Nairobi: The City You Didn’t Know Will Rock Your World

We’re skipping continents this week for Travel Tuesday, heading south from our recent Mediterranean Europe adventures and over to Africa.

Nairobi is the largest city in Kenya, as well as its capital, and is probably most famous for its national park. Let’s take a look and see what else this fascinating city has to offer.

The Basics

The name Nairobi translates as cool water from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi. The city is also often referred to as Green City in the Sun, Nai, and Silicon Savannah. The languages found in Kenya are typically English and Swahili, and in Nairobi there is also Sheng, which is a slang mixture of both of these languages and seen by some as not only a language, but a way of life.

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Photo via Wikipedia

What the northern hemisphere tends to think of as summer is actually Nairobi’s coolest time of the year, although do not let the thought of winter temperatures put you off – the average temperature for July is 23℃. If you want hotter than that, then you are best to plan your visit around February or March, when the average is 28℃.

Other things to consider: the time zone for Kenya is UTC+3, the main airport you need to get to Nairobi is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and the currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES).

Finally, it pains us to have to do this but we also feel the need to be responsible: check your government travel advice before you plan your visit due to unrest in the area and the threat of potential terrorist attacks.

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On to the fun stuff!

Let’s start with some indoor stuff. For those of you familiar with Out Of Africa then the Karen Blixen Museum (Rungstedlund) will be of interest. Brown’s Cheese Factory (and farm) will give you a history lesson as well as a few free samples, and the Nairobi National Museum will give you an insight into life in Nairobi.

The Junction Mall is Nairobi’s biggest shopping centre so if shopping is an important part of your holiday, this is the place for you. The Village Market is a huge shopping, entertainment and recreation complex that is also definitely worth a visit.

And now to the outdoor stuff, because let’s be honest, this is what we think of when we think about Nairobi. There are countless tours and safaris for you to do; look out for reputable companies and don’t be tempted by too-good-to-be-true low prices. Karura Forest is, for want of a better word, stunning. The Giraffe Center will tell you all you need to know about giraffe conservation and breeding (and the centre itself is funded almost entirely by entrance fees, so you’ll be doing something good just by going!). Finally, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a must visit if you want to learn more about conservation and wildlife poaching.

Nairobi National Park

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Photo via Wikimedia

No, we didn’t forget about this place, we promise! Referred to as The World’s Wildlife Capital, Nairobi National Park was established in 1946 and hosts one of the widest ranges of flora and fauna for a park of its size. The park is an integral part of the tourism as education and conversation outlook, teaching visitors about the importance of our natural environment whilst allowing visitors to see animals they wouldn’t often get to see elsewhere.

There are picnic areas, campsites, and walking trails for hikers, so once you’ve had your fill of animals there are other things for you to do. Entrance fees are around $50, and if you think you can persuade your bosses, the park also holds corporate events: team building with tigers sounds amazing to us!

Eat, drink and be merry…

Let’s eat! The Talisman restaurant comes highly recommended and offers a menu said to suit any pallet. The Tamarind is the seafood restaurant to visit in Nairobi, and Fogo Gaucho offers a wide selection of meat as Nairobi’s best Brazilian-style restaurant.

Java House is actually a chain of cafes with a delicious fusion of American and African food (and coffee, naturally). Habesha will serve you authentic Ethiopian cuisine that is popular with locals and tourists alike. Chowpaty is a vegetarian restaurant with an extensive menu that will leave any visitor satisfied.

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Photo via Wikimedia

The Exchange Bar will serve you drinks while giving you the chance to soak up a little history; this building was, for 37 years, home to the Nairobi Stock Exchange. The Dancing Spoon is a restaurant and wine bar that is a great spot for a relaxed evening out, and the Mercury Lounge will offer you cocktails and tapas as well as all the usual wines, beers and spirits you might expect to find.

The Brew Bistro offers you craft beer, private lounges, and one of the best atmospheres you will find on a night out in Nairobi. The K1 Klubhouse is an interesting mix of places where you can listen to live jazz on a Tuesday, see live bands on a Saturday, and watch your favourite team win (or lose) in Soccer City as part of the package. The reggae night on Thursday is the what the club is renowned for, however, so if you can stick around for this, you are in for a treat.

Honestly, there are so many places to visit and things to see and do in Nairobi that to do the city any sort of justice, we would have to write at least a couple more articles to come even close to covering it all. How about you visit for yourself and tell us what you liked best?