Sample of things to do when visiting Nairobi

  • Catch events & exhibitions at art-filled spaces like Kuona Trust, GoDown Centre, Pawa254, Circle Art Gallery. Concerts at GoDown Centre, Ngong Race Course, Alliance Française. Many more smaller, newer arts spaces.
  • There are various lovely artisan markets. My very favourite is Pop Up & Chill, every two months or so: excellent shopping, great music, nice place to chill/eat/drink/hang, great for kids to run around or make some art. Check for the next event, see photos, salivate over the amazing range of tempting artisan goods on their instagram page or FB. There are many handicraft markets (this one’s just more fun).
  • To get a sense of the startup ecosystem, larger coworking spaces that regularly have events and are friendly to visitors are iHub (the most established tech-oriented space), Metta Nairobi, and Nairobi Garage, in the techie startup scene. But there are many others. Many are social enterprises.
  • In Mathare, a friend/mentee’s very awesome initiative of (other) single moms from her ‘hood going back to class to study & take their high school diplomas. They gather in the afternoons/evenings. Inua Kike. inuakike.org
  • Have lunch (or do your laundry, or both) at Kibera Town Centre, Kamkunji grounds, Olympic area. Nice local lunch options, lots of clean water, a feat of engineering, fluffy towels, and the only espresso machine in Kibera.
  • Close to Olympic, you could also visit and learn about the work of Carolina for Kibera. I think some of their programme participants sell some handicrafts, or else think about making a small donation if you’re going to ask them for their time/energy for a full tour.
  • Street art in different ‘hoods. Check out work like in this @maumauarts little piece https://t.co/uS8zgCMkh1. In Kariobangi there are a few amazing streets covered in collaborative community-building artwork, organised by some of my favourite colleagues who are graffiti artists. Also a bus library & car wash social enterprise nearby.
  • Mustard Seeds, a community organisation in Dandora, helped communities to create beautiful oases in walled compounds in a really tough ‘hood. It started with some young local guys digging up old buried drainage systems. Then a bunch of those communities got together to really fix up their own mini-hoods: drainage systems, greenness, colour, painted trash cans, etc! Mustard Seeds, Dandora Transformation League.
  • Dandora Hip Hop City nearby.

Established cultural things

National Museum — Good for smaller children who like reptiles, or those interested in history, wildlife. Can be quite dated and sociologically interesting for that reason. The museum also hosts concerts in a nice auditorium, events in the courtyard, and talks and screenings in others spaces. Plan for at most a half day, really. It’s a little worn and tired in my view.

Nature, animals, lovely spots

To explore on your own, here are some recommended activities in/around Nairobi, with the first few being in my experience better.

  • The standard visit option for $15 per person is for one hour (about 10:30am daily) interactive viewing when the babies are gathered for milk. Good photo ops; just watch out for other tourists scrambling for a good shot. A guide talks all about the babies, and they wander around cutely, often close enough to touch (or even pee on you). Every day at 11am for only one hour. Can be a bit muddy after rains. As of 2022 must be booked in advance.
  • An extra special option is to foster your own elephant ($50 for an individual or a family) and then you get an extra-special visit with other foster parents around 5pm… evening milk, snacks, and bedtime. Totally worth it! Must foster and book appointment in advance. As of 2022 not sure these visits are happening.
  • Note: The entrance off the main road is not that prominently marked. Once you take the road past Galleria Mall, go down a few km and watch carefully on the left for a relatively small sign at the gate/entrance, or use GPS but still watch carefully.
    More info: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/. Also http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294207-d1569686-Reviews-David_Sheldrick_Wildlife_Trust-Nairobi.html

Nearby getaway lunches and overnights

Just driving 30–60 minutes can take you to completely different worlds, from lush green tea country around Tigoni on one side of town, to windy hardscrabble savannah cliffs and views towards Kajiado. Every area has special lodges and excursions at various budgets. Though most are not locally owned or managed. Samples:

  • Banana Farmhouse in Tigoni (30 min from most of Nairobi) (not sure current status, but there are other such places)
  • Brown’s Cheese lovely informative farm visit and notable lunch (great for small groups)
  • Lunch (or luxury all-inclusive stays) on the quietest side of Nairobi National Park, such as at Ololo Lodge and/or quirky Kitengela Glass factory and café

Shopping & Artisan Items

  • Aforementioned pop up markets are the best!
  • Spinners Web — Expansive one-stop shop in a nice environment. Probably 10,000 artisan items made by Kenyans. I think proceeds are split 50/50 between artisan and shop. Artists set their own prices, so there’s a huge variety by item. Also a nice little cafe inside. Generally higher prices, but no negotiating at all — only a leisurely shopping experience. http://www.spinnerswebkenya.com/
  • Masai Market — There are souvenir/curio markets everywhere in different shopping centre locations on different days. There is also a big market downtown on High Street, open Saturdays and Sundays. The market at the Westlands roundabout is convenient (open everyday), but they don’t give you very good prices. https://www.facebook.com/MaasaiMarketNairobi/
  • Karen Farmer’s Market on Saturday behind the KSPCA on Langata Road. A dozen+ artisans selling lots of items (clothes, fabrics, bags, baskets, wooden items, ceramics, etc.) for very reasonable prices — they are mostly items directly sold by the artists. Lots of organic veggies and foods, prepared foods to sample, some to carry (honeys, butters, nuts, chocolate, herbal things). And other vendors like coffee specialists: best latte I’ve ever had in Kenya!
  • Kitengela Glass Factory (Karen) — A long drive, the last bit on a bumpy road, but absolutely worth a visit — watch glass being hand-blown, buy glass products, serene peaceful spot, cafe… — http://www.kitengela-glass.com/ Also, right nearby is Rolf’s Place, for daring people who want to cross over a high footbridge to get to a restaurant with a nice view (even if mediocre food).
  • Kazuri Bead Factory (Karen) — Shop amongst may glass and ceramic items, 80% jewelry that’s relatively affordable (for what you get!) but also during regular hours you can go nextdoor to get a really nice tour of 100+ women working in the big factory space, making beads and shaping ceramics together. They are friendly, and it’s really actually neat to see how they are all made. http://www.kazuri.com/aboutus.html#

Examples of other excursions

Masai Ostrich Farm — I haven’t done this yet, but apparently you can ride ostriches and eat ostrich burgers?

  • Pawa254 (pawa254.org) young people’s visual performing etc arts, graffiti studio, free events, drop by anytime
  • Kuona Trust — visual art centre (exhibitions), drop by normal hours
  • iHub
  • GoDown Arts Centre — warehouses of artists, industrial area
  • Creatives Garage
  • Circle Art Gallery
  • The Nest
  • Kibera Town Centre
  • so many more!

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