While we’d be the first to say that Nairobi is a pretty awe-inspiring city because of its National Park and all those giraffes, those aren’t the only things to do in Nairobi. Get down to some Kenyan culture, local style, by following these Nairobi travel tips from our local guide, Brad. Some will definitely surprise you!
Kenya is a relatively large producer of coffee, and whilst output has fallen significantly in recent decades, quality Kenyan coffee is still considered one of the best brews in the world. Nairobi – the Green City in the Sun – is of course a fantastic place to sample Kenyan coffee and also to relax and take in some of the East African metropolis’ growing café culture. Whilst there’s no Starbucks, there are several local chains – the most notable being Java Coffee House, Dormans, or Artcaffe – with branches across the city serving fantastic coffee. Many branches also serve good food making them great places to sit outside, enjoy the glorious sunshine, and watch the world go by for a few hours.
Ice Skating on the Equator (nearly!)
Fancy something completely different during your stay in Nairobi? Head for the Panari Sky Centre on Nairobi’s busy Mombasa Road, where you’ll find East Africa’s only ice skating rink. There can’t be many places on earth this close the equator where you ice skate! While you’re at the Sky Centre, try out the Lebanese-style Lounge & Bar on the top floor, where you can enjoy Middle Eastern style food and drinks whilst overlooking the Nairobi National Park in the distance. There’s also an authentic Brazilian Churrascaria in the same building.
Quench your thirst at the Thorn Tree Café
If you’ve been busy exploring Nairobi’s teeming city centre, you might like to stop off at the city’s most famous café. Yes – it’s the Thorn Tree Café. Yes, the one of Lonely Planet fame. Now part of Nairobi’s elegant Stanley Hotel, it has been a meeting place for travellers for decades and was most famously home to the tree on which, in the days before mobile phones and internet connections, over-landers would pin notes for former travel companions as well as adverts for camping or other gear that they wanted to buy or sell.
Arts & Crafts
You might not expect it – but Nairobi is home to some increasingly fantastic arts and crafts. At the very least, you should check out the Maasai Market in Central Nairobi, which is a great place to pick up all manner of souvenir-style tribal and Maasai wares. Make sure you’ve practised your bartering skills before going, though!
If you’re after a more formal art experience, Central Nairobi has a number of places to browse fine art. But if you’re looking for something totally different, head to the Matbronze Foundry in Nairobi’s leafy Karen suburb. There you’ll be able to see craftsmen at work making incredible and often life-size bronze wildlife sculptures, some of which are commissioned from across the Western world and come with extremely high price tags.
Food really is everything to many people these days – so make sure you don’t miss out in Nairobi. Kenya’s capital is home to a dazzling array of restaurants showcasing dishes that take their inspiration from around the globe. Naturally, our recommendation is to go local, and make sure you try some of Kenya’s more traditional cuisine. There are several restaurants where you can sample the rich tradition of Swahili dishes – mostly originating from the East African coast, Swahili cuisine is, like the Swahili culture in general, a rich mixture of Arabian, Indian, and African influences.
The ultimate Kenyan delicacy has to be nyama choma, or barbecued meat, which you can find in many local eateries throughout the city. It’s traditionally ordered by the kilo rather than by the portion – and there will usually be beef and chicken available, although everyone’s favourite in East Africa is mbuzi, or goat! Make sure you try plenty of accompaniments, such as kachumbari, a delicious local relish made of tomatoes, red onion, fresh coriander and lemon juice, is a particularly popular choice.
Want some more Nairobi action? Check out our Nairobi tours!