will give you a new appreciation for these popular beverages.
There are a number of tea and coffee farms located near Nairobi that offer tours. Kiambethu Tea Farm is one of the most well-known tea farms in Kenya. It has been operated by the same family for over 100 years. The farm is located in the lush Ngong Hills. On a tour, you can enjoy a 3 course lunch, learn how to make the perfect cup of tea, and take a beautiful walk around the grounds. You might even spot some monkeys.
Two popular coffee farms located near Nairobi include Fairview Coffee Estate and Karunguru Coffee Farm. While visiting these farms, you’ll learn how coffee is grown, harvested, processed, and roasted. You’ll also learn how to make the perfect cup. These farms are also incredibly scenic. Of course, you’ll also taste some coffee.
29. Visit Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is famous for being home to a flock of thousands of flamingos. A number of other animals can be spotted in the national park including rhinos, lions, giraffes, cape buffalo, zebras, impalas, and more. In addition, over 400 species of birds can be found in Lake Nakuru National Park.
Lake Nakuru is located about 160 km to the west of Nairobi. It’s easy to reach by car or bus. The trip takes about 3 hours. The park is open year-round.
There are a number of activities to enjoy in Lake Nakuru National Park including safari drives and nature walks. Whether you’re looking to see some of Kenya’s iconic wildlife or just want to relax in a beautiful setting, Lake Nakuru is definitely worth a visit.
30. Visit the Githiga Caves and Waterfall
For those who crave a little peace and quiet, the Githiga Caves and Waterfall are just a short drive away from Nairobi. The caves are set amidst lush greenery. You’ll pass through beautiful forests and tea farms. The waterfalls cascade down a rocky cliff, creating a refreshing oasis.
Visitors can explore the caves or simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings. If you’re brave, you can also take a dip in the freezing pool at the base of the waterfall. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a chance to relax, the Githiga Caves and Waterfall are sure to please.
31. Take a Day Trip to Amboseli National Park
It is possible to visit Amboseli National Park on a long day trip from Nairobi. The park lies about 4 hours south of Nairobi. Amboseli National Park is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife. Visitors can explore the national park on a game drive, spotting animals in their natural habitat. The park also offers breathtaking views of Mount Kilimanjaro. During your tour, you can also visit a local Maasai village. You’ll make it back to Nairobi in time for dinner.
The Best Nairobi Itineraries
The optimal itinerary depends on the length of your trip. In this section, I’ll outline itineraries for visiting Nairobi in 1 day, 2-3 days, and 1 week.
1 Day in Nairobi
Start your day with a Kenyan coffee or tea and a hardy breakfast. The first stop on your 1 day itinerary in Nairobi is the Giraffe Centre. Try to arrive when they open at around 9:00 am to avoid crowds.
Next, make your way to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park. You must arrive by around 10:30 am to catch the elephant feeding and bathing, which starts at 11. Try to book in advance if you can.
In the afternoon, take a city walking tour of Nairobi. This will allow you to see some iconic landmarks, historic buildings, and national monuments. You can join a group tour, hire a guide, or go on your own. Alternatively, you could visit the Karen Blixen Museum and Coffee Gardens, Bomas of Kenya, or the National Museum.
After your tour, head to one of the city’s markets to shop for souvenirs. Consider visiting a Maasai Market or City Market. Alternatively, you could visit the Kazuri Beads factory and shop for beaded jewelry.
In the evening, go out and experience the Nairobi nightlife. Grab dinner at Carnivore then visit one of Nairobi’s bars or clubs. You can dance the night away or simply relax with a drink in hand.
2-3 Days in Nairobi
2 or 3 days is the optimal amount of time to spend in Nairobi for most travelers. This gives you time to see all of the main sites.
On the first day, visit Nairobi National Park and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Start by visiting the elephant orphanage from 10:30 am-12 pm. After that, take an afternoon game drive in Nairobi National Park. After the game drive, head over to the Giraffe Centre. You could also visit the Giraffe center in the morning if you prefer. In the evening, enjoy dinner and drinks at Carnivore restaurant.
On the second day, start with a visit to the Bomas of Kenya to learn a bit about Kenyan culture. In the afternoon, make your way to the Karen Blixen Museum and Coffee Gardens. Enjoy an afternoon tea or coffee after viewing the museum. In the evening, go out for dinner and drinks at one of Nairobi’s restaurants. If you’re feeling up for it, consider visiting a club to enjoy some Nairobi nightlife.
On the third day, start with a walking tour of Nairobi city center. You could take a tour with the Nai Nami, a private guide, or simply walk around the CBD on your own. Spend the morning and early afternoon enjoying the city’s architecture, monuments, memorials, and parks. In the afternoon, take some time to shop for souvenirs. Head to a Maasai Market or visit one of Nairobi’s malls or markets. Alternatively, visit Nairobi National Museum to learn about the history and culture of Kenya.
One Week in Nairobi
A week gives you plenty of time to explore all the city’s major attractions. You’ll also have time for a day trip or two and some time to relax.
- Monday: Nairobi National Park, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and the Giraffe Centre.
- Tuesday: Bomas of Kenya, Karen Blixen Museum and Coffee Gardens.
- Wednesday: Walking tour of the city center of Nairobi.
- Thursday: Take a day trip to Ngong hills, Hell’s Gate National Park, Mt Longonot, Amboseli National Park, or Lake Naivasha.
- Friday: Go for a hike and picnic in Karura Forest, Visit Kibera, visit Nairobi National Museum, or visit the Railway Museum.
- Saturday: Shopping in Nairobi. Visit a Maasai Market, City Market, or go to a mall. After, go for dinner, drinks, and clubbing.
- Sunday: Go out for tea or coffee. Sample some traditional food. Visit any sites you missed. Or just rest.
The best things to do in Nairobi include Nairobi National Park, the Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Centre, Bomas of Kenya, and the Karen Blixen Museum. You don’t have to do everything while visiting Nairobi. Pick the sights that interest you the most. Skip the rest.
How to Get to Nairobi
There are a number of ways to get to Nairobi. You can travel there by plane, bus, or car. Most visitors fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). This is Nairobi’s main airport. It’s the busiest airport in the region. If you’re traveling by bus, check out my guides:
- Traveling From Nairobi to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by Bus
- Traveling From Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda by Bus
Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Nairobi
Nairobi is a great place to visit and there are plenty of things to do. Whether you’re into nature, history, culture, or just want to experience some new food, you’ll be able to find something that interests you in Nairobi.
You can get a good feel for the city in just a day. 2-3 days is ideal. There is enough to keep you busy for a week if you really want to get to know Nairobi city. I planned to just pass through Nairobi on my way to the Maasai Mara but ended up spending a month there. Nairobi turned out to be my favorite city in Africa. I think you’ll like it too. Hopefully, this guide helps you discover the best things to do in Nairobi.
Have you visited Nairobi recently? Share your experience in the comments!