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The Stanley
The Stanley

The Stanley: Our full report

Heralding itself as the first luxury hotel in Nairobi, the Stanley has been open for well over a century.

It’s a well-known landmark on the Nairobi map, having accommodated the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Barbara Streisand over the years. Whilst it hasn’t changed much on the outside in the last half-century, recent refurbishments have brought the inside into the 21st century with modern facilities and efficient services – all the while keeping the hotel’s history and heritage alive.

Although the Stanley prides itself on being one of Nairobi’s finest hotels, its downtown location isn’t necessarily as desirable as it might appear – especially for travellers who are just overnighting here –you can expect to spend a good deal of time stuck in traffic getting to/from the hotel and airport. It’s much better suited to those visiting on business, and indeed, that seems to be the Stanley’s target market.

The central areas of the hotel are quite impressive, with a black-and-white chequered marble floor, leather sofas and pictures depicting the hotel’s history adorning the walls. Facilities abound here, including three different restaurants: a very smart Thai, which doesn’t allow children under the age of 12; the more relaxed Thorn Tree Café; and the casual Pool Deck, which as its name suggests, is set around the (heated) swimming pool. The Thorn Tree Café is built around the eponymous acacia tree (although the original tree was felled, there is a replacement in its place) which travellers of the pre-digital era used for many decades as a notice board and travel forum ("Hello Karen, I'm in town! See you here at 6pm on Saturday, Denys"). These days it's just a curiosity and a provider of shade.

The Exchange Bar, which operated as Nairobi’s first stock exchange until 1991, retains a very colonial atmosphere, with brown leather Chesterfield sofas and dark polished wood: the type of place where a suited Englishman would look quite natural smoking a cigar with a whisky in hand. Bringing the Stanley into the modern era are a fully equipped business centre with meeting rooms; a gym with steam room, sauna and massage room; a mini shopping arcade; car rental counter; and art gallery.

The 217 rooms over eight floors are split into three different categories:
  • The 160 Deluxe rooms are the smallest, with furnishings and amenities typical of an international hotel, including a safe, hairdryer and tea- and coffee-making facilities. They’ve tried to retain a little character, but we felt that the whole vibe was a little old fashioned, and the bathrooms are very small by comparison with the relatively spacious bedrooms.
  • The 32 Club rooms are slightly larger and have the added benefit of a 42-inch flat-screen TV, plus extras such as a turn-down service and free daily newspapers. As in the Deluxe rooms, though, the bathrooms felt very small by comparison.
  • The 23 Suites vary in size and style – but are all substantially larger than the Deluxe or Club rooms. Three of these suites have two bedrooms connected by a sitting area, so are a good option for families or friends travelling together.

Our view

Overall, our views on the Stanley are a little mixed. It’s certainly a hotel with a lot of history, and they have tried hard to make the most of this in the central areas. That said, it’s very large, and in a fairly inconvenient location for the majority of travellers who are really in transit to or from the airport. If you’re willing to accept that the rooms and décor have a slightly old-fashioned quality about them, you might enjoy its quirky colonial charm, but those wanting something a little more personal should look elsewhere.

Karen Sharpe

Karen Sharpe

Kenya expert


Nairobi, Kenya
Ideal length of stay
We’d only really recommend this for a night at the start or end of your safari, unless you want to use time her to look around the centre of town, or you have business in Nairobi.
The Stanley is located in downtown Nairobi, so you should allow a good couple of hours to reach the airport – mainly due to the traffic.
Accessible by

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Bed & Breakfast
Food quality
On our last visit to the Stanley in September 2012, we didn’t get a chance to sample the food. However, there are a number of different restaurants to choose from, including a very smart Thai restaurant, a more relaxed café with a deli counter and pizza oven, serving a wide range of continental dishes; and a casual pool restaurant that serves a buffet lunch and à la carte dinner.

A selection of bar snacks is available in the Exchange Bar.
Dining style
Individual Tables
Dining locations
Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Further dining info, including room service
There is 24-hour room service – accessible by the phones in the room.
Drinks included
No drinks are included.


Attitude towards children
The Stanley welcomes children of any age.
Property’s age restrictions
There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services
The hotel can offer a babysitting service at an extra cost, although please note that this will be by a member of the housekeeping staff, who may not have any formal childcare qualifications.
The two-bedroom suites are a good option for families. They can provide cots.
Generally recommended for children
The hotel retains quite an adult atmosphere, but children would be fine here.


There is free WiFi, a business centre, and phones in all the rooms. There is good cellphone reception in Nairobi.
TV & radio
There are TVs in all the rooms.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended
Medical care
There is a doctor on call for guests. The hotel has a first-aid kit at the concierge desk, and there is a pharmacy next door.
Dangerous animals
Low Risk
Security measures
A doorman is on duty 24 hours a day.
Fire safety
There are fire extinguishers in the corridors and a fire evacuation plan in action.


  • 4WD Safari

    4WD Safari

  • Birdwatching


  • Cultural excursion

    Cultural excursion

  • Elephant encounter

    Elephant encounter


Disabled access
On Request
Laundry facilities
Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
There is a safe in each of the rooms.
You can exchange GB pounds and US dollars into Kenyan shillings.
Accepted payment on location
Visa, MasterCard and Amex are accepted without any surcharge.

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