Last week we dished all about where to stay and the best places to eat in Nairobi, here’s Part 2 of the Ultimate Nairobi City Guide. This week it’s all about what to do, where to drink, where to get your groove on, and other key elements to help you plan the perfect Kenyan holiday.
What to do in Nairobi
It should come as no surprise that DSWT is our number one not-to-be-missed recommended activity in Nairobi. DWST rescues and cares for baby elephants and rhinos, raises them and introduces them back into the wild.
For one hour daily from 11 am to noon, visitors are allowed to watch the orphans’ midafternoon feeding and mud bath time. This was the single best animal encounter in all of East Africa for me. Our article about DWST has everything you need to have the best possible experience there.
In the suburbs of Karen, live out your wildest Out of Africa dreams at Karen Blixen’s house. Blixen purchased the house back in 1917 with her then-husband to start their coffee plantation.
Today the house is a museum and serves to remember the woman who would forever change the landscape and history of Nairobi. Yes, the whole suburb is named after her!
Unfortunately, we can’t all afford to stay at Giraffe Manor BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t come face to face with a rare Rothschild giraffe.
Anyone can visit Langata Giraffe Centre to interact, feed and yes even kiss a Rothschild giraffe as I did. Don’t worry, their tongue and saliva are antiseptic so you won’t get sick or catch any diseases from smooching one. They are super wet kisses, however!
The giraffes here are the same giraffe’s that pop their heads into Giraffe Manor. Giraffe Manor is actually located on the same grounds and you can spot the manor from the second-floor feeding platform. It’s only 1000 Kenyan shillings (USD 10) to visit and they are open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
Here are some fun giraffe facts I learned during my visit:
- A group of giraffes is called a tower? How appropriate, right?
- Giraffes only need 5 – 30 mins of sleep a day
- They only drink water every few days
- Their spots are like our fingerprints and unique to each individual
The National Museum of Kenya is an extraordinary cultural and historical experience worth a visit. From the birds of East Africa hall to the evolution of man, I was pleasantly surprised at how extensive this museum was. You’ll learn all about the different tribes and traditions of Kenya. It’s a great place to take the kids for an afternoon of learning.
You can also purchase a separate ticket to visit the snake park. For our reptile lovers, don’t miss your chance to hold a snake!
Just a quick drive away from the city center lies Nairobi National Park with abundant wildlife for the most accessible safari experience without actually going on a safari.
You can see roughly 90% of all the wildlife you would see on Safari here from cape buffalos, lions, zebras to rhinos. Nairobi National Park is home to the world’s densest concentration of black rhinos. It has earned the nickname ‘Kifaru Ark’ meaning sanctuary for rhinos.
Head to the market on Fridays for the weekly Maasai Market and make sure you have enough US cash or Kenyan shillings on you. Everything at the market is negotiable so try your hand at haggling. It’s part of the culture and half the fun of visiting these markets. You can buy classic Massai blankets, hand-carved wooden African statues, and stunning paintings of wildlife, amongst other treasures.
Another must-visit spot is the Nairobi Flea Market. Every Sunday, they host brunch and live music. It’s a popular spot to shop for emerging local artisans and fashion brands.
Where to have a Sundowner
Hemingways Nairobi is hands down the best spot in town to have one of the tastiest, ridiculously strong and surprisingly affordable cocktail in Nairobi. The bar is on the second floor of the beautiful Hemingways Nairobi hotel. Grab a seat outside and watch the gorgeous sunset.
Fair warning though, two to three drinks here and you might not remember that sundowner!
For all our beer fans, head over to Brew Bistro for a cold one. All their beers are brewed in house and they also offer a happy hour from 5 -7 pm daily. Grab your tasty drink and head on up to the rooftop for some sweet views. They serve a full menu of food as well.
There are two locations, one in Fortis Tower and the other at Ngong Road.
Where to dance the night away
Part food truck, art bazaar, live music nightclub and one hundred percent the best night out in Nairobi. We happened to go on open mic night and washed down our yummy Mama Rocks burgers with rounds of beers while watching some amazing live performances. A great spot for checking out underground artist. Check out their facebook page or website for upcoming events.
Looking to dance the night away? Paint the town Nairobi red? Head to Mercury Lounge where locals and expats alike go to party it up. It’s a super fun spot for music, dancing and drinking late into the Nairobi night.
If you ask a local where you should go to have a memorable night in Nairobi and nine times out of ten they will recommend this Klub. This spot is famous and for good reason. K1 hosts the hottest reggae night in Nairobi every Thursday night. You can’t help but dance the night away.
Other key things to note before you head to Nairobi
Before heading to any foreign country you’ll want to do all your research and make sure you are up-to-date on all your shots. For East Africa particularly you will want to be sure you are up to date on your tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A and diphtheria shots.
If you are coming from a country where yellow fever is prevalent, Kenya will require proof of your yellow fever immunization before entering. Make sure you have that yellow fever card with your passport to ensure you don’t get denied entry into the country.
Zika and Malaria are prevalent throughout East Africa. Some people prefer to take anti-malaria tablets and others just use bug spray and stay covered up. You should individually assess your preferences.
Kenya uses the Kenya Shilling (KES) and currently 1 USD = roughly 103 KES.
ATM’s are safe, easy and provide the best rates for Kenyan currency. While there are plenty of banks and ATMs throughout Nairobi make sure you pull out enough money before you head to smaller towns in Kenya where they are not as accessible.
Traffic in Nairobi will make LA traffic look like a joke. It’s really THAT bad so plan accordingly if you need to get across town (mainly to the Karen suburb) especially during rush hour. However, it can be bad at all hours even at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. A ten-minute ride could take up to an hour.
If you followed our international guide and have a cell phone plan with international service then Uber is your best way to get around. They are everywhere and easy to use throughout Nairobi and often safer and cheaper than the local taxi.
Unfortunately, crime is still prevalent in Nairobi especially once the sun goes down. For your own safety, it is recommended you take an Uber for short distances and even in the daylight hours. I had no issues using Uber during my entire stay and sometimes even as a solo female.
Nairobi is no stranger to terrorist attacks. The most recent Al-Shabab’s deadly hotel attack in Nairobi on January 15, 2019, was an apparent terrorist attack on an upscale hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, and it killed at least 14 people.
Something like this will not keep me from continuing to travel. Everyone should assess their own comfort levels and follow what they think is best. We did not change any of our plans but instead just took extra measures to ensure our safety while staying in Nairobi.
Things like this can happen anywhere, anytime, even in your home country. A deadly attack happened only 30 mins away from my family’s home in South Florida last year at a local high school. So no, do not let the issue of safety deter you. Let your life unfold as it should and keep doing those things you love, especially if it’s traveling.
This emerging vibrant concrete jungle holds the perfect juxtaposition to Kenya’s natural wildlife. Delicately merging the old and new, it balances historical African culture, exotic wildlife, delicious cuisine, and epic wild nightlife.
Don’t be deterred by the old nickname ‘Nairobbery’ as those who have managed to dig under the surface fall deeply in love with Nairobi, as I have.
Featured image by Young Lee @nakslee