5 must-visit historical sites in Nairobi

We have such an exciting city, thriving as a frenetic concrete jungle with lots of art and culture, fantastic social initiatives and a fascinating nightlife scene. Urban explorers would be more than ecstatic about this energetic cosmopolitan we call Nairobi. Something is always going on! It’s a vibrant city with so many varied activities woven into its web.

Amidst all this buzz however, there are certain quaint places that tell a story of this city’s past. Places that might just slip by you if you aren’t keen enough. The tale of this modern, upbeat, Kenya’s capital, sits pretty in various unassuming sites, which promise to serve a pleasant surprise when explored.

To get a proper feel of Nairobi at its essence, you have to immerse yourself into its glorious preceding times and pay homage to a place that began as a rail depot on the Uganda – Kenya Railway.

Let’s dive into and appreciate five (5) heritage attractions that allow historical enthusiasts to explore our capital’s chronicles and also serve as remembrance of their great architectural, aesthetic and historical importance.

1. Nairobi Railway Museum

Nairobi Railway Museum | zuru Kenya | historical sites to visit in Nairobi

This museum is dedicated to the history of the country’s rail network. As mentioned earlier, Nairobi saw its inception as a rail depot. Nairobi Railway Museum, housed in the former East African Railway offices, showcases an intriguing collection of artifacts, models of railway engines and a variety of exhibits illustrating the construction of the railway. 

Within the museum yard, you will also get to experience a number of steam and some early diesel locomotives which operated as part of what was then the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Look out for the “man-eaters of Tsavo” tale in one of these locomotives. The very carriage from which a British superintendent was dragged by these beasts is on display here.

Entry Requirements

CategoryRate
Non-resident adultKes 600 (6 USD)
Non-resident studentKes 300 (3 USD)
Resident adultKes 500
Resident studentKes 200
Non-resident / Resident childKes 100
Citizen adultKes 200
Citizen student/childKes 100
Reserch FeeKes 1000

Payment only by Mpesa or Visa Card

Timings: Open Daily: 8am – 5pm (Including weekends and public holidays)

Photography is strictly forbidden unless confirmed by the establishment.

2.   Kenya National Archives

Kenya National Archives | zuru Kenya historical sites to visit in Nairobi

Just a few blocks from the Nairobi Railway Museum, the Kenya National Archives sits quite conspicuously in downtown Nairobi. Amidst the modern skyscrapers in the city, this colonial building is not to be missed. Inside the doors of what we commonly refer to as just Archives, formerly the Bank of India, lies a treasure trove of approx. 40,000 public historical records and archives that go as far back as the pre-colonial era.

The ground floor of the Kenya National Archives building also houses the Murumbi Gallery (named after Joseph Murumbi, Kenya’s second vice president) which contains traditional weapons, ceremonial artifacts, furniture, textiles, musical instruments, fine arts, contemporary paintings, among other goodies collected in the 19th century. The gallery is currently the largest Pan-African art gallery in Africa. The collected artifacts were acquired by the government of Kenya after a concessionary arrangement was agreed upon with Joseph Murumbi, who had initially turned down several huge offers to buy his collections by overseas bidders.

If you are a history buff and stamp collection is kind of your thing, you will especially love this place.

Entry Requirements

The exhibitions are open to the public at a small fee of Kes 50 for citizens and residents, and Kes 200 for non-residents. If you would like to use their library services, they also charge a membership fee of Kes 200.

Timings: Open Daily 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Advance booking is required for schools and other institutions

3. Nairobi National Museum

Nairobi National Museum Kenya – zuru Kenya | historical sites to visit in Nairobi

Looking to dive in more into the Kenyan heritage? The Nairobi National Museum is your go to. Built in 1929, this is the flagship museum for the National Museums of Kenya, housing celebrated collections of Kenya’s History, Nature, Culture and Contemporary Art present for both educational and leisure purposes. Perhaps what’s even more impressive here are the in the early man section, where actual fossils, discovered in the country, are displayed. This includes the fossil of a proconsul that dates back 18 million years, which encouraged archaeologists to consider Kenya as the birthplace of humankind.

In addition to the museum, visitors are treated to a variety of shopping and dining facilities, as well as botanical gardens that offer a serene environment. The artworks and materials used in the fabrication of outdoor sculptures, the landscaping and the botanic gardens, link to the four pillars of Kenya’s national heritage i.e. nature, culture, history and contemporary art.

While here, you can also visit the Nairobi snake park founded in 1961 within the botanical garden. Hosted here are 20 different snake species, an aquarium and crocodiles, among other reptiles and amphibians.

Entry Requirements

Admission Hours
Timings: Monday to Sunday: 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. All year round including public holidays and weekends.

The entry fee for Kenyan Citizens is Ksh150 per child and Ksh300 per adult, this is a combined National Museum and Snake Park entry fee.

Night Tours
Exclusive for organized groups for a minimum of 10 people, a request can now be made through advance bookings for night tours through publicrelations@museums.or.ke.

Timings: The Museum will be open between 6:00pm – 10:00pm except when there is a privately held function.

NIGHT TOUR RATES

Category Citizen – Kenya  (Kes)Residents – East Africa  (Kes)Non‐ Residents  (Kes)
TOUR PACKAGE   
Adults  50010002000
Below 16 years2505001000
GUIDED TOUR   
Minimum 10pax   
Adults100020002000
Below 16 years50010001000

Combination Tickets

Discounted joint tickets are available to purchase at Nairobi National Museum that include admission to the Snake Park.

  • Citizen Adults Kes. 300 (save Kes. 100)
  • Child below 16 years Kes. 150 (save Kes. 50)
  • Resident Adults Kes. 600 (save Kes. 400)
  • Child below 16 years Kes. 300 (save Kes. 300)
  • Non-Resident Adults Kes. 1,500 (save Kes. 900)
  • Child below 16 years Kes. 1,000 (save Kes. 200)

4. Nairobi Gallery

Nairobi Gallery | zuru Kenya | historical sites to visit in Nairobi

Built in 1913, what is presently Nairobi Gallery was the Old PC’s office building fondly referred to as ‘Hatches, Matches and Dispatches’ because of the births, marriages and deaths that were recorded here. Today, the building is a National Monument and serves as a museum holding temporary art exhibitions

Divided into 6 main rooms, each containing a different collection, the Nairobi Gallery houses the Murumbi African Heritage Collection and temporary art exhibitions. It is also the location of Point Zero, from which all distances were measured in Kenya.

Inside the Joseph and Sheila Murumbi Room, items collected and used by the Murumbis are on display. Joseph Murumbi and his wife collected African artefacts and the works of African artists. In 1976, they sold the collection to the Kenyan Government. It became available to the public in 2013.

Entry Requirements

Category Citizen – Kenya  (Kes)Residents – East Africa  (Kes)Non‐ Residents  (Kes)
Adults  1506001,000
Below 16 years100400500

Timings: Open Daily at 8:30am – 5:30pm.

5. Uhuru Gardens Memorial Park

uhuru gardens | zuru Kenya | historical sites to visit in Nairobi

Kenya’s largest Memorial Park, Uhuru (Swahili word for freedom) Gardens was declared a National Monument in 1966. Of importance to note is that it is Kenya’s birthplace. This is where the first Kenyan flag was raised marking the very first year of independence on the 12th December 1963.

Within the garden are two monuments commemorating Kenya’s independence, and a Mugumo (fig) tree. The first and most important of the two is a 24-metre high monument supporting a pair of clasped hands and a dove of peace and a statue of soldiers raising the Kenyan flag on one side depicting Kenya’s struggle and declaration of independence. The second monument is a fountain erected in 1983 marking the 20th anniversary of Kenya’s independence.

The Mugumo tree is symbolic as it was planted on the spot where the Union Jack (British flag) was brought down and Kenya’s national flag was first hoisted.

In addition to the historical significance, Uhuru Gardens continues to attract various events as a recreational park. It is popular as a rest area for families and friends, a must visit for schools and in recent times has gained popularity as an events venue for corporate launches, concerts, weddings, film location just to name a few.

Entry Requirements

Entry to the Garden is free but car parking fee is Kes 200

      Timings:  Open Daily at 8:00am – 6:00pm.

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