Most visitors to Nepal spend time in Kathmandu either on their way to the Himalayas or the game reserves in the southern part of the country. There is a lot to see and do and choosing what to see in a day or even a few hours can be difficult. Here are some of the best ways of seeing Kathmandu at its finest.
Explore Durbar Square
Nepal’s royal family once ruled from Durbar Square and today the square is still the traditional centre of the old town. This is one of the most spectacular places to see traditional Nepalese architecture and is a place that is very easy to explore for hours. There is the Kasthamandap or Pavilion of Wood, the Maru Ganesh Shrine and the Hanuman Dhoka or Royal Palace to see amongst many other exquisite buildings. The streets leading off Durbar Square are fascinating too with street traders and stalls vying for business in the centre of Kathmandu.
Experience Tibetan Culture at Bodhnath Stupa
The largest stupa in Nepal, Bodhnath is a centre of spirituality for the many Tibetans in Kathmandu. It has many small shrines within the complex and is a fascinating place to observe people lighting butter lamps and going about their business as well as learning about Tibetan culture.
Enjoy the views at Swayambhunath
One of the most instantly recognisable symbols in Nepal the large Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath sits on a hill west of Kathmandu. It is also known as the Monkey Temple after the troops of monkeys that live in the area. There are prayer flags flapping around the stupa and the clatter of prayer wheels as they are spun. It is especially beautiful to go to this temple in the early evening where there are beautiful views across the city.
Located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River the most important Hindu temple in Nepal of Pashupatinath holds a special significance for many people. It is a place to observe daily life, sadhus and the pilgrims who visit this site. Many people visit the temple before a long journey to ask for a blessing and it is of immense religious significance in Nepal and South Asia. There are cremations on the river bank at Pashupatinath and visitors should be respectful of this cultural aspect of daily life.
Relax in the Garden of Dreams
The Garden of Dreams is a short walk from the chaos of the streets in Thamel but feels like a different world and has a cafe, fountains and spectacular floral displays. There is even a hidden garden to the south of the complex. These beautiful gardens were built in the 1920s and are a joy to explore or simply chill out with a good book under the shade of a tree.
See the Living Goddess
In the heart of the Old town and close to Durbar Square is the home of the Kumari Devi or Living Goddess. This is a young girl who has been especially chosen from a caste of Newari gold and silversmiths and who lives in the Kumari Bahal. She appears in public at various festivals throughout the year and on occasions can be seen at the window of the house in Kathmandu. The Kumari Devi is replaced when she reaches womanhood and it is considered unlucky to marry an ex Living Goddess.
Get lost in Thamel
The streets of Thamel are a wonderful mix of shops, cafes and all manner of businesses. This is the heart of Nepal and where many visitors end up staying. With all manner of items on sale, narrow streets and noise from traffic and daily life, Thamel is an area to wander around and have fun bargaining for souvenirs from hippy clothing to hand crafted paper. Watching people at work from dentists to street food sellers is a fascinating way to spend time in Kathmandu and there are temples in many hidden corners on the route towards Durbar Square from Thamel which is also an excellent walking tour. Why not chill out on one of the many roof top cafes with a cool drink and some chocolate cake, and enjoy the views across the city.
For those with longer time to spend in Kathmandu a morning exploring Patan to see the exquisite buildings is one of the best ways to spend a day. This is a World Heritage Site and the temples and palaces of this historic Royal city are magnificent with some beautiful carvings. There is the Royal Palace and a number of temples to see as well as the famous Durbar Square. Patan is renowned as a craft centre and in the side streets many workshops and galleries can be found which are very interesting to visit and simply observe.
Learn to meditate
The Himalayan regions are renowned for their spirituality and an alternative activity in Kathmandu is learning to meditate. Throughout the city there are a number of temples and organisations that have day courses as well as longer programmes of study. This is an opportunity to do something slightly different in Nepal and will give an alternative perspective to a visit in this fascinating country.
Visit the Tribuvan Museum
The museum dedicated to King Tribuvan is located in part of the palace area of Durbar Square. It is filled with some quite unique exhibits which include a perspective of the King’s bedroom, his favourite stuffed bird and many more. The spring loaded sword and the exhibit dedicated to the massacre of King Birendra are also very interesting to see. Part of the museum also houses the Basantapur Tower which is nine storeys high and has some lovely views of Durbar Square and the old town.
There are many more things to do in and around Kathmandu and this is just a selection of interesting things to see and do in Nepal’s capital city.