During our recent trip to Kenya, we had to decide how to best spend a day in Nairobi since we had only a limited amount of time in the city. We share our own detailed 1 day Nairobi itinerary to help other travelers plan their own visit.
Nairobi is Kenya’s capital, the most populous city in eastern Africa, and a major business, political, and financial hub in Africa. Most tourists arrive at the NBO airport and then head out the next day for safari, earning the city the nickname “Safari Capital of the World”. However, Nairobi is worth at least a day or two of exploration as the city offers parks, shopping, art museums, cultural attractions, the chance to get up close with wildlife, and even safari game viewing!
We share what we did in one day in Nairobi with a detailed stop-by-stop itinerary of where we went and the timing for each stop. We focused on a mix of wildlife and cultural attractions in determining how to spend our day in Nairobi, spending our time feeding giraffes, ogling baby elephants, visiting the house made famous by Out of Africa, learning about handmade ceramics, and sipping coffee. We give you lots of advice on how you can plan the same trip yourself.
We are lucky to have returned to Nairobi and had the chance to further explore the city. So we also share a number of other options for how you might spend a day in Nairobi and provide alternative one day itinerary ideas. Whether you are interested in art, culture, family activities, nature, history, or wildlife, you are sure to find plenty of things to do in Nairobi.
Table of Contents:
How to Spend a Day in Nairobi: Putting Together your Itinerary
Nairobi is one of the largest cities in Africa and a growing one. We were surprised by both the amount of construction and industry and the significant presence of major international corporations in the city. There are loads of modern hotels, shopping malls, and business centers in the city.
At the same time, Nairobi, like many large cities, struggles with issues of crime, poverty, and unemployment. Wealthy suburbs like Karen, Gigiri, and Lang’ata stand in marked contrast to the slums of Kibera and Mathare, demonstrating a large social and economic divide.
If you are only going to have one (or even two) days, you’ll want to plan ahead to make the most of your time. Some of the places are a bit spread out so it is wise to try to group places together by location. Be sure to keep opening times and dates in mind when planning your trip.
Nairobi has a number of attractions that should appeal to those who are interested in art, food, wildlife, nature, history, local culture, or shopping. Some of the most popular visitor attractions include Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Giraffe Centre, Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi National Park, Utamaduni Shops, Karen Blixen Museum, Bomas of Kenya, August 7th Memorial Park, African Heritage House, Nairobi Gallery, and Nairobi Railway Museum. Many people also do a downtown city tour to visit places like the local markets, the KICC rooftop, and city parks and gardens.
For the sake of time, convenience, and safety, I would suggest seeing the city with a driver and/or guide if for no other reason than the traffic (and inventive driving strategies of locals) can be very frustrating. For most places in Nairobi, you’ll probably just need a driver, but if you are interested in a city tour, walking tour of Kibera, or game drives in Nairobi National Park, you’ll want a guide. In our case, our driver and guide were the same person.
Check out this guide to things to do in Nairobi Kenya for a fairly comprehensive list of places to visit as well as tips on things like getting around, tipping, booking tours, shopping, and safety. This should give you a good starting point for planning your visit if you only have one day in Nairobi. This list could actually be used to put together an itinerary for several days in Nairobi if you have more time.
If you are planning a short visit to Nairobi and plan to follow an itinerary very similar to the one we outline below, I’d recommend staying in one of the western neighborhoods of Nairobi such as Karen, Lavington, or Lang’ata.
This will put you within a relatively short driving distance of all of the attractions on this itinerary. Tamarind Tree Hotel in Lang’ata is a particularly convenient option for those planning to eat at the Carnivore Restaurant as the restaurant is located within the hotel grounds.
Our Visit to Nairobi: A 1 Day Nairobi Itinerary
On my first trip to Nairobi in 2014, we had 2 full days planned in Nairobi with Amani Afrika before setting off to Amboseli National Park and then to do a charity trek of Mount Kilimanjaro. However, due to a flight delay and the subsequent missed flight connection, we had less time than anticipated.
We also had left behind part of my laptop’s power cord and that also led to spending a couple of hours shopping for a replacement (shout out to Elite Digitial Services in the Sarit Centre). So we ended up having only 1 full day for sightseeing.
After a very good breakfast at our guesthouse, Lavington Hill House, we were picked up by our driver guide Jimmy and set out for the day. We had a set itinerary which was built around visiting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage as it is only open to the public for 1 hour per day.
We essentially followed this full day tour for our day in Nairobi. So I’d check that out if wanting to follow this itinerary and need transport.
This was our trip itinerary in 2014, which we were able to repeat in 2022 to ensure this was still a good itinerary and to update any outdated information. I enjoyed the visits in 2014 and enjoyed them again in 2022!
Here is our recommended trip itinerary for how to spend 1 day in Nairobi:
Stop 1: Giraffe Centre @ 9:00am
Our first stop was the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Centre which was one of the places that Ethan looked the most forward to on our entire trip because giraffes happen to be his favorite animal.
The center has been successful in breeding the Rothschild’s giraffe, an endangered subspecies of giraffe found only in East Africa. The center was established in the 1970’s by Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, and in addition to the breeding, conservation, and release of giraffes, it also provides education to the public.
After arrival, we were both given a handful of pellets that you can feed to the giraffes from a large viewing platform. The platforms are raised so that you are standing face-to-face with the adult giraffes, and you can offer the giraffes pellets by hand.
When we visited in 2014, staff encouraged the more adventuresome visitors (like us) to place the pellets between their lips for a giraffe kiss. It is quite a feeling to have a wet and rough giraffe tongue lick your face! However, this was no longer permitted when we visited in 2022 due to the pandemic for obvious reasons (and perhaps kissing giraffes was never the best idea!).
The highlight here is definitely getting up-close views of these beautiful long-legged animals. But to get the most of your visit don’t forget to look down to spot the resident warthogs, learn about the giraffes by listening to one of the free educational talks or lectures, and take a walk along the Giraffe Centre Nature Trail that begins just across the road.
We really enjoyed our time at the Giraffe Center, but do be aware that this is a VERY popular stop for school groups and tour groups. So it can get busy here so you may need to be patient.
A visit here averages about 30 minutes, but allow longer if you really want to explore the nature trails. We spent about an hour here.
The center is normally open daily for public tours and visits from 9:00am – 5.00 pm. You can book tickets in advance but it is not necessary and you can also purchase them on site.
Stop 2: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage @ 10:30am
Our second stop during our day in Nairobi was to visit the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. David Sheldrick was a game warden and pioneer conservationist in Kenya. His wife Daphne established the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant and rhino nursery and sanctuary, in his name in his memory in the late 1970s following his death.
Located within a section of Nairobi National Park, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provides care and a home to dozens of orphaned baby elephants and rhinos from all over the country with the goal of being able to release them back into the wild. If you haven’t read Daphne Sheldrick’s memoir, Love, Life, and Elephants, we highly recommend reading it before your visit here.
Visitors can visit daily at 11:00am to watch the public feedings of the young elephants and learn more about the mission of the trust. Although the feedings begin at 11:00am, you are advised to arrive and check-in at least 15 minutes early. We got here around 10:30am as recommended at the time of our visit.
We weren’t really sure what to expect but after parking, paying the entrance donation fee, and entering, you follow a path to a large partially fenced off dirt area. There are typically hundreds of visitors here but the space is pretty large so you can still stake out a good viewpoint.
After a brief introduction, the first group of about 20 baby elephants were led into the fenced off area, these were the youngest of the elephants. You get to watch as they are fed bottles by the handlers, play in the water and dirt, and roam around the area. If you are lucky, you might get a chance to touch one if it comes up to the rope, but you need to be careful as they weigh a ton.
After the first group was taken away, another group of about 20 older young elephants were led in and the feeding process was repeated. During the feeding, a staff member with a microphone explains the goals of the trust and gives you some information about the individual resident baby elephants and rhinos (if there are any rhinos).
It was sad to hear how many of the elephants are orphans due to poaching and human water conflict situations. Elephant and rhino poaching is very much still a problem in Kenya. Drought has also become one of the biggest factors in recent years.
The cost of raising just one orphan elephant or rhino is very expensive and the organization depends on donations and fundraising projects. For those who want to contribute more to protecting the elephants, anyone can make a donation to adopt an orphan for a minimum annual donation of $50 (£35). Donors then receive monthly detailed information and updates about their orphan.
We really enjoyed our visit here and it was probably our favorite stop of the day. Not only did we get to see a bunch of cute baby elephants, but we also got to learn about and support a great organization.
Note that starting in March 2020, due to the pandemic, only guests who have confirmed pre-booked reservations have been allowed to visit. This is being done to control visitor numbers and ensure the safety of both the animals and visitors. They are also only accepting cash for payment on arrival.
So if you are visiting here, be sure to check the current entry requirements and booking guidelines before visiting. We recommend making your reservation or booking your guided tour before you leave home to ensure you can visit. If you are visiting with a tour, they will likely help you sort this out but you may still need to bring cash to pay the entry fee if the entrance is not included.
Stop 3: Utamaduni Shops @ 12:15am
This wasn’t actually listed on our itinerary, but our driver made a quick stop at Utamaduni Shops, formerly the Utamaduni Craft Centre, so that we could peruse the large number of craft items and souvenirs. This is a common short stop for many tours to give visitors a chance to shop or get a cup of coffee.
There are both outdoor stalls as well as a much larger indoor store. You can find a bit of everything here, including wood carvings, soaps, slippers, clothing, children’s items, and jewelry. The Steetwise stall in front of the building sells a number of inexpensive locally made items and all sales from that shop benefit the disadvantaged youth who made the items.
This was a good fairly quick stop for us. For those who want to do some serious souvenir shopping, leave more time as there are a number of small rooms and a lot of merchandise on offer here. It is our recommended place to stop if you only have time to shop at only one place in Nairobi.
There is a cafe and restaurant located at Utamaduni Shops that serves meals, snacks, and drinks. So can be a good place to stop for coffee or lunch. There is also a small children’s play area.
Stop 4: Karen Blixen Museum @ 1:00pm
After the souvenir shop, we were given the choice of whether to head to lunch or to the Karen Blixen Museum. We decided to stop at the museum first as we were not too hungry and were told we could do the house tour and visit the grounds in about an hour. But you could easily reverse the two and eat lunch first.
The Karen Blixen Museum is housed in the farmhouse where Danish author Karen Blixen (penname Isak Dinesen) lived from 1914 to 1931. The house was built in 1912, and later bought by Karen and her husband Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke when they began a coffee plantation. Blixen and her coffee farm became well-known because of the book she wrote about her experiences in Kenya and the 1985 film adaptation Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.
We joined a guided group tour of the house which included the interior of the house, the detached kitchen, and a small portion of the grounds. The house is much smaller than we expected but includes original furniture that belonged to Blixen, including the famous cuckoo clock, as well as some movie props used in the filming of Out of Africa.
The tour lasts about 40 – 45 minutes and then visitors are allowed to explore the grounds and gift shop on their own. The great views of the Ngong Hills that Blixen often commented on in her book remain, and it was nice to just walk around the property and notice other things that Blixen wrote about in her book.
I am glad we visited as someone who has read the book and watched the movie, although I think visitors not familiar with the book or film will likely not find the tour as interesting.
Opening hours are typically from 9:30am to 6:00pm daily. You can buy tickets in person on arrival. Photography is not permitted inside the house.
Stop 5: Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens @ 2:00pm
We stopped for a late and leisurely lunch at the Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens. The restaurant and an associated lodge sit on property that was once part of the large coffee estate that belonged to Karen Blixen and her husband.
The restaurant is quite large and is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also have a bar and lounge area. We had our choice of dining areas, including both indoor and outdoor dining. We requested an outdoor table, which we’d recommend if the weather is nice as the gardens are lovely.
The menu has changed over time from our first visit in 2014 to our last visit in 2022, but the menu contains a mix of Western and Indian dishes, plus a few local Kenyan dish options. We’ve tried a bit of everything from samosas to hamburgers to whole grilled tilapia with ugali. There have always been several seafood options as well as meat and vegetarian dishes. Food and service here have always been good.
After lunch, we ordered coffee and sat and talked for a while. Even if you don’t want to have a meal here, you might consider a stop here for coffee or drinks after a visit to the nearby Karen Blixen Museum. You can also view the historic houses here, including the Swedo House and Grogan MacMillan Manor House.
Reservations are generally not necessary for lunch unless you have a large group, but are recommended for dinner.
Stop 6: Kazuri Beads @ 3:30pm
The last stop of our tour was at Kazuri Beads. Kazuri Beads makes ceramic handpainted beads, ornaments, and pottery. It was started in 1975 as a business to employ local single mothers and now has grown to employ around 300 people. The word kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili.
When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the staff and given a brief introduction. Then a guide took us on a free tour of the factory. We got to see how they make the beads and pottery, learning about the how whole process, from mixing the clay to hand painting the beads to adding the final touches. The tour took about 30 minutes and is definitely worth doing if you have the time.
At the end of the tour, you are, of course, led to the Kazuri Beads shop and left to browse on your own. Although they are best known for their beaded jewelry, they also make and sell other items such as ceramic tableware, pots, and ornaments.
This is a great place to support. You can purchase something for yourself as a souvenir or to give as a gift when you get back home. I have a red necklace from here that I love.
We spent about 1 hour here in total. After finishing our visit to Kazuri Beads, we were taken back to our hotel and had a couple of hours of rest before dinner. We were happy to have the break as we were tired and enjoyed having some time to relax, but you could use this time instead to visit someplace else or do a city tour.
Stop 7: (later in evening): Carnivore Restaurant for Dinner @ 7:00pm
After a break of a couple of hours, we were then picked up to head to Carnivore for dinner. Carnivore is probably the best known restaurant in Nairobi and serves “a beast of a feast”. It is a restaurant focused on roasted and grilled meats that are cooked over a large charcoal fire on Maasai swords.
The restaurant became famous for offering a number of exotic meats; however, game laws changed in Kenya and they now only serve farmed meat. You can still find meats like crocodile and ostrich on the menu alongside more familiar ones like beef, chicken, lamb, and pork.
The meal is served differently than in most other restaurants. You start with soup, then salads and sauces are brought, then baked potatoes, and then a parade of different meats. You can eat for as long as wish. You need to put down the flag at your table when you “surrender” and don’t want any more meat. Then, if you can still manage to eat anything, dessert is served!
The price of your meal includes all your food, but it does not include any drinks that you order. Dawa is a popular vodka-based cocktail that was invited here and the house special. You can make reservations (we did), but these are often not necessary unless you are a large group.
This is obviously a popular restaurant with tourists and a bit kitschy, but we enjoyed having dinner here. We tried all the meats (our favorite was the ostrich meatballs) and even saved room for dessert. You certainly want to be hungry when you go here to make the most of it.
If you are looking for transportation to Carnivore, there are a number of transport options you can book that include pick up at your hotel, your meal, and return drop-off at your lodging.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Nairobi, Tamarind Tree Hotel is a particularly convenient option if you are planning to have dinner at Carnivore. The restaurant is located on the hotel grounds so you can just walk here and do not need to worry about booking transport or taking a taxi.
Booking Nairobi Day Tours
Most visitors to Nairobi, especially if they just have a day to explore, book a tour or hire a driver. This is an especially good idea if you are trying to visit multiple attractions within one day. You can book a small group (usually a maximum of 8 people or less), a private guided tour, or arrange your own private driver.
Before booking any tour, be sure to check to see what is included/excluded and any restrictions before booking. Entrance fees to attractions and the cost of meals may not be included in the price so you will want to plan and budget accordingly.
You also want to be sure to check the tour’s cancellation and refund policies. When traveling, we normally book our tours in advance with either GetYourGuide or Viator which both offer a 24-hour cancellation policy for most tickets and tours. This means you can cancel a tour up to 24 hours before it starts and receive a full refund. This allows for flexibility if our travel plans unexpectedly change.
Here are several options that have similar to the first tour we did in Nairobi:
- This full-day small group tour includes visits to the Giraffe Centre, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, Kazuri Beads factory, and the Karen Blixen Museum. This is the same tour itinerary I took on my first visit to Nairobi.
- This full day small group tour includes Giraffe Centre, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, the Karen Blixen Museum, and the Bomas of Kenya. Similar to our itinerary but skips Kazuri Beads and visits the Bomas of Kenya instead.
- This full-day small group tour includes visits to the Giraffe Centre, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Kazuri Beads, and Bomas of Kenya. This is similar to our tour but includes the Bomas of Kenya instead of the Karen Blixen Museum.
- This 6-hour private tour includes visits to the Giraffe Centre, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, and Kazuri Beads. So it just leaves out the Karen Blixen Museum.
- This full-day small group tour includes a Nairobi National Park morning game drive and visits to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe Centre, and Bomas of Kenya. Compared to our day, this leaves out the Karen Blixen Museum and Kazuri Beads, but includes the park game drive and Bomas.
- This half-day private tour includes visits to the Giraffe Centre, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, and lunch at Carnivore. I believe that you also have the option to stop at Utamaduni Shops. A good private tour option for those with limited time.
Alternative 1 Day Nairobi Itinerary Ideas
Now, the above itinerary we did is a great way to spend a full day in Nairobi for a first-time visitor. And the attractions included will appeal to a wide variety of travelers so we do recommend it to a lot of people. However, there are lots of other places and attractions in Nairobi other than the ones we highlighted above.
If the above doesn’t appeal or you are looking for more options, we recommend checking out our things to do in Nairobi post for lots of ideas on other places you could visit. That post talks about all the places mentioned below in the itinerary ideas and also gives lots of practical travel advice and tips for visiting the city.
If you are looking for other ideas for how to spend a day in Nairobi, here are some alternative itinerary options. These can be an alternative to the above-suggested itinerary or may help you plan the rest of your time in Nairobi if you have more than one day in the city.
For those looking for a driver/guide and transport, we also give you some tour options (both small group and private) that may be a good fit for each itinerary theme.
History & Culture Itinerary
There are a lot of options for someone who wants to focus on history and cultural stops, but the three that come top of mind for me are the Nairobi National Museum, doing a city tour with a local, and going to the Bomas of Kenya to catch one of the daily cultural performances.
Other options you might consider visiting are the city’s other central museums and galleries such as the Nairobi Gallery, Nairobi Railway Museum, and Kenya National Archives gallery. You may also want to visit some of the local markets. Other places you may want to consider visiting outside the central area would be the Karen Blixen Museum, African Heritage House, and Uhuru Gardens.
A sample history and culture itinerary:
- Morning: Visit the Nairobi National Museum. Do a city tour.
- Afternoon: Go to the Bomas of Kenya in time for the performance, might also want to have lunch at the Utamaduni Restaurant here. Consider a visit to Uhuru Gardens afterward which has several memorials and monuments related to Kenyan independence.
If you need transport or want to hire a guide, you may need to book a morning tour of the city, and then book an afternoon tour that includes the Bomas.
This private 6-hour city tour includes stops at Nairobi National Museum, KICC rooftop, and a visit to the Bomas of Kenya. This is one of the few tours that includes both time in downtown Nairobi plus a visit to the Bomas.
This 4-hour private tour of central Nairobi includes flexible stops at the Nairobi National Museum, Railway Museum, KICC rooftop, and City Market. This small group city orientation tour includes stops at several places with lunch at Carnivore.
If you are more interested in walking tours, you might consider this downtown walking tour, this storytelling tour, or this food tour.
This private tour includes transport and entrance fees to visit the Bomas of Kenya.
This evening tour takes you to the Safari Cats performance at a local hotel which includes a traditional dinner buffet experience focused on nyama choma and a 1-hour dance and acrobatics performance.
Wildlife & Animals Itinerary
If your main focus is just seeing animals, then Nairobi National Park is probably your best bet. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Giraffe Center, and Mamba Village are also popular options. Hiking in the local forests is also a great place to spot birds and local wildlife.
A sample wildlife-focused itinerary:
- Morning: Do a morning game drive at Nairobi National Park (or you could spend the full day here). Then to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage for 11:00 feeding time.
- Afternoon: Then a visit to the Giraffe Centre after lunch.
This 6-hour guided tour includes a Nairobi National Park morning game drive followed by visits to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Centre. Here is a very similar tour option.
This full-day tour includes a Nairobi National Park morning game drive and visits to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe Centre, and Bomas of Kenya.
If you are just wanting to spend the day at Nairobi National Park, this half day small group tour includes a 4 to 5 hour game drive in Nairobi National Park. If you prefer a private tour, this private safari tour can be booked as a half day visit to Nairobi National Park or a full day visit to Nairobi National Park plus a stop at the Giraffe Centre.
Family Friendly Itinerary
Some activities in Nairobi are more family-friendly than others and what might be the best places to visit for your family is going to depend on the ages and interests of your kids.
The most popular family activities are the more animal-focused attractions like Nairobi National Park, Nairobi Safari Walk (and the Safari Walk Children’s Museum), Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Giraffe Center, and Mamba Village.
Taking breaks and giving children time to run around and play can be important, especially for younger kids, and Nairobi has a number of parks and gardens you can visit. Central Park and Uhuru Park (adjacent to one another) are a good central option with a children’s playground and boat rentals available. The Nairobi Arboretum is another option just outside the center. Just be sure to always keep a close eye on children at all times.
The most children-friendly museum based on our experience is Nairobi National Museum, which is popular with school visits and there is also the Snake Park, Botanical Gardens, and picnic areas here so you could easily spend half a day or more here. The Nairobi Railway Museum could also be interesting to older children.
Children may also enjoy a visit to the KICC rooftop for a view over the city, a city walking tour, or watching the Bomas of Kenya cultural performances. The Bomas is a popular place for Kenyan schoolchildren to visit.
A sample family-friendly Nairobi itinerary:
- Morning: Visit the Nairobi Safari Walk or do a morning game drive at Nairobi National Park.
- Afternoon: Visit the Giraffe Centre and Bomas of Kenya
This private full-day tour includes Nairobi National Park (could visit Nairobi Safari Walk instead if wanted), Giraffe Centre, and Bomas of Kenya.
This 6-hour guided tour includes a Nairobi National Park morning game drive followed by visits to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Centre. This full-day tour includes the Nairobi Safari Walk, Animal Orphanage, and Bomas of Kenya.
This private tour explores downtown Nairobi and can be tailored to your tastes. So can be a good tour for families who may need to slow down, skip visits, or detour to a park. This half day tour visits the Nairobi National Museum, the Snake Park, and Botanical Gardens.
Just note that some tours may have age restrictions for children due to insurance or safety regulations. Most tours do accept children, but be sure to check before booking.
Local Life & Culture Itinerary
For those interested in local life and culture, we’d recommend doing a local walking tour of the downtown area or of Kibera followed by a visit to the Bomas of Kenya.
Other places that might be of interest are the Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi Gallery, local markets, and local public parks and gardens. You might also consider a food tour or lunch at a restaurant that serves Kenyan food.
A sample local cultural itinerary:
- Morning: Do a downtown city tour with a local. Or do a morning Kibera tour of Africa’s largest slum area.
- Afternoon: Try Kenyan dishes for lunch. Go to the Bomas of Kenya in time for the performance.
For booking a day like the above with transport, you’ll probably need to book a morning tour followed by an afternoon tour to the Bomas. You can grab a local lunch in the city center or consider eating lunch at the Utamaduni Restaurant located at the Bomas of Kenya.
This private 6-hour city tour is flexible and generally includes stops at Nairobi National Museum, KICC rooftop, and a visit to the Bomas of Kenya.
This downtown storytelling walking tour of the Central Business District is led by former street children and includes lunch. Other city tour options include this historical walking tour and this 4-hour flexible private downtown tour.
If you want to do a tour of Kibera, two tours to consider are this tour and this one.
For the braver travelers, this local tour includes transport by boda boda (motorcycle) with a morning tour of Kibera, a visit to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage, and a local pub lunch.
This 5-hour walking food tour is a great option to consider for those wanting to try a number of Kenya foods and dishes. It is normally available twice a day for either lunch or dinner. Just note it can be hard to combine with other tours given its timing and length.
If you want to do a visit to the Bomas of Kenya, this private tour includes transport, a guide, and entrance fees to visit the Bomas of Kenya.
Markets & Shopping Itinerary
As Kenya’s capital city, you have a wide range of shopping options here from outdoor markets to luxury boutiques. There are shopping malls, local markets, the Maasai Markets, and souvenir and craft shops. So it will depend on the type of shopping you want to do, your budget, and what you are looking to buy.
A sample Nairobi shopping itinerary:
- Morning: Visit the City Market and Maasai Markets
- Afternoon: Go to Kazuri Beads in Karen (factory tour plus store) and stop at Utamaduni Shops
At the markets, streetside vendors, and Maasai markets, haggling or bargaining is common and prices are often not set or marked. So keep this in mind. Prices are set at places like Kazuri Beads, Utamaduni Shops, and the shopping centers. I’d read our Nairobi travel guide for more info and tips on shopping and haggling.
If you are looking for a tour with transport and a guide, this full day shopping tour of Nairobi allows you to visit a number of shops, markets, and craft centers in Nairobi.
If you are primarily interested in nature and the outdoors, places you might consider visiting are Nairobi National Park, Karura Forest, and the many local parks and gardens in the city.
If you just want to get out and walk, you could spend a full day hiking (or cycling) and exploring Karura Forest. Or hike along the Oloolua Nature Trail, head to the Nairobi Arboretum, or enjoy the Botanical Garden and nature trail at Nairobi National Museum.
- Morning: Do a morning game drive at Nairobi National Park
- Afternoon: Spend the afternoon hiking (or cycling) at Karura Forest.
For a morning at Nairobi National Park, you might consider this half day private tour or this half day small group tour of the park.
If you are interested in visiting Karura Forest, a couple of options with transport are this guided tour and this guided tour. Some tours include trail bike rentals.
Although outside of Nairobi, those interested in hiking may also want to consider this private day trip to Mount Longonot and Lake Naivasha.
And that is our guide to how to spend a day in Nairobi! We hope that if you are planning a trip to Kenya that this guide has been helpful to you in planning your Nairobi itinerary. If you have any questions about your trip to Nairobi, just ask us and we are happy to try to help.
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Have you been to Nairobi? What attractions would you recommend to travelers who only have one day to spend in Nairobi? If you have any questions about our visit to Nairobi, just ask us!
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James Post author
I really like this itinerary. Would it work in terms of timing to replace Karen Blixen house museum with the bomas? we only have one day and this would be our one chance to catch some sort of music/dance show. thanks, James
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Glad you are finding our Nairobi itinerary helpful. And yes, you could certainly replace the visit to the Karen Blixen Museum with a visit to the Bomas of Kenya instead. You just need to really watch your timing since you are interested in catching the afternoon cultural performance. This usually takes place at 2:00pm so you’d want to plan to arrive at the Bomas a little before then.
So to modify our suggested itinerary, you could do lunch by 1:00pm (could even eat at the Utamaduni Shops or at the Bomas since they have a restaurant) and then head to Bomas. Or if you wanted to fit in Kazuri Beads, you could do that instead of Utamaduni Shops after the Elephant Orphanage and then eat a quick lunch before heading to the Bomas.
For a tour with transport that includes the Bomas instead of the Karen Blixen museum, I’d check out this small group tour
Now, if you are planning to visit Nairobi soon, you should know that the Bomas are currently closed to public visits. They have not given an opening date but I suspect they won’t re-open until the end of August 2022 or September 2022. Hopefully if you are visiting after the summer, they will be reopen for the dates of your visit. If not, you might consider something like this evening show which features modern dancing and music, by a local dance group.
Hope that helps, and wishing you a wonderful trip to Nairobi.
mavi rashad Post author
Thanks for all the information on Nairobi!
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
You’re very welcome, glad you enjoyed the article. If you are planning a visit to Nairobi, feel free to ask us any questions as you plan your trip.
eleanor graves Post author
just found this after reading your things to do in Nairobi post! So this helps answering one of my questions I asked, but it made me think of another. My sister is a vegetarian, do you have any suggestions vegetarian-friendly alternative to carnivore? thanks again Jessica!
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Yes, Carnivore is not a great place for vegetarians or vegans. There are vegetarian items like the soups (usually vegetarian), the salads, sauces, baked potatoes, and dessert. But since the focus is on meat, probably not the best place to take your sister.
Boho Eatery may be a good bet as in the Langata area (near the Giraffe Centre) and serves primarily vegetarian and vegan food. It is open for lunch and for dinner on some days, so I’d check the hours once you have your dates set and are planning your time in Nairobi.
In that area are also Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden (usually open for breakfast/lunch/dinner), Cultiva Farm (lunch and dinner, reservations usually necessary), Utamaduni Restaurant (part of the Bomas of Kenya, serves Kenyan food, usually lunch and dinner but would check opening dates and times), the cafe/restaurant at Utamaduni Shops (I think just open for lunch, great casual spot), Asmara (Eritrean food, lunch and dinner), and there is the main restaurant at Tamarind Tree Hotel (Carnivore is also located here). While none of these restaurants are vegetarian, they all have vegetarian options.
Another option although further away (so may work for dinner but not lunch) is Chowpaty Westlands restaurant which serves only vegetarian Indian dishes if you both enjoy Indian food. Chowpaty has a few restaurants in Nairobi and is very popular with local vegetarians.
It is going to depend on whether you are going for lunch or dinner at some of these places as some are not open for dinner (or only on certain days of the week). Most are also closed at least one day per week.
Hope that helps!
Cori Post author
Thanks so much for this post! I’ve been in Nairobi on business for a week but it seems I will have about a day and a half of free time before heading back across the pond, and I hope to make the most of it. This was incredibly helpful.
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Hi Cori, Glad our post is helpful and I hope you enjoy your time in Nairobi. The city does not have the best reputation (because of terrorist events) but we used a local driver and felt safe. The city has lots of interesting places and attractions and I hope you enjoy some of them during your visit. I am sure your business colleagues will have even more places to suggest to you as well. Best, Jessica
Gerald Njuguna Post author
When you have time in Nairobi, i’d recommend you do two things
1. Tell your guide to take you on a ride in the city’s transport buses that are run by private businesses…those buses that are colored with heavy graffiti, pimped out seats, flat screen tvs and blaring music..its an experience you wont easily forget
2. If you are in the city on Thursday, go to Mayfair hotel where they have a special dining offer every Thursday where you eat unlimited pork ribs till you give up
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Thanks for those two interesting tips about other things to do in Nairobi!! Sounds like you know the city very well.
We have used matatus (privately owned minibuses used as share taxis) in Nairobi and they can be quite an interesting local experience. But am not sure that they would appeal to the average visitor to Nairobi. The city is also trying to phase them out and keep them out of the downtown central business district (CBD).
Marie P. Post author
Ahah! Great post on Nairobi, just been kissing an elephant last week :p
travelcats Post author
Really?! That sounds interesting!!
Rachel Post author
Lovely post, Nairobi is my home my city 🙂
travelcats Post author
Hi Rachel, thanks so much! Means a lot to hear you thought the post was good as a local from Nairobi!
Meredith Post author
I hadn’t heard very much about touring Nairobi before, which is a little surprising given how many interesting things listed just in this article! It sounds like a city that warrants greater consideration (and a slightly longer layover 🙂 ). I would love to see the Out of Africa homestead! I love the book and the movie, so it would be interesting to see where it was based/filmed just to say I’d been there. Love the conservation parks – especially the elephants!!
travelcats Post author
We keep hearing people saying they have never heard much about things to do in Nairobi or they avoided it during their visit because they heard it was “not nice”. We loved our time in Nairobi and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust visit was truly inspirational! I think you’d really enjoy the visit to the Karen Blixen Museum:)
Alan Feldstein Post author
All great things! We do all of these at Infinite Safari Adventures when we have clients in Nairobi!
travelcats Post author
Hi Alan! We are really happy you liked the suggested places being a safari owner yourself and quite the expert on Kenya:) We would love to return to Nairobi and Kenya to see more of it as we spent the majority of our time in Tanzania. Both countries were just stunning!
Muza Chan Post author
Lovely photos…wonderful post on how to spend a day in Nairobi. Hope to travel to Kenya soon.
travelcats Post author
Anna Post author
Ack! I’m always so jealous when I see people mixing with wildlife.. I would LOVE to do this! I’ve heard about the Giraffe Manor before and really want to do that someday! I’m glad there are such good organizations doing all they can to help the orphaned elephants. Thanks for the great tips on Nairobi. I’m going to pin it for when i finally make it out there. 🙂
travelcats Post author
I hope you get a chance to stay in the Giraffe Manor, Ethan would love to do this if we return:) Thanks for pinning the post!
Noel Morata Post author
Wow, that really is Out of Africa, what a stunning home, I would have loved to visit the actual home of the author and take the tour. Your Nairobi tour sounds fantastic.
travelcats Post author
Thanks for stopping by Noel and the home was really great to visit as a fan of the book and movie. Thanks for inviting me to share the post!
Johanna Post author
What a wonderful story, and a fantastic resource. Loved your photos too 🙂
travelcats Post author
Esther Post author
What an amazing day and what a great city guide, thanx! (Will bookmark). What you say about Nairobi is also very true for Johannesburg in South Africa I think. Many people arrive and immediately set off for Kruger or Pretoria, while there is actually so much going on there and lots to explore. The gap between rich and poor is heartbreaking, but I do have hope for the future.
Anyway, thanx for a great blog.
travelcats Post author
Thanks for bookmarking Esther! Yes, there are a lot of places that tourists don’t visit because the guidebooks say to avoid them, but I think missing a place like Johannesburg or Nairobi is missing out on seeing “real” urban Africa. In Nairobi, the government is slowly building housing in Kibera for the poor and has plans to try to help the residents so hopefully this will eventually make a big difference.
Corinne Post author
Jessica, I have not been to Nairobi, and actually this is the first time I’ve read to give it a try. Most people tell you to get out of there as soon as you can. You have some great things on your list. Who wouldn’t want to be kissed by a giraffe?
travelcats Post author
Hi Corinne, I would definitely consider spending at least a day in Nairobi if you head to Kenya. I think many people avoid visiting because of safety concerns and I would definitely recommend a driver/guide but we felt perfectly safe otherwise. We would definitely consider re-visiting to check out some of the places we missed.
heather Post author
Great list! We’re going for work in March and want to pack in some social stuff. Would you recommend the best way to find a driver/local tour guide? Ask the hotel?
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Hi Heather, Yes, I think you should definitely do some cultural stuff while in Nairobi in between business stuff if you have time. There are a number of fun things to do in and around the city. Our guide was booked via Amani Afrika which we can highly recommend for East Africa (especially Tanzania) tours. But I think any hotel should also be able to recommend a few guide/drivers, especially if you were just looking for a day tour. I’d just perhaps get price quotes from a couple of driver guides first to make sure you are getting a fair price. Enjoy your time in Nairobi. Best, Jessica
Emma Post author
Wow. That is such a brilliant comprehensive list. I have an Uncle from Nairobi, and I have always wanted to travel there with him to see his village and meet his family… I am jealous that you got to go to the Karen Blixen Museum too. I quite often visited her house in Denmark when we lived there (that’s a museum now as well…) . Emma 🙂
travelcats Post author
Hi Emma, I didn’t realize that Karen Blixen’s house in Denmark has also been maintained as a museum – I’d love to visit it as well ! I hope you get a chance to visit your uncle in Nairobi.
jan Post author
Thanks for all the information on Nairobi. We do hope to get there one day soon and this will be invaluable. I don’t know about kissing the Giraffe though 🙂
travelcats Post author
Hehe, giraffe kissing is not for everyone!
Brianna Post author
Great tips for visiting Nairobi, I like that you included a mix of cultural and natural sites.
travelcats Post author
Yes, it’s great that there is such a variety of possibilities and I think most travelers could find enough things to do to keep them entertained for a day or two.