The city of Nairobi is undergoing a serious renaissance. With the burgeoning tech and design scenes creating a new middle class, the capital of Kenya is seeing a boom in incredibly chic bars and restaurants.
Too many visitors to Kenya never get a chance to experience the city outside of the airport. They fly in for a connection to a safari outside of the city. But I promise spending at least one or two nights in Nairobi is a worthy add-on to any safari or Kilimanjaro climb to experience a rapidly changing metropolis filled with some of the kindest and most interesting people you will ever meet.
4 p.m.: Kiss a giraffe
One of the best things I did when I was visiting Nairobi was stay at the Giraffe Manor, a beautiful bed and breakfast that allows you to wake up on the grounds of the giraffe conservation center.
But rooms at the old Scottish manor house can be pricey, and there is another way to cozy up to the giraffes without breaking your bank account.
The Rothschild giraffes at the Giraffe Center are the same ones who will greet you at the manor. The center closes at 5 p.m., so stop by around 4 to get up close and personal with the giraffes and feed them some pellets. You can even kiss one on the lips if it suits you.
Make new friends. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Remember to always budget time for terrible traffic in Nairobi, especially in the afternoon. You’ll want to give yourself at least an hour to get where you are going next. The upside to this is that you can confidently complain about the traffic with the locals. Talking traffic trash is one of their very favorite pastimes.
6 p.m.: Have a drink at the airport hotel
Granted, the Ole Sereni may be the nicest airport hotel, with the best view, that you will ever visit. Stop off here along the Mombasa road for a cold one in the Waterhole Bar to enjoy the incredible view of the national park as the sun sets over the Ngong Hills.
This is not your typical happy hour view. (Photo: Ole Sereni)
8 p.m.: Head to the food court
Yes, Nairobi is home to plenty of brilliant new restaurants that prepare all kinds of African and global cuisine. But you would be doing yourself a cultural disservice if you didn’t make a stop in Diamond Plaza, an outdoor food court where you can find everything from Indian food (that my Indian friends say is some of the best in the world) to shawarma to fresh-squeezed juices. Diamond Plaza is a beautiful example of what a melting pot Nairobi has become.
Mix and mingle with the locals at Diamond Plaza. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
When you drive into the parking lot, men with menus instantly bombard you, enticing you with deals to order from their restaurant. Pick and choose what sounds good and then settle into a table. Even though you’re sitting in a parking lot, it’s full service and you will be waited on beyond what you ever expected in the fast food industry.
10 p.m.: Dive into a chic dessert, nightcap, and shisha
Head for after-dinner drinks among Nairobi’s best and brightest movers and shakers at the bustling Tribe hotel. The Tribe is unlike any place I have ever stayed. The decor has a gorgeous modern sensibility mixed with tribal chic.
Make sure to stop at the Tribe’s boutique to pick up some beautiful locally made jewelry from the country’s top designers. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
“We pay attention to the details here,” said co-owner Shamim Ehsani. “We wanted to create something completely new and different, a place to welcome guests from all over the world.”
Tribe is also home to Suite 101, one of the most delicious ice cream and pastry shops in the world. All the ice creams are made right in front of your eyes.
Just one of the mouthwatering desserts at the Tribe. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Have it with a side of freshly baked macarons before heading upstairs to the Nest Moroccan-themed bar. Order up a shisha pipe and a signature martini and make some new friends.
This spot was made for lounging. (Photo: Tribe)