Baby elephants, friendly giraffes and other wildlife are the focus of attention in Kenya’s capital. Here are some things to do in Nairobi. While Nairobi is a modern African city, the colonial past that moulded Nairobi’s character still has a strong influence. You won’t be bored as there are several fun places in Nairobi, whether you’re travelling with the family or solo. From wildlife experiences right in the city to shopping, culture, restaurants and bars in Nairobi. The city is an intriguing mix of nature and city attractions.
Things to do in Nairobi
1– Visit the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi
One of the fun places to visit in Nairobi is the orphaned baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
At 11 am each day (for one hour only) members of the public are allowed into the elephant enclosure to watch the cute baby elephants guzzling milk from a bottle.
Keepers provide informative and entertaining talks about elephant behaviour while the curious baby elephants entertain the crowd with their antics.
The talk reveals interesting facts about elephants.
Elephants share many traits with humans including emotions such as sorrow and joy; some are prone to fits of jealousy and throw tantrums; others are intensely competitive; they grieve for lost loved ones and can suffer from depression.
One adventurous elephant approaches the crowd, touching some young girls with its trunk.
The girls squeal in delight as the baby elephant makes their acquaintance. Half an hour later, the second group of elephants are led into the clearing.
There are oohs and aahs as we watch the keepers bottle-feed the two-year-old pachyderms with plastic cartons of milk.
Feeding time is followed by a game of soccer between the elephants and their keepers.
This elephant orphanage in Nairobi is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1977 after the death David Sheldrick, a naturalist and warden at Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park.
Over the last 30 years, David’s wife, Daphne, has built a reputation as a wildlife authority. Her persistence led to the discovery of an elephant milk formula that has saved hundreds of orphaned elephants.
Entry is free but donations of Ksh300 are encouraged.
The trust also runs an animal fostering programme where for a small sum you’ll receive a fostering certificate, a watercolour print of you fostered elephant and monthly updates on how your fostered elephant is faring for one year.
2- Kiss a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre
Besides the elephant orphanage in Nairobi, another fun place to visit in Nairobi for wildlife lovers is the Giraffe Centre.
The centre was founded in 1979 by Jock Leslie-Melville, the Kenyan grandson of a Scottish earl, and his wife Betty.
The couple first became intrigued by giraffes that poked their heads through the first-floor bedroom of their English-style mansion.
Have you heard about the giraffe manor in Nairobi? Their home is now a manor hotel where guests can have the delightful experience of giraffes sticking their heads through the windows.
At the Giraffe Centre, there’s a raised platform that provides visitors the chance to stand at eye level with the centre’s resident Rothschild giraffes.
The giraffes are used to human contact and will eat peanut pellets out of your hand or lick them from between your lips.
Inside the centre, there’s an educational display about the various subspecies of African giraffes and the areas each group are most commonly found.
The Rothschild Giraffe is an endangered species that is threatened by hybridisation (or interbreeding) with other giraffe subspecies.
3- Have a meal at Carnivore
Kenya’s most famous nyama choma (barbequed meat) restaurant – Carnivore – is constantly voted as one Africa’s top restaurants. Dining at Carnivore is quite an experience.
At the entrance, there’s a huge barbeque pit stacked with swords of beef, pork, lamb and chicken.
Waiters in animal-print uniforms keep bringing swords of meat around to the tables, carving off chunks onto your plate.
The restaurant also serves more exotic meats like camel, ostrich (don’t miss the ostrich balls) and crocodile but new laws have taken zebra, hartebeest, kudu and other wildlife off the menu.
Wash the meal down with a glass or two of Dawa, which is a classic Kenyan cocktail made at the table by the dawa man who carries a wooden tray with the ingredients – vodka, sugar, lime and honey – required.
4- Discover culture and history at the Nairobi National Museum
For a dose of history and culture, wander through the Nairobi National Museum. There are galleries with displays of Kenyan culture and stuffed wildlife.
The gardens are dotted with a variety of sculptures, including a life-size model of Ahmed, the elephant that became an icon at the height of the 1980’s poaching crisis. Volunteer guides offer tours in English.
5- Take a photo of the Nairobi skyline
Gaze at the view of the city and suburbs from the viewing platform at the Kenyatta Conference Centre.
The centre, with its dome-shaped tower, stands out along the Nairobi skyline and is a fusion of contemporary and traditional African styles.
6- Go on a Nairobi National Park safari
One of the fun Nairobi things to do is to pull on your khakis and head off on safari. One of the main attractions in Nairobi is the Nairobi National Park on the fringes of the city.
Nairobi is the only city in the world with a wildlife park that has a backdrop of skyscrapers. If you don’t have time to make it out to a Masai Mara safari then you’re in luck.
The road joining Karen with the Nairobi CBD cuts through a section of the Nairobi National Park, which is 117sqkm of wilderness at the city’s edge.
That makes Nairobi the only city in the world with a safari park knocking on the door of the city centre. Where else would you be able to work in a city office and drive through a safari park on your way home each day?
Situated at southern outskirts of the city, the animals in Nairobi National Park are unperturbed by speeding matatus (public minibuses) and landing jets.
There’s a good chance of spotting gazelles, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs and leopards. The landscape is a mixture of savannah and swampland and the park also boasts a high concentration of black rhinos.
7- Visit the Karen Blixen Museum
The Karen Blixen Museum conjures images of the classic movie Out of Africa, which starred Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
The museum is in the suburb of Karen, which was named after Danish writer Karen Blixen who wrote Out of Africa under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen.
In 1954, Blixen was a contender for the Nobel Prize for literature but lost to Ernest Hemingway.
When Blixen left Kenya, the land which she owned was divided into smaller parcels that became the suburb of Karen.
The museum is located in the farmhouse where the real Karen Blixen, the Danish baroness and coffee planter lived between 1914 and 1931.
It has lovely gardens and the farmhouse has been restored almost to its original condition in 1931, when Blixen left.
Much of her furniture is displayed along with a few props used in the movie Out of Africa(starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford).
A short drive down the road from the museum is the Karen Blixen Cottages and Coffee Gardens with cottage-style accommodation and five different indoor and outdoor dining areas.
8- Dance at the Bomas
One of the things to do in Nairobi for fun is to shake your hips and move your lips to the rhythmic music of the tribes.
The Bomas of Kenya is a cultural centre that displays bomas (or villages) of several Kenyan tribes and is the place to go to meet tribes from across Kenya.
Music, cultural and colourful dance performances are held every day.
9- Explore Nairobi’s city markets
One of the best places to visit in Nairobi for souvenir shopping is the City Market on Muindi Mbingu Street (open daily from 9 am until 5 pm, Sundays from 9 am until 1 pm).
Wandering around the market stalls hunting for carvings, scarves, masks and bags is one of those Nairobi things to do for local colour.
You’ll find yourself pestered by vendors and are likely to come out draped in beads.
10- Take a day trip from Nairobi to Lake Magadi
A day trip from Nairobi brings you to Lake Magadi, a mineral-rich soda lake that pink flamingos flock to by the thousands.
The flamingos are able to nest in safety as the lake is surrounded by extensive salt flats where other animals cannot survive.
This lake was also where the movie The Constant Gardener was filmed.
Best time to visit Nairobi
The climate in Nairobi is subtropical and the elevation of Nairobi is 1795m. There are two main seasons: a dry season and the rainy season. Fortunately, Nairobi’s rainy season is short (ate October to December). November is usually the wettest month. So, the best time to visit Nairobi is from July to October or in January and February when it is dry.
Cheapest flights to Nairobi
Flights to Nairobi are serviced by several airlines from all over the world. Cheap flights to Kenya are often available, especially from Dubai to Nairobi or London to Nairobi. Flights from Nairobi leave from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is the main airport in Nairobi and a hub connecting other cities in Kenya and Africa. If you’re looking for some beach time in Kenya, there are regular flights to Mombasa from Nairobi.
Car hire in Nairobi
Car hire in Nairobi is available through large international companies such as Avis and Hertz. But if you’re looking to save money there are several local companies that offer budget car rental too.
Hotels in Nairobi
Nairobi accommodation has been growing rapidly and these days, there are several options including luxury boutique hotels, international chains and budget hotels in Nairobi. If you’re planning on staying longer you may be able to find apartments to rent in Nairobi too.
Boutique hotels in Nairobi
Kenya was once a British colony and you can soak up the British colonial ambience at these luxury hotels in Nairobi. Hemingway Nairobi and House of Waine are two of the top hotels in Karen Nairobi.
1- Fairmont The Norfolk hotel
Kenya, or British East Africa, as it was known, was a hunting ground for big-game hunters. And The Norfolk Hotel was their favourite watering hole before and after expeditions. Also clinking glasses with the hunters were younger sons of the British gentry who were seeking their fortunes in a new land and wealthy visitors from Europe, there to escape from freezing northern winters.
In the Flame Trees of Thika, Huxley wrote of how her father bought land at Thika in the bar of the Norfolk “from a man wearing an Old Etonian tie.” Read a review of the Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel.
2- Hemingway Hotel Nairobi
While not exactly a small hotel, Hemingway Nairobi has the feeling of staying in the home of a rich uncle. With beautiful gardens and beautifully decorated suites, you’ll feel like royalty staying in this Nairobi luxury hotel.
3- House of Waine
For somewhere a bit smaller, House of Waine is in the green upmarket suburb of Karen and is one of the smaller boutique hotels in Nairobi.
Budget hotels in Nairobi
There are a few budget hotels in Nairobi, along with homestays and private accommodation that comes with kitchen appliances and everything you would need to feel like you’re staying in a home away from home. Here are some options.
1- Maison Mitwaba
2- Superb Home Apartments
3- Kandiz Queendom
Apartments to rent in Nairobi
1- Hillpark Hotel Nairobi
Hillpark Hotel Nairobi has suites, one- and three-bedroom apartments for short-term stays.
2- Woodmere Serviced Apartments
Woodmere Serviced Apartments has studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments in a garden setting. Apartments have all the modern conveniences, including flat-screen television sets. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool and sauna.
3- Executive Residency by Best Western
Apartments at Executive Residency by Best Western have bathrooms, kitchens, dining areas and complimentary wireless internet. It also has a restaurant and bar.
Best restaurants in Nairobi
Food in Nairobi is varied and in recent years new restaurants and bars have popped up all over the city.
Carnivore is a restaurant for meat eaters and a destination experience for everyone else.
2- Furusato Nairobi
Furusato Japanese restaurant has a decent feed if you’re hankering for sushi or teppanyaki.
3- The Talisman
With its safari-chic decor and clubby atmosphere, the Talisman restaurant is the place where local expats love hanging out.
Clubs in Nairobi
Check out these clubs and bars in Nairobi for fun after dark.
1- Black Diamond Nairobi
Black Diamond Bar & Grill is a local hotspot with good music, good food and affordable cocktails. It has a cafe, club, restaurant and a DJ.
Things to do in Kenya
Kenya is known for its big game safaris where you can spot the Big Five. The Maasai Mara is the most popular safari destination in Kenya. Here are places to stay and experiences in the Maasai Mara.
Luxury safari camps in Kenya
Kenya is famous for wildlife and staying at a luxury safari camp is a bucket list experience. Here are three camps in the Masai Mara we love.