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Kenya's capital is a dazzling mix of urbanity and nature. The natural world and the animals that inhabit it are always close by in Nairobi, with a national park located within city boundaries, and many places like the Giraffe Centre, Mamba Village Crocodile Farms, and others where you can get up close to Kenya's wildlife. Nairobi is also the starting point for safaris through the area.
There are many monuments to Nairobi's past on view, like the three War Memorial statues that commemorate fallen soldiers. But this is also a city with a thriving future and a healthy contemporary arts and culture scene that you can take in at places like the Banana Hill Art Gallery and Paa Ya Paa Arts and Cultural Centre.
You can pet giraffes in the morning, shop at a gleaming ultra-modern mall in the afternoon, take in a round of golf at one of many top-notch golf courses, and then dance the night away at a legendary nightclub like Black Diamond. You can sip a coffee watching the traffic go by right beside a Maasai warrior in traditional dress. The legendary environment and the modern towers come together to create the intriguing contemporary city Nairobi has become.
Nairobi is still a green, leafy city despite its rapid growth, and there are many parks where you can enjoy the beauty of the region, including Jeevanje Gardens, where the landscaped grounds include sculptures and other installations. The Karura Forest Reserve sits on the outskirts of the city, with a bamboo forest, waterfalls, trails, and the Mau Mau caves to explore.
You can arrange a photo safari to the nearby countryside, but you don't need to leave town to enjoy the wildlife. Just 20 minutes from the city center, you can see zebras, wildebeest, lions, giraffes, and other iconic East African animals in Nairobi National Park. At the Animal Orphanage, you can get close-up views of lions and crocodiles, while monkeys and baboons roam freely through the park, just one of many facilities tending to giraffes, elephants, and other animals.
Kenya's history is on display at the Nairobi National Museum, with an impressive and interesting collection of exhibitions and displays. At Bomas of Kenya Limited, you can take in a traditional dance performance, and check out crafts and music from the nation's many tribes.
Local artisans produce items at places such as the Kazuri Beads Factory, where local women create handcrafted ceramic jewelry. At Kitengela Hot Glass, old glass bottles become beautiful new pieces, from wine goblets to sculptures and jewelry.
Cuisine in Nairobi is influenced by many international flavors, particularly Indian and other Asian cuisines, along with its traditional Kenyan fare. The city also attracts world-class chefs. You'll find everything from fantastic street food like Viazi Karai (deep fried potatoes,) or chicken stew to fine dining, Asian restaurants of every kind, and Brazilian steakhouses. Nairobi is also a center for the tea and coffee trade, and there are gourmet infusions to try in many cafes and teahouses.
Its elevation on a high plain about a mile above sea level gives Nairobi its year-round pleasant, mild weather, with beautiful sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. During the summer, between December and March, daytime temperatures average in the mid-70s. It's slightly cooler from June to September, with evenings dropping below 50 during June and July. There are two rainy seasons: from March to May, and about the middle of October to the middle of December.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) lies only about 10 miles away from the city to the southeast. Taxis are the best option when it comes to transfers to Nairobi's city center. Be sure to take one of the taxis waiting at official locations. A trip into town should cost about KSh1500.
Nairobi is a hub of Kenya Railways and the Mombasa to Kampala line runs right through the city. There are nightly trains to Mombasa and Kisumu.
Nairobi falls within a network of highways that link Mombasa at one end and extend to Kampala, Uganda, and Arusha, Tanzania at the other. You should be aware, however, that outside of major centers, roads are not always paved, and conditions may not always be well maintained.
The Central Bus Station is located on Temple Road. Coast Bus Nairobi and Easy Coach LTD are two of several private bus companies that provide intercity service. There are several companies that operate a shuttle service from Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania, including Impala and Riverside.
The Sarova Stanley Hotel was established in 1902, and is the city's oldest. It offers upscale accommodation and amenities that include a stylish cocktail lounge. Fairmont the Norfolk hotel combines old and new for a uniquely contemporary look. If you're looking for a luxury resort experience, the Safari Park Hotel has lush grounds in a 50-acre property right in the middle of the city.
Westlands - this neighborhood is just to the northwest of the city center and is full of restaurants, bars, and other nightlife options, along with the Sarit Centre and other shopping possibilities.
Karen - this district, named after author Karen Blixen, is an upscale area of the city west of downtown. Here, you'll find hotels, dining, and shopping.
Lang'ata - this is where you'll find the Giraffe Centre, the Uhuru Gardens, and many other attractions. You can also access Nairobi National park from one of the gates located in this neighborhood.
Bus service is operated by private companies in Nairobi, by and large, but together they cover most of the city and into the suburbs. Fares vary by zone/distance and range from about KSh50-200. The Matatu is a uniquely Kenyan solution, a 14-seat shared taxi service in a minivan. It can be a cheap alternative, but be forewarned that your price should be negotiated in advance, with a crosstown fare starting at about KSh200.
There are several taxi companies available in town, including KENATCO Taxi, Delight Cabs, and Focus Cab. If the taxi has no meter, you should negotiate your fare in advance. Fares within the city should run between KSh300 to 1000.
A car rental in Nairobi starts at about KSh7020 per day and Avis, Europcar, and Sixt are all present. Driving is not recommended unless you don't mind spending the time in heavy traffic. Hiring a car with a driver is a popular solution that should cost about KSh10,400.
The Village Market in Gigiri is a huge complex that includes outlets for everything from fashion to groceries and electronics, along with entertainment options and a food court with local specialties. The Sarit Centre in Westlands has a wide selection of stores and a 300-seat movie theater. The Maasai Markets move around the city to different malls on different days; here, you can buy a variety of handcrafted items.
The Village Market is a popular grocery store, along with chains Chandarana and Naivas. Each has a good selection of items at reasonable prices. A gallon of milk should cost around KSh370 and a dozen eggs about KSh160.
You can visit a bit of the city's history at the Thorn Tree Cafe, located in the Sarova Stanley Hotel. A mixed menu of Kenyan favorites and classics like grilled seafood starts at KSh1000. The National Bank Building is an appropriately ornate backdrop for Tamarind Restaurant, where you'll eat in a gorgeous Moorish-style dining room. Imaginative seafood entrees start at KSh1100. For real local flavors, you can enjoy coconut fish, biryani, and other dishes from just KSh150.