Rolling plains in green and yellow tones with hopping zebras and jumping gazelles. The typical picture that comes to ones mind when talking and thinking about the great Kenya adventure. People fly to Nairobi, almost expecting to see a lion as soon as they exit the plane (which indeed can be seen in the nearby national park). Talking about seeing the big five, living in a jeep and seeing sunset after sunset: the idyllic, typical image of Africa. But oh, there is so much more to discover in this beautiful country! I wouldn’t say that you should skip the safari, but I would recommend spending some days in other cities, places and with several families and people.
Discover the kindness, the diversity, and the capital. Wait, what? Are you talking about Nairobi with the nickname “Nairobbery”?! Yes I am, and you know why? Because it is beautiful in it’s own way and will show you a total different side of Kenya. I can now hear you thinking, what else is there to do in Nairobi besides exiting the plane? Well, let me show you Nairobi through the eyes of an expat!
Talking touristy stuff
Okay, let’s first go through the most touristic things to do in Nairobi before we continue to the hidden gems and unexpected pearls of this city. If you want to go on a safari, but are a little bit in a hurry, go to Nairobi National Park! It’s close to the city centre and a really special place, where you can spot lions, zebras, Giraffes and many other animals, whilst still seeing the shimmering skyline of Nairobi in the background.
Do you want to spot little elephants? Then this park isn’t the right place, but it’s neighbour is! At David Sheldricks Wildlife Trust you can spot little rescued elephant orphans. Everyday this place is open to the public from 11 am until noon, the ideal time to watch these little mammals get fed and learn about their lives. In the same area there is the famous Giraffe Manor as well. Quite expensive to sleep, but luckily the Giraffe Centre is just around the corner! It’s full of tourists feeding those majestic longnecks and it will take some time before you have the full attention of the giraffe for yourself (trick is: give them those yummy little candies non-stop to keep them busy when your friend takes the pictures of you!).
Ok, enough about the touristy stuff! Now I will take you to the other side of Nairobi so prepare yourself for the best food places and more!
So you’re hungry?
Then this is the right paragraph for you to read! Lucky for you I am a foodie at heart and discovering new hotspots is what I love most. Shall we start with amazing breakfasts? What do you think of Boho Eatery? Imagine enormous plates full of the most extravagant served breakfasts you will ever see. No lunch needed anymore after a “small” breakfast at this spot. Do you fancy your breakfast a bit smaller and maybe with more focus on some coffees? No probs! Connect Coffee is the place for you! Try the amazing blends named Romeo blend and Juliet blend. Besides, the best beans from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya are for sale here so you can serve the same breakfast at home the next day!
Feeling hungry again around noon? Go for the surprise menu at Nook, where the food of a different country is on the menu every week. From Thai noodles one week, to sushi or famous Dutch kroketten the next! Or choose for something sweet at the Art Cafe or something western at Wasp & Sprout. The latter is the go-to hipster place of Nairobi and includes a bike on the wall!
When it’s time for dinner you can choose for a restaurant in the neighbourhood or, what I would recommend, is choosing for the cuisine you prefer that day. You will be astonished by the quality of Ethiopian food at Habesha and you won’t stop eating at Chowpati (Diamond Plaza) where they have the best vegetarian, Indian food of well, every country except India itself probably?! I think I ordered here at least once a week (more than enough so I would have leftovers for the next day as well!).
If you want to go for burgers Mama Rocks at The Alchemist is the place to be and make sure you order the mango mayonnaise since that one is just the best… And while you’re there anyway, jump on the dance floor to enjoy the live music that is here almost every evening. Grab a beer (Tusker is the local brand!) or a cider (Savanna is the brand for a good cider), sit back and relax… On Wednesdays you can do the same thing at Nyama Mama where you will feel some extra African vibes and if you are in the neighbourhood of Karen, don’t skip Que Pasa, which is the place to be for dancing all night long!
And it’s time for some shopping, girls!
Of course there is the famous Maasai Market and although it is a touristy thing to do when in Nairobi, I would strongly recommend you to stop by! On Saturday, when you can find the market at City Hallway, it is full of tourists. However on Tuesdays, when it’s located on Kijabe Street, you will only find locals here! Shop for beautiful, handmade earrings, bracelets, flip-flops, paintings and so much more. And the best thing is, you can immediately buy that extra bag here to carry your newly bought jewelry!
When you are looking for nice fabrics Biashara Street is the place to shop. Here you will find numerous fabric stores and squeezed in-between there is Kashmir Craft Limited, an Indian jewelry store with some fine, silver and gold jewelry. Looking for a small charm of Kenya, Africa, an elephant or giraffe? You will find it here for sure!
Are you looking for some more fine earrings then walk to Bleson’s Enterprises where you will find hundreds of earrings. It takes some time, but you will certainly find some gems here! Across the street, hidden at the first floor (you can find the stairs under the big red board that says “safety line curious” is), there is a mesmerizing West African antiques/ jewelry market! Small rooms containing hundreds of different necklaces (I kid you not!) from different West African countries. Numerous sculptures, masks, and more you can find here! And the best part: no one has discovered this place yet!
Hopefully these are enough tips to fill your belly and your shopping bags and to empty your wallets when in Nairobi. Trust me, after staying here a few nights and discovering this city on your own, you will have a totally different view on the city once called “Nairobbery”. Enjoy!
– This article was written by Carlos Cools, you can follow her adventures on her blog https://bornonaplane.nl/