Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi is a bustling city and massive game reserve all wrapped into one. A common staple in the best Kenya safari tour packages out there, travelers enjoy their wildlife and nature with a side of art and culture. Here are the best things to do in Nairobi, Kenya.
Also known as the “Green City in the Sun”, Nairobi is known for its breathtaking natural beauty. Its name is derived from the Maasai phrase that translates into “cool water”, in reference to the Nairobi River that flows through the city. Monuments and sculptures throughout the city honor the city’s rich history. It’s also the home of epic landmarks such as the 28-story Kenyatta International Convention Centre and Two Rivers Mall, the 2nd largest shopping mall in Africa in Nairobi.
Epic buildings and shopping aside, nature and wildlife are king in Nairobi. Here are some of the best things to do, from visiting baby elephants to picnicking atop Ngong Hills. History and art lovers are covered as well, from the farm grounds featured in Out of Africa to a roaming artisan market featuring handmade wares.
Once you’ve got your wish list settled, be sure to check out our check out our African safari planning guide. International travel can seem overwhelming, luckily this guide has everything you need to get your from your door to the plane. Once you’re in Nairobi, here are our top picks!
Nairobi National Park
It’s not every day you’ll see a giraffe in a wide open field with a skyscraper in the background, but this is possible at Nairobi National Park. Kenya’s first national park is known best for its black rhino sanctuary, and it’s also home to more than 400 species of classic safari wildlife. Whether you’re setting up camp or taking a day excursion with a picnic, “the world’s only wildlife capital” is definitely a unique experience.
The park’s beauty and proximity to the city makes for a convenient destination, one that kids will also enjoy if you’re traveling as a family. While you may see four of the big five (there are no elephants), the lion is one of the most exciting finds and isn’t always guaranteed. You’ll also see birds, monkeys, antelope, buffalo, and hyenas.
- Fees are $43 for adults and $22 for children and can often be arranged through your Nairobi hotel.
- Park hours are daily (including holidays) from 6 am to 7 pm.
- Top activities include the Nairobi Safari Walk and visiting the elephant orphanage.
Langata Giraffe Center
A 40-minute drive from Nairobi, this Kenya giraffe center is a 600-acre sanctuary that donates 90% of its proceeds to local schools. Not only do you get the thrilling experience of feeding a giraffe up-close, the price of admission is affordable and goes to a good cause.
Originally a non-profit foundation to save the Rothschild Giraffe, this excursion is a hands-on experience. Feed and touch giraffes from an elevated viewing house and enjoy the nearby nature walk to enjoy the birds. After a nature walk, stop by the Tea House for snacks and to browse the gift shop.
- Cost is $15 for adults and $7.50 for children.
- Hours of operation are 9 am to 5 pm every day including holidays.
- Nearby attractions include Karen Blixen Museum and the Ngong Hills.
Karen Blixen Museum
A 30-minute drive from Nairobi, the Karen Blixen Museum is the former home of the Danish author who penned Out of Africa. The estate includes cottages and gardens as well as poolside dining. While on the grounds, you’ll learn about the author’s life and actually see many relics from her time in Kenya. Upon arrival, a tour guide takes you through all of the significant sites and monuments.
The farm house in particular gained international fame with the popularity of the movie based on Blixen’s memoir. The writer with an upper class upbringing traveled to Africa to join her husband in hopes of becoming a dairy farmer. Instead, the grounds were used to grow coffee. The rest is history, and now people travel from all over to the historical site at the foot of the Ngong Hills. By the time you’re done hearing all of the stories, you’ll want to watch the Oscar-winning movie!
- Cost of admission into the museum is $12.
- Hours of operation are 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
- Nearby attractions include the Giraffe Center and the Ngong Hills.
Located outside of Nairobi, this is one of the largest gazetted forests in the world. It’s a lush, peaceful escape from the city life and a must for eco-tourists. Highlights include a nearly 50-foot waterfall, archaeological sites, bamboo patches, groves of indigenous trees, caves, an abandoned stone quarry pond, and an old chimney incinerator.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the Karuna Forest Nursery and take advantage of biking trails. The grounds are both dog- and bike-friendly, and tennis and picnic opportunities are available. The forest is run by the Kenyan community with the help of corporate and philanthropic funding.
- Cost is $5.95 for adults and $2.97 for children.
- Hours of operation are 6 am to 6 pm.
- Nearby attractions include Amani Garden and The River Cafe.
Nairobi Safari Walk
Featuring a wooden boardwalk, this attraction boasts being “the closest you can get to the wild”. Notable sightings include white rhino, albino zebras, antelopes, big cats, and primates. Aside from the wildlife, there are more than 150 species of local trees! The grounds include wetlands, savannah and forest as well as a children’s museum.
So when is the best time to go? All year round. The climate will be hot and dry from January to March, while you can expect hot and wet from April to June. July to October is very warm and wet. Visitors are encouraged to bring water and picnic stuff as well as guidebooks, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, cameras, and binoculars.
- Cost is $22 for adults and $13 for children.
- Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Nearby attractions include the Giraffe Center and the Karen Clizen Museum.
The Maasai Market
Handcrafted goods and a great place to grab souvenirs, the Maasai Market is an opportunity to experience the local artisan talent. Here you will see jewelry, beads, art, fabrics, and more – all handmade by the Masaai people. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time before you head to the handicraft fair located in the center of the city.
When you’re done shopping, be sure to check out the Jeevanjee Gardens or catch a meal at a nearby restaurant. A few notable ones include CJs, Tatu Restaurant, Thorn Tree Cafe, K’Osewe Ranalo Foods, and Kilimanjaro Jamia.
- As an open market, there is no cost to enter
- Hours of operation are 8 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Sunday
- Nearby attractions depend on the day
Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage
Located in Nairobi National Park, this rhino and baby elephant orphanage is open to the public from 11 am to noon every day except for Christmas Day. If you’ve always wanted to see a baby elephant, this would be your chance and you may even get the chance to pet them. Both educational and fun, this is a must-stop if you’re traveling with kids.
The animals, which are found motherless throughout the park, are cared for until they are old enough to fend for themselves. At this time, they are released back into the wild. You’ll hear lots of amazing stories from people who truly care about the well-being of these precious creatures.
- Cost is $5 per adult or child
- Open from 11 am to noon every day except Christmas
- Nearby attractions include Nairobi Safari Walk and the surrounding Nairobi National Park
Peaking along the Great Rift Valley, this natural area is known for its hiking and spectacular views. When hikers make it to the top, it’s tradition to celebrate with a picnic. Typically this is a day trip for travelers who are in Nairobi.
A 40-minute drive from the city, the hike takes most people 4 to 5 hours, but you can always shorten that by not going all the way to the top. There are also other activities nearby including ziplining and watching the wind turbines. Be sure to arrange to have a guide with you from the Kenya Wildlife Service before heading out.
- For cost and hours of operation, please consult with your KWS guide
- Nearby attractions include Karen Blixen Museum and the Giraffe Center
About Odyssey Safaris
Odyssey Safaris is committed to bringing its customers the same appreciation and enjoyment of African people, culture, wildlife, and the environment that its founders enjoyed and that ultimately spawned the energy for the creation of the company. The employees of Odyssey Safaris will work tirelessly to ensure that your tour is enjoyable, affordable, and safe, while maintaining respect for the native peoples and the wildlife we encounter; we are deeply committed to maintaining the natural environment in which we all live.