Mombasa may be Kenya’s oldest city, but it is still very much alive. With history pulsing through it at every turn, it’s one of the most exciting places in the country to stop by for a visit.
Maybe you’re a history buff who’s excited to learn more about a city that’s been a trading hub since the 12th century. Maybe you love architecture and want to see how the city merges together influences from the Portuguese, the Oman Arabs, and the British into one wonderful collage. Or maybe you love seeing some of the most impressive buildings in the world, and want to stop by Fort Jesus, the UNESCO-protected site for its Outstanding Universal Value:
“Fort Jesus, Mombasa, bears physical witness, in its structures and subsequent transformations, also to the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin that fought to gain and maintain their control over this strategic port.”
Whatever’s bringing you to Mombasa, there’s a little something for everyone. Today, we’re going to break down 7 amazing spots for a Mombasa walking tour.
1. Mombasa Old Town
Called by many one of the best places to visit in Mombasa, the Mombasa Old Town is a stunning blend of the cultures that have made Mombasa what it is today. Located on the southeast side of the city and covering 180 acres of land, the building and architecture here represent a little bit of everything.
And sometimes – it’s represented all at once!
Through a casual stroll down winding narrow streets, you’ll come to see buildings, doorways, balconies, and designs that reflect eras influenced by Arabic, African, and European cultures – including Portuguese and British – that have come to define Mombasa as we know it today.
Far from a city that’s stuck in the past, these streets are still filled with energy. You’ll find plenty of shops filled with incredible art, cafes with delicious coffee and comfortable resting areas, antique stores, and restaurants with unbelievably fresh seafood.
2. Mombasa Tusks
One of the most iconic representations of Mombasa, the Mombasa Tusks are a must-see for any Mombasa city tour.
As you’ll likely see them on your way in (the tusks mark the city’s entrance, after all), a walking tour ensures you’ll get your ideal photographic moment.
More than just an impressive sculpture, the Mombasa Tusks commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Mombasa in 1952. By invoking elephants, these tusks represent power, royalty, and status. Once built from canvas and wooden frames, the current version of the Mombasa Tusks are aluminum to be longer-lasting.
3. Fort Jesus
As a UNESCO-protected site, Fort Jesus is one of the most popular stops on all Mombasa walking tours. Impressively maintained despite being constructed between 1593 and 1596 for the King of Portugal, Fort Jesus represents the many different cultures and civilizations that have come to rule over Mombasa.
With a past strongly tied to the Portuguese slave trade and interiors consisting of torture rooms and prison cells, the history you’ll experience there isn’t always cheery, but it’s a necessary look at the forces that shaped the Fort – and Mombasa – into what it is today.
4. Fort Jesus Museum
In addition to spending time outside of Fort Jesus and seeing its connection the water and the town, venturing inside Fort Jesus – including to the Fort Jesus Museum – is a valuable way to better understand the dynamic, ever-changing history of the Fort.
The Fort Jesus Museum consists of finds from archaeological excavations at Fort Jesus, Gede, Manda, Ungwana and other sites.
5. Mombasa Spice Market
No trip to such an iconic port as Mombasa is complete without a visit to a spice market. In addition to being a fresh, open-air market where you can buy produce and vegetables, the Mombasa Old Town Spice Market has plenty of fresh spices for sale: black pepper, cinnamon (bark, not ground), saffron, cardamom, pilau, masala, and more.
Bask in the vibrant colors, scoop them up to smell them, try your hand at bargaining, then take some with you for your home kitchen.
6. Kenya’s Oldest Hotel
One of the oldest – if not *the* oldest – hotels in Kenya is the Africa Hotel. It opened in 1901, over 120 years ago (as you can see from the sign!), serving as a welcoming point from the sea to the rest of the country. In its operation, it had 12 bedrooms and balconies facing the sea.
7. Mombasa’s First Mosque
Don’t let the fresh coat of white paint trick you: the Mandhry Mosque was built in 1570. While it was the third recorded mosque, it may be the longest still in continual use today by the Muslim community in Mombasa. This impressively built stone mosque is a must-see for your Mombasa walking tour.
What about you? Where are you looking forward to going when you stop by Mombasa?
If you need help planning your Mombasa City Tour, just let us know. With half-day and full-day Mombasa walking tours, we have something for all!