Even though Nairobi is the biggest city in Kenya, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice spending time in nature to explore the big city. Located just 7 kilometres from the city centre you’ll find Nairobi National Park. These 29 acres of protected parkland are home to a variety of incredible plant and animal life, including four of the Big Five. Spot lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo – along with over a hundred other African mammals – in their natural environment in this urban oasis. Watch gazelle drinking from the Mbagathi River, before snapping photos of giraffe with skyscrapers in the background. Get the best of the city and the country on a visit to Nairobi National Park.
Feed elephants at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Animal lovers, this one’s for you: get up close and personal with African beasts at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Located in the Nairobi National Park, this wildlife centre is most famous for its elephant and rhino orphanage. With an objective of protecting some of the world’s most amazing creatures, their conservation work has put them on the map. Since opening in 1977, they’ve successfully raised over 150 orphaned elephants, and you can be a part of the legacy. Get down to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to hand-feed these remarkable creatures and be prepared to go into cuteness overdrive!
Stroll through Maasai Market
When markets and local culture get together, you know you’ve hit a good thing. Discover the beauty of the Maasai culture at the Maasai Markets. Held almost every day at different locations around Nairobi, these markets aren’t just a great excuse to go shopping; they’re a way to support the livelihoods of traditional Kenyan tribal groups. With the mission to empower local people through trade and technology, these markets aim to promote ethically-sourced products and the proceeds directly support Maasai artisans. With colourful beaded jewellery, artworks, pottery and textiles, take home a piece of Kenya with you and help local Maasai people better their lives. Sounds like a win-win to us!
Walk through Karura Forest
If you want to jam-pack as many outdoor activities as possible into your Kenyan adventure, head straight to the Karura Forest. Located about 6 kilometres from the Nairobi city centre, this gorgeous natural oasis is the perfect place to escape the bustling city and soak up some good vibes. With many walking, hiking and cycling trails, you can turn up the adrenaline as much as you’d like. Keener on the idea of relaxing and rejuvenating? Take a picnic lunch and pick a spot near the Forest’s waterfall. But do beware: the forest is full of local monkeys who are used to stealing tourists’ lunches!
Take a Kibera Tour
While Kenya is full of natural beauty and impressive estates, about a third of Nairobi’s population lives in extreme poverty, concentrated in a slum community called Kibera. Discover a different side to city on a Kibera Tour. Located about 3 kilometres south east of the Nairobi city centre, Kibera is home to over 1 million residents – all camped up in only 2.5 square kilometres of space. With no permanent residential buildings and minimal services and amenities, Kibera is a great example of urban slums that are common all over the continent. In fact, Kibera is the largest urban slum in Africa. Meet residents and support local businesses and NGOs by taking a tour of this interesting community.
Things to do in Nairobi
Lamu Cultural Festival
Showcasing the natural beauty and unique culture of the city of Lamu, the Lamu Cultural Festival takes place every November. Held over three days, this festival sees people participate in unique games and rituals, including show sailing and donkey races. It’s also a great place to try delicious Swahili delicacies.
Safaricom International Jazz Festival
One of the biggest musical events on the Kenyan calendar, the Safaricom International Jazz Festival is packed with jazz concerts and performances. Held over a week every February, the festival has hosted the likes of jazz musicians such as Jonathan Butler, Jimmy Dludlu, Kunle Ayo, Salif Keita and Chris Bitok.
Nairobi Restaurant Week
If you love to eat, you’ll want to experience Nairobi Restaurant Week. Running across 10 days from late January to early February, this city-wide food festival is a celebration of Nairobi’s culinary scene. Restaurants around the city plan special menus for the festival, which often come with free cocktails. Good food and free drinks; what’s not to love?
International Camel Derby and Festival
Sports & Culture
One of the most unique festivals in Nairobi is the International Camel Derby. This festival is a chance for camel riders from around the world to come together and compete in camel races and dressage competitions. A celebration of the unique culture of the desert, this three-day festival is not to be missed.
Africa Nouveau Festival
Born out of the former Blankets and Wine Festival that focused on African music, the Africa Nouveau Festival is bigger and better than its predecessor. Aiming to build on the celebration of African art, this new festival includes visual arts, fashion and food, as well as its original musical line ups. Held over a weekend in February, check out this celebration of Afro-art in Nairobi.
Top 5 Festivals in Nairobi
As the Kenyan capital, there’s always something buzzing in Nairobi. One of the best times to visit Nairobi is during its festival season. With many events and celebrations happening year-round, here are our picks for five festivals in Nairobi that you should experience.
Karen Blixen Museum
Lovers of literature need no introduction to Karen Blixen. The Danish author is famous for her book Out of Africa, which was set at the estate that now houses the Karen Blixen Museum. Walk through her former home and experience the place that inspired this classic masterpiece.
Bomas of Kenya
If you’re keen to learn about the cultural history of Kenya, head straight to the Bomas of Kenya. This tourist village features different houses and homesteads of seven major tribes of Kenya. Learn about their unique histories and customs at this fascinating museum.
Nairobi Railway Museum
Located right next to the Nairobi Railway Station is the Nairobi Railway Museum. Telling the history of the once-famous East Africa Railway (which is now defunct), learn about the company, the ambitious East African Railway system, and see some of its original trains at this locomotive museum.
The Nairobi Gallery
Art lovers, here’s one for you. Located in a stunning British-style building in the heart of Nairobi is the Nairobi Gallery. Built in 1913, this old government office once recorded the births, marriages and deaths of Kenya. Today, the building is a national monument and holds some of the country’s most valuable artworks.
Nairobi Snake Park
What began as a research facility focusing on reptiles and breeding of snakes has now turned into one of Nairobi’s most unique attractions. The Nairobi Snake Park is home to various animals, but is most famous for its live snake exhibits. If you’re not a fan of these slippery reptiles, you can check out its octopus and bird exhibitions, as well as get the chance to feed live fish to the crocodiles.
Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Nairobi
When it comes to what to do in this incredible city, our suggestion is to check out some of the awesome Nairobi museums. From admiring African art to feeding local animals, here are our pick for the top five Nairobi attractions to visit.
When it comes to local cuisine, nothing is more quintessentially Kenyan than ugali. Made using maize flour that is boiled until it forms a dough-like consistency, ugali is somewhat similar to polenta. Eaten as a bread substitute and served with everything from bean soup to curry, pick up some ugali at Mama Oliech’s Restaurant in Nairobi.
Best eaten at Mama Oliech's Restaurant, Marcus Garvey Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
The ultimate in Kenyan comfort food, nyama choma is one of the most-celebrated dishes in Kenya. This roasted meat dish is typically made using goat, which is marinated and slow-roasted until tender. Typically served during festivals and celebrations, you can try this tasty dish at Njuguna’s Place in Nairobi.
Best eaten at Njuguna's Place, Waiyaki Way, Nairobi, Kenya
If you love street food, you can’t go past chips mayai. This fried omelette is made using only two ingredients: eggs and French fries. One of the most popular snacks in Kenya, you’ll find street vendors selling this all over Nairobi. But be warned: it’s impossible to just stop at one.
Best eaten at Any local market
A native dish of the Kikuyu tribe of Central Kenya, githeri quickly became one of the most iconic Kenyan dishes. Healthy and filling, this bean and corn stew is sometimes made using potatoes, chunks of beef and spiced with chilli. Served with ugali or chapatis, pick up a bowl of githeri at Bridges Organic Restaurant on Tubman Road in Nairobi.
Best eaten at Bridges Organic Restaurant, Tubman Road, Nairobi, Kenya
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll fall in love with mandazi. These rich, East African doughnuts have a coconut milk base, and are flavoured with cardamom and coconut flakes. A favourite with all Kenyans, you’ll find street vendors selling mandazi all over across Nairobi, but we like how they make them at Mama Oliech’s.
Best eaten at Mama Oliech's Restaurant, Marcus Garvey Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
Food in Nairobi
If you’re planning a trip to Kenya, come hungry. As the country’s capital, rest assured that Nairobi food is some of the best in the country. From spicy githeri to sweet mandazi, here are our picks for five foods to try in Nairobi.