Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, is often thought of as stopover point for travelers before they continue their journey on to explore the country’s renowned national parks. Its name originates from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which means "cold water." This is a reference to the Nairobi River, which flows through the city. It's also here where you'll find incredible history, a burgeoning food scene, and a dynamic community of artisans. On your next visit, don’t just drop in: Instead, consider extending your stay and exploring this unique city for yourself and take in everything the destination has to offer. Not convinced yet? Here are six reasons to extend your stay in Nairobi.
1. Historical Ties
For travelers living their Out of Africa fantasy, pinpoint the Karen Blixen House, which is located in the neighborhood named for the Baroness. While the movie was not filmed at the farmhouse-turned-museum (it was shot nearby), the estate is styled just as Blixen had it herself. A number of the writer’s personal effects are also on display here.
2. Animal Encounters
Wildlife enthusiasts need not leave the city before seeing the flourishing animal population of Kenya. Plan a visit to Nairobi National Park, one of the only national parks within city limits. Here, you'll find antelope, giraffes, lions, and zebras, among other incredible wildlife. The park is also home to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage and nursery, which is open to the public and affords the opportunity to learn more about the organization's work and watch elephant feedings (admission is $7 per person). The Giraffe Centre, a conservation center for Rothschild's giraffes, is open daily to visitors for educational experiences that include feedings, lectures, and nature trails.
3. Artisan Experiences
The entrepreneurial and artistic spirit thrives in Nairobi. Kazuri, a handmade ceramic bead and jewelry company, began as a tiny workshop in 1975 for single mothers. Today, the brand has expanded and employs over 340 disadvantaged Kenyan women. The factory is open to the public Monday through Friday, as well as Saturdays. Art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Kuona Trust Art Centre, which showcases the work of local artists and is home to various exhibition spaces and galleries. Artwork featured includes contemporary African art in mediums ranging from woodwork to printmaking.
4. Get Outside
Kenya Wildlife Service’s Nairobi Safari Walk, a boardwalk path built atop an animal refuge, offers visitors the chance to spot an array of wildlife animals found across the country (entrance is $22 for adults and $13 for children). Alternately, Oloolua Nature Trail is a three-mile outdoor trail. The highlight here is the waterfall, which flows into the Mbagathi River; it's an amazing sight you won't want to miss. Along the trail, you'll also find a bat-filled cave. There are plenty of picnic spots, too. Entry is $2 per person; the trail is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
5. Watering Holes and Kitchens
Nothing beats a cold Tusker beer and a plate of hot samosas; but for the best experience, skip the hotel lobby bar and head into town. Don’t miss the hot corn fritters served with housemade chili jam from About Thyme. Cocktail aficionados should try a Dawa (a popular Kenyan cocktail made from vodka, honey, and lime) from Talisman Restaurant. Nyama Mama offers travelers a true taste of Kenyan cuisine. With three locations around the city, there’s no excuse not to pop in for an affordable hot plate of local favorites like chargrilled lamb wraps with masala chips or spicy muteta beef soup, a hearty soup packed with herbs.
Interested in a souvenir to remember the trip? Look no further than Maasai Market, which is hosted in the city's Central Business District on weekends. Here, you'll find an array of affordable and locally-made souvenirs like baskets, sandals, and artwork. There's also Utamaduni, a craft center in which each room features a different maker. Utamundi sells everything from textiles to kitchen supplies; the store is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.