Things to do in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Valley is the first place you will visit after arriving in Nepal. Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal as well as the largest city of Nepal. Also known as the “city of temples” within a few sq km you can temple dedicated to some Hindu or Buddhist deities. The city Kathmandu has a diverse history, culture, tradition, and lifestyle which dates centuries old. Throughout the city, you can observe historical, cultural and religious buildings and temples which are decorated with unique Nepalese and Newari arts. 

Due to its rich culture, traditions, history, architecture, and kind-hearted people; the Kathmandu City Tour was included in the Top 10 travel destinations in the world by Tripadvisor where it ranked the third position whereas in Asia it stood the first position.

Kathmandu is also home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. All of them date centuries old which reflects the ancient history, culture, and architecture of that period. 

There are a lot of best things to do in Kathmandu valley either you can have a cultural day tour around UNESCO World Heritage sites, ancient village tour, short hiking or shopping at local markets. 

Best Things to do in Kathmandu

#9 Explore around Thamel

 For over 4 decades Thamel has been a tourism center of Kathmandu Valley. This place is quite crowded with tourists but still gives traditional world experiences while exploring. It is a popular destination among tourists for staying, exploring, shopping and relaxation. 

All over Thamel, there are numerous hotels, shops, restaurants, resorts, stores, cafes, bars, clubs, etc established to serve foreign tourists. The streets of Thamel fills with alleys of shops which sells Yak/Sheep woolen clothing, bakery, statues, paintings, handicraft, perfumes, organic tea, trekking and climbing gear. Besides that, there are Travel and Trekking agencies, open sky cafes, massage and spa center all ready to serve you with the best services. 

Nightlife at Thamel is full of musical and cultural events. The streets glow with bright lights with a scent of incense sticks flowing in the air gives a pleasant experience. You can visit local bars and cafes to enjoy the musical events. 

#8 Kathmandu Durbar Square

   The historical Palace of Basantapur lies south of Thamel. This takes a few minutes to reach   when following alleys through an ancient residential area of Basantapur. This ancient courtyard is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage site in the year 1979. It is one of the most visited places in Kathmandu. 

          Kathmandu Durbar Square is also known by the name of Basantapur Durbar Square. This palace showcase the ancient Nepalese and Newari skills of architecture and sculpture from several centuries' time period. The tall historical temples and buildings related to Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the main palace of Hanuman Dhoka. 

Until the 19th century, the Nepalese Royalty used to live here where all royal ceremony was organized here including King’s coronation. Today, this site is a popular tourist destination among international and local people. It is also a center spot for famous Nepalese festivals like Indra Jatra, Holi, etc.

Kumari House, King Mahendra and King Tribhuvan Museums, Taleju Temple, Jagannath temple, Kal Bhairav temple, Kasthamandap, etc. These are the best places to visit around Kathmandu Durbar Square.

#7 Bhaktapur Durbar Square

     This UNESCO World Heritage site resides at the ancient city of Bhaktapur at an elevation of 1,400m. About 13 km from the city of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur Durbar Square has a lot of things to attract you. 

The Bhaktapur Durbar Square has four distinct square which are Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square, and Pottery Square. Durbar Square consists of 55 Windows Palace, Golden gate, Bhupatindra Malla’s statue, Mini Pashupatinath temple, and Vatsala temple. Taumadhi Square includes the Nyatapola temple and Bhairav temple. The temple of Nyatapola is the largest and highest Pagoda in Nepal which exhibits the best artistic skills of Newari people. Due to its strong foundation and unique design, it still manages to massive earthquake of 1934 and 2016. 

Dattatreya Square is popular for Dattatreya temple as well as small historical monuments. It lies east of the main durbar square. This temple was built in 1427 and believed to be built by a wood of a single tree.  

Pottery Square lies south of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Here, local people do pottery. They make pots, vessels, vases but most common is a piggy bank (Khutruke).

Besides that, there are Lion’s gate, erotic Elephant temple, Rameshwor, Badrinath, Kedarnath temples as well. 

#7 Patan Durbar Square

     This ancient palace of Patan is original residence to the Malla dynasty. It lies at the center of Lalitpur, the second largest city of Kathmandu valley. Patan Durbar Square is an excellent showpiece of Newari architecture. Here, you can see imprints of both Hindu and Buddhists religions. 

The Durbar Square divides into three main courtyards. They are Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, and Keshav Narayan Chowk.

Keshav Narayan Chowk lies north of the main palace which lies inside Patan Museum. The Keshav Narayan temple lies here. Mul Chowk is the main courtyard where the temple of Vidya and Taleju lies. Sundari Chowk lies south to Mul Chowk where deities like Hanuman, Ganesh, Narsingha guards its entrance.

#6 Most popular places to visit around Patan Durbar Square are;

Krishna Temple: Dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord Krishna. It was built on the Shikhara style where mainly two pillars showcase two major events in Hindu culture. The first pillar showcase events of Mahabharata whereas the second one displays Ramayana events. Built-in the year 1637 by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla.

Bhimsen Temple: King Srinivasa Malla built this Bhimsen temple in 1680. Temple dedicated to one of the great warriors of Mahabharata, Bhimsen. Tourists can enter the temple of Bhimsen.

Vishwanath Temple: King Siddhi Narsingh Malla dedicates this temple to lord shiva in the year 1627. 

#5 Sacred Pashupatinath Temple

      The temple of Pashupatinath is dedicated to Nepal Guardian deity, Lord Shiva. It is the holiest Hindu temple of Nepal which is quite popular in India as well. Hindu devotees from all over Asia visit this temple to worship Lord Shiva and cleanse all the sins they committed. It is among the 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites of Kathmandu.

Upon entering the temple, you can observe the birth and death events of the human life cycle. You can see the funeral ceremony ongoing near the bank of the Bagmati river. Besides that, Sadhus and Rishi are meditating and smoking weeds who are almost nudes covered with ashes.

During the festival of Shivaratri and Shawn, you can see thousands of devotees from all over Nepal and India gathered to worship and celebrate the festival. 

The best time to visit Pashupatinath temple is 6 am to 10 am to worship and 6 pm to see Aarti ( religious fire ceremony).   

#4 Oldest Changu Narayan Temple

     Changu Narayan temple is the oldest pagoda temple in Nepal history that dates back to around 3,000 years old. Surrounded by the Champak forest, the temple lies on the hilltop of Changu near Changu village. The temple of Changu Narayan is 12 km from the main city of Kathmandu. This holy temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu. And throughout the temple, you can see various statues, artifacts, and weapons-related to Lord Vishnu. 

The temple has four entrance where lions, elephants, sarabhas, and griffins guard each side of the entrance gate. Here, you can have a glance to the oldest inscription of Nepalese history.

It is a holy site among Hindus for performing rituals of marriage, birth and even death. 

Major places to visit around Changu Narayan Temple includes

  • Mandeva Historical Pillar built in 464 AD.
  • Chanda Narayan - a historical statue of Lord Vishnu with his vehicle Garuda.
  • Sridhar Vishnu - a 9th-century sculpture of Lord Vishnu with his consort Laxmi and garuda.
  • Kileshwar - a temple dedicated to lord shiva.
  • Changu Narayan Museum.
  • Ethnographic Museum
  • Local villages and markets.

#3 Hundred steps to Swayambhunath Temple

     The ancient Buddhist Temple of Swayambhunath lies on a hilltop covered with dense forest. This UNESCO Heritage site is 3 km from the busy city of Kathmandu. The myth says once Kathmandu was complete lake out of which a lotus bloomed which later became Swayambhunath (self-created). 

Around the temple, you can find a good harmony between Buddhist and Hindu religions as there are Buddhists as well as Hindus temples. Swayambhunath provides habitats to thousands of monkeys thus people also call Swayambhunath as The Monkey temple.

The stupa has  a large dome at the base above which is a cubical structure with a painting of Buddha’s eyes viewing in all directions. The base of the stupa represents the entire world, the four-eye pairs represent wisdom and compassion. In each eye pair, there is a small third eye above which acts as a message to heavenly beings who want to listen to Buddha’s teachings. 

Climbing over 365 steep stairs, you arrive at the hilltop where the stupa is located. The surrounding area is embellished with colorful prayer flags with continuous chanting coming from the monastery make this visit very spiritual and religious. The prayer wheels surround the entire base of Stupa, people circulate these prayers wheels while chanting “ Om Mani Padme Hum”.

Best places to visit around Swayambhunath are;

  • Swayambhunath Stupa.
  • National History Museum
  • Buddha Amideva park
  • Gold plated thunderbolt (Vajra).
  • Dewa Dharma Monastery
  • Hindu Harati Temple

#2 Boudhanath Stupa

     It is one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world and the largest in Nepal. It resides 11 Km northeast of Kathmandu city. In the year 1979, Boudhanath Stupa was included in the UNESCO World Heritage site which is one of the most visited places in Kathmandu. 

Various traditional shops, monasteries, monuments, cafes surround the main stupa. On the base of the stupa, there are hundreds of prayer wheels. Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world came here and circulate the stupa while revolving the prayer wheel along with chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum”. 

Currently, foreigners have to pay Nepali 400 rupees to enter this holy site. 

Main Highlights of Boudhanath Stupa are;

  • Visit Ajima Shrine - a temple dedicated to the goddess of smallpox.
  • Climbing up the stupa dome to view the entire surrounding.
  • Tamang Gumba.
  • Local antique, religious shops.
  • Rooftop cafe and restaurant that provides a magnificent top view of the entire stupa.
  • Taragaon Museum.
  • Local monastery beside the main stupa.

#1 Narayanhity Palace

     This palace is original residence to many monarchies of Nepal which is a central hub for their royal ceremonies and hospitality. Large walls surround the palace which consists of beautiful gardens, courtyards, and buildings. King Mahendra of Nepal built the current Narayanhiti Palace in the year 1963.

   The palace has three sections i.e state wing, guest wing, and private wing. Overall, the palace has 52 rooms called sadan, which are named after 75 districts of Nepal.

All the interior design are of late Victorian style. It is a site where the 2001 Royal Massacre took place. 

The palace remains closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Best Things to see around Narayanhiti Palace;

  • Throne and Banquet halls.
  • Royals bedrooms.
  • Gharials, tigers and rhino heads.
  • Legendary paintings of the Shah dynasty Monarch.
  • Photograph of royalties from foreign countries.
  • Remains of 2001 royal massacre.
  • Royal jewels, medals, clothes, weapons and more. 

At last

In conclusion, Kathmandu City is full of exciting activities that are enough to make your Nepal visit special and memorable. There are a lot of best things to do in Kathmandu valley rather than the activities mentioned above. You can explore the streets and villages of Kathmandu valley, visit popular cafes and shops to taste authentic local foods, shopping around Thamel, etc. Visit Nepal at least once in a lifetime.