Kenya’s capital city has a reputation for being larger than life and nowhere is that more evident than in its nightlife scene. After dark, locals, expats, and visitors mingle at venues that range from exclusive champagne bars to nightclubs that pulsate with the sounds of electrifying African beats. Music is a key ingredient for Kenyans wishing to let their hair down and you’ll find it here in every genre and setting imaginable. In particular, keep an ear out for genge, a strain of hip hop that originated in Nairobi. Bars and clubs are found across the city but are particularly prevalent in Westlands, an affluent neighborhood located to the north of the CBD.
In this article, discover the best night spots for every kind of traveler (whether you’re a sports bar aficionado or a dance floor diva), as well as handy tips for making sure your night out in Nairobi memorable for all the right reasons.
Nairobi may be a thoroughly modern city in some ways, but it also has its fair share of landmark drinking establishments. One such spot is the Lord Delamere Terrace, located at Fairmont The Norfolk hotel. Set amidst lush, tropical gardens and dating back to 1904, little has changed in the bar since its inception. The menu focuses on steak and seafood and a drinks list is full of imported wines and classic cocktails. This is the perfect place to begin your night out in Nairobi as the bar is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Another long-standing drinking establishment is The Exchange Bar, part of the Stanley hotel and named for its previous incarnation as Nairobi’s first Stock Exchange. Gleaming wood and supple leather give the bar the atmosphere of an English gentlemen’s club complete with rare single malts and fine cigars. The Exchange Bar is a favorite spot for expats, keeping them up-to-date with global news via a selection of international newspapers. It is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.
For a more relaxed approach to Nairobi nightlife, choose one of the city’s many bars where T-shirts and flip-flops are always welcome. Choices Pub offers sports on big screens, pool tables, and typical pub grub to the accompaniment of hits from the 1980s and '90s. Wednesdays are soul nights, live music takes center stage on Thursdays, and DJs spin records until the early hours on Friday and Saturday. Located near the National Stadium in the city center, Choices is open from noon to 3 a.m.
Alternatively, Zanze Bar welcomes a similar clientele with pool tables and cheap beer. On weekends, crowds fill the dance floor, moving to Congolese lingala beats until early the next morning. Karaoke is also a regular fixture at Zanze Bar.
Westlands’ Seven Seafood & Grill bills itself as the premier steak and seafood restaurant in Kenya. It’s also home to Champagne & Fishbowls, an exclusive champagne bar endorsed by none other than Veuve Cliquot. In a chic, contemporary setting dominated by an illuminated circular bar, peruse a menu dedicated to an extensive array of imported champagnes and fine wines. Fish bowl cocktails are another specialty, of course. Dress to impress as you’ll be rubbing shoulders with Nairobi’s elite.
Late Night Bars
If you want to stay out until the small hours of the morning, you’re spoiled for choice in Nairobi.
- The Alchemist is one of the capital’s most popular hangout spots, featuring a trendy collection of restaurants, food trucks, and fashion stores. It also hosts regular events (think open-air movies and open mic nights) and boasts several bars. The main bar is famous for its inventive cocktails and social, artistic vibe, with a dance floor and outdoor lounge.
- Havana Bar is another Westlands classic with the atmosphere of a Cuban street bar reinvented with a distinctly African twist. Spread out over two floors, the bar serves everything from imported wines and spirits to signature cocktails, along with a menu of Cuban cigars and a mouthwatering array of Central American bar food. Fuel up on carnitas and tacos, then dance the night away to Latin beats until 3 a.m.
- Craft beer connoisseurs will love Brew Bistro Rooftop, located on top of the Fortis Towers in Westlands. Part micro-brewery, part gastropub, part nightclub, this diverse bar specializes in craft beers from proudly Kenyan Big Five Breweries. Whether you choose a classic pilsner, a Belgian-style bock, a pale ale, blond ale, or stout, drinks taste even better on the outdoor terrace with its sweeping Westlands views. Expect live music and DJ sets, and a late closing time that varies from 1 a.m. during the week to 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free.
There are a few iconic nightclub names in Nairobi. Amongst them are K1 Klub House, Simba Saloon, and Black Diamond.
K1 Klub House is a Westlands mainstay made popular with locals, backpackers, and younger expats by its relaxed dress code and well-priced drinks. Busy most nights, it’s especially packed on weekends when the dance floor heaves until sunrise. DJs spin everything from reggae to hip hop and R&B, and the bar area sprawls outside into an alleyway hung with brightly colored umbrellas. Pool tables and sports screens provide a respite from the dance floor whenever you need it.
Simba Saloon adjoins Nairobi’s famous Carnivore restaurant. Masquerading as an informal family restaurant complete with a children’s playground by day, from Wednesday to Sunday it transforms into an all-night club. Nights are themed by genre, covering everything from contemporary African music to rock and Old Skool. Internationally renowned musicians and DJs have been known to make appearances here. Past performers include Maxi Priest, Ismaël Lô and Salif Keita. Next-door to the nightclub is an outdoor concert venue capable of hosting events for up to 15,000 people.
Black Diamond is another Westlands address with live music on Wednesdays and Sundays. On every other night DJs keep patrons on the dance floor with contemporary Kenyan and African music, making this a particularly popular spot with young Nairobians. An open-air balcony offers great views and fresh air when things start to heat up around midnight. Black Diamond is open daily from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.
Tips for Going Out
- Tipping in restaurants and bars is customary in Nairobi, with 10 to 15 percent of your total bill being appropriate depending on the quality of service. In bars, tip 50 to 100 Kenyan shillings per round of drinks.
- The dress code depends largely on where you’re going, but sports bars, pubs, and local drinking establishments tend to be very casual while hotel bars and nightclubs are fancier. Here, closed shoes and collared shirts are expected for men.
- Restaurants and bars typically close around midnight, but nightclubs are just starting to pick up at that time.
- Standard safety considerations apply in Nairobi: don’t leave your drink unattended, be aware of your wallet or purse at all times, don’t drink and drive or accept a ride from someone you don’t know, avoid walking alone at night whenever possible by taking a taxi or using a ride-share app. Taxis are marked with a yellow stripe and you will need to agree on a price before accepting a ride.