There are so many amazing places to visit in Kathmandu, and after multiple trips to Nepal’s fascinating capital, I’ve put together this epic list to help you plan your travels!
Kathmandu, the remarkable capital of Nepal, has a rich history dating back to the 12th century.
It’s a hectic, busy and loud city, and there’s a good chance you will either fall in love with Kathmandu, or you’ll just want to escape to the Garden of Dreams.
With so many incredible tourist places in Kathmandu you could never be bored here, and when you travel to Nepal you should ensure you spend at least a few days here.
The Best Places To Visit In Kathmandu
Kathmandu boosts everything from ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples to spice markets bound to have you sneezing or buying exotic products by the kilo.
Kathmandu might seem ‘crazy’ at first glance, but behind the curtain peace can be found by visiting Swayambhunath ‘Monkey’ Temple or Kopan Monastery where you are bound to find a little piece of Nirvana.
If food is your thing, after trying momos or garlic soup (which there are endless supplies of), there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be left salivating for more.
Kathmandu is crazy busy all year round so I have put together this article to help find the best places to visit in Kathmandu.
”My best tip for exploring Kathmandu is to start from the middle and work your way out”.
1) Boudhanath Stupa
Situated 7 kilometres from the centre of Thamel, Boudhnath (or Boudha) is possibly the top of the list of the most stunning tourist places in Kathmandu.
Boudha is one of the largest stupas in Asia (a Stupa is a place of worship where Buddhist generally visit for worship).
Boudha is seriously impressive and can be seen from kilometres away, but when you are up close joining the thousands of pilgrims and tourists; it’s truly an amazing site to see.
Boudha was said to be built around 600AD, around the same time the Tibetan King decided to convert to Buddhism, which makes Boudha a very sacred place for Buddhists.
Amazingly, Boudha survived the horrendous 2015 earthquake with very little damage.
Boudha can get very busy, and a few tips from an insider informed me that the best time to visit is just on dark when locals come out to light butter lamps and burn incense.
When thinking about what to see in Kathmandu, don’t miss here!
Slightly north of Boudhanath is Ka-Nying Sheldrup Ling Gompa, which is also Tibetan in nature and like Boudhanath is white. Ka-Nying Sheldrup Ling Gompa is a place for learning Tibetan Buddhism.
- Entrance Fee – 200 rupees
2) Durbar Square
South of Thamel lays Durbar Square, which unfortunately was severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake.
The Durbar Square of Kathmandu is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, and sometimes is confused with the village of Bhaktupur.
Durbar Square is collection of temples, stupas and the odd Sadhu or two. Durbar Square is quite easily accessed from Thamel, some 700 metres away, and once you are there you can explore some of the larger temples or just sit back and watch people feed pigeons.
It can be quite overwhelming with all of the different structures, so to help you out these are a few sites to check out in Durbar Square:
Seto (White) Bhairab – a large carving of a strange looking creature said to be made in 1794 which is popular among pilgrims during the Indra Jatra festival in September.
Jagannath Temple – One of the oldest structures in Durbar Square with strange, erotic carvings situated on the struts of the roof with 3 doors that appear to gain you access to the temple with only one that opens.
Taleju Temple – is described as the most magnificent temple in Durbar but is not easily accessed by Hindus or tourists. Taleju is 35 metres high which holds 12 smaller temples inside surrounded by 4 gates.
Indrapur Temple – No one really knows which God this temple was built for. Some say it’s for Shiva while others say it’s for Vishnu which to this day we just don’t know.
Mahendreshwar Temple – Topped with a golden umbrella, this temple is dedicated to the God Shiva. Mahendreshwar Temple is constantly buzzing with pilgrims despite its strange appearance.
- Entrance fee – 1,000 rupees
Perched above the city of Kathmandu is one of its most spectacular stupas, known to most as Monkey Temple.
Swayambhunath is a listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so, as its a gorgeous historical site, and provides some of the best accessible views of Kathmandu with basically 360 degree views.
To me, Swayambhunath given its location, is one of the best places to visit in Kathmandu. It’s truly a must see.
The Swayambhunath stupa is decorated with prayer flags that are placed amongst an array of temples, stupas and statues.
It makes everything so close in proximity and when you add people it can get quite packed, but don’t let that put you off your visit.
The best time to visit Swayambhunath is early morning around 730am, when the skies are calm and there are drastically less people at the stupa.
Walking around Swayambhunath is best done in accordance to local custom by walking around in a clockwise direction (kora); this also stops you from running into people coming the other way.
Swayambhunath, like Boudhanath, can be slightly confusing as there is so much happening. so here’s a few quick tips to guide you to the right spots:
Great Thunderbolt – The thunderbolt of Dorje is a gigantic brass made thunderbolt which is a symbol of enlightenment. This can be found at the eastern stairway.
Eastern Stairway – If you are feeling fit, why not take the stairs? The eastern stairway was constructed in the 17th century which leads directly to the great thunderbolt and the stupa itself. But be careful when ascending or descending these stairs as macaques will try to bite you or steal your food.
Western Stupa – From the main entrance take a left and meander the stone cobbled path until you come across a Gompa perched overlooking the mountains surrounding Kathmandu.
Buddha Amideva Park – One of the lesser visited places at Swayambhunath is the Buddha Amideva Park where 3 enormous statues made from gold are erected dedicated to Guru Rinpoche.
While you’re here it might be worth visiting the Natural History Museum which is a rather strange attempt at a museum you would see in Trafalgar Square.
Entrance to the museum is 50 rupees, and apparently 50 rupees for your camera.
- Entrance fee – 200 rupees
Thamel is Kathmandu’s tourist hotspot, complete with international restaurants, souvenir shops, hiking stores and street vendors selling delicious cuisines.
Thamel is the most popular tourist place in Kathmandu so be prepared for street vendors trying to sell you flutes and a whole lot of exotic souvenirs.
Thamel central is the ultimate place to chill out in the city, and is usually the top thing people from abroad are keen on when thinking of what to see in Kathmandu.
Thamel Marg – Thamel Marg is the main street in the suburb and it’s pretty cool to explore with draping prayer flags strung from building to building while the sound of singing bowls buzz throughout the air mixed with a hint of incense (or the wafting smell of momo’s). Lots of the shops in Thamel Marg are the same and prices of souvenirs will be the same from shop to shop.
Mandala Street – This super chilled out street feels as if you are in the back streets of Melbourne complete with fairy lights, book stores and cafes. For a great coffee, head upstairs to Himalayan Java Coffee, order a Honey Latte where you can sit above Mandala Street and watch the world go by.
Souvenirs To Check Out In Thamel
Pashminas – a pashmina is a scarf made from goat hair which usually comes from the higher Himalaya. The higher the percentage of goat hair the more expensive the pashmina will be. Expect to pay about $50 USD but do haggle for a better price as haggling is acceptable in Kathmandu.
Singing bowls – are a type of bell generally made from copper and tin which when tapped softly, a small wooden stick is used to vibrate the sound to create a soothing low frequency sound. If you buy a singing bowl, make sure you go for the handmade ones not the machine made bowls as handmade bowls create a higher quality sound.
Prayer Flags – When buying prayer flags, make sure you buy flags that will breakdown after a period of time because the last thing you want is a mess of flags covering the landscape. You will be able to buy prayer flags in almost every shop you go to.
5) Freak Street
Freak Street (today known as Jochne Marg) was the Thamel of the 1960s and 1960s. with awesome restaurants, strange characters and those seeking enlightenment on visiting Nepal or those who live within the country.
With Kathmandu so rapidly growing and Thamel becoming the new tourist hotspot, Freak Street isn’t quite as it used to be, but don’t let that put you off going; it’s still worth a visit!
Best Restaurants On Freak Street
Kumari Restaurant – somewhat remaining relevant to its older days, Kumari Restaurant is cheap and provides an assortment of local and international cuisines.
Snowman – one of the more strange places to relax is Snowman Restaurant. Grab a cake and coffee and be immersed into what Freak Street used to be like.
6) Asan Tole
This is the place to go to get your serving of fresh fruit and vegetables. Asan Tole is a bit like an outside supermarket with everything from exotic spices, marigolds, and yak off-cuts to bottles of homebrew (Rakshi) by the litre.
Asan Tole is so popular for growers and sellers that produce from the far reaches of the Kathmandu Valley is bought in on a daily basis.
Surrounding Asan Tole are a series of temples such as the Annapurna Temple and the Krishna Temple, which are both quite unique in detail and positioning with the Krishna Temple sandwiched between two large buildings.
The Krishna Temple is nicely decorated with exotic wood carvings while the Annapurna Temple is dedicated to ‘abundance’, hence the reason why the Asan Tole markets are held underneath its entrance.
Perched on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is highly sacred Hindu temple where you can see the holy men known as Sadhus creating crazy poses for the camera and eye opening cremations along the river Bagmati.
Pashupatinath, although quite expensive to enter, is one of the best places to visit near Kathmandu; the experiences possible are truly amazing.
Start your adventure by visiting Pashupatinath Temple, which is the largest structure in the area painted gold.
You cannot enter unless you are a Hindu, but from just walking around the grounds, you are able to grab an insight into what actually happens within the temple.
The cremation Ghats located along the river Bagmati are bound to move you in some way or form, so be prepared to see confronting scenes.
The ceremony itself can be witnessed by anyone but please be respectful and do not take film or footage as this is a very distressing time for families in attendance.
Bachhareschwari Temple – this 6th century constructed temple is complete with strange decorations such as skeletons and erotic figures which are connected to the Maha Shivarati Festival (celebrating Shiva’s birthday).
Ram Temple – a great place to visit during the Maha Shivarati Festival where Sadhus gather in celebration meaning you have a chance to capture some amazing portraits or have the opportunity to learn about why the Sadhus are so holy.
Gorakhnath Temple – This temple is perched above Mrigasthali Deer Park and can be quite hard to find but is worth the visit as the temple bathed in red and white which is quite different from other temples in Pashupatinath.
- Entrance fee – 1,000 rupees
8) Garden Of Dreams
Defined as ‘neo-classical’, the Garden of Dreams is a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, located south of Thamel along Tridevi Marg.
The Garden of Dreams was created in the early 1920’s as a way for locals and tourists to come relax and rejuvenate the body and soul.
It is quite a contrast to what is outside of the gates as green grass, ponds filled with lilies and lush trees which all come together to create a mini botanical gardens in the middle of Kathmandu.
It’s a bit strange seeing a European inspired garden in Nepal, but having this little piece of paradise in one of the busiest cities in Asia really helps take your mind of all the crazy things going on outside of the complex.
It’s worth adding to the list of awesome places to visit in Kathmandu.
- Entrance fee – 200 rupees
9) Kopan Monastery
One of the lesser visited monasteries, this is quite the hidden gem. Kopan Monastery sits above the city of Kathmandu providing stunning 180 degree views.
Kopan is a place for Tibetan Buddhism where pilgrims come to visit, along with tourists seeking relaxation and meditation, and in the last few years has become increasingly popular due to the stunning architecture.
This makes Kopan Monastery one of the most unique places to visit near Kathmandu.
Currently, Kopan Monastery hosts 360 students, teachers, monks and lamas all to which to learn Tibetan Buddhism.
10) Kumari Bahal
The Kumari Devi is a living goddess and is the most important deity to the people of Kathmandu.
It is often very difficult to capture a glimpse of this young girl unless you are attending the Indra Jatra Festival in September, however the Kumari Bahal (house of the Kumari) can be seen by visiting Durbar Square.
Why would you want to see the house of the Kumari? The building its self is quite architecturally spectacular, with a three story courtyard, to which the Kumari can be seen wandering around.
Please note that you are not allowed to take photos or film of the girl herself as it is strictly prohibited.
11) Bhojan Griha
This is definitely one of the most unique buildings and dining experiences you can experience in Kathmandu.
Bhojan Griha is a 150 year old building built for past royals who resided in this now kind of scary building (from the inside), but Bhojan is so full of life with its amazing 5-course traditional Newari feast and it truly is amazing!
The service is almost faultless and the traditional dancing that happens while you are eating away at delicious vegetable thali with a side of Raksi (home brew).
What makes this place even more awesome is that they are completely sustainable by not using plastics, straws or bottles, making you order by the glass as Bhojan Griha buys everything in bulk while the food is 100% organic.
This place is awesome for a night out!
12) Chabahil Stupa
Heading northeast out of Kathmandu (from Thamel) you will come across Chabahil Stupa which is a smaller version of Bodhnath and Swayambhunath, which unfortunately was damaged in the 2015 earthquake to now has been restored back to its original ways.
Chabahil Stupa is not as busy as the bigger stupas leaving you with more room to explore without bumping into someone.
That’s it for my guide on the best places to visit in Kathmandu, Nepal. Have you been? Found the list useful? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Where To Stay In Kathmandu
Now that you’ve figured out the best places to visit in Kathmandu, it’s time to sort out where to stay in the city. There’s a few different options, and as an experienced traveller there these are my best tips.
Staying In Thamel
Thamel is the centre of everything in Kathmandu, and things have gotten a whole lot quieter here due to cars and trucks being blocked from entering these streets.
Thamel is a safe suburb to stay and is relatively clean. Thamel boasts an array of restaurants, shops and sites to visit.
Nepali Ghar Hotel
Situated in the heart of Thamel, Nepali Ghar is a newly built hotel within walking distance to Durbar Square, Thamel and the Garden of Dreams.
The rooms are stunning, offering all the necessities for a comfortable stay in Kathmandu. Nepali Ghar even has its own gym and balcony to which you can sit back and enjoy a fine cup of masala tea.
Crowne Soaltee Plaza
Kathmandu’s finest hotel, situated a few kilometres out of the city centre of Thamel.
Soaltee provides a haven for relaxation amongst the hustle of Kathmandu where you can enjoy the use of a gym, fine dining, pool and massage.
Kathmandu Guest House
Kathmandu Guest House is like a home away from home and it’s been proven to be one of the most popular places for celebrities since Nepal opened its borders to the rest of the world.
What makes KGH a success story is that it was severely affected by the 2015 earthquake, to which most of the structures became reduced to rubble, and since then KGH has bounced back to be a stunning place to stay (and is relatively cheap given its unique position in Thamel).
Staying In Dilli Bazaar
Situated only a few kilometres from Thamel, Dilli Bazaar is quite a good option to stay in Kathmandu, although it can be tricky getting to and from your hotel to Thamel and surrounds.
Some of the hotels are new and are not necessarily on Google maps or known to your taxi driver. However, Dilli Bazaar is nice if you want to escape the masses of tourists staying in Thamel.
Traditional Comfort Boutique Hotel
Based on Newari architecture, Traditional Comfort is a stunningly established building only a few kilometres from the cities centre.
Everything from your room to dining at the restaurant or on the rooftop is faultless…the rooftop is awesome with nearly 360 degree views of Kathmandu where you can enjoy a sunrise or sunset.
My last visit to Kathmandu was to attend the Himalayan Travel Mart as a delegate on behalf of NOMADasaurus. All thoughts, opinions and hours spent at stupas are, as always, my own.