Bringing you a complete destination guide to Nairobi, the only city in the world with a national park.
Best Time to Go
Nairobi is a year-round destination with a pleasant climate and where the vibrancy and attractions remain constant. This cosmopolitan capital city and bustling commercial hub has a long history of welcoming visitors from around the world. Kiswahili is the national language but English is widely spoken and the official working language. Visitors will find the people friendly and enjoy a range of attractions including museums, historical sites, an expanding restaurant scene and an amazing national park. Our destination guide to Nairobi highlights the top features of the city.
Nairobi is a the hub of East Africa and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) the main entry point for Kenya. National carrier Kenya Airways links to multiple cities across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and New York City. Over 25 international airlines fly into Nairobi including British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, Emirates, Qatar Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
Located at 1,795 metres (5,889 ft), Nairobi city has a very comfortable, temperate climate. There is sunshine on most days of the year. Daytime temperatures range 21° to 28° Celsius depending on the time of year. Evenings and early mornings are generally cool. The warmest months are usually from January to March, although the altitude ensures dry heat without any humidity. July and August are the coldest months, likened to spring in the northern hemisphere. Like the rest of Kenya, the long rains are from April to May and short rains in the months of November and December.
What to Do
1. Nairobi National Park
Established in 1946, the Nairobi National Park is the only state park within city limits anywhere in the world. At only 117 km² Nairobi Park has a great number of animal species including lions, leopards, buffalo, black and white rhinos, different antelopes and hundreds of bird species. An early morning or late afternoon visit is sure to reveal a trove of natural treasures.
2. Giraffe Centre
A sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild giraffe found only in East Africa. The Giraffe Centre aims to educate the public about wildlife and the environment. Visitors can get up-close and personal with the tallest mammal on earth. Open daily.
3. “Elephant Orphanage”
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust: Better known as the elephant orphanage, this is a rescue centre orphaned abandoned elephants are cared for and nursed back to health before being reintegrated back into the wild. Learn about the rescue process, how the young animals are raised, conservation challenges for elephants and how you can help. Open to visitors with pre-booking.
Nairobi city has a thriving contemporary arts scene, still nascent compared to bigger global arts markets but maturing. You can always pick up some paintings, carvings and arts merchandise at the numerous tourist markets. Nonetheless, it is worth investigating the commercial galleries and arts collectives that exhibit, represent and sell the works of established artists. Check out Circle Art, One Off Gallery, Red Hill Art Gallery, Banana Hill Art Gallery, GoDown Arts Centre, Matbronze Gallery and foundry, and the Nairobi National Museum.
Nairobi’s museum scene is an assemblage of historic houses, cultural and natural history collections. Recommended are:
1. Karen Blixen Museum
The Karen Blixen Museum is a 19th century, settler style home filled with period memorabilia. It was the home of Danish author Karen Blixen, who wrote the acclaimed book, Out of Africa (1937), under the pen name Isak Dinesen. In it she describes her life running a coffee farm in colonial Kenya before the business collapsed, forcing her to sell and return to Denmark. The 1985 award-winning film Out of Africa brought renewed interest in the Blixen story and the house became a museum in 1986.
2. Nairobi National Museum
Opened in 1930, the Nairobi National Museum was has an impressive collection of birds, mammals and insect specimens. There are ethnological items, exhibits of East Africa’s history and fossil artefacts tracing human evolution over millennia. The galleries contain botanical watercolours and singular paintings of traditional Kenyan societies, as well as temporary exhibitions of contemporary Kenyan art.
Off the Beaten Track
1. Kitengela Hot Glass
The only glassblowing studio in Kenya. Located on the outskirts of Nairobi in a natural environment, Kitengela Hot Glass is unique excursion while visiting Nairobi. Watch local artisans in the workshop turn recycled glass into handmade pieces. Visit the studio shop for unique gift items, tableware, fixtures, jewellery, furniture and sculptures.
2. Kiambethu Tea Farm
Since the early 1900s Kiambethu Tea Farm has been cultivating tea bushes. Owned and managed by the same family for 5 generations, the tea estate contributes to one of Kenya’s largest export products. Set in the cool highlands of Limuru, just 30 minutes out of Nairobi city, visitors get a tour of the tea plantation and neighbouring indigenous forest. After the tour, lunch is served at the colonial-style farmhouse with produce from their garden and, of course, a cup of hot tea.
Culture and Crafts
1. African Heritage House
Situated on the outskirts of Nairobi city, off a busy national highway, is the African Heritage House. This burnt-orange architectural marvel is inspired by the mud palaces and earthen homes of Africa. It was built in 1989 by American-born art connoisseur and gallery owner, Alan Donovan. Dubbed “the most photographed house in the world”, there are over 6,000 pieces of original African paintings, cultural objects and artefacts. Definitely worth a visit, with the possibility of an overnight stay.
2. Maasai Markets
The go-to place for a range of souvenirs, crafts, locally inspired gift items and authentic cultural pieces. These open-air markets take place at various locations around Nairobi city each day of the week. Maasai markets are a chance to interact with local traders and a guide is not necessary. Browse at your leisure and price bargaining is acceptable.