Do you have only 2 days in Nairobi city before you head out to explore the rest of Kenya? Or may be you’ve just wrapped up your Kenya tour and are left with a couple of days to spend in Nairobi? I would say this is the perfect opportunity to make the most of your time and explore the city. Read on to find out what to do in Nairobi during your quick stopover.
Nairobi is like a second home to me. Having spent quite some time there on multiple occasions, I’ve had the chance to experience Nairobi like a resident. The city offers a vast array of activities you can indulge in even if you have only 2 days to spare. Since the time Kenya gained independence, Nairobi has made its presence felt on the world map, and how! From being the gateway to the unreal safari experiences across Kenya’s 20+ national parks, or the city’s vibrant local culture and buzzing markets, there is no dearth of interesting things to do in Nairobi. So let this article be your guide to some of the unique things to do in Nairobi that will leave you craving for more!
1Encounter African wildlife at Nairobi National Park
Ok, so this seems like one of the obvious things to do in Nairobi just because we are talking about Kenya? But did you ever think it was possible to be in a city AND visit an open national park at the same time? Probably not. But wait until you get to Nairobi! It’s not called the Safari Capital of the World for no good reason, right?
Just about 7 km from the city center lies the massive Nairobi National Park. It is the only one of its kind boasting of a city skyline in its background. Home to a variety of exotic species, Lions, Giraffes, Cheetahs, Hyenas and many others can be easily spotted here. And all that without even having to step out of the city! This is a completely exhilarating experience even if you have just come back from a full-fledged safari. The more you can see, the merrier, isn’t it?
This national park may not be as big as the more famous ones in Africa, but it still allows you to fully experience a game drive in a natural setting in case you are not able to make it to any other park in the region. And even if a bigger safari is on the cards, the Nairobi National Park is a great place to get an initial taste of African wilderness.
Before you wrap up the day, also drop by the Nairobi Animal Orphanage located within the compounds of the national park to learn how abandoned wild animals are rehabilitated. You can watch baby animals being fed and nurtured by the orphanage caregivers, and if you’re lucky, they may even allow you to feed one of the animals.
Entry fees for the national park non-residents: USD 43 (Adults), USD 22 (Children)
Entry fees for the orphanage for non-residents: USD 22 (Adults), USD 13 (Children)
2Take a stroll through Nairobi Safari Walk
The Nairobi Safari Walk is a recreational facility created just off the heart of the city. A walk through the enclosed safari park gives you a glimpse of the Kenyan wildlife, albeit on a small scale. The safari walk is almost like an open zoo. It is planned in a manner that you can get an uninterrupted view of the animals on your way through the park’s wooden walkway. Every turn here has a surprise in store for you! If on your left you find a massive hippopotamus taking a dip in the water, there might be a sly Cheetah on the prowl on your right. You can spend a good 1 or 2 hours here and also get a guide to show you around if you want. Every animal here has its own separate (and massive) enclosure, and it is heartening to see that their natural habitats have been kept intact.
Entry fees for non-residents: USD 25 (Adults), USD 13 (Children)
Related article: Mount Kenya Safari Club Review
3Shop until you drop at the local Maasai markets
If you’ve had enough of wildlife by now and are craving to experience the city life, here’s something fun for you. Visit Masai markets that are held across several locations in the city on specific days of the week.
Masai Markets are open-air local markets teeming with African handicraft items, clothes, local jewellery, wooden artifacts, and a lot more. You cannot claim to have seen Nairobi without visiting one of these markets and experiencing the local shopping scene first hand. Masai markets are a wonderful place to discover local art and artisans who come all the way from smaller towns to sell their labour of love. If you are looking to pick up souvenirs to bring back home, this is your go-to place. But here’s a word of caution – Sharpen your bargaining prowess to make sure you get a price that’s fair for both parties. The idea here is to keep an open mind and go with the flow. If you ask me, this truly is one of the most fun things to do in Nairobi!
To give you a head start, here’s a list of some of the best Masai Markets you can visit in Nairobi. This information comes straight from the horse’s mouth (my mom, who is a resident of Nairobi and an ardent lover of shopping at Masai Markets!).
- Masai market at the High Court parking lot – This is located in the city center and is the biggest of all. This market is open only on Saturday.
- Masai market inside Junction Mall. Only happens on Thursday.
- Masai market in the Village Market car parking on Friday
Entry fees – Free
4Drink authentic Kenyan tea and coffee
It is not unknown that Kenya produces some of the best tea and coffee in the world. And what better way to savor Kenyan beverages than to be in Nairobi and check out some of its most famous cafes? Yes, yes, I know, even Starbucks sells Kenyan brews these days! But in my opinion, nothing compares to the experience of enjoying a cuppa where it actually originated.
One of the first coffee shops in the city, Nairobi Java House serves one of the best hand-roasted local coffees. With more than 20 outlets spread all over the city, you are likely to spot one wherever you go. Order your favourite coffee with a fresh sandwich by the side and enjoy the ultimate coffee experience in Nairobi. Another great place to try local tea and coffee is the widely popular Artcaffe. This coffee shop doubles up as a cocktail bar too and has a lovely ambiance. Easy transition from afternoon coffee to evening cocktails 😉
More often than not, all those who taste Kenyan tea or coffee want to bring some back home. I bring back a few kilograms, but then that’s me. (No, I’m not a smuggler.) If you fall in love with the local beverages too and want to buy some, look out for the brand Kericho Gold for good quality Kenyan black tea and Dorman’s for their coffee. Now, don’t judge me for including this in a list of things to do in Nairobi, because it is a must-do, okay?
5Enjoy authentic Kenyan cuisine
You may argue that this is also technically not a thing to do in Nairobi. But, it is an experience no less! And how can you possibly experience Kenya entirely without indulging in its food, that too in its capital city?
Kenyan food is no less an adventure than the wildlife safaris the country is known for! If you love to eat like a local, here are a few pointers to help you navigate through all the new food and flavors.
The most common accompaniment to any Kenyan meal is the Ugali, a thick porridge made out of maize. What rice is to Asia and bread is to Europe, Ugali is to Kenya. You can have it with almost anything – vegetables, curries or even meat dishes.
Talking of meat, Kenyans love their meats! The most common way to eat meat here is by roasting it. In the local language, roasted meat is commonly referred to as Nyama Choma.
One of the most popular sit-down restaurants in Nairobi serving local fare is The Carnivore Restaurant. As you may have guessed from the name itself, this is the ultimate dining place for meat lovers and those who fancy living on the edge through their palate. Roasted and charcoal-grilled Crocodile, Ostrich and Camel meats are just a few of the options available here. Perfect place to let go of all inhibitions and give your taste buds a kick in this meat heaven!
This list of things to do in Nairobi is fairly condensed compared to all the possibilities available. Ideally, a few extra days will allow you to see the city better. But if you are short on time, this is a good way to get a quick taste of what the city offers.
Nairobi, despite its own struggles, offers a wonderfully unique experience for travelers who have the patience to savor it. Its chaotic and pulsating vibes are bound to draw you in and make a permanent place in your favorite travel stories!