nairobi city guide skyline feature image

Nairobi sprouted into life back in the late 1800s as the site of a railway depot. The British colonial rule had decided to build a railway from Mombasa on the Kenyan coast to Uganda to gain control of trade on the Nile. As the railway developed, Nairobi became the administrative capital and grew wealthy from an influx of game hunting tourism. By the 1960s, Kenya had gained independence and was establishing itself as one of the safari capitals of the world. Nairobi continued to grow into East Africa’s fastest developing city, but has been somewhat overlooked as a tourist attraction in itself – until now.

Order Volume 19

Today, the change taking place is visible. Restaurants, skyscrapers, rooftop bars, modern apartment blocks and roads are being built at an extraordinary rate. In July 2015, President Obama visited the capital and put Nairobi’s entrepreneurial genius on the map. This is the home of the Silicon Savannah, with tech innovation hubs and funky co-working spaces sprouting from every run-down building block. Visit 10 years from now, and this city will look very different from how it does today.

Cattle wandering nonchalantly across dual carriageways and women strutting down rubbly pavements in colourful patterned dresses set the tone for this charismatic place. In the traffic, street vendors stand in the road selling water, bananas and the odd elaborate painting of a Maasai Warrior to passing drivers. It is a city that is never dull, constantly changing and trying to figuring itself out.

Nairobi has a lot to shout about, from boutique shopping to a thriving music scene, gourmet foodie spots and wildlife in the city (sundowners in the National Park surrounded by zebra, lions and giraffes, anyone?). As news of Nairobi hasn’t been pretty in recent years, this is a guide to changing your perception of it by exploring what is wonderful, positive and exciting about this place. So before you screech away on safari, step away from the beige 4×4 and step into the urban hub of Kenya. Welcome to Nairobi.

TO STAY

Dusit D2

Nairobi’s newest boutique hotel, Dusit D2 is shiny but chic, with a glamorous bar, Thai restaurant and red swimming pool with sunken lounge seating. The rooms are nothing to sniff at either – we’re obsessed with their tropical rain showers, hanging lights and gorgeous teal and aztec-print cushions.

Rooms from £150 a night.

Giraffe Manor

Set in 12 acres of land with rare Rothschild’s giraffes wandering majestically through the grounds (and occasionally sticking their head through the restaurant window), Giraffe Manor is as charismatic a crash pad as you can find. Rates include airport transfers, transport around the Karen & Langata area and entry into the Giraffe Centre.

Rooms from £400 a night.

Sankara

Sankara is an elegant business hotel in Westlands, central Nairobi. Its rooms are comfortable, if a little lacking in personality, and the staff are attentive and accommodating. Its key selling point, however, is the shimmering rooftop bar and pool, which has a see-through glass bottom at one end.

Rooms from £150 a night.

Tribe

Set in the leafy suburb of Gigiri, Tribe is another of Nairobi’s boutique hotel offerings, with individually themed rooms decorated with elegant blends of African fabrics, art and sculptures. Outside, there’s an opulent pool with a swim-up dining table. Stay for Sunday brunch at Jiko, the hotel’s on-site restaurant for giant, beautifully presented food platters and non-stop mimosas.

Rooms from £160 a night.

  • +254 20 720 0000
  • Go to Website
  • Limuru Road
    The Village Market
    Gigiri
    Nairobi

Hemingways

The crème de la crème of Nairobi accommodation, Hemingways combines colonial elegance with modern luxuries to create something truly special. Rooms are individually themed and expansive, with wooden drinks cabinets, travel trunks and terraces overlooking the Ngong Hills. The bathroom is the highlight though: you’ll have your very own walk-in wardrobe, deep bathtub with a drinks holder and rainfall shower. There’s a pool, spa, bar and restaurant on site.

Rooms start from £210 a night.

  • +254 202 295 013
  • Go to Website
  • Mbagathi Ridge, off Marula Lane
    Karen
    Nairobi

Dusit D2

Giraffe Manor

Sankara

Tribe

Hemingways

City Guides

You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? Yeah, that’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best parts and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local. Eat your heart out, shop ‘til you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.

Bundles

What drives people to trek to the ice-blasted plains of the Arctic? To forge new communities in the creative corners of cities? Forever entwined, the pioneer cannot exist without travel and travel would not exist without the pioneer. Discover what and who is defining exploration with The Pioneer bundle.

Download Suitcase App
Learn More