Nairobi City Guide
The city of Nairobi is often referred to as ‘the Safari capital of the world’ and is the capital and the largest city of Kenya. This Kenyan capital, which is located on the Nairobi River, was founded in 1899 by the British. The moniker Nairobi then evolved from the Masai phrase ‘Enkare Nyirobi’, which translates as ‘place of cool waters’.
Busy, bustling Nairobi is today a prominent city in Africa that is a well established financial and political center. The city also hosts several United Nations organizations like the United Nations Environment Program and the headquarters of the UN- Habitat organization. However besides its business and political importance, the verdant city of Nairobi is often called the ‘Green City in the Sun’ and is a world-renowned African vacation destination that is usually used by tourists as a gateway to the many safari parks and reserves of Africa.
Where to stay in Nairobi
Like many other African cities, Nairobi is a city of great contrasts where affluent, lush green suburbs co-exist with slums and shanty towns.
Nairobi’s city center is the business and commercial hub of the city. This area is easily navigable on foot and hosts Kenya’s Parliament, shopping centers, restaurants, bars and several business hotels.
Nairobi is home to several green suburbs that are especially popular with visitors. Westlands is one such suburb, which lies northwest of the city center and offers many restaurants, bars, luxury hotels and upscale shopping malls. Westlands is, in fact, the diplomatic enclave of Nairobi and is home several embassies and consulates.
Karen and Langata
The adjacent suburbs of Karen and Langata lie to the south of the city and are often referred to simply as Karengata. These two suburbs host many restaurants, bars, stores and hotels and are popular with tourists for they are located quite close to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, which handles domestic and charter flights that provide connections to major safari destinations.
Places to see in Nairobi
Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park was established in 1945 and is Kenya’s first national park. This National Park is a well maintained, compact park that offers displays of Africa’s best known animals like zebras, wildebeest, buffalos, giraffes, ostrich, baboons, cheetah and lions. The park also includes an Animal Orphanage and an Educational Center.
The Dame Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Located close to the Nairobi National Park is the Dame Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. This orphanage houses elephant calves and baby rhinos who have been orphaned due to poaching or abandoned for some other reason. The baby elephants are cared for at the orphanage until they can be released into the wild at the Tsavo National Park. The best time to visit the orphanage is between 11 am and 12pm when you can witness these cute babies bathing in the mud holes or being bottle fed by their surrogate mothers.
The Giraffe Centre
The Griaffe Centre was established by Betty and Jock Leslie Melville in 1979. This center is dedicated to the preservation of the endangered Rothschild giraffe. Visitors to the center can have the unique experience of hand feeding these gentle and graceful creatures and also enjoy a nature walk at the site which features 160 species of birds. The Giraffe Centre is believed to be the best attraction for children in Nairobi so if you are on vacation in Nairobi with your children in tow the Giraffe Centre should be considered a must-do on your list of sights to see in Nairobi.
Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum offers a collection that features displays of art, geology, wildlife and history. The museum has a snake park attached to it which has exhibits of some of the world’s largest and most venomous snakes.
Karen Blixen Museum
The famed authoress Karen Blixen who wrote the book ‘Out of Africa’, lived and owned a coffee plantation in Nairobi in the early 20th century. She was, however, compelled to leave Africa and return to her native country, Denmark in 1931. It was in Denmark that she penned her acclaimed novels under the pseudonym, Isak Dinesen. Today her home, M’Bogani House, is located in the Nairobi suburb of Karen and has been converted into a museum- a popular tourist attraction.
Best time to visit Nairobi
Nairobi is situated 1795 meters (5889 feet) above sea level and is bestowed with a moderate climate. Daytime temperatures in Nairobi usually hover around 75F (24C) during the city’s warmest season, which typically extends from December to March. Nairobi generally experiences cooler temperatures during the months of June and July when average daytime temperatures tend hover around 64F(18C) though they are known to fall to 50F(10C) sometimes. Nairobi also experiences moderate rainfall almost all throughout the year so if you are in the midst packing for your vacation in Nairobi you might want to include a light jacket and an umbrella with the rest of your clothes.
Getting around in Nairobi
Nairobi is served by its Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is located 10 miles (16km) south east of the city. The airport receives several carriers from around the word, which makes getting to Nairobi quite easy. In fact if you are currently looking for cheap air flights to Nairobi, you would do well as to check our flight deals portfolio as we often have attractive cheap air tickets to Nairobi that originate from various cities in the US.
Nairobi is equipped with various modes of public transport like the matatu ( minibus), which operates on set routes and collects and drops off as many people as possible, three wheeled auto-rickshaws( tuk-tuks) and local bus services.
Most visitors on a vacation in Nairobi however elect to use taxis to get around as they are widely available and convenient. Taxis in Nairobi are not metered so it is wise to agree on the fare with the driver before you embark on your journey. Nairobi unfortunately has a reputation for high crime and if you want to explore the city’s many sights on your vacation, you should perhaps consider hiring a taxi driver with the recommendation of your hotel’s concierge.
Where to shop in Nairobi
Nairobi is equipped with varied shopping options that include old world shopping centers, new upscale malls (Westgate Mall in the Wetlands district) and several lively markets. Nairobi is perhaps the best place in Africa to stock up on traditional African arts like Kamba woodcarvings, Masai beadwork, ethnic fabric and local textiles known as Kikois and Kangas, African masks, Kisii soapstone carvings and more. All these local products are offered at the city’s markets like the City Market on Muindi Mbingu Street, Kairokor Market and the Maasai Market, which is held on five days of the week ( excepting Mondays and Thursdays) at various locations around the city.
Where to eat in Nairobi
Nairobi is home to a multicultural population and it offers a dining landscape that is peppered with restaurants that offer a wide range of cuisines like European, African, Middle Eastern, Indian , Asian and more. The city offers both casual dining outlets as well as upscale restaurants, which are generally located within the city’s luxury hotels.
Some of the best and most popular restaurants in Nairobi currently include eateries like Talisman( fusion) , Tamarind( seafood), Haandi and Open House(Indian), Havana Bar and Restaurant( Caribbean), Pango Brasserie at the Fairview( International) Zen Garden Restaurant( Chinese) and Fogo Gaucho ( steakhouse).
Nightlife in Nairobi
Nairobi in spite of its reputation of being a ‘dangerous’ city offers a lively nightlife scene which features bars( both hotel bars and stand alone establishments), clubs, lounges and music venues. Some of the most popular bars in Nairobi include joints like Misty Ginger Bar and Lounge, Babalu's Bar, Safari Bar, Cin Cin at Fairmont the Norfolk, Que Pasa Bar and Bistro and The Nest at Tribe Hotel.