What to do in Kathmandu?
The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu is also the most important city with nearly three million inhabitants. Located in an exceptional environment, rich both historically and culturally, it is a real treasure nestled in the middle of the mountains.
Nepal in general, and Kathmandu in particular, require a tailor-made stay! Many remarkable sites emerge along trekking and hiking trails and Kathmandu concentrates an impressive number for a single city.
Our best advice to visit Kathmandu, talk to a local guide, who will not only give you the best addresses but also tell you the stories and anecdotes that go with them. In the meantime, here is a quick guide of things to see and do in Kathmandu.
Visit Kathmandu: the 12 essentials
- Swayambhunath Stupa
Only 140 steps separate you from a breathtaking panorama of the city! Better known as the “Monkey Temple”, the Swayambhunath stupa was erected in honor of Buddha in the early 5th century. It is one of the oldest religious buildings in Nepal.
- Durbar Square
The Durbar square, located opposite the former palace of the King of Kathmandu, is a must-visit in Kathmandu. This part in the heart of old Kathmandu concentrates numerous Hindu temples, palaces and statues, regularly venerated by the Nepalese, giving the district a rather incredible atmosphere, timeless. This is where the living goddess Kumari lives.
- Kumari Bahal
One of the living goddesses on earth, Kumari, is in Kathmandu and you can sometimes see her through the windows of her temple. A finely chiseled wooden facade that shelters the young recluse living goddess. The Kumari are the reincarnation of Durga (one of the women of Shiva), and represent virginity and purity.
- Bodnath Stupa
Another great Kathmandu stupa, widely revered by many Tibetans in exile. At the base of the stupa in Bodnath, three large terraces representing a giant mandala that can be walked through. All the Hindu symbolism is obviously present, up to the pinnacle of the celestial sphere, with at its base the eyes of Buddha, “who sees everything, but says nothing”.
This temple with golden roofs on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River is only accessible to Hindus. The Pashupatinath temple is also the place where many Hindus want to be cremated. Thus, on the other side of the river, you will see several chapels inhabited by sadhus, which protect the souls of the deceased. Everyday bodies are cremated here, their ashes then scattered in the river. A remarkable visit, sometimes disturbing. (Avoid with children)
- The Garden of Dreams
Kathmandu is reputed to be a noisy city. It drains a lot of people, has a permanent activity and it is difficult to find some rest. The Dream Garden is not remarkable for its size, but for the calm that reigns there. Only the birds are heard here!
Walking in the historic district of Thamel is a must-visit during a tour in Nepal! Lose yourself in its alleys, shop for souvenirs or trekking equipment to the rhythm of Nepalese songs and horns. When you’re tired of walking the streets, stop at one of the many massage parlors in the area. In the meantime, simply enjoy the beauty of the place. There are also many guesthouses and hotels in this area of Kathmandu.
If you are lucky enough to be in Kathmandu during one of its many festivals, you will have an incredible time! The most famous, the Holi festival, which takes place in spring during the full moon of the Indian month of Phalguna is a magical moment! The highlight of this exuberant festival: an explosion of color pigments that cover everything and everyone! Also to be experienced, the Tihar festivals (end of October/beginning of November) and Bisket Jatra around April 15.
- Drink a chang and/or a tongba
In moderation of course! These are two kinds of beers. Chang is a milky drink made from fermented barley, rice or millet. The tongba, made only with fermented millet, is drunk with a straw in an oversized glass or added with hot water while drinking it.
- Scare yourself with cobras
The streets of Kathmandu conceal many surprises, like coming across snake charmers! The cobras are not all excellently trained, they sometimes want to bite the passers-by, which will not fail to make your adrenaline jump! And don’t forget to leave a tip if you’re photographing them.
- Changu Narayan
Perched at an altitude of 1,700 meters, and built in the 6th century in honor of Vishnu, the Changu Narayan is the oldest temple in the Kathmandu valley. It is also part of the Nepalese buildings classified as Unesco heritage since 1979. You need to pay a small entrance fee, the site is remarkable and imposing. The temple, bordered by a forest of magnolias, is surrounded by buildings intended for the accommodation of pilgrims.
- Patan and Bhaktapur
Two royal cities located a few kilometers from Kathmandu. Temples and narrow alleys are waiting for you! Patan has the advantage of having its Durbar square in the pedestrian part of the city. Bhaktapur is home to Nyatyapola Temple, the tallest in Nepal with five levels.
Where to sleep in Kathmandu
- Trekkers home: Central location, in the heart of the Thamel district. Large room with rustic furniture, modern and new bathrooms, from $10 per night. Wifi and free parking.
- Friends Home Hotel: Ideally located in the Thamel district, the most attractive for tourists. Spacious and comfortable rooms from $32 per night, breakfast included. Very welcoming staff. Wifi and free parking. This is our favorite value for money.
- Hotel Shanker: Located in a quiet location, near the Thamel district. Elegant and bright rooms, with neat decoration from $60 per night, breakfast included. Outdoor swimming pool and magnificent garden. Wifi and free parking.
Where to eat in Kathmandu?
Finding a good restaurant in Kathmandu is not that easy! The district concentrating the most restaurants being the tourist district, you will quickly find yourself with very average dishes for very high prices. To help you find your way around, here are our suggestions for the best restaurants in town!
- OR2K: Take off your shoes and enjoy! Tables on the floor and colorful decoration, you will find Nepalese vegetarian specialties, but also Israeli specialties.
- Tashi: In the Thamel district. Very good inexpensive Tibetan cuisine (especially momos, and momos soup) and a very friendly welcome. A very good choice of restaurant in Kathmandu!
- Garden Kitchen: Near the Bodhnath stupa, it is indicated from the stupa elsewhere. There is a beautiful flowered terrace. Possibility of being indoors too. The prices are reasonable. Special mention for momos, Indian curries, and tukpa.
- French Bakery Kathmandu: A French-style food concept for those nostalgic of French cuisine! It’s good and it’s not expensive.
- Sarangi Vegetarian Restaurant: It’s vegetarian, it’s delicious and they help the locals who need it. It’s one of the only quiet places in Thamel!
How to get to Kathmandu in Nepal?
By plane, Nepal is a dozen hours from Europe. However, there are no direct flights.
Depending on the company you will make a stopover in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha, Bombay, Delhi or Muscat at best.
Good to know: You will need a visa to enter Nepal. This costs around $35, which will have to be paid on-site or before departure, to the Nepalese consulate.
Are you planning to visit Kathmandu soon?