New things to do in Nairobi
Make it more than just a layover
Although we still love the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Karen Blixen Museum, there’s much more to Nairobi than these ‘go-to’ attractions that everyone and their uncle has done.
A frenetic and thriving metropolis, there is so much more to Nairobi than your stock standard travel sites will showcase. And as frequent visitors, we’re on a mission to peel away its many layers, breaking its stigma as simply just a drop-in destination for safari-goers.
If you’re looking for new things to do in Nairobi, read on to discover what you really need to be adding to your travel list.
If sampling local fare tops your travel list, take advantage of a visit to Cultiva. This pop-up restaurant serves organic farm-to-fork creations guaranteed to change how you see African cuisine. Their ever-changing menu will also introduce you to a range of organic ingredients: micro herbs, nutrient-rich veggies, and locally-grown superfoods such as baobab and moringa, which are exported worldwide. During our recent trip to Kenya, we appreciated those fresh, nourishing salads after all the travel indulgences we had on safari!
Prepare to write a five-star review about Boho. This whole foods restaurant is run by a team who is passionate about conscious and sustainable living – believing that clean living has everything to do with eating clean. This ethos informs the integrity of the produce sourced and consumed and the entire supply chain that supports it. They are committed to consistently creating quality food and beverage products prepared from the best of what Kenya offers.
#3 The Talisman Restaurant
From humble beginnings back in the 90s, The Talisman Restaurant got its start in a small old house in Karen initially occupied by the famous wildlife photographer and author, Alan Root. The Talisman has since grown into a household name with one of the best cuisines in the country. Perk up your palate with a fine dining experience in an environmentally-friendly organic garden, which has racked up international awards.
#4 Tin Roof Cafe
Since the rainy season ends in April, the water levels of Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls) are at their highest. If you’ve been longing to witness this natural spectacle at her most dramatic, then this is the best time to travel on safari in Zimbabwe or Zambia. During this month, she really steps it up, rightfully claiming her title as the ‘Smoke that Thunders’. That thunderous roar of cascading water can be heard long before you see it – something not to be missed in your lifetime!
#5 Circle Art Gallery
If you’d like to add a new piece of contemporary African artwork to add to your collection, head to the Circle Art Gallery at 910 James Gichuru Road. This boutique gallery proudly showcases one-of-a-kind pieces sourced from across Eastern Africa. Their overall intention is to create a strong and sustainable art market for local artists while promoting the most innovative and exciting artists currently practicing in this region.
#6 Ocean Sole
On your next visit to Nairobi, drop in at Ocean Sole. Here, local artisans turn discarded flip flops along Kenya’s coast into oh-so-colorful works of art. Not only does it help raise awareness for ocean pollution, but it provides a much-needed lifeline for over 1,000 Kenyans. Their flip flop scraps and carving bits are further used to create mattresses for refugees and communities in need. Makes you think twice about flip flops, doesn’t it?
#7 Anthony Russell
Whether you’re an art collector or value conservation, you’re guaranteed to appreciate the iconic artwork displayed at Anthony Russel’s studio, which he opens on occasion. Drawing upon a lifetime of experience in the African wilderness, he possesses a deep knowledge of tribal culture. Anthony’s public exhibitions and private shows provide a substantial percentage of the proceeds to philanthropic initiatives.
#8 Nani's Glass
Located not far from Kenya’s capital, Kitangela Glass Art (aka Nani’s) is a little-known secret amongst the global safari community. Of course, its anonymity isn’t the only thing that makes it so special. Not only will you stay in glass-adorned cottages, but you’ll also watch local artisans creating unrestrained and fantastical artwork. See butterflies, birds, and the Big 5, all made from glass! This bonafide GLP (great little place) is just another reminder not to rush off to Kenya’s national parks.
RefuSHE stands as a healing community for orphaned and separated refugee women and girls, providing a nurturing space for them to learn, grow and reach their full potential. Their award-winning holistic model offers short and long-term support by providing access to fundamental human rights, education, and skill development, empowering them to become leaders within their own communities. Their artisan collective shop is located on RefuSHE’s campus in Nairobi, where all proceeds go towards their mission.
#10 KOBE Tough
Should you want to pick up a few travel treasures during your next visit to Nairobi, don’t skip a visit to KOBE Tough Bead Project. Having visited it recently, we can attest that their handmade jewelry is out of this world (and Fair Trade certified). While there, you’ll also have the privilege of watching these talented ladies at work as they transform clay into ceramic beads. As for the name, ‘kobe’ is the Swahili word for sea turtle. This extraordinary creature with a hard external shell is very much a metaphor for the resilient women employed here.
#11 African Heritage House
If you have an eye for architecture or art in general, make your way to the African Heritage House. Overlooking the Nairobi National Park and co-founded by the late Alan Donovan (a champion of African arts), the house showcases the most eye-catching combination of mud designs from across the continent. It’s also brimming with artifacts, and is available for tours, overnight stays, and sit-down meals on its rooftop or by the pool.
#12 Nai Nami
If you’re looking for new things to do in Nairobi, Nai Nami is a local platform offering immersive city tours led by former street children. These bespoke and personal experiences offer an insider’s perspective of Nairobi, further providing each guide with a sense of purpose and employment. If you want to get under the skin of Kenya’s capital, there’s no one better to have at your side than one of these streetsmart storytellers.
#13 House of Treasures
House of Treasures is a one-stop shopping gallery offering an impressive range of architectural pieces: indoor, outdoor, and children’s furniture, home decor, and household accessories. Other treasures found here include mirrors, lighting fixtures, bed linen and throws, carpets, glassware, crockery, artificial flowers, art, and photography. There’s also a collection of men and women’s clothes and accessories. You’ll undoubtedly discover something of interest to take back home with you.
#14 Nairobi graffiti tour
Nairobi-based Graffiti Girls Kenya, is a group of fearless women finding ways to express themselves through the art medium of graffiti. In doing so, they’re also continuing to draw attention to civic issues through their murals which grace the walls of creative hubs and community centers. On your next visit, opt for a guided tour, which meanders through the CBD towards Nairobi’s Eastland neighborhood. If there’s time afterward, you can also dabble in a small graffiti workshop – how’s that for new things to do in Nairobi?
#15 Shagala Bagala
If gin is your drink of choice, don’t miss a visit to Shagala Bagala. This newly established distillery, fueled by ‘chaos’ (as their tagline states), produces an impeccable range of gin variants that have the potential to convert non-drinkers to nightly enthusiasts. It’s a stellar hangout spot far from the bustle where you can kick back in the sunshine, sipping away on something lovely.
#16 The Brandy Bus
Parked in a quiet suburb in Nairobi is a converted green-and-cream-colored bus called The Brandy Bus. This once-rusted double-decker was converted into a two-story tiny cottage by its owner, Karen Fraser. Once belonging to her grandfather, it was originally covered in Courvoisier Brandy adverts, hence the name. This local legend is now well-loved and used by travelers, and even sports its own cozy kitchen and safari-themed bathroom. It’s a stellar accommodation option should you want something a little more quirky than a standard hotel.
#17 Wasp & Sprout
Also on our list of new things to do in Nairobi is Wasp & Sprout. This hip little café in the leafy suburb of Loresho feels comfy and welcoming. During the day, there are open-mic sessions led by Nairobi’s budding musicians, but at night you can sit down for al fresco dinners with candles flickering on the tables. The menu is well thought-out, featuring everything from nourishing salads and sandwiches to bite-sized snacks and steamy coffee. The owners handmake all the furniture here, so you can even commission your customized design to take home.
Located in L’angata, Utamaduni Restaurant is the go-to place for those looking to sample proper homecooked Kenyan food. There’s plenty to tempt your tastebuds here, from nyama choma (local barbecue) to ugali (maize porridge) and many other community-specific specialities. Utamanduni (Swahili for ‘culture’) also incorporates a laidback artist collective with several stalls located within a charming old house.
Here at ATC, we’re always on the lookout for new things to do in Nairobi – and Kenya as a whole. While heading to her national parks may be what you’ve always envisioned, if you take the time to dig a little deeper, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.
Big Journeys Start With Small Steps
~ African Proverb