Nairobi CBD is more than just old office buildings, crowded streets, and pickpockets.
The traditional Central Business District is also home to many of the best – but overlooked – restaurants, art galleries, and museums in Nairobi. If you come here on the weekend – when the office workers and government officials have all gone home – the CBD is a surprisingly pleasant place to spend an afternoon sightseeing and exploring.
Whether you’re here for work or just passing through on holiday, use this guide to check out everything Nairobi CBD has to offer.
Hotels in Nairobi CBD
There are a few top class hotels in Nairobi CBD. You might dread living within the noise and general chaos of the business districts. But these hotels have been built to lock all of that out and provide peace of mind from the moment you walk in. They are particularly great if your business in Kenya is centralised within the CBD.
This homely hotel on the right on the edge of the CBD provides a welcome escape from the bustle and hustle. The Norfolk has a lovely garden within its 19th-century architecture and all the services you want in a hotel.
Sarova Stanley 8.7
The Stanley is a luxury hotel right at the centre of the CBD. It has 3 restaurants, 8 event/conference rooms, a gym, a sauna, and a pool.
The Best Western Hotel has a clean, modern look, a rooftop swimming pool and a proper bar that includes a pool table. The spacious and well-furnished rooms could include a mini-office if you need one.
After 40 Hotel 8.1
After 40 is an affordable hotel that provides simple accommodation without a lot of fuss. The hotel has separate pastries, dining and grill restaurants.
Chester hotel is another affordable hotel. It has an outdoor pool and you could choose to cook for yourself if you book into the suites.
The Nairobi Safari Club is a tower of superb service, Kenyan and international cuisine and beautiful rooms. The hotel has a wellness and fitness centre that includes massage services.
Hilton Nairobi 7.5
The Hilton’s greatest selling point is its tower rooms that overlook the city right from the centre. They also provide an outdoor pool, spa, steam room, and sauna to residents and members.
Bookshops in Nairobi CBD
Located in the same building as an IMAX cinema, a stop by Prestige Bookshop is a great way to complete a day of entertainment. This cosy shop has a wide variety of books, a list of which you can find here.
Text Book Centre is the largest bookshop in Kenya. Make it your first stop whenever you are searching for any type of book.
While Savani’s offer a lot more than just books, books are their primary business. They have textbooks and literature for kids, as well as a good selection of stationery.
Chania bookshop mainly offers textbooks and school material. However, they also carry a selection of Kenyan books mostly written for children.
Museums and Art Galleries
The CBD is home to many of the best art galleries and museums in Nairobi. They can all be visited together in a single day, and combined with lunch or dinner in one of the CBD’s best restaurants (see below).
Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum is Kenya’s flagship museum. A historical site itself, the museum is located 10 minutes away from the CBD on Museum Hill.
The National Museum houses Kenya’s vast heritage of nature and culture, along with significant archaeological discoveries. It’s a frequent host to temporary exhibitions, art galleries and unique events showcasing Kenyan contemporary art. There are botanical gardens, and shopping and dining facilities within the compound.
Tucked away in a quiet corner at the end of Kenyatta Avenue, the Nairobi Gallery is a criminally overlooked hidden gem.
The gallery hosts a permanent exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art from across the continent. Despite the pieces on display never changing, Nairobi Gallery is one of my favourite art galleries in Nairobi. I come back regularly just to spend a couple of hours immersed in African culture and traditions.
Alliance Francaise is a cultural centre, art gallery, event space, independent cinema, and cafe all rolled into one. It hosts a regular schedule of exhibitions throughout the week, including occasional concerts.
Follow Alliance Francaise on social media to keep up with the latest exhibitions and check out our Nairobi events guide to learn more.
Kenya Railway Museum
The Kenya Railway Museum provides a window into Kenya’s early history, with a trail leading to where we are now.
The museum carries detailed records and artefacts from the construction of the Uganda railway (The Lunatic Express) and models of trains and other engines that ran on it. You have access to explore some of the trains while there or you can take a guided tour of the facility.
The museum’s frozen-in-time appearance is great for photographs.
Kenya National Archives
The Kenya National Archives might sound like a boring place with only serious things happening, but it is more fascinating than that. It houses documentation of Kenya’s history since the country began.
If you’ve ever wondered about anything in Kenya, the Archives will probably have an explanation for you. You can find digitized materials or browse through actual pages of history within the walls. Sadly, you are not allowed to loan out any of the records.
The Judiciary Museum
The Judiciary Museum is located on the Eastern wing of the Supreme Court Building basement. It preserves and displays documents and objects of great Kenyan judicial heritage value.
The museum covers the history of judicial systems from pre-colonial times to today; from village elders to the Supreme court.
Restaurants in Nairobi CBD
Cake City CBD
Found on the ground floor of Avenue House, Kenyatta Avenue, Cake City is your source for some of the best cakes and pastries in the city. They say they can bake your cake in any design and with only the finest ingredients. I’m yet to prove them wrong.
The Collective Restaurant and Art Gallery
This is the place to dine when you’re looking to impress. Their food is as much artwork as the actual artwork on display everywhere. The Collective are seafood specialists but they have other options on the menu.
CJ’s Coffee House
CJ’s is equally popular for its stunning interior design and huge, varied menu serving delicious meals and snacks throughout the day.
I always try to pass by CJ’s whenever I’m in the CBD, just to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and unwind with a coffee or healthy lunch.
Artcaffe Westminster on Kenyatta Avenue is fantastic as an off-site work or study location. It’s spacious enough to give you a sense of privacy. They also feature artists sometimes so there’s something fresh every few visits.
Artcaffe’s international menus offer a lot of variety with their beverages being exceptionally good.
With two branches in the CBD on Banda Street and Kimathi Street, Kilimanjaro Jamia offers some of the tastiest and most authentic Kenyan dishes. They are a frequent lunch venue for workers in the city.
Gift Shops in Nairobi CBD
If you’re looking for a gift shop in Nairobi, it’s quite likely that you’re looking for products with an African touch. Even if you’re not, the CBD is home to gift shops of a wide variety. These are just a few of my favourites.
Jumia Shops in Nairobi CBD
If you’re making an order online on Jumia and there is no Pickup Station near your home, worry not. Jumia has a long list of locations where you can pick your items. They have so many stations covering the entire CBD, that they are within strolling distance of each other.
Just look for the one that’s closest to your most convenient street, and have your package sent there.
Gyms in Nairobi CBD
You may want to maximize your morning time in the gym. Or maybe you want to use your lunch break to have a little workout. It’s a great way to re-energize yourself for the second half of your workday. These gyms located in the CBD provide that option and more.
Penthouse Gymnasium and Health Centre
Penthouse Gym has fun instructors, modern equipment, and the view from the 21st floor of Viewpark Towers is unmatchable during a workout. The gym also has a food court area serving healthy dishes for after-exercise rejuvenation. This is how much it will cost you:
- Day Pass: Ksh 550
- Weekly Pass: Ksh2,500
- Monthly Membership: Ksh 5,500
- 3-month Membership: Ksh 15,000
- 6-Month Membership: Ksh 28,000
- 12-month Membership: Ksh 44,000
Premier Fitness Centre
With classes starting at 6.30 am, Premier Fitness Centre is perfect for your early start. You can usually hear them from outside Chester House, Koinange Street where they are located. The workouts are fun and intense. These are their prices:
- Students under 25 y.o.: Ksh 6,000 monthly, Ksh 40,000 annually.
- Aerobics: Ksh 700 per session, Ksh 4,500 – Ksh 5,500 monthly.
- Couples membership: Ksh 45,000 per person annually.
Great Body Gym
Located on the 3rd floor of Interfina House, Great Body Gym has a lot of different workout plans for you. They have weight loss and muscle building classes that include aerobics, Zumba and circuit training. Great Body have various rates which you can find here, but these are the basics:
- Daily: Ksh 500
- Monthly: Ksh 6,000
- Yearly: Ksh 50,000
- Aerobics monthly: Ksh 4,500
Click here for a full list of gyms in Nairobi CBD and surrounding neighbourhoods.
Dental Clinics in Nairobi CBD
These are the most visited and trusted dental clinics within the CBD:
- Appointment required
- Call: 0751 856900
- Location: 3rd floor, Electricity House, Harambee Avenue.
- Hours: Mon – Fri: 7am – 8pm; Sat: 7am – 6pm; Sun: 9am – 4pm
- Make an appointment
- Call: 0704 477100; 0797 664766; 0710 690230
- Location: 4th floor, Kenwood House, along Kimathi street
- Hours: Mon – Fri: 8am – 5pm; Sat: 8am – 4pm
- Make an appointment
- Call: 0701 859649; 0713 506815
- Location: 7th floor – Suite 708, Kimathi House
- Hours: Mon – Fri: 8am – 6pm; Sat: 8am – 3pm
- Make an appointment
- Call: 0722 223195
- Location: 4th floor, KTDA Plaza, Moi Avenue
- Hours: Mon – Fri: 8am – 5pm; Sat: 8am – 4pm
- Make an appointment
- Call: 0798 040111
- Location: Cardinal Otunga Plaza
- Hours: Mon – Fri: 8am – 5pm; Sat: 8am – 3pm
Nairobi CBD Map
Nairobi CBD Parking
It’s pretty safe to park within the CBD. Designated parking spots have adequate roaming security and monitored exits. However, most come at a fee even if you are parking for only a few minutes.
To pay for Nairobi City County parking on Safaricom,
- Dial *235#
- Select “Parking”
- Select the type of parking plan you require, in this case, we’ll go with “Daily Parking”
- Enter your number plate
- Select “CBD”
- Select the type of vehicle you drive. We’re picking “Private”
- The next prompt will present you with an amount and ask for confirmation.
- An automated payment prompt on M-Pesa will request you to enter your PIN
- You will receive a confirmation on the completion of the payment.
Parking is free from 2.00 pm on Saturdays, and the whole day on Sundays and public holidays.
Follow this link for a list and map of the safest parking spots within the CBD.
Safety in Nairobi CBD
Admittedly, theft is a serious issue in Nairobi CBD. During the day, when it’s most crowded, you could be at the mercy of highly skilled pickpockets. At night, it’s generally unsafe to walk around, as the streets are empty and you may be subjected to more violent robbery.
However, by taking some precautions, you can still visit and walk around Nairobi CBD without incident.
- Don’t walk around the CBD alone at night if you’re not familiar with the streets.
- In general, always avoid smaller, narrow streets with fewer people around.
- The area around the Kenya National Archives is notorious for pickpocketing. Be extra vigilant when walking through.
- Always use a taxi app like Uber or Bolt, or a private car, for getting to and from Nairobi CBD.
Nairobi CBD has everything you need for a comfortable work or study stay. There’s nowhere else in Kenya, with as many quality services. The CBD has some of the highest-rated hotels, restaurants, clinics and gyms in the country.
And since most of these places have figured out how to keep most of the noise out, there’s very little reason to work or stay anywhere other than Nairobi CBD. Just be smart and careful when you’re there.