At heart a city still wedded to its medieval street plan, with winding medina alleyways revealing secrets corner after corner, Mombasa can at first feel a little intimidating. However, Kenya’s second-biggest city is anything but, instead providing a fascinating cultural insight into what’s often dubbed ‘Kenya’s most Swahili metropolis.’

An important trading hub for somewhere in the region of 1100 years due to its coastal location, Mombasa now covers a huge area. But it’s Mombasa Island which remains the most alluring part of the city thanks to its Old Town district. Alongside narrow alleys resplendent with handicraft stalls, travelers will find Fort Jesus. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was the only Portuguese fort in East Africa, and dates to 1593.

Mombasa’s other main attraction is its elephant tusk arches on Moi Avenue, referred to locally as Mapemba ya Ndovu, and built in the 1950s to commemorate a visit by British royalty before Kenya became a republic.

Yet the best way to experience Mombasa is undoubtedly with a lazy afternoon in a café overlooking the Indian Ocean, bisected by the call of the muezzin from the city’s ancient mosques.

When it comes to accommodation, most people choose to stay on the white sand beaches to the north of the city. Being the nearest, Nyali Beach is perhaps the best for those looking to experience all Mombasa Island has to offer. Meanwhile, those seeking a little luxury on tropical shores can do far worse than heading to the resort stays of Bamburi or Salama beaches.

Top Kenya Travel Destinations

Amboseli National Park / Laikipia Plateau / Masai Mara National Reserve / Meru National Park / Nairobi / Tsavo East National Park / Tsavo West National Park

The Big Five

African Elephant / Cape Buffalo / Leopard / Lion / Rhino

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