The Masai gave Nairobi its name when there was nothing here but a swamp - Ewasa Nai'beri means ‘Place of Cold Water'. Then there were a few shacks, but during the construction of the railway from the coast into the interior this nothingness became Nairobi, a bustling boomtown.
The energy of those early days has never left the city. There are more buildings and a lot more people, and the city still never sleeps. There's an edgy excitement to the place, it can be dangerous to walk in certain areas at night, and it's possible to fall victim to petty crime during the day too, but there's also a great deal of fun to be had, too.
Nairobi is Kenya's capital city of course, but also the safari capital of the world. The legendary bar at the Norfolk Hotel is still the place to plot and plan onward travels. In town these should include visits to the National Museum, a wander through the City Market, a pause at the famous Thorn Tree Café - where travellers would pin messages to the trunk of an acacia tree.
It's worth a trip to Carnivore for an evening too, where Kenya's signature dish nyama choma (barbequed meat) is grilled on Masai spears, and where they serve probably the best dawa (meaning medicine) in the world (vodka, lime and sugar crushed with ice).
The giraffe sanctuary and Karen Blixen's house are other key attractions, as is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage near Nairobi National Park. But the ultimate has to be the park itself, from where you can watch wildlife against the backdrop of the modern city Nairobi has become.
Top itineraries in Nairobi
See the best of Kenya from the Masai Mara’s famed wildebeest migration to the Great Rift Valley and Mt. Kilimanjaro’s elephants. Along the way, you’ll enjoy game drives, gourmet dining and luxury stays throughout.
This wonderful 14-day safari holiday takes in the beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife of Kenya before heading to the coast for a relaxing beach break on the spectacular Mombasa Coast.
The delights of Kenya can be enjoyed on this air-safari whilst staying in some of the finest accommodation this beautiful country has to offer.
Top places to stay in Nairobi
One of Kenya's most iconic hotels, Giraffe Manor offers a glimpse of a bygone age where a safari was the preserve of the super-wealthy. But the most famous residents are its gentle, graceful Rothschild giraffes.
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