What to see in Nairobi

What to see in Nairobi in 1 and 2 days

Nairobi: what to see, how to get around, where to sleep. As well as many good reasons to visit it before (or after) the safari

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya , is a city often skipped by those traveling to the country. In fact, African cities are generally not particularly attractive, apart from Cape Town and the small Stone Town. Perhaps this is why few people decide to dedicate a few days to Nairobi. In fact, most decide to skip it altogether and go on safari straight away. And it’s a real shame .

If you think that Nairobi is a dangerous city (it was so in the past, so much so that it earned the unfortunate nickname “Nairobbery “), gray and not worth visiting, you are wrong.

Nairobi is a very beautiful city , relatively tidy, relatively clean but above all, it is a city that can keep you busy for several days. The things to see in Nairobi are numerous and also very interesting.

After spending a few weeks in Nairobi I selected my favorite places to see in Nairobi and also thought of two mini itineraries to see Nairobi in 1 or 2 days .

If you are planning a safari in Kenya read the post: how to organize a safari in the Maasai Mara

What to know before traveling to Nairobi

If you have chosen Kenya as a travel destination and have decided to spend a few days in Nairobi, here is a series of practical tips that will certainly come in handy during the organizational phase.

  • Travel Insurance – Don’t travel without it, really. It is always hoped that you will never have to use it but if you need medical assistance or need to return home earlier than expected, the insurance will save you from stratospheric expenses and above all it will guarantee you adequate care. We are also still in Africa. I advise you to ask for a quote from AXA or HeyMondo (with this link you will receive a 10% discount )
  • Request a visa online in advance – It is no longer possible to obtain a visa on arrival but it is necessary to request it in advance on the official website . It is typically released within 48 hours. Sometimes even less. But I recommend asking at least 2 weeks before arrival. The visa costs $50 .
  • Where to sleep in Nairobi – In a megalopolis it is not always easy to choose the neighborhood where to stay. The same goes for Nairobi where you also want to make sure you are in a safe area. The most popular are Westlands , Parklands and Nairobi Uptown (the centre).
  • Withdrawals and credit card payments – In Nairobi you can pay by credit card in most places.

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Read also: 11 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Nairobi

Nairobi Palace

How to get around Nairobi

The most practical, fastest and also very economical way to get around Nairobi is by taxi. You can use UBER or BOLT (which costs a little less). Bolt works like Uber and you can also choose the Boda Boda , or motorcycle, as a cheaper option.

You need a Kenyan number to activate it. Furthermore, the driver often calls to confirm the place to meet. Most rides within the city cost no more than $2 . the cost changes depending on the distance but also on the traffic at the time.

If you go further afield, such as to the Carnivore Restaurant or the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the ride, which takes around 30/40 minutes, costs around KES 600/800 . The cost is $1 for a 15 minute drive. Rarely do you need more to get around the city. Nairobi is busy but is not particularly congested, like many other megacities, for example Addis Ababa.

The app takes money from your credit card so you don’t even have to negotiate or use cash. Most drivers will call you to confirm the meeting point.

If you want to experience the thrill of public transport you can take the buses and Matatu , the local minibuses, but for those who don’t know the city the use is not particularly intuitive.

fruit stand

Where to sleep in Nairobi – The best neighborhoods to stay in Nairobi

Choosing the right place to stay in Nairobi is very important, and you will also have to choose the right neighborhood based on what you want to do in the city.

Nairobi is huge and, at the worst times, driving through the city can take more than two hours. This means that it is better to stay in a place that minimizes travel time and allows you to visit the main tourist attractions without getting stuck in traffic.

Below I will show you six of the best areas in Nairobi to sleep. Some are more accessible than others, but all can be good depending on the type of trip you are looking for.

I will also recommend one or two accommodation options in each location, to make things even easier for you.

  • Westlands – Suitable for first time visitors to Nairobi . Stay at the Lotos Inn & Suites if you are looking for an economical solution (around $70 per night), on the 6th floor of the same building there is an excellent Chinese restaurant or at the Skynest Residences by CityBlue if you want a higher class hotel with a swimming pool (€150 for Night)
  • Nairobi City Center – Center of the city, busy but safe, but in the evening it gets a little empty – Stay at the After 40 Hotel or the Mokka City Nairobi Hotel . They are both located in the city center and offer all the basic services: good rooms, wifi throughout the property and an on-site restaurant. Opt for the Sarova Stanley if you want a higher class hotel. Spacious rooms, an outdoor pool and 3 on-site restaurants.
  • Karen – Rich neighborhood far from the city center, perfect if you want to visit the Nairobi National Park. Karen is a very expensive neighborhood so there are no particularly cheap hotels. Stay at or at the very expensive Giraffe Manor where you can have breakfast with the giraffes (for the modest sum of $1500 per night and must be booked well in advance because they are always full). Alternatively, opt for The Drexel House Kenya , which offers chalets set in a well-kept garden, with an outdoor swimming pool.
  • KilmaniRapidly developing neighborhood and very popular with expats. Being a residential neighborhood, if you prefer to stay in apartments this is the right place. I recommend you take a look at The Lofts , which has small apartments in a residence with a swimming pool, gym and a restaurant.
  • Nairobi Airport – Suitable for those who only need accommodation for the night and do not intend to visit the center of Nairobi or plan to dedicate the following day to the Nairobi National Park. A short distance from the international airport is the Four Points Nairobi , the hotel also offers free airport transfer service, two on-site restaurants and a rooftop swimming pool.

What to see in Nairobi – 15 places not to be missed

Few tourists stay in Nairobi , perhaps the city is a victim of the reputation of a dangerous city or perhaps it is considered not to be particularly interesting, like many large African cities.

Nairobi on the other hand is a very beautiful city, very green, and full of things to see and do. I recommend you dedicate 2 days to it . But if you have little time even 1 is fine, as long as you choose what to do in advance. For this reason I have listed all the places to see in Nairobi if you have one, two or even more days available.

Centro di Nairobi – Nairobi Central Business District (uptown)

The center of Nairobi is divided into Nairobi Uptown , the financial center, and Nairobi Downtown , where I recommend going accompanied by someone for the first time because it is very chaotic and potentially dangerous (at risk of pickpocketing).

Uptown is where the government buildings are concentrated and you will find most of the places to see in downtown Nairobi that I mention in this post. It is safe to walk during the day, and you can easily get around on foot. In the evening if you have to cover long distances I recommend taking a taxi because the center gets empty and it is not advisable to walk alone.

body of water near green trees during night time

Kenya Railway Museum

Between 1948 and 1977, the East African Railways merged several railway lines into the Kenya-Uganda Railway to provide transportation and shipping services using powerful steam locomotives.

The railway was instrumental in the birth and development of Nairobi , so a visit to the museum is a great way to understand part of the history of the city as well as the history that saw its birth, which is not without stories of men being eaten by lions and you will also explain why you will see so many Indians in the country.

When the AER was disbanded in 1977, the railway network was split into several sections, many of the locomotives and carriages were retired and now form the main part of the museum’s collection.

As well as three working locomotives, which you need to make an appointment for if you want to visit, the Nairobi Railway Museum also houses a number of display locomotives, passenger carriages, a working model railway, engines and original artefacts with information panels about history of the railway. Don’t miss the beautiful 301 locomotive on display which was used for the filming of the film “Out of Africa” .

Nairobi National Museum of Kenya and Snake park

The National Museum is a must see place in Nairobi and can be visited in a couple of hours. It is worth visiting because it is very well organized and takes you on a journey through the history of Kenya, with clear explanations on the habits and customs.

The Museum aims to interpret Kenya’s rich heritage and offer visitors a single stop to learn about the country’s history, nature, culture and traditions.

The section on hominids with original finds is very interesting . The Museum is spread over two floors. At the entrance you can also book a guide. But the information panels are very clear, so you might not need them.

In addition to the museum in the same complex you can visit the snake park , at extra costs if you don’t buy the combined ticket (which I recommend), and the botanical gardens. In the snake park you can see numerous specimens of snakes, including boas and black mambas, crocodiles and land turtles. It’s not particularly fascinating, but for the extra KES300 it’s worth going, especially if you’re a reptile lover.

There is also a small aquarium section which is nothing special, in fact it’s a bit sad. I don’t recommend going to the snake park alone, but it makes sense to pay KES 300 extra to include it during the morning at the museum.

Practical information for visiting the Nairobi National Museum and the snake park

Visiting hours: Monday to Sunday: 8.30am-5.30pm. All year round, including holidays and weekends.
Entrance fee: KES 1200 per person for the museum only or the snake park only. KES 1500 for both
Official site: Nairobi National Museum

Jamia Mosque

The Jamia Mosque is located in uptown Nairobi a short distance from the market. The mosque was built in the early 20th century, the mosque has been expanded and rebuilt over the years. Today it can accommodate up to 5,000 people.

It is a building with splendid silver domes and minarets decorating the roof, it is today the largest mosque in Kenya and one of the most iconic architectural masterpieces in the city. You can visit the building, the small courtyard and the fountain inside, but only outside prayer time.

Kenyatta International Conference Centre

While there are taller buildings in Nairobi, none beat the amazing view from the top of the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC). Climb to the roof of the 30-storey building to enjoy 360-degree views of Nairobi and its many structures and parks. Access is allowed until 5pm. The building is mostly used for conferences, exhibitions and special events, so it’s worth checking if there’s anything interesting on the day you go.

Practical information for visiting the Kenyatta International Conference Center

Visiting hours: Monday to Sunday: 8.30am-5pm. All year round, including holidays and weekends.
Entrance fee: KES 600 per person
Official website: Kenyatta International Conference Centre

Vista dal Kenyatta conference center

Nairobi City market

While walking through the centre, make sure you stop by the Nairobi market , you will recognize it because the structure is very colourful, and it is close to the mosque.

Inside you will find many souvenir stalls. If you take a corridor on the right you will also find fishmongers and butchers. Raise your eyes above the rooftops because you will see many gigantic Marabu stocks waiting for some piece of meat or fish.

Maasai Market in Nairobi

Markets in Kenya are everywhere, and in Nairobi you will find numerous of them. Of the many, the most famous is the Maasai Market. In particular, the Saturday Maasai market is the ideal place to buy Maasai fabrics, jewelery (bracelets, necklaces) and local handicrafts.

Remember that you have to bargain. All the pieces sold have a starting cost that is too high simply because in Kenya everything is negotiated, arm yourself with good patience and find the right compromise. The place is also very touristy. The Maasai Market is open from 8am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday at various locations in Nairobi

  • Monday closed
  • Tuesday – Kijabe Street opposite the Norfolk Hotel
  • Wednesday – Capital Center on Mombasa Road
  • Giovedì – The Junction Mall at Ngong Road
  • Friday – Village Market at Limuru Road
  • Saturday – Nairobi Law Courts car park
  • Domenica – Yaya Center a Argwings Kodhek Road

Nairobi downtown

If you arrive in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya seems different from other African capitals, you are right. The typical chaos of the markets, of the congestion of the streets full of buses and tuk tuks does not seem to exist.

Yet, right on the border with uptown , simply crossing the road at the monument to the terrorist attack on the American embassy ( Memorial  Park  Embassy bombing ) you enter another world.

You are in the heart of the old city, downtown is in fact also called Old Town , where you walk among confusing markets, crazy matatu (minibuses) and lots of noise.

To visit downtown I recommend you take part in the storytelling tour with former street kids who accompany you in the neighborhood where they grew up and also committed criminal acts.

The project they are carrying out is truly worthy . The former street kids have in fact changed their lives, and try to tell visitors what their life was like before having their first “clean job” (clean, i.e. honest work) and what they try to do for the kids who live in the streets. margins, like them, and who could take the same path.

The other peculiarity of this tour is that each guide is dedicated solely to 2 people, so each couple of participants (I was alone so I had the Thyphoon guide all to myself) will hear different stories and this allows for maximum interaction.

Practical information for booking the tour

The tour must be booked in advance because places are limited
Tour time: Every day at 10am and 1.30pm
Meeting point: In front of the Bata shop at City Hall (Hilton hotel)
Cost of the tour : $37 per person
To book the tour: Storytelling Nairobi

Karura Forest

The Karura Forest is a huge area of ​​indigenous forest located within the city. Despite being surrounded on all sides by large buildings, once inside the forest you enter a different world.

You will encounter monkeys or dik-diks, turacos and other birds hiding among ancient trees and bamboo forests. In the forest you can walk or rent a bike and venture along the cycle paths. Inside you will find a very nice restaurant bar: The River Café .


Nairobi National Park

You will surely have come across a photo of animals with a city skyline in the background. You have seen a photo of the Nairobi National Park which is located just outside the centre, a stone’s throw from the Karen neighborhood (so technically still in Nairobi) and which can be reached in about 30 minutes by car, if there is no traffic.

The park is small , too small for example for the elephants (which in fact you won’t see), but large enough to do a nice game drive, especially if you don’t intend to do any others or if, after having done them, you haven’t seen the rhinos . Here you have the last chance. However, the amount of animals that can be spotted, despite their size, is remarkable (lions, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, hippos and many others).

The peculiarity of this park is certainly its location , right on the edge of the city, which can be seen in the background, the railway pylons that cross it and its proximity to the airport. A real urban park but with the animals you expect to see during a safari. It’s not a zoo.

Also visit the monument commemorating the burning of 105 tons of ivory and rhino horn , burned in 2016 by the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta , as a sign of the fight against poaching.
There are piles of ash left and nearby you will also find information panels regarding the damage done by poaching but also the progress made by Kenya over the years to safeguard the country’s animals.

You must have a car to go on game drives as the park does not organize 4×4 outings for tourists who arrive without a vehicle.

Read also the post on the main national parks of Kenya

Practical information for visiting Nairobi National Park

Visiting hours: Monday to Sunday: 8.30am-5.30pm. All year round, including holidays and weekends.
Entrance fee: US$60 per adult plus car and driver costs
Official site: Nairobi National Park
If you don’t have a car I recommend the tour which also includes the David Sheldrick Wildlife trust and the Giraffe center ( €55 per person, if at least two people, entrance fees are not included) : Nairobi National park day tour with elephant orphanage and giraffe center

three rhinos walking on farm road

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – The Elephant Orphanage

If you plan a day at the Nairobi National Park , or have a free morning in Nairobi, I highly recommend you take part in a visit to the elephant orphanage at the David Sheldrick Wilflife Trust , a wonderful project that has been dedicated to the care and protection of elephants for 45 years. orphaned elephants in difficulty , rescued from the parks and reserves of Kenya, and then reintroduced into nature after a few years as soon as they are old enough to live on their own.

During the hour at the center you watch two groups of elephants having breakfast, with bottles full of milk , and you see them playing.

A staff member tells the story of all the baby elephants present. Here you can read the story of all the elephants in the center.

The visit takes place every day from 11 to 12 . it is mandatory to book in advance because only 100 people are admitted. Entrance costs 1500KES per adult . You can adopt a baby elephant for $50 for a year.

The center is located a stone’s throw from the Nairobi National Park , in fact it combines well with a game drive in the urban park, the giraffe center and the Karen Blixen museum .

It is a very beautiful experience, which has nothing to do with the zoo, and the entire proceeds are used to continue supporting the project which also fights against rhino poaching and recovery and many other conservation activities.

Practical information for visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Entrance must be booked in advance on the official website or ask the tour operator with whom you are organizing the trip
Visiting hours: Every day from 11am to 12pm – You must arrive 30 minutes early
If you visit the center independently starting from Nairobi you can reach the center with Bolt, which costs between KES 600 and KES 800 depending on traffic – About 35/40 minutes by car
Entrance cost: KES 1500 per person
Elephant adoption cost: $50 for one year
Official website: David Shelfrick Wildlife Trust
To combine the visit to the center with other activities in the surrounding area – Nairobi National Park and giraffe center and the Karen Blixen museum (entrance fees are not included): Book one day tour

two gray elephants during daytime

Giraffe center

The Giraffe center is located 20 km from Nairobi, a short distance from the Karen Blixen museum and the Nairobi National Park , and is a natural sanctuary that has hosted giraffes since its foundation in 1979.

Initially the center played an important role in the breeding and reintroduction of giraffes in the nearby Ruma Game Reserve and Lake Nakuru National Park.

Today the sanctuary has become one of the most popular places to visit in Nairobi because it is possible to feed the resident giraffes – approved food that is delivered upon arrival – get a kiss and get close to them in a way you can’t do elsewhere.

Inside the center you will find an information centre, a 1.5 km nature trail and a small bar where you can observe the giraffes. The center is small and doesn’t take more than 30 minutes , depending on how long you want to stay on the walkway.

The rescue center shares grounds with the better-known Giraffe Manor 1930 , a 12-room boutique hotel where a herd of Rothschild giraffes pops up at breakfast time, poking their necks through the windows.

If you want to stay at the Giraffe Manor, breakfast with the giraffes is an exclusive activity for customers, you must book the room well in advance (and you should know that a night in the villa costs a lot, around $1,500 per night).

Practical information for visiting the Giraffe Center Nairobi

Visiting hours: Every day from 9am to 5pm.
Entrance fee: KES 1500 per person. You pay by credit card at the box office.
Official website: Giraffe Center
To combine the visit of the center with other activities in the surrounding area – Nairobi National Park, the elephant orphanage and the Karen Blixen museum (entrance fees are not included): Book one day tour

brown giraffe head on brown wooden fence during daytime

Karen Blixen Museum

A short distance from the Nairobi National Park and the Giraffe Center is the house, now a museum, of Karen Blixen , the writer of Out of Africa .

The house museum, inside which it is forbidden to take photos, is beautiful, furnished with the same furniture as when Blixen lived there and the cost of the ticket, KES 1200 per adult , also includes a guide that illustrates and explains the various parts of the home and tells of the writer’s life during the years she lived in Kenya.

The museum can be visited in about 30 minutes . It’s a pleasant visit to end the day. Taking photos is prohibited inside the house.

Practical information for visiting the Karen Blixen Museum

Visiting hours: Every day from 9am to 5pm.
Entrance fee: KES 1200 per person and KES 500 children. You pay by credit card at the box office.
Official website: Karen Blixen Museum
To combine the visit of the Museum with other activities in the surrounding area – Nairobi National Park, the elephant orphanage and the Giraffe Center (entrances are not included): Book one day tour

Nairobi Gallery

The Nairobi Gallery is located between Kenyatta Avenue and the Uhuru Highway roundabout, next to Nyayo’s house, in a beautiful colonial mansion.

The building is located at Kenya’s zero point , that is, the point from which distances to all corners of the country and subsequently to the continent and the world were measured.

The building is in many ways linked to the history and development of Nairobi and its people. Built in 1913 to house civil service offices and was also called “Hatches, Matches and Dispatches” because births, marriages and deaths were registered.

Before independence, the building was also a colonial court where natives accused of entering Nairobi without a pass were tried and sentenced.

Today the Gallery has become home to the collections of Joseph and Sheila Murumbi . Joseph Murumbi was the second vice president of Kenya.

The Nairobi Gallery is also dedicated to promoting local artists through the exhibition of their works and numerous objects from Kenya and many parts of Africa.

Kibera Slum

To add an unexpected item to your list of things to do in Nairobi, consider Kibera. East Africa’s largest urban slum is an overcrowded area where the poor live in mud and metal shacks.

Located less than 7 km from the center of Nairobi, Kibera occupies an area or but is home to at least 250,000 people (although some estimate the number to be much higher). Although tourism in the townships is quite controversial , visiting Kibera with a guided tour allows you to see Nairobi from a completely different perspective and to actively contribute to the local economy given that the majority of the population lives on informal jobs for which they earn very little.

During this tour you will learn about the history of the township, hear firsthand from the people who live there and gain a deeper understanding of what is done to improve the lives of those who live here, the guided tour is certainly the best way to discover this part of the city.

The Alchemist Nairobi e Nairobi Street Kitchen – Westlands

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Nairobi, and where I stay when I return, is Westlands . The neighborhood is safe, allows you to reach the center easily, and is full of very nice clubs, bars, restaurants and even clubs, and here you can find many hotels, even at moderate prices.

If you are staying in Westalands and would also like a bit of nightlife, pop into the Alchemist Nairobi and the Nairobi Street Kitchen, they are very close to each other and are collectives of restaurants, bars and clubs where you can find international cuisine and also good music.

The prices are quite high, like many places in the city, but the environment is very nice, fun and colourful . Be prepared for long waits if you order food, and don’t worry, in most restaurants in Kenya with a la carte menus the waits are epic.

Carnivore Restaurant

An institution in Nairobi and, as the name suggests, suitable for those who eat meat. There is no menu but it is an all you can eat meat menu . The waiters are constantly passing by to fill the plates.

Among the most particular meats you can taste crocodile meat, ostrich meatballs and a delicious honey pig. Drinks are not included. The menu also includes dessert and tea or coffee .

The restaurant is located near the Nairobi national park so a little out of town. The menu costs KES 4000 per person . I recommend booking in advance.

Official website: Carnivore Restaurant Nairobi

Recommended walking tours to visit Nairobi

If you have decided to dedicate some time to seeing Nairobi, I think you might find some interesting tours and guided visits that will certainly help you orient yourself in the city and discover some sides that would otherwise be difficult to access.

Tour with former street kids of Nairobi

This is my favorite tour for many reasons . The first is that it leads to Downtown, dropping you completely into the chaotic neighborhood of the old city which fully represents the style of typical large African cities.

The second, perhaps more important, is that the guides are former street kids (and former criminals) who have decided to change their lives, also thanks to this project.

It’s about storytelling, nothing is ready but the guide also develops based on us and how we interact with them. We will find out more about what it means to live on the margins of society, the risks, the difficult moments of their lives and the most beautiful ones.

The tour lasts 3 hours and ends with lunch at a local restaurant (not included but cheap). You can book the tour here.

Nairobi F.A.Q

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