Surprising as it may be to some, Nairobi is filled with quirky shops, delicious restaurants, wild nature walks, tranquil little cafes and great party spots. Here’s a handpicked selection of my absolute favourite things to do in the city:
Moniko’s, Valley Arcade
Nairobi is full of little oasis’ that help you escape from the traffic and tribulations of daily life in the city and this may be one my favourites. Located in the back court of Valley Arcade, Moniko’s is owned by a food passionate Swede who emigrated to Kenya over 10 years ago. The restaurant looks like to belongs on the south coast of France. Shaded under leafy shrubs, canvas umbrellas and pretty awnings, it’s a great place to come for a breakfast, with prices starting at KES 500 (and they all come with coffee and a juice). The brunch menus contains all your favourites including bagels, homemade vegetable burgers, pizzas and big hearty salads with an extensive cocktail menu. In the evenings you’ll also find a great range of activities including Quiz Night on Monday’s and themed food nights throughout the week. I go here to grab a quick lunch time snack, a boozy brunch or a lazy Sunday late lunch.
Oloolua Nature Trail, Karen
Located in the fresh green suburb of Karen, this is a little gem tucked away at the end of Bogani road. It’s a beautiful nature trail which brings welcome relief to Nairobians wanting a little stroll without having to get all the way out of town. Park your car or take an Uber to the gate, pay the small fee of KES 200 (KES 400 is you’re a non resident) and cross the bridge up the slope into tranquillity. Once you reach the large open area, follow the paths round to the left which will lead you along a steep walk down to the waterfalls and most likely past large groups of grey backed monkeys. The hike itself is probably not more than 45 mins – 1 hour but you can lengthen it out by picnicking by the river and then taking the back paved road towards the gate you entered from. In addition, also drive your car further in and camp overnight if you wish, bring your own food and a little BBQ – you’ll likely have the run of the place.
Spinners Web, Peponi Road
Every time a member of my family, or friend or a newbie turns up in Kenya and wants to get something nice from this beautiful county I take them to Spinner’s Web. It’s an airy bungalow crammed full of artefacts, rugs, clothes and all other weird and wonderful things from Kenya. Pick up a ‘kikapu’ or woven basket and stuff it to the brim as you walk in zig zag line from room to room looking through a range of treasures to treat friends or yourself with. The first room will take your round handmade lamps, then across the courtyard, through the adorable cooperative café, to rugs and then furniture and then into children’s clothes, Masaai blankets and finally nic nacs like bowls, plates, magnets and ornamental treats. It’s a lovely place to shop, spend the afternoon and take a coffee. Its also right next to a great restaurant serving a western take on Kenyan food called Amaica, located at the end of the same road. It’s also on the main artery between Westlands and Karura Forest/Village Market so Spinner’s Web makes for an easy stop between the two.
Amani Ya Juu, Riverside Drive
Get another shopping and food fix from the wonderful and heartwarming Amani Ya Juu on the junction of Riverside Drive. The shop and garden café, featuring an awesome jungle gym for kids, was created to house and help women who were victims of domestic abuse – with the all the products and food sold and money reinvested into the project. The ladies are unbelievably friendly and helpful, with each item containing a story as to who made it and what Amani means to them. Inside the shop it follows a similar feel to Spinner’s in that you follow a path round the house into rooms marked by category. On the left you can find items for the kitchen, handmade glasses, placemats and napkins which then leads on to a well stocked children’s room full of clothes, soft safari animals and games. At the back are clothes for adults and amazing hand-stitched blankets, cushions and throws as well as art for your walls at home. During Christmas time this shop comes alive with hand-stitched angels for your tree, stockings and fillers as well as wreaths and a plethora of cool gift ideas like kitenge laptop cases and jewellery.
The café is also great with a changing seasonal menu including large fresh salads, Mexican bean soups, toasted sandwiches and fresh mango juice. The service can be a tad slow but super friendly, so with the extra time just soak up the atmosphere for longer and enjoy the leafy garden surroundings.
K1 Clubhouse, Westlands
This is where I go to unwind with a cool Jamaican vibe. K1 Clubhouse is in the heart of Westlands stretching over three separate tiki-style buildings with a wide range of random but fun bars, TV screens – one room looks like a mini Wimbledon with three enormous screens circled by a green turfed amphitheatre – and somewhere in the middle, a car wash! On Sundays the K1 Flea Market comes alive serving a fantastic $10 brunch boasting corn on the cobs, curries and fresh-baked goods. In addition, Nairobi’s best and brightest fashion venders, plant sellers and jewellery designers can be found dotted round the buildings selling their beautiful unique goods. Once you’ve eaten and shopped to your hearts content, head upstairs in the main building for some table football or pool and a couple of rum and cokes, whilst enjoying some table sport or lounging on the large sunny balconies. Great for Sundays or bank holiday drinking.
I’m asking some of my friends in Nairobi to write about their experiences and favourite things to do for the blog. For the third guide in the series, the lovely Amy Lobl shared the above. Here’s more about her:
MY NAIROBI: AMY LOBL
I came to Kenya in 2015 to take part in a VSO entrepreneur project as a Team Leader and fell in love with Nairobi (and a certain someone) so much that I never left! I now work in the International Education sector recruiting Kenyans for Australian universities. In my spare time go running, hike the amazing Rift Valley and swimming in the beautiful Indian Ocean off the coast of Mombasa. In addition, I love to blog about the Nairobi food scene, and have just launched my own site which has recently been featured on EatOut and Foodies Group Nairobi. You can find it here.