Nairobi is not so straight forward when visiting as a traveler. What should you visit in Nairobi when you are staying for 2 days? Most travelers look at TripAdvisor that offer a handful of things to do in Nairobi, but they don’t give a good impression of Nairobi as a city or of the Kenyan culture, in my opinion. This is the reason I thought to write an article about it to highlight the hidden gems of Nairobi.
Best ways of getting a true feel of Nairobi
Seriously, walking is the best way of getting a feel of the city. Although many streets in Nairobi don’t have pavement to comfortably walk on, the road side still leaves sufficient space to walk. In Kenya walking is still the main mode of transportation so put on a pair of walking boots and off you go. If you don’t want to explore and walk by yourself, there are a few people that offer you guided walks to show you the true Nairobi.
Stroll at Toi market
Toi market is one of the biggest flee markets in Nairobi. You can find great bargains for clothes, shoes, jewelry, bags, hats and more. I have found some truly amazing pieces here. If you want to have a hassle free shopping experience without getting lost, then join Lemmy on his Toi Market walk. He can bring you to the vendors that sell the best quality items.
Downtown Nairobi with 3 former street kids
If you really want to get a better understanding what is happening in downtown Nairobi and get an understanding of a life on the streets then Donga, Kissmart and Cheddaz can tell you all about it. They have lived on the streets for many years, begging, finding ways to survive and got out. Based on the walk and various points they show they will tell you how and where they slept, how their days used to look like, their hardest challenges and the different forces they needed to cope with. You will get insight into a life in this neighborhood you would otherwise probably not get. They take you on a tour through their lives and downtown Nairobi.
Kibera is Africa’s largest slum. If you want to get a feel for how a big part of the Kenyan population lives you can join one of the locals on a walk through this neighborhood. It is very interesting to see how creative and positive people are here, and how the slum is organized. It’s a very unique and special experience off the beaten track. Both Diddy and Raphael show a different part of Kibera during their Kibera walk.
City center history walk
If you want to learn more about Nairobi’s history, then join Duncan or Augustine on a walk through Nairobi’s city center. The Nairobi-run NGO trains street kids from Mathare slum so that they can have a source of income.
Learning to make local food
There is no better way to explore a country than via its food. Lucy runs an organic health restaurant that feels like a cozy living room where she serves some of the best Kenyan dishes in town. She also provides a cooking class if you want to learn how to make Kenyan food yourself. Her chapattis are to die for!
Most cozy & delicious places for getting a bite
Nairobi is developing fast, and so are its places to eat. It offers some unique and great places to eat or grab a coffee. I have picked a few of my favorites below.
Wasp & Sprout
I love Wasp & Sprout! It is one of a kind in Nairobi, and the vibe is a mix of Kenyan and urban design. It is one of Nairobi’s hidden gems. They sell some unique art pieces, furniture, home decor, bags and jewelry. They have a little outdoor area where they serve some great coffee, pastries and delicious food.
The arbor is a restaurant, shop, and garden center all-in-one set in a lovely garden just off James Gichuru road. The shop sells clothes, jewelry, furniture and beauty products. They serve great coffee, small bites and international dishes.
Le Grenier a Pain
Le Grenier a Pain is a French bakery and restaurant where they serve some amazing French cuisine breakfast, brunch, lunch and high tea. The Bakery has over 30 branches in the world and is one of the top 10 bakeries in Paris and for the first time in Africa. Their croissants and pain au raisins are to die for! You can find them on 9 Riverside Drive just after Imperial Bank, 9Riverside building.
There is no better way to end your walk or bike ride in Karura forest than with a bite at River café. This lovely café/restaurant has stunning views of Karura Forest and serves some great dishes. You can find the café by taking the main Karura forest entrance (entrance A, Limuru road).
Tin Roof café
Tin Roof café is incredibly cute! When you arrive it makes you feel at home. With its warm and cozy atmosphere, you don’t want to leave anymore. It is set in a nice garden full of trees. They serve delicious healthy food inspired by the famous chef Ottolenghi, whom I love. My shelves contain three of his cook books, and every single recipe is delicious. Also their juices are quite yummy.
African art & design for taking home
GoDown arts center
The GoDown Arts Center is a meeting place for artists from different disciplines and different parts of the world. The center was a formerly car repair warehouse, which gives it an industrial feel that perfectly fits. Get one of the beautiful tote bags from one of the artists in this workshop all unique and hand made.
Spinnersweb was originally created to provide a showroom for Kenya’s many spinners and weavers. Nowadays you can find a great variety of Kenyan and African craft items; bags, jewelry, baskets, home decor and more. Over 200 groups provide their products for sale at Spinnersweb. Note that Spinnersweb recently moved to a larger space on 1.3 A Kitisuru road.
Kuona Trust Arts Centre
Kuona Trust Arts Center is one of the largest arts organisations in East Africa and has the goal to stress the importance of arts and creativity in our society. It supports creative people to experiment, develop and thrive, with this creativity. You can find some unique pieces of art from the artists. They all have their own container to work from set in a spacious garden off Denis Pritt road.
Likoni Close, Off Denis Pritt Road, Kilimani
The Maasai Market is one of the famous places to take home some local pieces. The one at the High Court is the largest one and offers the widest variety of handmade artisan goods. The market runs every Saturday. Find some great fabrics, necklaces, sisal bags, or wooden carvings. You can find this market at High Court Building, Central Business District.
Langata link sells some unique African design pieces varying from clothes, accessories, bags, jewelry and home decor. You can find Langata Link on Langata Link Complex, Langata South Road, Nairobi
Westlands Triangle Curio Market
This is a permanent complex of stalls in Westlands that offers a large variety of handmade goods, from batik wall hangings, carvings to beaded sandals. Money is well spent as it support the local families.
Westlands Triangle, opposite Sankara Hotel, Westlands
Stunning home décor, jewelry, clothes and more
Toi market is a big open air market full of stalls selling clothes, shoes and accessories. A perfect place to get a feel of the city and find some amazing bargains!
House of treasures emporium
House of treasures emporium has some really unique items from beautiful rings to home décor. It is a collection of the pieces the owners found while traveling to various places around the world. All pieces are unique and a delight for the eye.
No. 70 Dagoretti Road, opposite The Hub, Karen
Kipato is a Kenyan jewelry brand that collaborates with local artists, promoting their talents and skills and giving them access to markets. Their jewelry items are made from local materials like brass, bones and beads.
Also Shopsoko empowers local artists and directly connects them with customers around the world via their website and mobile app. They sell earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.
Weza4life focuses on empowering women in Kenya. They make beach towels, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. You can even learn to make jewelry yourself via a 2-hour workshop.
Wasp & Sprout
As mentioned before Wasp & Sprout not only serves delicious food, but also amazing home décor, jewelry, cushion covers and more. It is a lifestyle brand that represents African living and supports local artists via training and mentoring.
At the Arbor you can find some beautiful jewelry, design clothes and beauty products like shea butter. They also have a small selection of furniture. On top of that, they sell different vegetables, spices and other plants to decorate your home.
Some unique and affordable places to sleep
Rosslyn is one of Nairobi’s most special and oldest surviving houses. The house is set in 2 acres of private gardens close to the UN, Village Market and Westlands. They have 2 single rooms and 1 double room. The specialty of the house is its full English breakfast with fresh fruit, tea or freshly brewed Kenyan coffee. You can choose if you would like to have a breakfast with their own free range eggs, toast, marmalades, muesli, oats or anything else. Prices are from 44 EUR a night.
The Shire overlooks the Mwitu forest and is the home of Ness and Gordon, a lovely and welcoming couple. The house has an amazing veranda that overlooks the pond and greenery. The location is perfect as it is close to the main shopping areas in Karen, the Giraffe center, Karen Blixen and David Sheldrick. You can stay here for 46 EUR a night.
The Castle on Champagne Ridge
The Castle is an amazing getaway just a short drive outside Nairobi. It is the perfect place if you are looking for peace and tranquillity. Sit on the balcony with a glass of wine and soak in the incredible views. The house is an open plan design maximizing the stunning view and outdoor living areas.
The old colonial Kiloran house is a nice and beautiful place to stay in a very secluded, safe and quiet location in Kilimani, Nairobi. It has a lovely balcony with amazing views, and is a perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner or your breakfast.
Do you know any gems that I have missed out on? Please let me know below, thanks!