Explore Urban Nairobi

In Kenya, you don’t have to go on safari to be amazed at what you see. Meet our hometown! Here, African chaos pairs perfectly with a vibrant expatriate community. Nairobi has many faces. A city as booming as Nairobi deserves an opportunity to show itself in various areas.

Nairobi: our home town!

Nairobi, our home base, is truly a city where everything comes together. Here you have the ultimate mix of African chaos and a crazy expat community. It is a city full of surprises and adventure, and we at Charlie’s Travels absolutely love it!

Diversity at its best in the Kenyan Capital

Here you will find not only the tourist hotspots, but also the African markets. The wonderfully fancy tents where you can sip fancy cocktails and the more ‘urban’ side of Nairobi. Beautifully dressed women in local fabrics and the unusual matatu that add colour to the streets of this city. Visit the Giraffe Sanctuary, the Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi National Park or browse the Masai Markets. Nyama choma (grilled goat), piki piki’s and plenty of minibuses around you. Welcome to the capital of Kenya!

Nairobi City Tour

We have developed a City Tour for you that shows you the real Nairobi. You will drive through different districts of Nairobi and see the city’s colourful diversity in one day. Prefer to explore on foot? Walk through Nairobi Central Business District with three former streetkids from Mathare, one of the biggest slums. These storytellers talk about their life on the streets and take you to places in Nairobi you would not normally visit easily.

The Nai Nami Boys: our local partners

The streets of Downtown Nairobi are their home, this is where the grew up and learnt how to survive. The Nai Nami boys, including Donga, Ndee, Cheddar Mrembe and Kissmarkt seen in the video, share their story with you as the colourful matatu’s full of grafiti shoot by. Walking through the streets, you will learn more and more about their past and about the city. The kids in the video also got a lesson in African dancing to go with it!

Africa Inside Out: Nairobi

For the Africa Inside Out project, Charlie and his team of content creators travel from Mombasa to the rugged interior of Kenya! Nairobi is the final destination of the train, and strangely enough, the railway was once the reason this city was formed. Nairobi is also our home base, home of Charlie’s Travels headquarters. From urban vibes to the melting pot of cultures that the city offers, we show you which places you should visit and why we think Nairobi is rightly called “the hub of East Africa”.

Charlie's Team tips: must see & do's

Unlike other travel agencies, Charlie’s Travels is on-site in Nairobi! As a result, our team, who arrange all Africa tours, know Nairobi inside out. So time to ask them about their favourite spots, the best cafes, weekend getaways, must-sees and much more. Only a few days left in Nairobi? Then quickly read this Charlie’s Team guide to off-the-beaten track Nairobi and your days are planned! These are the personal favourites of Camiel, Ruth, Seba and Susan:

Culture

1. Bomas Of Kenya

Bomas of Kenya breathes culture. There is a restaurant that serves all the national specialities and you will find a group of dancers who love to introduce you to Kenyan dance and music traditions. Check their website to see when there are performances and how to book a ticket.

2. Sofar

If you happen to be in Nairobi when a Sofar sound is also scheduled, don’t miss it! These are self-organised concerts at people’s homes. You pay an entrance fee and can then enjoy music and culture in a different place.

3. Karura Forest

Head to Karura Forest to leave the hustle and bustle of Nairobi behind. Put on some music and lose yourself in the beautiful nature that lies in the middle of the city. You can follow several trails here and the green trees tower high above you. During your walk, you will occasionally come across small waterfalls and writhing monkeys and otherwise it is mostly nice and quiet.

Weekend getaway around Nairobi

1. Naivasha

For all families: Lake Naivasha. Easy to reach from Nairobi by car, or adventurous by matatu. Take a boat ride while watching large hippos lunch on the shore and spot the beautiful birds flying by. Also, don’t forget to make a stop at Hell’s Gate National Park, which you can cycle through. Move across the plains on your mountain bike while zebras walk with you for a bit and giraffes eat leaves off the trees at their leisure.

2. Taita hills

The Taita Hills! Maybe a bit far for a weekend, but definitely worth it! Put on hiking boots, head into the mountains, enjoy the greenery and have a sporty weekend. When you finally reach that breathtaking peak, abseil down and reward yourself with an ice-cold Tusk! Moped around the region and be sure to check out this article for more tips.

3. Magadi

Jump (on the back) of a motorbike and be guided through the otherworldly-looking Magadi. Tear through the desert and wrestle with the soft sand under your tyres. Along the way, sand hopping takes on a whole new meaning! Have you arrived at Lake Natron, fun! Make a campfire, roast sausages, have a beer and stare at those stars. Trust me, you won’t want to leave here after one night.

Must Visits

1. Nairobi City Tour

Our very own Nairobi city tour! Together with a group of people who grew up in Nairobi’s inner city, you’ll discover the city by foot and hear the most extraordinary stories.

2. David Sheldrick

David Sheldrick elephant orphanage. Once you are here, you melt! Every day between 11am and 12pm, the orphaned elephants come out. In a line, they thirst for their caretakers and the mega milk bottles they hold. After that, playtime really begins. A great way to see elephants up close, learn something about them and contribute to returning them to the wild, because that’s what it’s all about!

3. Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park is skipped by many and that is a real shame! Especially if you have little time to go on safari, this is the place to go. With the Nairobi skyline in the background (which sometimes leads to bizarre photos), you will find roaring lions, herds of zebras and several rhino families here.
A little spooky perhaps, but also very interesting: the old cemetery with a war cemetery, a Jewish site and a former colonial cemetery. Special to contemplate…

The Capital's Tastiest Restaurants

Nairobi is in many ways a hyper modern city! You need not worry that the vast selection of food we are used to in the Netherlands cannot be found here. From sushi to steak and nyama choma to pizza. This upcoming metropolis has a lot to offer on the culinary front. But we at Charlie’s Travels do believe that you must have eaten Kenyan at least once before you can indulge in the luxury of this eclectic mix of restaurants. Because let’s face it you can’t come home and tell your family and friends that all you ate was Spaghetti Bolognese.

1. Njuguna's

According to Nairobians, the best place for nyama Choma (Barbeque meat). Start with some samosas and order some skumawiki and kachumbari alongside this tasty meat. Yes now you are a real Kenyan! Then have some ugali or chapatis to shove all this goodness inside and you’re done. If you really want to end this experience properly, order a cold Tusker. Yes, a COLD Tusker. Kenyans are not too fond of cold drinks, so they will ask you if you want it cold or hot with every drink you order.

2. Trattoria

This is quite a crazy experience, right in the middle of Nairobi’s Central Business District you will find this old, slightly yellowed Italian. From the terrace, you’ll feast your eyes! The always busy streets of CBD are full of Boda bodas and honking cars slaloming towards their next destination. Never “A dull moment” here! You wouldn’t expect it but the Italian cuisine here is sublime! If you close your eyes, you will instantly imagine yourself in sunny Tuscany.

3. Talisman

This is quite a crazy experience, right in the middle of Nairobi’s Central Business District you will find this old, slightly yellowed Italian. From the terrace, you’ll feast your eyes! The always busy streets of CBD are full of Boda bodas and honking cars slaloming towards their next destination. Never “A dull moment” here! You wouldn’t expect it but the Italian cuisine here is sublime! If you close your eyes, you will instantly imagine yourself in sunny Tuscany.

4. Le Grenier À Pain

The French bakery and thus the freshest croissants you can imagine, apple pie and excellent coffee.

5. Wasp & Sprout

The very, very hippest place in Nairobi. Beautiful couches of kitenge fabric, coloured walls and even a racing bike on the wall. For those who miss Holland for a moment, the place to check out handsome bearded men while sipping your soya latte. Upstairs is another super cute shop with gadgets, somewhat pricey but well worth it.

6. Nook

Nook is a mini lunch spot in Kilimani. The Australian chef serves something different every day and really everything you eat here is home-made! Another fun fact is that the chef is married to a Dutchman. So if you are lucky, sometimes there are even cheese souffles or bitterballen on the menu!

Indian Food

Indians have been here for generations. After 1896, they came to Kenya under British rule as traders, artisans and moneylenders. And they happily brought that delicious food with them!

7. Haandi

Haandi is a North Indian restaurant, so they serve a lot of Biryanis, ‘VEG’ and with meat, palak and curries. They also have a tandoori, the famous Indian oven, to lick your fingers at, this chicken or fish!!!

8. Chowpaty

Only Vegetarian Hindu ! Start your day here with a Tahli or taste Kerala in the Dosa’s they serve here.

9. Abyssinia

In posh Spring Valley, you’ll find Abysinnia. Ethiopia undoubtedly has the best cuisine in East Africa and so a visit to Nairobi is not complete with dinner at this hidden gem in the Kenyan capital. And a lot cheaper than most in this list.

10. Silk Noodles

Yes yes yes yes, the hype has even flown over to Nairobi. Here you eat delicious home-made noodles in a bath of fresh home-drawn broth. What more could a person want?

11. About Thyme

Cosy, romantic, intimate. Bring your loved one and dine in the garden next to a crackling log fire. This topper in Westland is not cheap, but it has an original menu, with mostly good meat. The desserts are sublime; I’ll have 5-course desserts here next time….

14. River Cafe Karura

The place where you can enjoy a nice coffee or a bite to eat after your walk through the forest. River Café Karura also organises fun things for kids on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. You can then get your kids hooked on a slice and enjoy a low-fat salad or fajita yourself. The wine is good here.

15. Mercado

The name kind of gives it away. A Mexican restaurant with a very modern interior in the heart of Westlands and overlooking Sarit Centre, among others. Not the cosiest decor, but the food is top-notch and you can also go here for fun Happy Hour’s to go out afterwards in one of the fun tents that are within walking distance!

16. Alchemist

At the Alchemist, you will find a nice mix of Kenyans and tourists, including music. There is also live music every Thursday night from upcoming talent. You can eat at one of the many food trucks there. There is a Japanese joint, for instance, but you can also eat delicious pizza or a tasty burger at Mama Rocks.

17. Nyama Mama Delta

Kenyan restaurant with a Western twist. The service runs in beautiful African prints and the food is mainly Kenyan but just a little different. Live music on Wednesdays and only super duper hip young Kenyans.

Shopping In Nairobi

No streets or squares with terraces here, but Nairobi’s malls are fenced off by fences. The mall is the place for Kenya’s middle class to spend a day relaxing. After getting off the Uber, you put your phone and bag in the security tray. You are then allowed to walk through one of the security gates, while a smiling security welcomes you warmly. That’s how it goes; shopping in Kenya.

Nairobi has several malls, the most famous being Westgate, The Hub and Village Market. Nairobi is a bustling metropolis but streets or squares with terraces are almost non-existent. If you still feel like sipping your cappuccino after an intense motor safari through the Masai Mara, this is the right place. Because in every mall you will find a Java House, the Kenyan version of the Coffee Company. Besides, you can always go here for your slightly overpriced last-minute souvenirs.

These are some of nairobi's bigger malls

The Hub, Karen: A huge complex with a courtyard where dozens of kids in their neatest attire drive around in electric cars on Sundays.

The Village Market: Every Friday morning there is a real Masai market here where you can pick up the most beautiful souvenirs.

Sarit Centre: In the early 1960s, after Kenya gained independence, two Indians open a schoolbook shop. Eventually, this grows into a large mall where you can find anything today.

Westgate: Familiar from the news. September 2013, a major attack took place here. Militias of the Somali Al-Shabaab invaded the mall shooting. This resulted in 68 dead and more than 175 injured. Now reopened.

Diamond Plaza: Picture yourself in India for a moment! Here you can eat delicious Indian food at Chowpati or book a relaxing yoga class at the Africa Yoga Project.

Maasai Market

The Maasai market varies from day to day. Below is a list of where to find it on which day.

Tuesday: Kijabe street

Wednesday: Capital Centre

Thursday: Junction Mall

Friday: Village Market

Saturday: City Hallway

Sunday: Yaya Centre

Shopping outside the malls

Don’t fancy heavily secured malls, but want the real Nairobi shopping experience? Then pay a visit to Toi Market. We mentioned this market a bit earlier: this is a Valhalla for vintage gems.

Nairobi's Urban Hotspots

Africa is booming. This is not the first time we have tried to convey this message, and it certainly won’t be the last. To show hipsters around the world how it should be done, we present to you: Nairobi, the East African urban paradise. These are places you go to if you are young and creative, and happen to live in the Kenyan capital. This week: the first set of five urban hotspots.

1. The Goethe Institute Kenya

The Goethe Institut is a global German institute, and focuses mainly on teaching other parts of the world German language and culture. In addition, the Kenyan institution is known for its cultural activities. In collaboration with young artists and independent cultural enterprises, they organise a wide spectrum of activities focusing on the latest generation of African music, film and art. Keep an eye on their Facebook to see what events are coming up!

2. Nairobi Garage

Start-ups! Co-working! If you’re a millennial, it’s hard not to get excited when these terms are used. Nairobi Garage is Nairobi’s co-working space. For a small monthly fee, the future of Kenya has a place to develop their concepts while creating and/or expanding their network in the capital. With open co-working spaces, enclosed conference rooms, fast Wi-Fi, and most importantly: free coffee, it is no wonder that most of Nairobi’s young and creative scene can be found here.

3. East African Soul Train (E.A.S.T.)

Kenya’s railway system, stretching from Mombasa to Kisumu, was strategically constructed in the late 19th century. Where it originally served to help the British keep control of ‘their’ lands, it now provides the venue for E.A.S.T: an annual creative event where the historic route is traversed by talented East African artists. Curious about what this brings? Follow their Instagram and Facebook.

4. Wasp & Sprout

Wasp & Sprout has recreated the classic ‘hipster coffee bar style’ and given it an African twist: we can cross ‘bicycle hanging on the wall’, ‘use of industrial materials’ and ‘retro furniture’ off our list. But even if one visit is enough to keep your hipster level up for a while, there is more to this dynamic café than meets the eye. In Nairobi, where most coffee bars are part of a larger concern, W&S is a unique gem where you could easily (and happily) order half the menu. Besides cappuccinos, they make their own interior collection, and provide a platform for local artists to display their art. In short: this is where you go for your coffee with a serving of cake and cultural stimuli.

5. Blankets & Wine

The idea is simple: bring a bottle of wine, a picnic basket and a blanket. Combine these three attributes with a music programme composed entirely of young African talent, and a formula is born. Repeat this every first Sunday of the month until you become an East African legend. Mutoni Ndonga came up with this incentive, called it ‘Blankets & Wine’, and the rest is history. Blankets & Wine soon moved from Nairobi to Uganda, and this year debuts in Rwanda. Wherever B&W goes (or will go), the programme stays true to the environment it is in. Where it once began as a platform to promote Kenyan music, it has grown into an Africa-wide event focusing on regional art, literature, music, fashion and theatre.

Nairobi (last day)- Example Trips
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Why travel with Charlie’s Travels?

We are “On the ground” in africa

The team lives and works all over Africa and therefore has a lot of first-hand knowledge and experience.

We develop our own routes

Wherever Charlie and his team travel, they develop new routes and experiences together with local entrepreneurs.

Every trip is co-creation

We tailor each trip based on your wishes and our African knowledge. Everything is possible and nothing is too crazy! Give us a try?

We work in a responsible and sustainable way

Charlie’s Travels works together with local partners and contributes to CO2 projects to offset environmental pollution.