48 Hours in Nairobi: The Ultimate Itinerary

Buildings In City During Sunset
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As the capital of Kenya, Nairobi is most known for its popular game drives and safari parks such as Nairobi National Park. It's also a popular layover spot for travelers headed elsewhere on the continent. However, there is much more to do and see in Kenya's capital city than giraffes and rhinos frolicking out in the game reserves. It is also home to fanciful restaurants, national history museums, dynamic shopping centers, and live music establishments. In order to assist you to make the most of a weekend in Nairobi, we’ve put together these top spots for you to check out during your visit. From the best in fine dining to shopping centers, here’s how you can have an absolute ball spending 48 hours in Nairobi.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Palacina Residences & Suites Nairobi, Kenya

Photo Courtesy Palacina Residences & Suites

10 a.m.: After arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, you should head over to your hotel and aim for early check-in. One of the best hotel choices in the capital city is Palacina Residences & Suites, as it is home to Nairobi’s largest heated indoor pool and has an outdoor pool option for you to enjoy no matter the time of year during your visit. The hotel is known for being a family-owned establishment, thus giving warm and friendly service, but also situated right in the State House Valley, only minutes from downtown in a uniquely picturesque setting.

11 a.m.: After hopefully checking in early and freshening up, or if you don’t have access to your room yet, leave your bags with reception and head over to Dorman’s located on Mama Ngina Street to enjoy a nice brunch of waffles and coffee. Visitors can enjoy hearty portions and a wide array of choices, from savory waffles like zucchini and herb to fresh salads, smoothies, and antipasti. In addition to extensive coffee choices from hazelnut mocha to cappuccino, there is also a great selection of specialty teas and even better service to match.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Karen Blixen Museum

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1:30 p.m.: After filling up on a delicious brunch, head over to the Karen Blixen Museum situated at the base of Ngong Hills, which is housed in the farmhouse that the Danish author Blixen once lived in, made most famous by both the book and movie "Out of Africa." Any movie buff or fan of the top book would enjoy seeing the famous artifacts about the author’s life, as well as the stunning gardens that surround the museum. Sit and enjoy an afternoon tea or coffee in the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden before moving about to your next destination.

4 p.m.: The Nairobi Giraffe Centre, which is positioned in the next suburb over Lang’ata, is a great way to spend the afternoon in Nairobi. The center is not only a breeding center for endangered giraffes, but it is also a place that educates children and adults about the conservation efforts taking place in Kenya. Not only do local school-aged children visit the center for educational tours, but tourists and locals alike can partake in daily tours to learn about exquisite animals. The center is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and offers daily tours in addition to the opportunity to hand-feed the gentle giants.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Carnivore Restaurant Nairobi, Kenya

Courtesy of The Tamarind Group/ Carnivore Restaurant

7 p.m.: After heading back to your hotel room and getting freshened up from feeding the giraffes, head out for pre-dinner drinks at Brew Bistro & Lounge, which is a chic rooftop bar known for a range of German beers and light snacks. Live music is also in store, but beware that there is a strict dress code for entry, so make sure you dress to impress the hip crowd that comes alive at this lively microbrewery.

8:30 p.m.: Meat lovers will relish in trying out one of Nairobi’s most well-known restaurants Carnivore, as it lives up to its name, serving up a host of meats from lamb, pork, beef to ostrich and even crocodile. It’s been named one of the 50 best restaurants globally by the UK-based Restaurant magazine and received a host of other accolades for its unique choice of dining options. It also offers traditional pairings with the meat, such as salads, soups, and plenty of sauces for dipping. It is an all-you-can-eat dining experience, where the waiters will continuously bring meat to carve at your table as long as your paper flag is up at your table, so make sure to take it down from the display when you’ve had enough for your heart’s content.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

A Young Elephant Calf Enjoys a Lie in the mud in close up at Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/ Getty Images

8 a.m.: Situated only 7 miles from the center of the city is Nairobi National Park, home to lions, zebras, and rhinos. As one of the only major cities in the world where you can get a glimpse of so many creatures in the animal kingdom, a visit to Nairobi is incomplete without spending an afternoon here. In addition to seeing endangered animals like the black rhino or any of the Big Five, tourists and birding enthusiasts can also view over 400 kinds of birds in the massive park. Visitors can choose from either bush walks or game drives in 4X4 trucks. The park is also an educational center for both tourists and locals alike. School groups come to the park annually for educational sessions about the range of African wildlife abound.

11:00 a.m.: Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage located at KWS Central Workshop Gate off of Magadi Road is a must-visit for any tourist looking to learn more about the African elephants. It is located within the Nairobi National Park, so it is a perfectly paired activity after a game drive or bush walk. The sanctuary was founded by the famed conservationist Dame Daphne Sheldrick, David Sheldrick's wife, who is the founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The elephant orphanage's mission is to assist baby elephants who had lost their moms due to devastation such as drought, poaching, and destruction to their natural habitat. The orphanage is only open to the public from 11 a.m. to noon each day, but visitors can enjoy watching the baby elephants being fed and bathing in mud during this time.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Vases and craft objects on a market in Nairobi, Kenya

Nicole Silvestri/ Getty Images

2 p.m.: For tourists looking to learn more about Kenya’s rich history through natural history and cultural exhibitions, then a stop at the Nairobi National Museum situated just outside of Nairobi's center, is a must. It features a permanent collection called the Hall of Kenya, which highlights ethnological exhibits and the Great Hall of Mammals and the Cradle of Humankind exhibitions, which feature collections of human fossils, skulls, and the like throughout. Locals and tourists can learn about various Kenyan tribes and view ethnological artifacts such as writings and artworks throughout the museum.

4 p.m.: After learning a bit about Kenya's history at the museum, you’ll want to head to the main shopping districts to purchase a few souvenirs to remember the incredible experiences you had in Nairobi. Visit the Massai market to experience the best of souvenir shopping in Nairobi. Items available include stunning traditional beaded necklaces, wood carvings, and additional locally sourced handicrafts. The nearby downtown City Market is also worth a visit during your shopping escapade to scoop up gifts such as those made from scraps and recycled goods like flip-flops, cans, and more.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

The Alchemist Nairobi, Kenya

Courtesy of The Alchemist Nairobi, Kenya

6 p.m.: Finish off your weekend in Nairobi by dining at one of the finest choices of Kenyan cuisine in town at Mama Oliech. It is best known for its delicious fish meals, such as fried tilapia freshly caught from Lake Nakuru, typically served alongside traditional ugali, made from pounded maize or cassava flour, and freshly made kachumbari (sliced onion and tomato salsa). Other popular dishes include fish and chips. You know it’s a great choice to dine at when the likes of former president Barack Obama and even Mark Zuckerberg have stopped by for a meal.

8 p.m.: After enjoying a delicious meal at Mama Oliech, head to The Alchemist bar on Parklands Road to experience the best of Nairobi’s nightlife scene. The bar not only serves up creative cocktails by top mixologists, but there is also a food truck outside if you want enjoy an evening snack with your drinks and an outdoor seating area for dancing from everything like salsa and electronic to local tunes by some of Kenya’s top artists and DJs depending on which night you frequent the bar.

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