The 7 must-do things in Nairobi

Visiting Nairobi: What are the best things to see and do in the city nicknamed the « New York of Africa »?

With its three million inhabitants, Nairobi is Kenya’s largest city, and this gigantic metropolis in the south of the country is also a major economic hub for the whole of Africa. In addition to trade, it plays a leading role in African finance, tourism and university education: two of the continent’s biggest universities are located in the city! And yet, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was still no more than a modest village used as a staging post during the construction of the railroad linking Mombasa, a Kenyan city on the coast, to neighbouring Uganda.

Built in less than a century, this impressively dynamic metropolis, perched at an altitude of over 1,600 meters, is also located close to one of the most beautiful nature reserves on the African continent: Nairobi National Park is an integral part of the city.

Wondering what to do in Nairobi during your stay? Here’s the answer, with our 7 must-do’s for visiting Nairobi and enjoying your stay without missing a beat!

1. Nairobi National Park

Parc national de Nairobi, Kenya

Photo credit: Flickr – Ray in Manila

The Nairobi National Park, located less than ten kilometers from the city center, is a 120 km² protected area home to everything you’d expect to find on the savannah: zebras, wildebeests, as well as numerous bird species and reptiles, including turtles and monitor lizards! If you follow the many trails, you can also admire the colossal black rhinoceros, or the hippopotamus bathing in the Athi, the river that runs through the park. Created in 1946, the national park is unique in that it is only enclosed on three sides, the southern part remaining open to allow animals to migrate.

Book your excursion to Nairobi National Park

2. Giraffe Centre

Giraffe Centre, Langata, Nairobi

Photo credit: Flickr – mirsasha

If you’ve come to visit Nairobi and you’re crazy about animals, continue your visit with the Giraffe Center, located in Langata, some twenty kilometers south of the city: here, since the creation of the place in 1979, you can visit this amazing preserved area in the company of passionate carers. Classes from local secondary schools often make the trip, and it’s easy to see why: you can get up close to the animals and even feed them, using an observation platform! What’s more, the park is also home to warthogs, which will bring back memories for fans of The Lion King.

Book your trip to Giraffe Centre

3. Bomas of Kenya

This cultural center features scale reproductions of the homes of a dozen different Kenyan tribes, so the park’s main purpose is to introduce visitors looking for something to do in Nairobi to the habits and customs of the natives and the age-old traditions associated with them. The Bomas of Kenya is worth a visit for its traditional dance shows, masterfully performed by a troupe of seasoned dancers in a 3,500-seat theater, every day!

You’ll also find all the tourist amenities you need: parking for 3,000 vehicles, picnic area, restaurant or children’s playground.

4. Jamia mosque

When you come to visit Nairobi, you’re struck by the absence of monuments and buildings worth a detour. But a few exceptions belie this impression: the splendid Jamia mosque, built in the early 20th century in the purest Arab style, remains one of the country’s largest places of worship. Recognizable by its three silver domes and open minarets on Kigali Road, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, it also houses a clinic, a sewing school and even a sign language learning center!

5. Uhuru Park walkways

Uhuru Park is a public garden in the heart of the business district, and the reason we mention it is that it represents a real break from the fast-paced metropolis!

With its thirteen hectares, you can relax in the shade of the trees or stretch out by the lake and enjoy an ice cream or a granita, but you can also run, ride a BMX bike, watch a soccer match or play tennis! In Swahili, Uhuru means « freedom »: the park is also known for its political and social role, hosting meetings and sometimes historic demonstrations.

6. Karura and Sigiria forests

Forêt de Karura, Nairobi

Photo credit: Flickr – Ninara

If you’re still wondering what to do in Nairobi, but you’re looking for some fresh air, we’ve got a great idea for you: the Karura and Sigiria forests, covering over a thousand hectares, are criss-crossed by numerous signposted footpaths that many Kenyans and visitors come to explore, all year round! The area is particularly well-suited to this activity: just a few kilometers from the city, this green lung is a popular spot on hot days and weekends, or simply when you need a breath of fresh air! Be careful, though, if you have a dog: they’re only allowed on a leash.

7. The Maasai market

Le marché Maasaï, Nairobi

Photo credit: Flickr – Ninara

If you’ve come to visit Nairobi but are looking for something a little more authentic, we can’t recommend the Maasai market enough! It’s unique in that it’s located in a different part of town every day except Monday! You’ll find delicious food in the traditional stalls, as well as Maasai farmers selling their produce and numerous artisans showcasing traditional skills by selling jewelry and handmade fabrics. A veritable institution in the city, the Maasai market is proof that Kenyans are proud of their heritage and never, ever far from their roots!

How to get to Nairobi

Jomo-Kenyatta airport is a Kenyan international airport – the sixth largest in Africa – located fifteen kilometers from the city center, in the Embakasi region. It handles international flights, making it ideal for visitors to Nairobi: our partner Ulysse will help you get there by finding you a flight at the best price.

Once you’re here, it’s easy to rent a car as soon as you arrive at the airport (here, as in Nairobi, you have a choice of several agencies). For a modest price, this means of transport will enable you to move around freely without having to rely on buses and cabs, which are very affordable but not always readily available or comfortable!

Where to stay in Nairobi?

If you’re visiting Nairobi, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation, which you can select according to your wishes and budget. There are many hotels in the city, but we particularly recommend the south-western districts, close to the outskirts, where you can find charming accommodation, as the area is dazzlingly beautiful! Indeed, the city center is an area to be avoided and offers little of interest, but the Westlands area, for example, offers a fine selection of establishments, and you’ll find the one that suits you best by consulting the offers on this hotel comparator.

Not only that, but you can also immerse yourself in Kenyan culture by renting a lodge directly on rental platforms like Airbnb, which will make you feel right at home, or even in one of the guesthouses available in and around the city, which often offer additional activities for you and your loved ones!

For those who enjoy unforgettable nights under the stars, a number of campsites close to the national park offer pitches where you can become one with the unspoilt savannah.

Finally, to help you find the ideal place to stay in Nairobi during your stay, check out our article  » Where to stay in Nairobi « !

Now you know how to make the most of your visit to Nairobi, and the charms of this very special region during your stay. But will you be able to decide what to do in Nairobi and… where to start?

Map of hotels and accommodation – Nairobi