Table of Contents
- 1 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Understand
- 2 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Pollution
- 3 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Get Around
- 4 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Safety
- 5 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Connectivity
- 6 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Sights
- 7 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Eat & Drink
- 8 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Co-Working
- 9 My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Where to Stay
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Understand
The capital of Kenya is located 5,889 ft above sea level. Not enough to give you a constant headache, but enough to make the weather this close to the equator more bearable and the gym a rough test of endurance.
Nairobi has a lot of green spaces and at times feels like a big suburb. Urbanization hasn’t come too far here and it is mostly the Westlands and the Central Business District that see bigger buildings and have an urban feel.
Nairobi has seen a building boom and a hotel boom in the last few years, which make it look more like a city in South Africa than most other African capitals.
Given the USD 1: 100 KES exchange rate, Kenya isn’t cheap. Food is priced at US levels, if not above, for similar (or worse) quality. Uber isn’t cheap either and hotels will set you back $100-$200 per night. There aren’t any bargains to be had in Kenya, including in supermarkets or sightseeing.
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Pollution
Air pollution is a major issue, as there’s a lot of old diesel-powered buses and trucks. You will notice a constant amount of diesel exhaust and dust in your nose at the end of the day. The good news is that there is usually a breeze and a few hundred feet from the main roads, the air is usually much better.
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Get Around
Uber is in town and while not exactly a bargain, it will be your best choice and is safe. Taxis are unlikely to give you any fair quotes, even if you know the right prices.
Nairobi roads range from excellent to sorry. Don’t be surprised to find that you come off a perfectly smooth freeway onto a dirt road with huge potholes a few minutes later. It’s possible to drive yourself in Nairobi but make sure you have good insurance and that you feel familiar with the local road rules.
Traffic is unpredictable here and 2 miles can take several hours if the traffic hits the wrong roundabouts (which are often gridlocked). Keep that in mind when taking Uber to the airport in the morning or evening.
Nairobi is generally walkable but expect to breathe in a lot of pollution and to share the space with motorbikes and trucks. Walking Nairobi is no fun!
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Safety
Let’s face it – Nairobi is short on many public services, such as electricity, roads and public safety. While crime statistics have shown that it has gotten safer year after year, walking around after dark is simply not a great idea in the more deserted areas.
It’s perfectly fine to walk around during the day in areas that have enough passersby. I also felt fine walking around Westlands at night.
There is no real police presence that patrols the streets. Stay in your car after dark and avoid the more shady neighborhoods even during the day. If you follow these simple rules, you should be perfectly fine.
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Connectivity
Kenya has some of the fastest Internet speeds in Africa. Expect 2-10 Mbit in your hotel, as well as in coffee shops and airline lounges. ADSL lines that provide 10 Mbit or more are widely available in most homes. The T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan includes Kenya in its coverage (though on my last visit, I was never able to roam, even after many resets).
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Sights
Keep in mind that Nairobi is more like a suburb and not rich in sights.
This is a medium-sized museum with a couple of good exhibitions. It tells the story of the cradle of humankind that happened in Kenya and Ethiopia and runs you through Kenya’s process of independence. It’s good stuff, but foreigners pay $14 for the pleasure – that’s way too much!
The Central Business District (CBD) lets you see Nairobi in a nutshell. There is traffic, and there are markets, offices and lots of places for lunch. Take an hour and stroll through the area during the day.
Stop by the Jamia Mosque if you feel the area is safe enough.
Uhuru Park (near CBD)
On a weekend, Nairobians come together in city parks like Uhuru, which is surprisingly well-maintained and makes for a nice stroll all the way down to Luna Park.
After being the target of a heinous attack by Al-Qaeda, the mall has reopened in all its old glory. The ground floor is the most interesting, with an Artcaffe, Tapas Ceviche bar and a Dormans coffee shop.
In Nairobi, you can actually go on a ‘safari’ without leaving the city proper! This park is located just outside the city and can be reached in 30 minutes or less (go very early to avoid traffic and you can see more animals at sunrise).
You either need to join a tour or you can use your own vehicle if you are brave enough to drive in Nairobi. The entrance fees for foreigners are steep and all-inclusive day tours cost about $150.
This gorgeous mall will remind you of the best that Southern California has to offer, or on a sunny day, you may think that you are in Italy. The mall offers all the major Nairobian food chains (though many offer delicious food and do not deserve the ‘chain’ label).
There are a number of shops here, too, including a Carrefour supermarket.
This outdoor heaven is just 3 miles from the Westlands area and is a great place to go for a run. Keep in mind that you should leave before sunset and that the altitude will make workouts more demanding than what you may be used to.
This luxury hotel close to the CBD combines European influences with Kenyan hospitality. It is a nice building and has some lovely grounds but the place is hemmed in by traffic too much.
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Eat & Drink
Artcaffe has a number of locations across town but my favorite is the location at The Oval.
The big patio overlooks the Westlands area and they serve delicious food, coffee and alcohol. The quality is excellent, though the prices for food and drinks are high (coffee is cheaper, though). The location gets MUCH less traffic compared my last visit in 2014 and felt eerily empty this time.
Hashmi serves great Tandoori barbecue and fries. It’s a bit of greasy affair but so delicious!
With that name, you may expect a mixed drink bar with some complicated Jagermeister drinks like in Montreal. Well, no, it is actually a ‘Berlin-style’ outdoor bar with a number of food trucks. It’s a great spot where you can chill and enjoy a drink.
Fogo Gaucho is a big chain that has landed several locations in Nairobi. The buffet is $23 per person (excluding drinks) which is a lot, but you won’t leave hungry. The grilled meats are excellent and there are plenty of vegetarian options to go along with them.
Java House is a local coffee chain that brews decent espresso drinks and serves heart-stopping breakfast options and good pastries. It’s a great option if you are in a hurry.
Haandi serves fantastic Indian cuisine on the second floor of a decrepit strip mall. Don’t judge this book by its cover, though, as the curries are superb (but priced a bit on the high side).
Ocean Basket has cornered the seafood dining experience in Nairobi. Expect delicious, modern creations – though many center around some form of fried seafood.
Like many hotels in Nairobi, the Sankara Hotel features a rooftop pool and bar, with live music at night. It’s a calm place for a drink.
If you are craving Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine, this is the place to head for. While the food wasn’t exceptional, the outdoor patio is a great spot to spend a Nairobi evening.
If you need a caffeine fix, the mug delivers a decent coffee experience.
Dormans is now an Artcaffe subsidiary and offers the same pastry options. The coffee is better here than at Artcaffe, though.
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Co-Working
Nairobi is one of Africa’s tech hubs and has a number of co-working spaces.
Occupying the third floor of a loft-like environment, the Westlands location is likely Nairobi’s biggest co-working space. The day pass comes at $22, which is pretty steep. Weekly and monthly contracts are much better value here.
Regus locations including Jumia House
I also visited a number of Regus locations, including Jumia House, which looked very much as expected. Access is complimentary with a Regus Businessworld Gold membership and the lounges have fast Internet and free soft drinks.
My 27 Favorite Things to do Nairobi, Kenya – Where to Stay
There are a number of great options in Nairobi now, which has seen a hotel boom in recent times. I like the Radisson Blu for its design and superb new rooms. It’s not an ideal location, though.
I stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson this time, which has rooms almost as good and a fantastic location.