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The 20 Iconic Things to do in Nairobi CBD (Like every Local)

Nairobi CBD is known for numerous skyscrapers, noise, and pedestrian congestion, but there is more to Nairobi CBD than the chaos, so let’s cover the best things to do in Nairobi CBD day or night in this post.

Admire Matatus

Flashy Matatus

For the locals, those flashy, noisy matatus are just part of the scenery they’ve seen forever. But for travelers and tourists, they’re a whole vibe.

If you’re new to Nairobi, you can’t miss the matatus—they’re more noticeable than even the tallest buildings. They’re like the city’s heartbeat, especially in the CBD where they’re everywhere.

And hey, it’s not just about looking; you’ve gotta hop on one to really get what the matatu scene is all about.

Eat Street Food

Nairobi Street Food

Every few steps in Nairobi, you’ll stumble upon a street food cart. They’re scattered about every 50 meters, lining the sidewalks and tucked into building alcoves. You can’t miss them, with their tempting array of iconic Kenyan street bites like smokies, boiled eggs, kebabs, viazi karai, and the legendary chapo smokie combo (smocha).

Perfect for satisfying those sudden cravings or taming those hunger pangs that sneak up on you, especially during a busy day or when you’re watching your wallet and can’t swing a sit-down meal.

But fair warning: if you’re strolling near City Square, you won’t find any street food or hawkers around. For that, you’ve gotta hit up the downtown streets like Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya, and Ronald Ngala.

Watch Cringy Tiktokers in the Wild, outside Archives

Outside Kenya National Archives

Archives is like the buzzing heart of Nairobi’s CBD, it’s what i call the living room of CBD—it’s where everyone converges. And it makes sense; it’s one of the biggest open spaces around, perfect for gatherings. You’ll find people scattered everywhere, sitting on curbs and soaking in the scene.

Among the hustle and bustle, there’s a whole spectrum of activities. You’ve got the commuters, baking under the sun or dodging raindrops while waiting for their Super Metro buses. Then there are the hawkers, peddling everything under the sun.

But then, there’s a different breed altogether—the entertainers. They’re there to “brighten up the day” for the regular folks, whether they’re waiting for friends or just killing time before heading home. You’ll see street dancers showing off their moves, acrobats flipping around, and of course, the cringe-worthy TikTokers.

Yep, these TikTokers are something else. Their content is so cringe-worthy, it’s sometimes painful to watch. But hey, if you’re stuck waiting for someone, at least you’ll have some entertainment to pass the time. They roam around, bothering people for their content, or dancing around all in the pursuit of that elusive clout while being a nuisance.

Visit the National Archives (Inside)

Inside Kenya National Archives
Inside Kenya National Archives

Despite its iconic status, it’s surprising how few Nairobians have actually stepped foot inside the National Archives. Most people know the building, but not many care about what’s housed within its walls.

But let me tell you, it’s worth a visit. Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove of historical artifacts, from old photographs to traditional Kenyan crafts and paintings. There’s a whole collection of documents dating back to the colonial era, including government records, photographs, and maps.

If you’re a history buff, especially interested in Kenyan history, this place is a must-see.

The exhibitions are open to the public, and the entry fee is a mere Ksh 50 for citizens and residents, and Ksh 200 for non-residents.

Admire the City from the KICC Rooftop

View from KICC Rooftop

Unless you are a little school girl who is scared of heights: The KICC rooftop is like the ultimate observation deck to check out the whole vibe of Nairobi’s CBD. You get this killer panoramic view that stretches all the way to nearby neighborhoods like Uperhill and Westlands. It’s especially epic during sunsets and when the city lights up at night, but honestly, even in the daytime, it’s pretty cool.

The KICC management is chill about letting folks up there. You can swing by any day from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays, and until 6:00 pm on weekends.

And hey, it won’t break the bank either: just Ksh 150 for citizens, Ksh 200 for residents, and Ksh 400 for non-residents.

Go Electronic Shopping on Lithuli Avenue

Lithuli Avenue
Lithuli Avenue

Lithuli Avenue is like the go-to spot for anything electronics in Nairobi. Seriously, every shop along this street is whizzing with gadgets and devices.

I’m not sure if it’s some kind of zoning magic, but it’s definitely the place to be if you’re on the hunt for a new TV or sound system. You won’t find better deals anywhere else.

But here’s the kicker: where there’s a sweet deal, there’s usually a catch. Lithuli Avenue has its fair share of scammers lurking around. They might hook you in with promises of low prices, but then hit you with sneaky upsells or try to sell you individual components instead of the whole package. Sometimes, you might even end up getting scammed out of your hard-earned cash.

That said, there are legit stores here too. It’s just like anywhere else in the city—you’ve got your good guys and your bad guys. Just trust your gut and use some common sense, and you should be alright.

Get Groceries from Muthurwa & KFA Market

Muthurwa Market

If you’re all about that farm-to-table freshness, then Muthurwa Market is your go-to spot. It’s like the gateway for fresh produce from all over—whether it’s coming from upcountry or neighboring Tanzania. And if bulk buying is your jam, then you’re in luck, because Muthurwa’s got you covered.

Now, here’s the deal: be ready to welcome a bit of mud and maybe even get bloated from whiffs of that earthy aroma from the organic goods decomposing away. But trust me, it’s all part of the experience. Because when it comes to freshness, you won’t find anything better than what you’ll bag at Muthurwa Market.

Visit City Market

Nairobi City Market
Nairobi City Market

While KFA may reign supreme for fresh produce, City Market is the go-to spot for all things meat-related, from poultry to beef and even fish. But here’s the twist—it’s not just about the meat. City Market is also a treasure trove for souvenirs and handicrafts.

Despite its relatively compact size, City Market packs a punch with its diverse offerings. Divided into different sections—meat, flowers, and souvenirs/handicrafts—it caters to a variety of needs.

For locals, it’s all about the meat. Here, you’ll find the freshest cuts, free from preservatives, and at a great deal. Plus, there’s a wide variety to choose from, including boneless chicken and fish fillets. So, if you’re a die-hard carnivore, this is your paradise.

And because they sell at wholesale prices and supply to restaurants, you’ll have plenty of options to stock up your freezer. With such a wide selection, you’ll be spoiled for choice at City Market.

Explore the Library

Mc Millan Memorial Library
Mc Millan Memorial Library

Surprise, surprise—Nairobi’s CBD is hiding a gems: the Syed Abdullah Memorial Library on Kimathi Street and Mc Millan Memorial is one of the oldest and largest libraries in Nairobi. Located in the city centre. They may not be widely known, but definitely worth a visit.

While it may not boast the largest collection, it still holds its own, especially when it comes to African literature. You’ll find a decent selection of books, with a focus on African authors and topics. Plus, if you’re into digging into the past, you can peruse newspapers from years gone by.

So, if you’re in the mood for some quiet reading time or want to explore African literature, make sure to swing by the Syed Abdullah Memorial Library.

Rest at the August 7th Memorial Park

Rest at the August 7th Memorial Park
Rest at the August 7th Memorial Park

August 7th Memorial Park. It’s where the 1998 United States embassy bombings went down, but despite the heavy history, it’s actually a pretty chill place.

It is essentially a small but cozy park with grass you could probably nap on, indigenous trees labeled for all you nature buffs, and benches to kick back and relax. It’s like your own little arboretum in the city.

Sure, it’s a memorial, but it’s also a sweet escape from the city buzz. And don’t worry about safety—it’s well-secured.

Besides the peaceful vibes, there’s a museum onsite where you can dive into the history of what happened here. They’ve got exhibits and even a movie to fill you in.

And get this—entry’s just 50 shillings. So whether you’re waiting for a friend or just need a breather from the chaos, it’s totally worth it for some chill time in the middle of the CBD.

Tour Uhuru Park

Uhuru Park

Uhuru Park isn’t just any old park—it’s the ultimate iconic spot in Nairobi, maybe even in all of Kenya. And get this, it’s not right in the CBD, but just across Uhuru Highway on the other side. It is multiple the size of The August 7th Memorial Park for instance.

The view from Uhuru Park is magnificent. You can soak in the whole city skyline from here—it’s like the perfect postcard moment.

Best part? Entry’s free! But hey, because it’s a public park, you might run into some interesting characters. Just keep your wits about you, and you’ll be fine. Rumor has it, the park got a facelift recently, so it might be even better now. I’ll have to check it out and report back.

You can do pretty much anything here—have a picnic, dive into a good book, or even get some work done on your laptop.

Now, full disclosure—I’ve heard some safety concerns last time i was here and didn’t feel exactly safest. Just don’t bring your valuables here.

But on the bright side, the park’s in decent shape. It’s not all rundown and messy like some other spots in the CBD (cough Jeevanjee Gardens cough).

There are some sweet viewpoints for taking in the park and the city skyline. It’s perfect for a leisurely stroll. Just keep in mind, it’s a popular spot for homeless folks too since it’s free to enter.

Fuel Up at Legendary Sonford Fish & Chips

Sonford Fish & Chips
Sonford Fish & Chips

You gotta love the irony—most fish & chips joints in Nairobi’s CBD don’t even serve fish! Enter Sonford, the OG of this hilarious trend.

It’s become a bit of a running meme on how their food tastes and how they’re known for their chicken and chips instead. But hey, it’s all part of the Sonford charm.

Cash is king here, despite M-PESA being the go-to for everything these days. And let’s talk ambiance—there’s no fancy ventilation system to keep you cool, so get ready to work up a sweat. But that’s just part of the experience.

This place is buzzing 24/7, making it a favorite haunt for late-night revelers. It’s basically the only spot open in the wee hours, so you’ll often find the post-party crowd fueling up here.

Now, let’s be real—the chicken and fries is terrible most of the time but they’ve got that “unique Sonford flavor” with some watery chili sauce provided for free but you gotta pay for tomato sauce packets…all these compromises are what makes them a legend. Plus, they’ve been dishing out their iconic food for ages, so they must be doing something right.

Enjoy a Cup of Coffee at Java House

Americano at Java House
Americano at Java House

You know you’ve made it to Nairobi when someone says, “Let’s grab a coffee at Java.” It’s practically a rite of passage. As King Kaka put it in his song, “Ukija Nairobi, Nikupeleke Java Unywe Kahawa” (loosely translated: “When you come to Nairobi, I’ll take you to Java to drink coffee”).

Now, let’s keep it real—Java might not serve the absolute best coffee in town, but it’s undeniably iconic. You can find a Java House on practically every street corner in Nairobi.

So, why not assume your inner NPC energy and join the crowd at Java? It’s one of those quintessentially Nairobian experiences.

Sure, most people go to Java for meetings and chats rather than expecting a mind-blowing coffee experience. The coffee’s average decent, but let’s face it, the real reason to go to Java is for the scene.

So, grab a cup, and enjoy the plot—because that’s what it’s all about.

Eat Rotisserie Chicken at KenChic

If you’re cruising down University Way and Muindi Mbingu St, right before you hit the UoN Footbridge, you’ve gotta check out the Kenchic spots.

Their rotisserie chicken is hands down the best you’ll find in Nairobi.

Seriously, it’s not just about the rotisserie; their chicken beats fast food joints like KFC and Chicken Inn. It’s juicy without being weirdly spongy, and the crispy exterior is just spot on. You absolutely have to try it

Eat Biryani at Kilimanjaro Jamia

If you’re near Banda Street or Kimathi Street, then what’s your excuse for not trying Jamia Kilimanjaro if you haven’t?

This is one of those restaurants everyone swears by, never heard anyone say anything bad about it.

The food quality at Jamia Kilimanjaro is fantastic, and the portions are super generous. This perfect balance makes it a great value restaurant, giving you more bang for your shilling compared to other places.

Their full breakfast, which includes a hot beverage or fruit juice, is just KSh 570 and has everything you need.

And for less than 700, you can have this giant plate of biryani and a glass of freshly squeezed juice!

Biryani at Jamia Kilimanjaro

For my money, Kilimanjaro Jamia is the best value restaurant in Nairobi CBD. If you’re all about delicious food in large portions and want the best deal in town, Jamia Kilimanjaro is the spot to hit.

Restaurants, whether fancy or budget, should focus on good food first, with ambiance and aesthetics as a bonus. Jamia Kilimanjaro nails this perfectly.

Read Full Review of Jamia Kilimanjaro: Kilimanjaro Jamia: The Best Budget Restaurant in Nairobi CBD

Go to CJ’s on Koinange Street

If you’re looking for a classy place with great value and a wide menu, CJs is hard to beat. It’s probably the best choice if you’re spending over KSh 2,000 per person per meal. It’s not exactly fine dining, but the ambiance is great, with a cozy atmosphere and soft yellow lighting that gives it a luxurious feel.

You know CJ’s is top-notch when it’s tough to get a table during lunch from noon to 2 pm. There’s literally a waiting bench outside – that’s a sure sign it’s a good restaurant.

Read Full Review: Restaurant Review: CJs Nairobi CBD

Buy Flowers at Koinange Street

Koinange Street is the go-to spot in Nairobi CBD for fresh flowers. Just right behind City Market, The section of the street is lined with numerous vendors offering a stunning variety of flowers, from roses to lilies, perfect for any occasion. It’s a vibrant and fragrant experience that brightens up your day.

Go to Gikomba Market

Gikomba Market is a bustling hub where you can find just about anything. Known for its second-hand clothes, it also offers a wide array of household items, electronics, and fresh produce. It’s a lively place to explore, haggle, and discover unique items at unbeatable prices.

Thrift Clothes from Street Hawkers

Nairobi CBD is filled with street hawkers selling thrift clothes. You can find trendy and affordable fashion pieces just by walking around. It’s a fun way to update your wardrobe without breaking the bank, and you might score some amazing deals on stylish outfits.

Street Photography on Sundays

Sundays in Nairobi CBD offer a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere perfect for street photography. With less traffic and fewer crowds, you can capture the city’s architecture, street art, and candid moments of daily life. It’s an ideal time to explore and snap some unique shots.

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