Nairobi Neighbourhood Guides | Where to Live, What to Do in 2020

Before moving to a new city a lot of expats consider where to live? I always believe this should be broken down into three categories of consideration:

  1. Do you want to be close to your work/child’s school?
  2. Do you want to be close to amenities (shops, bakeries, malls, cinemas)?
  3. Do you want be close to your hobby? Sport activity? Green space?

Nairobi is not known for its sidewalks or its particularly beautiful commutes by foot so unless you are living on one side of Karura Forest and working on the other, you’ll probably be commuting by Uber/Little Cab/Taxify (taxi app services), your own car/car sharing or Matatu (community minivans that are super cheap but not 100% safe, careful of your belongings and tricksters swaying your attention from your purse) and Boda-Boda (motorbikes – found at every corner…use at your own caution). Traffic is notorious in Nairobi for being slow and painful so also consider this when thinking about where you want to live and what type of commute you are willing to endure.

Budget

The typical accommodation options in Nairobi are 2 – 4 bed apartments with balconies and an SQ (Servants Quarter, traditional room your domestic help would sleep in, and an unfortunate hangover from colonial-era Kenya). 1 bedroom and studio apartments are becoming more common in newly built complexes, but they can be considerably more expensive.

The table below is a rough guide to rental prices in the most popular neighbourhoods in Nairobi. They’re not exact and should be taken as a benchmark only.

Feel free to negotiate with landlords (or landladies) for better rates depending on how long you’ll be staying in Nairobi. And ALWAYS check the terms of your rental agreement.

Neighbourhood(s)Room in a share flatEntire studio or 1 BR apartment
Westlands, Kilimani, Kilileshwa, Lavington, Parklands,
Junction and Ngong Rd.
35,000 KES/$350+60,000/$600+
Riverside Dr.50,000/$500+80,000/$800+
Karen, Gigiri, Runda80,000 KES /$800+100,000/$1,000+

If you’d rather rent a house – especially one with a garden – consider looking outside the city itself, towards the suburbs of Karen, Langata, Loresho, Spring Valley and outer Parklands. There’s more space and rent will be considerably lower than houses close to the centre.

Read our complete guide to renting apartments in Nairobi to learn more.

Westlands

  • Best restaurants: Mama Rocks @ Alchemist, Java House @ The Oval, Honey and Dough, Cafe Kaya, Nyama Mama Delta, Bao Box
  • Shopping malls and supermarkets: Westgate, Sarit Centre
  • Traffic intensity: Medium.
  • See and Do: board games at Bao, party at Alchemist, K1 Klubhouse, Brew Bistro, Blue Door, and many more

Westlands feels like Nairobi’s ‘downtown’ area – mostly because you’ll want to avoid the actual downtown.

It’s where you’ll find many of the best bars, clubs, shops, and restaurants in Nairobi. Westlands is also home a lot of big offices and co-working spaces. So, it’s a lively, busy, popular neighbourhood where you’ll spend a lot of time hanging out and possibly working.

As a result, apartments here tend to be slightly more expensive. But if you want to be in the heart of the action, the price tag may be worth it – you won’t be commuting in and out as often.

Look for places to live around School Lane, Karuna Close, Brookside Grove, and Lower Kabete Road towards Spring Valley.

Westlands has plenty of big malls and shopping centres for all your grocery needs, including Sarit Centre, Westgate and ABC Place.

Due to it’s popularity as a nightlife spot, parts of Westlands have issues with pickpockets and bag snatching, so keep an eye on your items and use Ubers to get around at night.

Kilimani

  • Best restaurants: Mama Rocks, Kesh Kesh, Ankole Grill, Habesha, Lava Latte, Connect Coffee Roasters
  • Shopping malls and supermarkets: Yaya Centre and Adlife Plaza
  • Traffic intensity: High. Evening rush hour in Kilimani is a nightmare, made worse by constant road works.
  • See and Do: Nairobi Arboretum

Kilimani is a huge, mostly residential neighbourhood about a 15 minute taxi/car ride from Westlands.

Sadly Kilimani doesn’t have any parks but a popular running route is to go along Dennis Pritt Road, past State House and across to Arboretum Park (a lovely forested park that stretches just after Kileleshwa) in a massive loop up and down Kilimani Ring Road. There are heaps of running clubs of energetic expats and Kenyans who get up at 5:30am to do this loop – and also at slightly more social times during after work hours.

Even though Kilimani is a relatively safe area, I wouldn’t recommend walking around after dark anywhere in Nairobi (it gets dark 7pm all year round – the beauty of being so close to the equator, good weather and dependable darkness…). Arboretum also has an amazing boot camp that runs every Tuesday and Thursday at 17:30. Its a good work out with a mix or cardio and weights to ease you into your new routine at high altitude and also combines a friendly social atmosphere with both expats and Kenyans enjoying the great outdoors. It’s a bargain at only 500kes per session.

Kileleshwa

  • Shopping malls and supermarkets: Kasuku Centre, Quickmart Lavington
  • Traffic intensity: Medium. Busy in the morning and evening rush hours, but it doesn’t last long. Quiet the rest of the day.
  • See and Do: Nairobi Arboretum

Most expats tend to concentrate around Githunguru Road as the apartments have stunning unimpeded views of the back of the President of Kenya’s State House gardens, meaning plenty of trees and if you are lucky, a quick glimpse of a Parliamentary official going for a run with a heavy armed platoon of body guards. This is a great neighbourhood if you work in Westlands or Town as its just 10 mins to both with no traffic and is concentrated around Kasuku Centre one of Nairobi’s last ‘Mom and Pop’ run Mall areas. Kasuku has a greengrocers, bakery, butchers, photo print shop, chemist and fully stocked supermarket. Rumours are that a new mall is popping up behind it containing a Carrefore but there are no signs yet, so may Kasuku fill your needs for many more years to come. Kasuku is also a great passing point if you work in Westlands and commute back home to Westlands/Junction/Valley Arcade.

Other amenities include the Java at Shell Petrol station on the Ring Road/ByPass that is a good place to base yourself for cracking out some work/watching cat videos. There is a gym close to Kasuku centre and also nice flat roads to enjoy after work jogging and the cool hipster Nairobians that skateboard here on Sundays.

Valley Arcade

  • Best restaurants: Gyros2Go
  • Shopping malls and supermarkets: Valley Arcade, Quickmart Lavington
  • Traffic intensity: High.

This area sits between Kilimani (Ole Odume Road) and Lavington and is centred around is the Valley Arcade Shopping Plaza. It has a lovely sunny courtyard owned by Moniko’s restaurant that does a decent brunch and pub quiz on Monday’s, and you’ll also find a  butchers, supermarket (quite small but good), a few restaurants and also a Java. The area is very leafy and green but is a favourite for matatu cut throughs so careful of their speed when walking around.

Valley Arcade is great if you are into tennis as well as it has a public court you can book on Vanga Road for just 800 kes a session as well as some amazing places to eat on a sunny weekend: La Sulemeria (the best Italian in town), 4U Chinese restaurant (massive play area if you are with kids and super cheap quality asian food) and Gyros 2 Go, a pop up Greek place in the carpark on the Valley Arcade Mall that even does gluten free pita’s! Nightlife is pretty quiet around here so you’ll find yourself heading to Westlands for more bars and clubs…but then we all end up doing that!

Gyros 2 Go, Valley Arcade

Lavington

  • Best restaurants: Pallet Cafe, Tokyo, Chekafe, Arbor Place, The Social
  • Shopping malls and supermarkets: Lavington Mall, Quickmart Lavington
  • Traffic intensity: Medium. Busy in the morning and evening rush hours, but it doesn’t last long. Quiet the rest of the day.
  • See and Do: Jaffreys Sports Club, Kioko Mwitiki Art Gallery

Lavington is a stalwart neighbourhood of the elite Kenyan’s sending their kids to some of the top private schools in the country (Braeburn, St. Mary’s, St. Austin’s) and mainly has large detached houses with lovely big gardens and impressively manicured hedges. Apartments are slowly creeping into this area but it remains far less developed than Kilimani and has 2 great malls at its epicentre: Lavington Curve Mall and Lavington Mall. You’ll spend more time in the latter as it has a Chandarana, Art Caffe, greengrocers, restaurants, butchers and several bars. Other food highlights include Tokyo Sushi, The Arbor (great for brunch in the garden) and MummyDaddy Nigerian Eatery (its hot!!). It’s also right next to the Huawei tech headquarters and is home to some real gems in Nairobi including the Nairobi Art Centre which hosts adult art and pottery classes on the weekends and Nairobi Hot Yoga Studio.

Another gem of Lavington is Jaffrey’s which is a school and also sports facility where you can use the running track for free (yes!) and also rent out the volleyball, football and batting pitches at a small cost paid to the head admin office at the front of the complex. The site also boasts a fully equipt gym and also weekly yoga and zumba classes. It’s a real find in Nairobi if you want to go running with a friend and are on a budget or just want to get some sun away from the cars and traffic.

As the area is slightly more upmarket, prices reflect this so expect to pay the higher end on the price guide and if you are really wanting this area, consider looking for a room in a house or buddying up with friends and splitting the costs of rent/bills/good security guards.

Junction and Ngong Rd

  • Shopping malls and supermarkets: Junction Mall, Toi Market, Adams Arcade
  • Traffic intensity: Medium. Ngong is busy but steady throughout the day
  • See and Do: Live Music at Dagoz Bar

Going back towards Ngong Road, the neighbourhood on your right side if you were heading to Karen sits Junction Mall and the surrounding apartments that make up this area known as Junction. This is a good area if you are working on Ngong Road or towards Karen and need to pass a Mall as it boasts one of Nairobi’s biggest which contains an ArtCaffe, Java Coffee House, soon to be fully functioning Carrefore as well as a multiplex cinema and Zucchini Greengrocers. The area of Junction is also very close to Impala sports club which is great for all you squash fans out there (book a court from 400 KES) and next door is Ngong Racecourse, a fun day out watching the horses in the fresh air, as well as the Rugby Grounds – Kenya’s 7s international superstars who won in Hong Kong 2017. For only 200 KES a ticket its a steal to watch some incredible players often take on international friendlies with previous teams including Belgium, Germany and Tunisia.

For nightlife Junction used to be the area to go to as it still holds one of Kenya’s first microbreweries, Brew Bistro. This place still does the worlds best chicken strips and an awesome Sunday Brunch, with other events like Salsa Dancing on the a Tuesday (you will learn to love to Dance in Kenya…). The other big draw of Junction is being so close to Toi Market, the premier destination for grabbing bargain Louis Vuitton bags and fabulous halloween costumes in a massive open air market. These stalls bridge the area between Ngong Road and Kibera (Africa’s 2nd largest slum) and is on the whole a safe area with a large fruit and veg section at the back, a good size Uchumi supermarket (although it seems to sell a large collection of wire wool and discount rum) and an incredible selection of clothes (some brand new with tags – referred to as ‘camera’ by the sellers who can judge your size and taste just by giving you a quick once over). You’ll also find brand new italian cooking equipment, sunglasses, cookery books and Obama autobiographies and pretty much any other personal or household item you can think of. Yes its dirty and manic but its also amazing and you’ll need patience and bartering skills to truly enjoy it to its maximum potential.

Riverside Drive

  • Best restaurants: Amani Ya Juu, Le Grenier A Pain
  • Traffic intensity: Low.

Riverside Drive is small, plush, leafy neighbourhood some stunning newly built apartments and office complexes. This is a great spot if you want to be near all the major neighbourhoods, as one end reaches Wayaki Way and will take you to town and the other touches Lavington and will take you to malls and restaurants. It’s a popular length of road for runners too although the pavement does slip away but you can take the side roads around the German and Chile embassy to give yourself some relief and surprisingly warm welcome from the heavily guarded gates.

This area is really placed for amenities as well in terms of banks (both Chase and Prime Bank are on the main intersection of Riverside and Ring Road) as well as the amazing Le Grenier a Pain French Bakery (think fresh baguettes and croissants – so good) and the Dusit Hotel for great Thai food at Soi Restaurant and after work cocktails. Connect Coffee is also found here if you miss the hipster coffee scene and Amani Ju is also on Riverside which is a charity initiative with a cafe in the garden and great gift store. There are lots of little surprises up and down this street and its good place to be based from, though not many supermarkets, so you’ll need to head to Westlands or Lavington (only 5 min drive).

These are the main areas I wanted to cover in this article but there are plenty I haven’t such as up and coming Hurlingham or leafier Parklands and the further reaching neighbourhoods of Loresho, Karen, Hardy, Runda and Gigiri etc., mainly comprising of large family homes and push the higher end of the rent scale in Nairobi.

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8 thoughts on “Nairobi Neighbourhood Guides | Where to Live, What to Do in 2020”

  1. Pingback: Packing List: Essential Guide for Moving to Nairobi – New to Nairobi

  2. This was interesting, but I’m surprised at the housing areas you left out. What about the expat housing enclaves of Karen/Langata and Gigiri/Runda? Budgets would be a lot different in both those places (you could afford a house for that price range in Karen, but basically nothing in that price range in Gigiri/Runda). I’ve been living in Valley Arcade the past four years though, and agree with all your other comments on the areas near me. Looking forward to seeing how this blog develops!

    1. Hey Juliana thanks for your comment. As mentioned at the bottom of the blog – I had left our Karen/Langata and Gigiri/Runda due to the higher budgets and that people could reach out if they needed further information. They tend to be more popular for expat families and as my experience has been for younger/working professional expats, I focused on areas closer to Westlands/Ngong Road area. Thanks.

    1. Hey there, I’ve lived in Nairobi for a few years and not experience anything more severe than a stolen handbag. There is amor crime in all cities. You can limit your exposure by getting good security at your home, adding bars to your doors and windows and don’t walk around at night or drive around with your doors unlocked. Common sense will get you really far in Nairobi in terms of safety. It’s a great place to live so you should take the opportunity!

  3. Pingback: Packing List: Essential Guide for Moving to Nairobi – Living in Nairobi

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