Located on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, is the third-biggest city in Kenya – Kisumu. It’s the main city in western Kenya and the second major city in the wider Lake Victoria Basin after Kampala – it should also be on your destination list.
With a variety of top attractions in Kisumu city, incredible wildlife, as well as busting markets and a fun nightlife, there’s no excuse not to pack up and visit this amazing city in Kenya.
So for things to do in Kisumu, as well as tips on safety and food, read our ultimate guide to this up and coming Kenyan city!
Things to do in Kisumu
At this museum, you’ll learn all about the history of western Kenya. It’s small but has a variety of exhibits about the culture of the people from Nyanza and Rift Valley Provinces.
The museum also contains numerous aquariums, live animals, a snake park and outdoor exhibits.
Ndere Island National Park
Situated bang in the middle of Lake Victoria, this park is a paradise for scores of birds.
It’s mainly covered by grassland and provides picturesque views of Kampala (Uganda’s capital) to the west, as well as Homa Hills and Mageta Island to the south and east respectively.
The park is home to hundreds of animals, such as crocodiles, snakes, monitor lizards, impala, hippos, baboons, waterbucks, warthogs, zebras, and the threatened Sitatunga antelope.
You can also view more than a hundred bird species here, including African fish eagles, black headed gonoleks, and grey headed kingfishers.
Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, this is an amazing, relaxed spot to enjoy Kisumu’s natural beauty.
The sanctuary is home to big cats, giraffe, impala, buffalo, various primate species, cheetahs, and the threatened Sitatunga antelope.
Hippo Point is a 600-acre vantage point on Lake Victoria when you can have a go spotting these giant creatures. This place is also locally known for its unobstructed sunset views over the lake.
This hot and humid fishing village teems with welcoming residents. It’s famous for bird watching, hippo viewing, boat cruises, and fresh fish served in the local hotels.
This gargantuan granite rock standing 70-80 feet tall is known as “the crying rock” and locals believe it looks like a woman carrying a load on her back.
The enigmatic rock abounds with shocking myths and tales – ask the locals about them! You can also visit the caves nearby which the Legio Maria sect often uses as a worship site.
Climb the massive rock and get magnificent views over Kisumu, Lake Victoria, and the stunning rolling plains surrounding the city. You can also set up a picnic here, or even play football with locals at the nearby primary school.
Activities in Kisumu
Fishing & Kayaking
Both new and experienced anglers and kayakers will enjoy Lake Victoria.
Perhaps you’d like to go camping on Fangano Island beach? Or kayaking near Rusinga Island? Or spend some time sport-fishing the weighty Nile Perch? All are possible on a trip to Kisumu.
You can also go night-fishing on wooden boats with locals at the magnificent Rusinga Island. There’s something really special about watching fishermen go to work catching Omena fish under the moonlight.
Lake Victoria boat trips
One great way to enjoy Lake Victoria is going on a boat trip. Our tip – go early morning for great light and to avoid the heat of the day.
What’s more, is that unlike many other areas in Kenya, you don’t have to pay a dime in park fees to enjoy the lake – except for the boat ride, of course!
There are more than 100 bird species around the lake, and there are also monitor lizards and occasionally giant otters lazing on the shore. So don’t forget your binoculars and camera at the hotel!
Food in Kisumu
If you love good food, then Kisumu is for you!
As well as locally caught fish, the city offers all the foods you enjoy at home, but with an exciting lakeside twist.
The spicy chicken meals, fish platters and meat dishes, often accompanied by leafy green vegetables and Ugali (maize meal), are finger-licking good. Available throughout the city, they’re cheap too.
For more international cuisine, check out the following restaurants in Kisumu: The Imperial Hotel, Green Garden Restaurant, Laughing Buddha and the Victoria Comfort Inn.
Shopping and markets in Kisumu
When you go to Kisumu city, be sure to shop at these places:
Kisumu Main Market: Located along Jomo Kenyatta Highway, you’ll find all sorts of textiles (kikoi, batik, kanga) at this bustling market.
Kibuye Market: This is Kenya’s second-biggest open-air market. It’s located to the north east of Kisumu CBD, along Jomo Kenyatta Road. It’s active day and night.
Oile Market: This was a public park at first, but it’s now been taken over by traders who sell almost everything you can think of. This Kisumu market operates daily, day and night, and you can also buy groceries here.
Maasai Market: Located alongside the Kisumu to Nairobi Highway, this market is home to wonderful art items and handmade crafts that would make perfect souvenirs.
Kisumu Art House: This art market features stunning paintings, as well as paraphernalia from the famous Janeko Collections. It’s located near Mamba Hotel.
Malls and supermarkets: You can buy groceries and other essential household items in various malls and supermarkets scattered around Kisumu, including the Naivas Supermarket along Jomo Kenyatta Highway, Tuskys Supermarket in United Mall along Jomo Kenyatta Highway, Choppies Supermarket along Oginga Odinga Road, Lake Basin Shopping Mall along Kisumu-Vihiga Road and Khetias Supermarket.
Nightlife in Kisumu
Kisumu boasts a pretty busy nightlife that starts at about 9pm.
The lounges and clubs are hip and modern, the decor funky, and the drink and food is out of this world.
If you’re going to spend the night in the city, you’ll love dancing to some Kenyan Genge music, Bongo rhythms from Tanzania, and Rhumba music from Congo.
While the big hitters in the clubbing scene often change over time, major players in Kisumu nightlife include Club Signature, Samba Marina, Latitude, Tameez, Klub Schona, and Buddy’s and Buccaneer.
Is Kisumu safe?
Kisumu is less crowded than Nairobi or Mombasa. However, pickpockets are common, especially in open-air markets, so stay vigilant. When parking your car, make sure to lock the doors and windows.
Most public places (shopping malls, supermarkets, hotels, banks, post offices, airport, etc.) have private security guards in blue or black uniforms. Private homes are often guarded too.
There are lots of police stations across Kisumu and it’s easy to identify police officers. The police headquarters are along Nairobi Road, next to the bus terminal.
All in all, Kisumu is a safe city to visit.
Getting to Kisumu
There are hourly flights to Kisumu International Airport from Nairobi. These flights take less than 45 minutes and you fly over Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru.
You can also book cheaper airlines like Jambo Jet or Fly540, both of which fly daily from Nairobi to Kisumu.
If you want to experience the hassles and joys of traveling on public transport, you can use a bus or minivan.
Options include Easy Coach bus, Guardian Coach bus, Modern Coast Express bus, and 11-seater Prestige Shuttle Vans. You can also use a car hire service to take you to Kisumu.
There’s no train transport to Kisumu, but the standard gauge railway is under construction and will link Nairobi to Kisumu via Naivasha and Kericho in the next few years.
To get around Kisumu, you can use buses, minivans, or Boda Boda (motorcycle and bicycle taxis), hire a car, or hail a cab.
Weather in Kisumu
As it lies on the equator, Kisumu is hot and humid throughout the year and receives around 1200 mm of rainfall per year.
There are two major rainy seasons in the city: March through June and November to December.
The average annual temperature is 84°F (29C). Peak temperatures hit 90°F (32C) while low temperatures are around 60°F (15C)
The humidity level in the morning is between 80 and 90%, while the evening humidity drops to 40-50%.