Review: Hotel Fairmont, The Norfolk, Nairobi, Kenya


We had a one night stop over in Nairobi, Kenya on our way to the Maasai Mara for a safari. With limited hotel choices in town, we opted for a quality stay with the luxurious Fairmont Norfolk. This hotel was quite impressive for a classic hotel, and exuded everything you’d expect from old world colonial luxury.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Hotel Fairmont, The Norfolk, Nairobi, Kenya

“Hotel Fairmont, The Norfolk has been the place to kick off a Maasai Mara Safari since 1904. The hotel offers old world charm amid tranquil landscaped and peaceful gardens.”

The Fairmont Norfolk has been in continuous operation since Christmas Day of 1904. The Lord Delemere Terrace at the front of the hotel has been part of this tradition. The hotel has had various additions throughout the years and a main feature of the hotel is the wonderful courtyard. The hotel marketed itself as a traditional starting hotel for Kenyan safari’s and it was neat to have been part of this history by completing a pre-safari stay here.

The city has pretty much grown up around The Norfolk’s Old World Charm. The hotel offers 27 suites and 143 rooms set around tropical landscaped gardens.

How we Booked:

We were staying at two separate properties in Kenya, the Fairmont Norfolk in Nairobi, then later transferring outwards to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in the Maasai Mara. While there were a few other independent hotel chains, it made sense to stick with Fairmont. We were transferring to the Maasai Mara via small propeller planes and we intended to leave our checked baggage containing the majority of our clothes behind. The Fairmont was able to store our baggage for us for the time while we were up in the Maasai Mara and made this transition as seamless as possible.

We booked direct via the Fairmont website. As Fairmont President’s Club Members at the time, we ended up earning Fairmont Silver Status for the year thanks to our three separate stays.

Transferring to the Fairmont Norfolk:

Given the security concerns of Nairobi, I had arranged for a car transfer service from Helen at Pamoja Tours and Safaris. I was referred to this company by the Fairmont hotel, as we wanted to book several car transfers with them. The greeter was outside as promised and she called the driver who met us curb side. 

After the bags were loaded into a Hyundai Van, we set off to the hotel during rush hours. Our driver mentioned that the city was very “sad” after the Westgate Mall incident. He also indicated that the security detail at the Fairmont hotel had increased. 

The smell of gasoline and diesel smoke filled the air. The route to the hotel is through a rough industrial area on the main Nairobi – Mombasa highway. The highway was over run by pedestrians, matatus (colored buses translated literally into “three cents a ride” in Swahili) and mini buses looking to pickup workers. The traffic was thick and congested headed to the hotel. 

Local Matatus Transfers
Traffic on the way to the Fairmont Norfolk

I’ve done a fair bit of travel over the years and have been fortunate enough to have traveled to over 55 countries. I usually wing it and take a local taxi or public transport on arrival at an international destination to get us to the hotel where we are staying. On this stay, I was really glad to have arranged the car service on my arrival. There were a lot of local driving rules that didn’t make much sense, such as driving through obviously red lights and yielding to other vehicles and cows in the roadway. I’d encourage you all to do the same if you are arriving on your own in Nairobi. I’d also highly recommend Helen and Pamoja Tours since all emails were answered within 24 hours, the driver’s turned up on time as promised and the prices were reasonable. It made our trip much much easier.

Arriving to the Fairmont Norfolk:

The Fairmont Norfolk

We were welcomed to Fairmont Norfolk with a warm Swahili “Jambo!” by a beautifully colored jacket doorman at the Fairmont Norfolk. Given the recent Westgate Mall terrorist attack incident, our driver had mentioned that the security detail at the hotel had increased. Indeed, our bags and handbags were submitted to a full Garrett Wand screening, and our body was fully wanded. In my experience, the hotel security metal detectors at the front door are usually more for show than anything else. The Fairmont Norfolk was the most through security check that I have had compared to visits to other countries such as Indonesia, Egypt and Colombia. Two military guards were also posted at the front of the hotel on static detail with M-16 rifles. 

Arrival Gate Fairmont Norfolk
Arrival Gate
Arrival Gate

The Room: Beautiful Deluxe Courtyard, King Non Smoking

We were led in by concierge to check in which was completed without any issues. Free WIFI was provided compliments of Fairmont’s President’s club. 

We were led to our room by two porters situated in a beautiful leafy courtyard on the top floor. I had intentionally requested an upper room for security reasons as I didn’t want any possibility of break in- no matter how remote that may have seemed. An introduction to the room was provided, along with thermostat setting instructions, and a friendly reminder not to drink the tap water. The porters were also able to point out interesting history information about the hotel and periods of construction. 

Passing through the Courtyard at the Fairmont Norfolk
Hallways of the Fairmont Norfolk

The room was a bit compact but perfectly comfortable for one night.

A Beautiful Deluxe Courtyard – King
A Comfortable King Bed
A nice leafy view to outdoors

The room offered a small classic desk space for working.

Desk Space appointed in classic wood style

There were also two chairs for seating near the windows. This was a smart touch as there was no physical space to set down a couch, given the small footprint of the room.

Seating Space for the Room with Courtyard Views

A massive washroom fit for two:

The bathroom offered a stand up shower and a single vanity. Although compact, it was exceptionally clean and featured everything we could have possibly needed.

In a classy touch, there were fresh yellow roses in the bathroom. The bathroom, along with the room itself appeared to have been recently refurbished.

Fairmont Norfolk Fresh Yellow Roses

A Room with a View:

The room had pleasant views facing the Fairmont Norfolk Courtyard.

Second Floor Views from the Room
A Nicely Landscaped Courtyard View
A Courtyard View

Around the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel Grounds:

After dropping the bags at the room, we wandered around and took in the pool and leafy gardens on a large and intricate cubby holed complex before retiring to the room to re-pack for our small light aircraft safari flight. The hotel was designed in a square format with many rooms looking inward onto the beautiful courtyard.

Fairmont Hotel Norfolk Grounds
Looking Towards the Hotel Reception from the Courtyard

There were some interesting lawn features, including a water feature embedded into the mature growth garden.

Landscaped Water Features in the Gardens of the Fairmont Norfolk

A small outdoor pool was also available on the hotel grounds. It was tucked away in the back and had partial view of other buildings. It was almost an afterthought but at least there was something available to guests within the inner compound of the hotel.

Fairmont Norfolk Outdoor Pool

There was also an antique car that was perhaps a hotel car at one time in its life.

Vintage 1928 Ford Roadster

Food and Beverage at the Hotel:

Dining on the Lord Delamere Terrace

We enjoyed a nice dinner along with an included breakfast the next morning at the Lord Delamare Terrace in the hotel. Given the open configuration to the outside street, I partially kept one eye open for hand grenades being tossed in. I wish I could say that I was kidding, but Kenya has had a fair amount of terrorist attacks from hand grenades in 2012-2013 so you can never be too careful. Fortunately, dinner and breakfast were without incident. 

For dinner, the mood on the terrace is open aired elegance, with a view to the street. I went with a local spice chicken with rice, whereas MrsWt73 went with a traditional pizza for dinner.

Lord Delamere Terrace
Local Chicken and Rice
A Dinner Memory at Lord Delamere Terrace Captured in a Photo

Breakfast the next morning had a slightly different mood on the terrace. It was still a nice place to visit.

The Lord Delamere Terrace
The Lord Delamere Terrace

The next day, our medium suitcases were tagged for storage at the Fairmont Norfolk (without charge) and we departed for Wilson Airport with a small 15kg rollie bag and our laptops in our carry on’s.

In Summary: The Fairmont Norfolk:

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the Fairmont Norfolk. The hotel was hospitable and appeared to be well run- something that is likely of a challenge operating a hotel in this part of the world. The food was of good quality. The hotel also offered a comprehensive approach in transferring to its sister property, the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in the Maasai Mara. We would easily stay here again as a first choice if our travels took us back to Nairobi, Kenya.

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