Nairobi Budget Travel

About Nairobi

Nairobi is Kenya's capital city, known as the 'Safari Capital of Africa', being the major travel hub for wildlife safaris in East Africa.

The city is also known locally as the 'Green City in the Sun', due to its numerous tree-covered parks and leafy suburbs.

Visiting the bustling and multicultural city of Nairobi gives travellers a vivid and lively view into African life, both past and present.

With a population of between 3 and 4 million, Nairobi is the biggest and fastest growing city in Kenya, as well as being one of Africa's largest cities.

Location of Nairobi

Situated on the Nairobi River in south-central Kenya, Nairobi lies on the central plateau of Kenya, at about 1 795m (5 889 ft) above sea level.

Nairobi is located north-west from coastal Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city, and adjacent to the eastern side of the Great Rift Valley.

On clear days Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro are visible from the city, with the Ngong Hills lying west of Nairobi in the highlands. Nairobi is just south of the equator and north-east of the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Nairobi Today

Nairobi is best known for its vibrant nightlife, offering entertainment for all ages and budgets. The city is brimming with activity and has an array of bars and popular nightclubs that pump music late into the night. 

Nairobi is the best place to eat out in Kenya as it hosts a range of restaurants, from local to international and gourmet.

Exploring the city centre on foot you can relax at one of the city's coffee shops, as Nairobi has a lively café culture, and visit a bustling African market. The city is a great place for shopping and is home to thousands of local companies and an impressive number of major international businesses.

This diverse and cosmopolitan city still shows some British influences from colonial times, along with plenty of new high rise buildings and modern developments. Nairobi's mix of inhabitants include communities from Sudan and Somalia, as well as descendants from India and Pakistan.  

Similar to the big city of Johannesburg in South Africa, Nairobi has a bad reputation for being a dangerous place. As with Johannesburg, Nairobi, can be visited safely and makes for an interesting travel destination with much to offer visitors.

Top sights and Nairobi attractions include:

  • Nairobi National Park
  • Karen Blixen Museum
  • Giraffe Centre 
  • Central Business District
  • Uhuru Gardens
  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Kazuri Beads Factory
  • Parliament House
  • Prestige Plaza
  • Nairobi Gallery
  • Nairobi Railway Museum

Nairobi City Areas

Nairobi has developed around the City Square in its Central Business District, bordered by Uhuru Park, Nairobi's best known park, and Central Park. The City Square features many of Nairobi's important buildings, including the City Hall, the Kenyan Parliament buildings, the Holy Family Cathedral, the Nairobi Law Courts and the Kenyatta Conference Centre. 

Most of the upmarket suburbs, inhabited by Europeans in the colonial era, are situated to the west and north-central parts of Nairobi, with some lower income areas close by.

Lower-middle and upper-middle income neighborhoods mostly lie in the north-central areas, as well as southwest and southeast of the metropolitan area around Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The low and lower income zones are located mainly in the far eastern part of Nairobi. Kibera, one of Africa's largest slum areas, is situated to the west of Nairobi.

Nairobi is divided into the constituencies of Makadara, Kamukunji, Starehe, Langata, Dagoretti, Westlands, Kasarani and Embakasi. Over 90% of Nairobi residents work in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, in formal and informal sectors.

Slum or shanty town areas are to be avoided, as are some parts of the city, ask your guide for advice and exercise caution to avoid dangerous situations.

History of Nairobi

Nairobi started out as a railway depot in 1899 soon becoming the capital of British East Africa after British moved their administrative headquarters from coastal Mombasa to the cooler town of Nairobi.

This swamp area was originally named after a watering hole called “Ewaso Nai´beri", which means "a place of cool waters" in Maasai. The British renamed it Nairobi, being unable to pronounce the complex original name.
In the early 1900s Nairobi was burnt down and completely rebuilt after an outbreak of the plague.

Under British colonial rule the city served as an administrative and tourist hub for big game hunters, until the Mau Mau rebellion and Kenyan independence in 1963, when Nairobi became the capital of the new republic.

Nairobi’s population expanded rapidly after Kenya gained independence with the city’s fast growth placing pressure on the infrastructure, which town planning has since helped to alleviate.

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Google Map of Nairobi

Use the Google map to explore Nairobi. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.

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