When many think of Nairobi, Kenya, they may first think of safaris and national parks, but there is more than meets the eye in this bustling city. Nairobi has a rich history and a wide range of museums, ranging from traditional art museums and galleries to cultural and traditional museums that immerse visitors in Kenya's history. Use this guide to learn about the magnificent museum options available in "the Green City in the Sun."
Karen Blixen Museum
Situated along the bottom of Ngong Hills, 6 miles from the center of Nairobi, is the Karen Blixen Museum, home to the Danish author of the famed “Out of Africa” book and film. In addition to the 19th-century styled bungalow architecture home that the museum is situated in, other sights to see here include the lush green outdoor gardens and artifacts from the movie. Guided tours are offered throughout the week and on weekends until 6 p.m., which gives tourists a peek into colonial life in the 20th century.
Located at the intersection of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway is the Nairobi Gallery, a small but commanding art gallery. The gallery was built in 1913 and holds an array of temporary art exhibitions ranging from jewelry to fabrics and fine art. It is most known for carrying a collection of antiques by Joseph Murumbi that will captivate art lovers and history buffs. Tourists can enjoy guided tours by knowledgeable locals and a small café near the parking area for a snack.
Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum is found at Museum Hill, a 10-minute drive from Nairobi's city center. It is home to a host of collections that celebrate Kenya’s wide history and culture. Notable attractions at the museum include stunning outdoor sculptures, contemporary works of art, plus a botanical garden and nature trail. Tourists can also enjoy souvenirs at the small onsite shop and an on-site restaurant featuring a wide range of traditional Kenyan cuisines.
One Off Contemporary Art Gallery
The One Off Contemporary Art Gallery positioned off of Limuru Road and Lone Tree Estate features multi-dimensional artists and sculptors from around the country. The uniquely designed gallery, which once housed the Bank of India, is located amongst a stunning green sculpture garden and hosts exhibitions featuring artists like Nairobi’s own famed painter and graffiti artist Allan ‘Think’ Kioko and walks through a range of photography exhibits from contemporary to wildlife and landscape.
Kenya National Archives
Set amongst the bustling central business district in downtown Nairobi is the Kenya National Archives. It is home to a large collection of government and historical documents and exhibitions on arts, crafts, and local photography. The National Archives also features a national library service with a host of books, newspapers, and a parliamentary for scholars, researchers, and tourists alike.
Aero Club of East Africa
Located on Wilson Airport road is the Aero Club of East Africa, home to all private and commercial aircraft undertakings in Nairobi. The Aero Club is a fantastic place for visitors and students interested in becoming a pilot or engineer as it offers great opportunities to learn about these fields. In addition, the museum has an excellent outdoor seating area for enjoying a sundowner or meal. It also features a fitness center, swimming pool, and children’s play area. Locals can enjoy an annual membership; a temporary membership is also available for those in Nairobi who wish to utilize the facilities more than once.
Upepo Photography Gallery
Founded by photojournalist Cyril Villemain in 2017, the Upepo Photography Gallery intends to promote original photographic works by local photographers in Kenya. All of the gallery's photographs are also sold in a limited edition of 50 prints being accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, and most are also signed. The gallery promotes works by local photographers, but also the frames that are available for sale with the photos are also locally sourced to support Kenyan artists and workers.
Bomas of Kenya
The Bomas of Kenya are traditional homesteads set on in Langata. It is a cultural village built using traditional conditions by an array of Kenyan tribes across the country. The village showcases the unique architectural style of these tribes and arts, crafts, dance, cultural performances, and music, with the goal of preserving Kenyan customary culture. It is also home to one of the largest auditoriums in Africa, and the Utamaduni Restaurant offering a selection of local traditional dishes.
Nairobi Railway Museum
Located next to Nairobi railway station is the Nairobi Railway Museum. Since its opening in 1971, the museum has acquired a vast selection of classic non-operational East African Railways and trains. Staffers are available to give visitors a synopsis of the history of Kenya's railway systems and showcase the museum's small but fascinating exhibits. The museum displays a unique part of Kenya’s history and how Nairobi grew with the railway system. Plenty of photographs and memorabilia are on display for tourists to relish upon.
Karen Village is the largest cultural center and creative art outlet in Nairobi. It sits along a whopping green lush landscape on Ngong Rd across from the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. It is also a creative innovation hub with shops, art spaces, studios, and restaurants. It features local designers, animators, lecturers, recycling artists, and digital artists. The village also encourages local children to play on their playground and to attend workshops with their schools or alone. Moreover, it is home to small accommodations for those interested in short stays at the village.