In a groundbreaking triumph, Nairobi has soared to the pinnacle of global recognition as travel firm Lonely Planet crowns it the number one city to visit in 2024.
According to nation.africa, surpassing renowned destinations like Paris, Montreal, Mostar, and Philadelphia, Kenya’s capital stands as the sole African city in the esteemed top 10 list.
Lonely Planet, which is headquartered in the US, has been publishing guidebooks on international travel since 1973. It says it has published over 150 million books since. For the “Best in Travel” rankings, travel experts name the best tourist destinations, including the top 10 countries, regions and cities to visit.
In the countries category, C took the crown for 2024. In terms of regions, Montana in the US is the winner. And when it comes to cities, Nairobi is the best of them all.
Nairobi. The city with a capacity to nurture the layabout barely scraping by almost as effortlessly as it can meet the needs and wants of a chauffeured Rolls Royce-owning mogul. The city where the places to work are in plenty and the spaces for decompressing and taking in fresh air are not too few.
The county administration is elated by the recognition. Dr Anastasia Nyalita, the county minister under whose docket the tourism function falls, told the Nation that it is a great honour.
“This ranking is a humbling tribute to the people of Nairobi who provide our visitors with an unrivalled travel, hospitality, cultural, sights and sound experience. This is also a timely ranking coming as we prepare to host the Nairobi City Festival, which will showcase the true spirit of Nairobi,” Dr Nyalita, the county executive committee member for Inclusivity, Public Participation and Customer Service, said yesterday.
Lonely Planet says that their picks for 2024 seek to both inspire and follow the instincts of next year’s traveller.
“‘Best in Travel’ is Lonely Planet’s heart and soul of travel inspiration, responding to the enthusiasm of travellers who want to explore the world in a way that is authentic, led by local guidance and has sustainable values at its core. With new takes on iconic destinations and 50 fresh ideas across five categories, we’re confident ‘Best in Travel’ opens up a year of incredible adventures,” it notes.
To the everyday resident, Nairobi is the headquarters of capitalism where everyone is attempting to get the better of everyone. Man-eat-man. The aged pavements on some sides of the town plus the traffic gridlocks hardly offer much for someone accustomed to it to write a lot home.
However, in the eyes of a visitor, Nairobi has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. Bangladeshi writer Ashrafuz Zaman, the president of the Bangladesh Travel Writers Association, first visited Kenya in 2003. When he returned to the country two months ago, he was wowed by the transformation.
“I’ve found a lot of improvement, especially the infrastructure. On the highways, people are following the traffic rules. So, I find it more peaceful. The safety and security, I think they have also improved,” he told the Saturday Nation in an interview.
Lonely Planet’s video explaining why Nairobi is king explores various aspects of the city, from the avant-garde matatu graffiti to the palate-overwhelming cuisines, the rejuvenating parks, among other features.
“Kenya’s capital is staking its claim as a global centre of culture, sizzling with unmissable travel experiences. The city is shrugging off the colonial gaze and embracing its unique rhythms, with a dynamic array of restaurants, food carts and cafes, along with a steady rotation of arts and cultural venues that all fuel a distinct Nairobi cool,” it says.
The travel guidance firm informs visitors to check out four key highlights of the city. One of them is the cultural performances of traditional music and dance at the Bomas of Kenya. Another one is a walk at the Ngong Hills Forest where one can have “views of Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro on a clear day”.
It also recommends the Nairobi National Park “for a safari on a budget with the city’s evolving skyline as a backdrop”.
According to Nairobi County’s integrated development plan for 2023 to 2027, the Nairobi National Park “gives an opportunity to view wildlife in their natural ambience and is a destination for both local and international tourism”.
“Tourism in the county is accentuated by the thriving hospitality industry, with a high concentration of the best and highly-rated hotels,” the document notes.
The fourth recommendation by Lonely Planet is a visit to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) and have a 360-degree view of the city.
The county’s development plan says: “The KICC is a historic structure. It is a premier conference facility comprising a 33-levels tower that overlooks a large amphitheatre, built in the traditional shape of an African hut. It’s a major attraction of mention particularly to locals who see it as a symbol of national pride.”
Nairobi. A city with a swagger where no sooner are you wowed by one majestic skyscraper than another taller one springs up, as if there is a race for who will prick the stratosphere at its highest point. Founded in 1899 as a rail depot, it became Kenya’s capital in 1907. Mombasa had been the capital before then. The 2023-2027 development plan explains why it ticks in various aspects.
“Nairobi is a transport and communication hub and hosts Jomo Kenyatta International Airport which is the biggest airport in East and Central Africa and is the focal point for major aviation activity in the region. Its importance as an aviation centre makes it the pacesetter for other airports in the region. Majority of road transporters nationally also commence and conclude their trips in the city,” the document states.
“Recent major developments in ICT have also positioned Nairobi as a major communication centre, characterised by strong and fast internet connectivity, fast spread of fibre optic cabling and high adoption of upcoming technologies,” it adds.
Nairobi. A city where there is no shortage of ways to stymie your hunger or quench your thirst. From the fast-spreading street food “smocha” (a portmanteau word for “smokie and chapati”) to the six-course dinners at the upmarket outlets, the city lives by the “there is something for everyone” mantra when it comes to food.
Lonely Planet’s video of the city explores various Nairobi eateries, among them a restaurant where the food cooked is planted in greenhouses outside the establishment. This is as it packs the sights, sounds and smells that give Nairobi its kick.
“The sights, sounds, tastes and smells of Nairobi are a complete sensory experience. The elaborately decorated matatu buses painted with ornamental graffiti, the dynamic assortment of restaurants, carts and cafes, and the constant rotation of art and cultural venues fuel a distinct freshness found only in Kenya’s capital,” states Lonely Planet.