The days are gone when Nairobi shopping was limited to crowded curio stalls, where endless bartering made patrons ask themselves just how much they wanted that little wooden statue anyway. Now a smattering of independent, eclectic stores provide a platform for the country’s talented designers and artisans to sell items that truly represent and reflect the country’s creative energy.

In the foreground is a large framed picture standing on an easel. In the picture stands a hip Kenyan man dressed in bright red trousers, flowered shirt, suspenders, sunglasses and sun hat. On his shoulders sits on old fashioned television. It looks to have been taken on the street in Kibera, Naiobi's largest slum. Behind this fram is a wall covered in framed photographs of Kenyan wildlife. The gallery is great for Nairobi shopping © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet
Upepo Photography Gallery sells signed, limited-edition prints of Kenya by local photographers © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet

Upepo Photography Gallery

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the bustling Hurlingham neighbourhood is Upepo Photography Gallery. The gallery represents accomplished photographers and only showcases pictures of Kenya. The founder, French photojournalist Cyril Villemain, wanted to give visitors a chance to buy an exclusive photograph that will remind them of their fabulous trip to Kenya. All the images are sold in limited editions of 50 prints, many signed by the photographer. Everything from the printing to the framing is done locally. Customers can choose from an array of sizes and finishes and can also have their print carefully rolled inside a tube for the journey home. The gallery is set in the grounds of the Kuona Trust Centre for the Visual Arts, which is definitely worth wandering around as well.

In the foreground sits a woven wicker baskey with brightly-coloured leather sandals. Immediately behind is a little wooden table with white legs that is piled high with colourful throw cushsions, as well as some made from hessian coffee sacks. A little toy truck is also on the table. Another fun place for Nairobi shopping © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet
The Wasp and Sprout is home to a great cafe and plenty of fair trade and environmentally-friendly crafts, arts and furniture © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet

Wasp and Sprout

The popular Wasp and Sprout shop began selling goods produced by a single seamstress who was struggling to make ends meet. Today it has grown to a team of local seamstresses, carpenters and artists. The shop stocks fair trade and environmentally-friendly crafts, arts and furniture to empower local creatives through training and mentoring. ​Customers will find modern prints, fabrics and other afro-chic items to brighten up their homes. The Wasp and Sprout cafe below serves great coffee, fresh juices and delicious pastries too.

An image of the store interior, with a neat rows of large tin buckets hung on the wall, each holding colourful children's toys made of brightly-coloured fabric. In the corner, beneath a thatched gazebo of sorts, hang lovely mobiles of little fabric elephants. Below them are little tin statues of people made from old cans. Pefect Nairobi shopping for kids at home © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet
A peaceful place, Amani Ya Juu is perfect to buy items for children back at home © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet

Amani Ya Juu

A little oasis of calm in the middle of bustling Nairobi, Amani Ya Juu in Swahili means ‘Peace from Above’. This small social enterprise has a lot of heart and was founded with a commitment to peace and reconciliation for African women. The shop opened in 1996 with just four female refugees sewing place mats together. Today there is a workshop, cosy store and shady garden cafe. Shoppers are greeted with a loud 'Jambo!' from the friendly sales assistants and can choose from an impressive selection of fair trade, locally-made textiles, handbags, jewellery, clothing and homeware. What sets Amani Ya Juu apart though is its adorable selection of children’s clothes and toys, like the safari animal mobile and lion puppets.

Under a modern, sloping roof of steel frames and corrugated tin cladding, is a bright market full of Maasai beaded necklaces, paitings, plates etc. Much is laid on the ground, other items sit on tables or hang from racks. There are a few tourists talking with vendors © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet
The colourful Maasai markets take place at different locations each day, but the locations repeat week after week © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet

Maasai Markets

These are for the hagglers. The ever-bustling Maasai markets are a must for anyone eager to pick up some traditional style souvenirs, like bright beaded jewellery, hand-woven baskets, soapstone statues and wooden masks. The markets were started by Maasai women who wanted to skip the middleman and sell directly to tourists. Though no longer exclusively run by the Maasai, these shopping extravaganzas are popular and rotate between several locations throughout the week: Tuesday, Prestige Plaza; Wednesday, Capital Center; Thursday, Junction Mall; Friday, Village Market; Saturday, High Court parking lot; and Sunday, Yaya Center. It’s hard to beat the impressive range of goods on sale and customers can often interact with the artisans themselves, while ladies thread beads and chatter in the background.

Standing on large white and black chequered flooring, a woman peruses some black metal shelves holding neat rows of throw cushions, lamp shades and packages (and jars) full of local seeds and nuts. A smiling woman sits nearby behind the till where there is baking for sale, as well as beautiful hand bags. A man brouses elsewhere in the store © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet
Made in Kenya sources unique products from across the country, each with a story to tell © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet

Made in Kenya

This trendy store is situated at The Alchemist, one of Nairobi’s most popular creative hubs. Made in Kenya’s collection is curated by One Hundred Years, whose mission is to sell modern, original designer items from across the country. As a result Made In Kenya is a unique store with some of the country’s best, handpicked brands, all local and made with a lot of love. Indeed, shoppers can pick from a range of sleek clothing, sparkly sandals and statement jewellery pieces, or buy colourful notebooks, condiments like pineapple jam and chilli chutney and neatly packaged toiletries – there’s even beard oil for hipsters. The store’s high-quality brands are relatively exclusive, but won’t break the bank.

Marula Studios

A firm Karen neighbourhood favourite, Marula Studios is a great choice for environmentally-conscious shoppers. The vibrant studio combines its boutique with an inspiring flip flop recycling project, which sees its signature 'Ocean Sole' flip flops being made from discarded sandals collected on Kenya’s beaches. Customers can also tour the workshop where they’re made. Marula Studios makes a point of sourcing organic, ethical and eco-friendly creations. Shoppers can pick up pottery, beaded bags and belts as well as cosy knits. It also has a selection of handmade greeting cards and art produced by artists from nearby Kibera, the city's largest slum. The stylish Marula Mercantile cafe is a great place to stop afterwards for a snack.

An elderly couple stand on a polished concrete floor in a bright, open-air atrium and ponder choices in a cafe display case. Above them is a view out to you lush trees and the sky. Inside the store beyond are various woven clothing items for sale © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet
The almost Ikea-like surrounds of Spinners Web holds woven goods from almost 400 different vendors © Clementine Logan / Lonely Planet

Spinners Web

This sprawling arts and crafts hub is situated in the leafy Kitisuru neighbourhood. Spinners Web was originally created to provide a showplace for Kenya’s many talented spinners and weavers. Today, it touts itself as a ‘one-stop-shop’ where visitors can choose from nearly 400 vendors under one roof. This is the spot for hand-woven, woollen goods, bold patterned fabrics, carpets and curtains. The quality of the items on sale makes Spinners Web popular among tourists and locals alike. If the huge choice gets a little overwhelming, shoppers can also take a tea break at the cafe downstairs.

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