What to Do If You Have 48 Hours in Nairobi

There’s loads to do if you have 48 hours in Nairobi. With boutique shops, atmospheric restaurants, and plenty of live music, it’s not hard to see why Nairobi is developing a reputation as one of the coolest cities in the world. There are new skyscrapers, bars, and apartments sprouting up constantly, and no, it’s not the prettiest city ever. But Nairobi’s residents are friendly, motivated, and enthusiastic about their home town, and there’s far more to Nairobi than first impressions might reveal.

Langata South Road, Nairobi, Kenya
No trip to Kenya is complete without picking up some of the beautiful handicrafts available here. Once of the best places to find these is at Langata Link – a house in the leafy suburb of Karen where every room has been turned into a different shop. They have everything here from bags made out of colourful Kenyan kanga material to delicate jewellery, rustic khaki luggage and pretty pottery. In the centre of the shop there’s also a lovely café, great for a pit stop after all that tiring spending you’ll be doing.
KWS Central Workshop Gate, Off Magadi Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescues orphaned baby elephants from the wild, nurturing and raising them through the grief of losing their families, and then eases them back into their natural habitat when they are old and strong enough. The animals are not forced to return to the wild—at around four years old, they are moved from the Nairobi nursery to a new home near Tsavo National Park to help them gain the independence to move on. The baby elephants can be visited every day at 11 a.m., where you’ll see them playing in the mud and guzzling gallons of milk. Guests who choose to adopt an orphan can return at 5 p.m. to watch the babies enjoy an evening snack of leaves before being put to bed.
Gogo Falls Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Families would be hard-pressed to find a more memorable place to stay than Giraffe Manor. Located in the leafy suburb of Langata, about a 30-minute drive from central Nairobi, the 1932 family home of a former candy baron was modeled on a Scottish hunting lodge before becoming a sanctuary for endangered Rothschild’s giraffes, for which the boutique hotel gets its name. The ivy-clad brick mansion features 12 light-filled guest rooms, many with gauzy canopy beds and understated furnishings, but the real draw is the airy breakfast room, where you can feed the exceedingly friendly animals as they crane their necks through windows and doors in search of snacks. Afterward, complimentary chauffeured vehicles are on hand to take you to the area’s most popular attractions: at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the residents being fed are orphaned baby elephants.
After a day of exploring Nairobi a great place to stop for a cocktail is Zing at Dusit D2, a swanky boutique hotel in central Nairobi. It’s a glamorous place, with wicker chairs, elegant cushions, flickering candles and tall-backed velvet chairs, and the drinks list is extensive. Creative cocktails include a chilli margarita and, of course, all the classics. There’s also one of the best wine lists in Nairobi, and around the corner is the Rouge Deck – a red swimming pool with bar where you can take your drink to sip away in a tranquil, funky setting.
Limuru Road
Right in the heart of Nairobi, the Karura Forest is a tranquil oasis with fragrant eucalyptus trees, open expanses of wild grassland, a waterfall, and hundreds of types of wildlife, including birds, monkeys, and even antelope. On weekends, Nairobians walk their dogs here, cycle the dirt tracks with their families (bike rentals are available), and walk the many trails through this 2,500-acre urban wilderness. Enter via the Limuru Road entrance for the waterfall and for access to the River Café, and via Peponi Road to enjoy a quieter side of the forest.
The River Café is situated right in the middle of the huge Karura Forest, a tranquil swath of wilderness in the middle of the city. The dining area, on a large expanse of wooden deck under an open-sided canvas roof, gets extra atmospheric charm from the surrounding forest treetops and plants. The menu is varied, with a good vegetarian section as well as light bites and more indulgent meals. The French onion soup and the salads are recommended. This place gets busy on the weekends, when Nairobians stop in for brunch after church or a walk around the forest, so book in advance.
Eldama Ravine Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
About Thyme is a tranquil, leafy restaurant set in Westlands, central Nairobi, serving European cuisine. Brunch here is excellent – three pages of eggs, French toast and bagel options await. It’s a great place to go with a group, where you can book out one of the hidden tables, fitted with its own hanging fairy lights, cushions and lanterns.
Marula Ln, Nairobi, Kenya
Ocean Sole is an incredible Kenyan organisation which recycles flip-flops found on the beaches and in the waterways of Kenya and turns them into incredible works of art. Worth doing some shopping at when you’re next in town, each Ocean Sole product (everything from life-sized zebras to fridge-magnet turtles) is handcrafted to protect the oceans and teach the world about the threats of marine debris. It turns out that thousands and thousands of flip-flops are washed up onto the East African coast every year. Unused, they cause huge environmental damage, spoiling the natural beauty of the Kenyan beaches and also harming wildlife – the rubber soles are swallowed by fish and other animals, suffocating them.
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