The Norfolk Hotel: Our full report
Part of the Fairmont chain of hotels, The Norfolk Hotel is arguably one of the most iconic hotels in Nairobi.Built in 1904, it has withstood the tests of time including colonization and independence. 2004 saw the start of a series of renovations to mark its 100th birthday - it is now a relatively smart business hotel that still preserves a good deal of charm.
Located in the heart of Nairobi’s bustling city centre, The Norfolk Hotel is quite modern with the odd nod to its original Victorian English style. This evolution has occurred during a decade of refurbishments, and through its transformation into a Fairmont hotel. In the process it has lost a lot of its Victorian charm, which was a large reason for staying here in the first place. That said, from the outside, the hotel sits in stark contrast to the slightly hectic and dusty cityscape around it – and once inside the hotel is a lovely retreat.
The central areas of The Norfolk Hotel are numerous, including a variety restaurants and bars.
As you enter the hotel, the main reception is on the right hand side – a simple room with just a large wooden desk behind which stand well trained and attentive staff. Then on the left is The Norfolk Hotel’s team room. Quintessentially English and colonial, the team room is a comfortable lounge with sofas and chairs in a Victorian style. Here you will find tea and snacks served between 10am – 3pm. Then a traditional high tea, with sandwiches, cakes and tea is served between 3pm until 5:30pm.
Almost part of the same room but half separated by a partition rail and some steps, is the much more modern Cin Cin wine bar. In contrast to the tearoom, here you will find more contemporary furniture in the form of simple velvet seats, sofas and high bar stools. The bar is open from 1pm until late into the evening, serving cocktails and snacks to patrons of the hotel. There is also a nice outside terrace here.
The Tatu Restaurant is another contemporary styled room - with polished wooden floors, minimalist angular furniture and an open kitchen. Renowned for its steak it also serves a selection of good seafood and other dishes. The Lord Delamere Terrace is a popular meeting spot, located outside on the hotels terrace and it serves meals throughout the day.
The Norfolk Hotel has a heated outdoor pool, with the Poolside Restaurant that seats 50 people serving snacks during the day. Adjacent is an extensive healthclub that offers free aerobics classes, a vast and very well equipped gym and a sauna. The vast spa offers a variety of treatments.
Walk through the central garden courtyard to access The Norfolk Hotel’s 175 bedrooms. The red tiled roofs and walls have an old English feel, enhanced by the green manicured laws and antique steam tractor and carriage in the corner. We loved the detail of the old antique gas lamps that have been fitted with electricity too.
There are various bedroom types at The Norfolk Hotel which differ in size but are all similarly furnished in the style of an old English country home. Expect cream checked carpets, antique styled furniture of reasonable, bedside lamps and writing desks. The use of neutral tones is fresh, but also quite traditional. All rooms have air-conditioning, WiFi, a safe, mini-bar, tea and coffee facilities and a hair dryer.
- The 37 Fairmont Rooms are the smallest and simplest of the room types. They have a limited view of either the courtyard or the garden and have a King, a Queen or two twin beds and an ensuite bathroom.
- The 109 Deluxe Rooms are slightly larger with a chair in the corner by a coffee table, and a writing desk. Some rooms have an additional private terrace looking out over the hotels garden, whilst others have a view of the courtyard.
- The 24 Suites at The Norfolk Hotel, vary in size slightly but are a lot larger than the Fairmont or Deluxe Rooms with an additional sitting room. The Norfolk Hotel can help arrange some of the activities there are to do in Nairobi. Within reasonable distance are the Giraffe Centre, Elephant Orphanage Centre and Karen Blixen Museum. All activities are an additional cost.
When we visited The Norfolk Hotel we found the staff to be friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere very pleasant. However, its location in the old business centre of the city is a bit far away from where modern Nairobi and its malls, restaurants and buzz are. It has also lost a lot of its old-world charm in the refurbishments that were a large part of the reason it was loved in the past. It remains a decent city-hotel but might not be as special as its reputation would imply.
Country manager: Kenya
- Nairobi, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- One or two nights
- The Norfolk Hotel is located in the heart of Nairobi’s city centre. Depending on traffic it takes between 30 and 60 minutes to get here from the international airport. It is about 20 to 40 minutes to get to Wilson airport for domestic flights around Kenya.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- There are a variety of restaurants at The Norfolk Hotel – all offering a la carte menus. We didn’t eat when we were last there, but understand that the food served here is quite good although rather expensive.
- Attitude towards children
- The Norfolk Hotel are happy to accept children of all ages.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children over the age of 12 years are charged as adults at The Norfolk Hotel.
- Special activities & services
- The Norfolk Hotel has baby cots, high chairs and toys in the swimming pool. They also have some adjoining rooms.
- Generally recommended for children
- The Norfolk Hotel is a large hotel that will accommodate children. Though we felt that it was quite smart and formal – so probably best suited to slightly older more mature children.
- Power supply notes
- The Norfolk Hotel has a generator for back up and so the power is on round the clock.
- There is free WiFi and a complimentary business centre for guests of The Norfolk Hotel. The phones in the rooms are chargeable if you call externally. Cell phone reception is good all across the hotel.
- TV & radio
- There are TVs in the rooms and the bar area.
- Water supply
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a doctor based at The Norfolk Hotel, though for more serious cases the Nairobi Hospital is only a 15-minute drive away.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- Each room has a safe and there are security guards at the hotel.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers dotted around the hotel and the staff are trained how to use them.
- Disabled access
- In Place
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is available at an extra charge. It is relatively costly though, with a pair of trousers costing about £6 or US$9.
- There is an official forex at reception for changing money.
- Accepted payment on location
- The Norfolk Hotel will accept most major currencies in cash. They will also happily accept Visa and MasterCard for which there is no surcharge.
Other lodges in Nairobi
Alternative places to stay in this same area.