We have gathered the ultimate city guide with everything you will need to navigate your way through the exciting city of Nairobi.
Nairobi is the youngest and most cosmopolitan city in East Africa and the business hub for corporations doing business in East Africa. All that adds up to a robust and growing expat city just begging to be explored.
This city offers a unique mixture of African culture and access to wildlife. Where else in the world can you see safari animals with a skyscraper in the backdrop? Or a Maasai warrior in his full garb ordering chicken and biscuits from KFC? You can see why it belongs on every well-traveled traveler’s bucket list.
When to Visit
The city of Nairobi, though close to the equator, sits at a higher altitude than the rest of the country at just under 6,000 feet. This creates mild weather year-round with low humidity and less of those pesky mosquitos — yes, please!
The only times to strictly avoid visiting Nairobi are during the “long rains” from March to May. Most trails and access roads are impassable during these months and traveling here is not advised. October and November are the other rainy season known as the “shorter rains” but not enough to disrupt your travels like the long rains.
As US citizens are required to have a visa to visit Kenya you want to make sure you have at least two blank pages and six months’ validity. Refer to our handy international travel guide for tips to get you ready for any international travel.
Consider getting the East African multiple entry visa for USD 100 if you plan to visit Uganda or Rwanda as well. It will save you so much time (and money) at border crossings and is good for 90 days from the date of issuance. You can get this type of visa upon arrival or in advance as well.
NOTE: Visa requirements can change at any time so always check before you go.
Where to Stay
From bush camp lodges to bucket-list worthy manors there is no shortage of options to rest your head after a full day of touring this metropolis. Here are some stand out options to consider for your trip to Nairobi.
We’ve all seen it scrolling through our Instagrams, a giraffe popping its head in to have breakfast with you. Yes, it’s on everyone’s dream bucket list — including ours.
The 1930s manor house is the most coveted spot to rest your head in Nairobi. Located in the southern part of Nairobi in the quiet and luxurious suburb of Langata this boutique hotel has only 10 rooms and books up months in advance. Be sure to plan far enough ahead to be lucky enough for what we consider a once-in-a-lifetime must stay hotel.
Tribe is arguably Nairobi’s coolest hotel and eclectically mixes the old and new with its artfully designed decor. It’s an Instagram lovers dream hotel. Tribe boasts a popular weekend brunch at their restaurant Jiko, and has a Moroccan themed rooftop bar perfect for catching those famous equatorial sunsets. A popular hotel with influencers and businessmen alike in the north end of Nairobi located in the diplomatic district.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to stay at the Nairobi Serena Hotel. It was the location of the peace deals made which ended the 2008 Kenyan crisis. The most centrally located hotel on our list in the heart of Nairobi among the hustle and bustle of the city and a part of Kenya’s political history.
Where to Eat
Our favorite topic to talk about in any city! We’ll help you navigate the maze of tourist traps versus local hidden gems.
Whenever I’m in a city for an extended amount of time with lots of free time to explore I like to find a local blogger who’s style and voice speaks to me. That’s how you’ll find the gems outside the tourist traps. Luckily I had a friend that was living and working in Nairobi who shared his wisdom and favorites spots.
After spending almost two weeks in Nairobi here are all the gems I found!
My favorite hideaway in the suburb of Karen was Boho Eatery. Don’t miss one of the most beautifully chic spots to dine on mostly vegetarian eats (don’t worry they serve meat dishes too) like the delicious mushroom ceviche. It’s cozy, idyllic and the food is outrageously good.
Get there early and grab a comfy spot outside on the patio and a bottle of rosé. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending the whole afternoon there.
Another one of my favorites was the Tin Roof Cafe serving delicious homemade healthy eats in a peaceful outdoor space. I was obsessed with the chapati wraps! There is one in Karen and Langata.
We ate here three times in two weeks. It was hands down our favorite spot in Nairobi for authentic and delicious Indian food. Order the Malai mushrooms — trust!
British Indians were some of the first expats to arrive in Kenya. They were laborers brought to build the ‘Lunatic Express’ across East Africa. Thanks to the sizable population of Indian expats in Nairobi you can find excellent Indian food here.
Ever think you’d be having award-winning cheese in Kenya? Well, that is exactly what you’ll find at Brown’s cheese started by two Cornell grads. It’s an interactive day filled with delicious farm to table eats and don’t miss the salted caramel ice cream as well.
You can have lunch at the farm for 4,000 Kenyan shillings (USD 40) per person which includes a cheese making tour, tour of the biodynamic gardens, 3-course lunch (everything is grown in the farm), and 3 glasses of beer or wine per person.
NOTE: Don’t miss the amazing Great Rift Valley just 15 mins away from Brown’s cheese and if you have kids they are also allowed to milk the cows if they want.
Super popular Mama Oliech is a Nairobi institution. Ugali is a cornmeal-based maize porridge and staple food of East Africa. Mama Oliech is one of the best places to try this national dish alongside their famous signature whole fried tilapia from Lake Nakuru.
Touristy but worth the visit! Mark Zuckerberg and Obama would agree.
Every tourist that comes to Nairobi has Carnivore on their list. Why? Because Nairobi is known for serving up their famous nyama choma or roasted meats and also the best place to try exotic game meat as well.
While it’s famous, it’s super touristy but we wanted to include it for our meat lovers.
We know food and where you rest your head are key travel concerns, but we would never leave you with just those bits. Nairobi has so much to offer that we just couldn’t fit it all into one article!
Tune in next week for part II of the Ultimate Nairobi City Guide for what to do, where to drink and other key things to note to plan your dream East African holiday!
Feature photo via artsytecture.com