Originally established as a whites-only neighbourhood in the 1950s, after independence, Kilimani became popular with upper-class Kenyans looking for a quiet area close to Westlands and the CBD. For decades, Kilmani consisted of low-density housing (cottages, townhouses, family homesteads), schools, and small businesses.
However, in the 1990s zoning regulations in Kilimani were changed to allow large developments. Since then, Kilimani has been experiencing a never-ending building boom, with new high-rise apartments, office blocks, shopping malls, and business centres popping up constantly.
Despite the construction and congestion, Kilimani is an excellent place to live and experience the best of Nairobi. It’s central to everything, rents are cheaper than Westlands, and Kilimani is home to many of the best restaurants and coffee shops in Nairobi.
Restaurants in Kilimani
Mama Rocks – The best burgers in Nairobi! Mama Rocks was started by two sisters who wanted to bring all the flavours of Africa together in a fusion of contemporary casual dining. The result: a massive menu packed with incredible burgers, each one totally unique.
Mama Rocks is also super vegetarian-friendly. It’s worth taking a break from their beef burgers just to try out their veggie options.
Ankole Grill – An upscale restaurant serving modern interpretations of classic African dishes and cocktails in a stylish, atmospheric setting.
Habesha – One of the best Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi – and competition is stiff. Habesha has all your favourite Ethiopian dishes, perfect for sharing with friends or sampling by yourself.
Sierra Brasserie – The 2nd best burgers in Nairobi! Sierra is slightly higher-end than Mama rocks and better suited to a romantic date night than a busy lunch with friends.
Caffe Concerto – It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but come to Cafe Concerto after dark, and it’s one of the most romantic restaurants in Nairobi. The perfect setting for an intimate candlelit dinner.
This list is just the beginning! For more, read our complete guide to the best restaurants in Kilimani.
Coffee Shops in Kilimani
Doppio Coffee House – A tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe in Kilimani Shopping Mall that serves delicious coffees and pastries in a super-friendly environment.
Kesh Kesh coffee Roasters – Nairobi’s best Eritrean cafe and restaurant, with traditional coffee and delicious dishes from the Horn of Africa.
Coffee & Bagels – Much more than the name suggests, Coffee & Bagels is Nairobi’s premier specialty coffee shop. They only serve filtered coffee, prepared and brewed with total expertise for perfect pours every time. Just don’t order a latte!
Serviced Apartments in Kilimani
Black Rose Apartments – Located in the heart of Kilimani, Black Rose is one of the oldest apartment complexes in the area. The complex offers incredible value and excellent facilities, with a mix of 1 & 2 bedroom apartments starting from 60,000 KES a month.
Soho Court – Luxury apartments with excellent facilities, including an infinity pool, gym, and onsite restaurant. Apartments include studios and start from 160,000 KEs a month.
Brookview Court – Tucked away in a quiet corner of Kilimani. Brookview Court is a small complex that’s quite dated, but the apartments, garden, and pool area are very nice.
For more information, check out our guide to the best serviced apartments in Nairobi.
Unseen Nairobi – A fantastic little rooftop bar that doubles as an independent cinema. On a clear day, you can enjoy panoramic views of Nairobi. And in the evening, catch a movie in their cozy cinema room. (See below for further details)
Gyms in Kilimani
Hyat Fitness – Just across the road from Yaya Centre, Hyat is a small, mostly overlooked gym in an amazing location. It’s usually quiet during the week, but the other members and staff are super friendly and work around each other – so it never feels too crowded.
They also offer very affordable monthly rates and personal training.
To see a complete list of gyms in Kilimani and surrounding neighbourhoods, click here.
Shopping in Kilimani
Yaya Centre – Right in the heart of Kilimani. Yaya has plenty of stores covering most of your basic needs, including a Chandarana Foodplus supermarket and greengrocers. It’s close to plenty of nice restaurants, gyms, and other amenities, making it ideal for running numerous errands at once – or combining them with lunch.
Adlife Plaza – Just down the road from Yaya Centre, Adlife doesn’t really offer anything you can’t find elsewhere. However, if you live or work close by, it’s usually quieter than Yaya and has some useful shops.
Kilimani Mall – A never development across the road from Yaya Centre. Kilimani has the usual mix of small stores, phone shops, services, and a Naivas Supermarket next door.
Valley Arcade Shopping Mall – Home to all the basic shops and services you need and a small independent grocery store. There’s also a very nice Java House with a big, surprisingly pleasant courtyard.
Quick Mart Lavington – Open 24 hrs, well-stocked, and located in a junction between Valley Arcade, Lavington, and Kilimani. The traffic here is utter chaos during rush hour, so plan your shopping around this.
The Junction Mall – Junction is the most complete shopping mall in Nairobi. It has the widest variety of shops, a small cinema, a convenient location for most people in the surrounding suburbs, and a giant Carrefour supermarket.
Activities in Kilimani
The Nairobi Arboretum
Much beloved by local residents, The Nairobi Arboretum is a big landscaped forest in the middle of Kilimani and Kilileshwa. Come here when you want to escape the city without leaving it, breathe in some fresh air, enjoy a picnic, or workout with friends.
Movies at Unseen Nairobi
Unseen is not only Nairobi’s most underrated rooftop bar – it’s also the city’s best independent cinema. They show a semi-regular schedule of indie movies and documentaries from around the world, which you can find on their social media or weekly newsletter.
Combine an evening showing with a candle lit dinner, and Unseen becomes one of the most romantic places in Nairobi.
Methodist Swimming Pool
As part of the Methodist Guest House, this is one of Nairobi’s biggest outdoor swimming pools. While it can get busy on weekends, it’s usually quieter and popular with nearby residents using the pool for exercise from Monday to Friday.
Services in Kilimani
Mr Jeff Dry Cleaners offer a complete laundry service for 1,000 KES, including collection and drop off.