Amazing places to visit in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Despite its bad reputation, there are amazing places to visit in Nairobi. Within Kenya, the capital is known as Nairobery, referring to its reputation for pickpocketing. Outside the country, people mostly remember the Westgate and other attacks. But don’t shy away, this African metropolis has more to offer than you might think. Here are my personal highlights after living a few months there.

Kibera, learning in Africa’s largest urban slum

Kibera, with its population overreaching one million, is the biggest African urban slum. The residents live in conditions of extreme poverty and the lack of electricity, clean water or sewers results in a number of diseases, many of them deadly. The typical shed is made of anything available and covered by a tin roof. The poverty and lack of governmental supervision goes hand in hand with crime. Most of it happens after sunset covered by darkness. Building street lamps would quickly improve the situation but the necessary projects were abandoned due to corruption.

So the people help themselves by founding institutions like the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. Those who are a bit better off, are helping others to get a basic education and kickstart their future. The number of students is growing every year and the Soccer Girls now also accept boys. They motivate and reward the children to change their lives, to move up in the society. Even the secondary education can be provided for free to some of them. The girls are very proud of being chosen by the Academy and happily showed me around the slum. During the day and with a local guide, Kibera is one of the safer places to visit in Nairobi.

Another educational institution I got to get in touch with was called R. O. C. K. (Reaching Out with Compassion in Kibera). This volunteer-based mentoring program helps young students to learn outside of school. With big curiosity, I joined them one Saturday afternoon. I was given a group of teenagers with the premise to help them learn physics, namely magnetism. Others were learning complex chemical formulas or integral mathematics. Besides being impressed by their difficult curriculum and mental capacity, I started to question the real-life benefits of this knowledge for them. Personally, I do not understand how any of this would help the children of the slum to prosper in life. Still, it is good to see that there is a chance of them getting equal education. There are many other schools and organisations providing education in Kibera.

places to visit in Nairobi
Kibera Slum in Nairobi

Gikomba Market, where your old cloths are reused

Gikomba Market is literally the centre of Kenya’s secondhand clothing network. Most of Africans wear those and only the upper class can afford to buy new. Africa is the actual place, where huge part of donated or cheaply sold used garments from Europe goes. As soon as it crosses the sea in huge containers, usually marked as foreign aid, the “mafia” comes into play. Through the harbour of Mombasa entire shiploads enter onto the market and start making money. Once it arrives in Gikomba, the delivery is divided into huge packs for dealers, who then take them to individual salesmen. The goods are gradually sorted out according to its quality. The prices for a fully functional piece, like trousers, start on 1 and can rise up to 10 dollars. You can easily get lost in the labyrinth of piles of clothes in all colours and shapes.

Next, the bundles will be spread across the city and then the entire country. Within Nairobi, the Toi Market is a great example how clothes reach a new owner after a long journey. Malinya market is the rural version being located many hours of drive away from Nairobi. There, the sellers are sitting in the sun all day long in midst of huge piles of clothes. As the only western visitors, my friend and I were a bit of an attraction there.

An entirely different story is the Maasai market. This is an incredibly touristy place full of all kinds of goods that can be considered African souvenirs. This place is designed for tourists, craving to bring a piece of Africa back home. The prices can be extreme and the salesman intrusive at times. Some of them, though, were enjoying every opportunity to communicate and I often ended up having fun with them.

Giraffe Centre, kissing the girl with the longest neck

Giraffe Centre at the edge of Nairobi is a wildlife sanctuary established in order to protect the Rothschild giraffe from extinction and facilitate their further breeding. The main attraction there is feeding and petting them from an elevated observatory. Courageous visitors like me even feed the pellets mouth to mouth, risking a slimy warm kiss. Looking into the brown eyes of those majestic animals is clearly a unique moment. However, be careful, as they can be sloppy in their movement and give you a headbang. The luxury hotel next door is designed for having breakfast with the beauties. Unfortunately, you can only get in, when you spend an absurd amount to stay overnight. This exclusiveness is probably not worth it, as the Giraffe Centre already offers a great experience.

Mamba Village, holding and feeding crocodiles

The crocodile farm in Mamba Village hosts crocodiles of all sizes – from the freshly hatched to gigantic “man-eaters”. By far the most impressive part is the feeding time when all the natural instincts emerge and animals are snapping for meat. Surprisingly, there was not a single atrocity or fight over the stinky fresh meat. Still, the crowd held their breath when the zookeepers entered the cage and fed the beasts by hand. Afterwards, the zookeeper proudly told me that they all love their exciting job. Then I could even touch and hold a smaller alligator, putting traditional petting zoo into the shadow. The rest of this place is pretty run-down and not well maintained. Many years ago, this place must have been a huge attraction, even having an artificial lake shaped like the African continent. Today, the park is fading away and only a few locals know of its existence. Not being a busy tourist attraction, the Mamba Village is one of the most underrated places to visit in Nairobi.

Central Business District (CBD), the city’s heart

The centre of Nairobi is by far the most pulsating part of the city. And there is a good reason to that – it is the business centre, also known as CBD. All the multinational corporations’ headquarters and banks are located here. On ground level, countless shops and even more street markets are tightly aligned along the roads. Pedestrians heavily outnumber cars on the street and give the scenery a chaotic touch.

This district also has an amazing skyline for the number of highrise buildings, yet almost none of them allows entry to the rooftop. The one that does, is the building of Kenyatta International Convention Centre. By sheer coincidence, this venue of international conferences is called after the first president of independent Kenya Jomo Kenyatta. Visiting the CBD during a national holiday and finding all the banks and ATMs not working was a total shock to me. Still, they were all guarded by security personnel.

Central Business District CBD in Nairobi
Central Business District CBD in Nairobi


Nairobi is a true African metropolis with millions of people and totally distinct areas. There are many places to be explored, but also approached with respect. Its unique mixture of natural, neglected and prospering districts can be equally repellent and inviting. Now it’s your turn to discover those amazing places in Nairobi!

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