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This green leafy neighborhood is largely removed from the hustle of Nairobi. Named after Danish author Karen Blixen of the 1985 ‘Out of Africa’ Hollywood movie fame, this was one of the areas zoned for British settlers during the colonial period. While there are a lot of gated communities with cottages, townhouses, and old mansions, apartments have now been built in parts of the neighborhood. Affluent families and expats like living here because of its excellent amenities and exciting activities. In fact, most tourists coming to Kenya for safari will likely spend a day or two in Karen before heading off to the game reserves. It’s also a key business hub, and the main malls are The Hub, The Waterfront and Galleria.

For coworking spaces, it’s a toss-up between Nairobi Garage and Kofisi. Both have serene garden spaces with scenic views, beautiful interiors, and prioritize community building. There are really cool Airbnbs too, such as The Brandy Bus which is a converted double-decker school bus that sits on the expansive green backyard of a family home; spend a few quiet days here wrapping up any stressful projects. The eclectic salad bar at Tin Roof Cafe is enough reason to work from here; it sits at the Lang’ata Link Shops, where you can browse through rows of beautifully laid out stationery, jewelry, skincare, clothing, homeware, etc., crafted by various local artisans.

Karen is not short of activities to pass the time. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where you can actually adopt an elephant has a popular public feeding time every Saturday from 11:00am, when you can watch orphaned elephant calves guzzling milk formula and mud bathing. At Giraffe Center, feed pellets to a tower of Rothschild giraffes either from your palm, or, if you’d like a wet sloppy ‘kiss’, place it between your lips. Karen Blixen’s old home is now a museum. Further down at The Bomas of Kenya, tour the replica of traditional Kenyan homes for insight into the culture of the people. If you’re looking for something a bit more active, hiking trails like Oloolua Nature Trail have a cave, picnic site, campsite, and a waterfall. 

The dining scene here is a world of its own. Check out the Saturday organic farmer’s market on Marula Lane for live music, food, and mingling. You will want to make a reservation at the rustic Cultiva where innovative farm-to-table dining is the name of the game. If you have a date, the renowned Talisman Restaurant is as romantic as it gets, particularly when all the lights come on in the garden at night. To get your sushi and sake craving sorted, Haru never disappoints. 

If you prefer a more centrally located neighborhood with trendier spots and good nightlife, Karen might not be the area for you.

Wendy Watta
May 19, 2023
min read

Wendy Watta is travel writer based in Nairobi, and being a digital nomad, is always splitting her time between different cities in Africa or South Australia.

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