Dedicated to the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, this impressive palace complex was originally constructed between the 4th and 8th centuries and then expanded considerably in the 17th. Spread over 5 acres, it contains the Royal Palace and many beautiful temples and courtyards. Unfortunately, the complex was severely damages during the 2015 earthquake and reconstruction is still underway.
Kathmandu's central square is a breathtaking sight, packed with palaces, temples, shrines and pagodas. The colours, sounds and smells are intoxicating as what seems like the whole city passes through on any given day. It is the centre of spiritual and cultural life in Kathmandu and cannot be missed.
Dating back as far as the 12th century, this unique Buddhist monastery gets its name from the many decorative gold plates covering much of the facade. It is located in Patan, to the south of the city, and the doorways and courtyards hold shrines dedicated to Buddhist gods and elaborate statues of the temple's mythical guardians.
This temple, located northeast of central Kathmandu, is the largest stupa in the country and the most important Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, thousands of Tibetan refugees fled to Nepal and settled in the area around this temple, making it an important haven for Tibetan culture.
West of the city of Kathmandu is this cluster of temples, shrines and other religious structures, one of the oldest and holiest places in the whole country, revered by Buddhists and Hindus alike. Also known as Monkey Temple, because of its many resident monkeys, devotees and visitors flock here, often preferring to tackle the 365 step ascent, rather than driving up.
The ideal place to escape the hectic rhythm and constant bustle of the city, the Garden of Dreams provides a refuge for nature lovers. This small garden, with its beautifully decorated gates, fountains and pavilions is a great place for a picnic and a spot of people watching, as young local couples often come for a romantic day out.
This red-brick building is the home of the Kumari, a young girl chosen as the city's 'living goddess', a charge she occupies until reaching puberty. Inside is a wonderful courtyard (considered by some to be the most beautiful in all of Nepal) where the Kumari herself may be seen from 9am to 11am, though photographing her is forbidden.
Nepal's National Museum houses exhibits with wonderful treasures, ranging from Buddhist art (containing statues, paintings and gigantic manuscripts) to stone, metal and terracotta statues, the highlight being that of Sukhavara Samvara, with 34 arms and 10 faces. Another favourite is the collection of weapons belonging to national heroes such as Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of Nepal. National Museum offers three exhibition buildings in its premise called Historical building, Juddha Jatiya art gallery and Buddhist art gallery.
The Nepalese civil war tore the country apart for ten years at the turn of the 21st century. This powerful photo exhibition displays images of children affected by the violence and some of the brave people who endured. The photos are at times beautiful and always moving and extremely thought provoking.
Just outside Kathmandu, in the village of Kapan, lies this Buddhist monastery, the perfect place for a day-trip, or even to spend a few nights in one of the guest rooms. Famed for its beautiful setting and peaceful, relaxing surroundings, many visitors come here to attend courses in search of a spiritual experience.
This vegetarian restaurant is popular with tourists and locals alike, offering light Middle Eastern dishes in a stylish and intimate setting. Patrons must take off their shoes at the entrance, and all seating is on cushions on the floor, giving the whole place an authentic feeling to accompany the delicious food.
This spectacular restaurant serves traditional Nepali dishes in one of the most unique places in the city. The four-storey building was the residence of the royal priest over 150 years ago, and it retains its traditional feeling, with floor seating on decorative cushions and meals served in brass dishes. It also hosts regular cultural shows and boasts a Kamasutra bar decorated with erotic-themed wood carvings.
Le Sherpa offers one of Kathmandu's best fine dining experiences. This relatively new restaurant brings contemporary European cuisine to the city, offering specialties like the Sherpa soup and rabbit tortellini, as well as a formidable wine selection, in elegant surroundings with a green open-air courtyard.
Utse claims to be the first modern restaurant in Kathmandu, dating back to 1979. Locals and visitors alike gather here to try the famously delicious Tibetan specialties, like gacok, a stew made of meat, vegetables and mushrooms cooked over many hours. Booking a table may come in handy, as it tends to get quite busy.
Award-winning Saigon Pho is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Kathmandu, and is deservedly a favourite in the city. Serving delicious Vietnamese and South Asian cuisine, including pho, shrimp rice wraps, papaya salad, and much more, visitors will want to arrive early to get a table on the outdoor terrace to enjoy the view.
The Kathmandu Guest House is part of a great chain of hotels in Nepal, founded by Karna Sakya, hailed as the father of tourism in Nepal. Not only is it a great place to stay, once a favourite among mountaineers, but it also boasts some of the best coffee in Kathmandu. Other beverages are also available to enjoy in the lovely courtyard.
Hailed as serving some of the best coffee in the whole country (they roast their coffee in-house), local and visiting coffee lovers flock here for the high-quality coffee drinks and the relaxed vibe. It provides a much-appreciated respite from the bustle of the city streets just outside and invites patrons to linger.
This family-run cafe stands out from the competition, consistently serving superb coffee and food in the Boudhanath Stupa area. . They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, and the specials change every month to reflect the flavours of each season. The pastries are also worth a try.
A Kathmandu favourite, the menu at Rosemary Kitchen offers a bit of everything: dishes spanning the Asian continent, from India to Thailand, via Mongolia, Italian specialties, fine wines and homemade bread. It gets busy, so reservations are recommended, especially for garden seating, but the interior is elegant and comfortable, as well.
A long-standing favourite among backpackers and trekkers, Tom & Jerry is a rowdy and noisy little place that doesn't lack for charm. Groups of trekkers make it lively after weeks of traversing the mountains, and for the more relaxed crowd, there are pool tables on the second floor.
For a bit of live music, be sure to visit New Orleans. It is an extremely popular place for a drink due its intimate vibe set to candlelight and soft tunes, and the courtyard hosts live blues and rock covers almost every night. The far-reaching menu has excellent and varied options, too. Book ahead or arrive early to be sure to get a table.
Quickly becoming one of the best places to eat, drink and party in Nepal, Electric Pagoda provides a great environment for travelers. The primarily Mexican-inspired menu is top-notch, the bar is fully stocked with international spirits, and the resident DJs pump out an eclectic mix to satisfy all tastes. The courtyard is green, the decor tasteful and the company is always cheerful.
For a more relaxed evening, the Jai Nepal Cinema offers a convenient option for cinema-lovers. The selection is usually limited to Bollywood movies (mostly Hindi, but also some local Nepali films) with no English audio or subtitles, but that only makes it a more interesting experience, and it takes nothing away from enjoying the music and the dances.
This handicraft centre is the showcases the beautiful, elaborate carpets that fuel much of Nepal's textile industry. It is a Tibetan refugee cooperative, and visitors can watch as more than 1,000 refugee employees work at their craft before heading to the shopping area to take one home. Other options include cashmere and yak-hair shawls.
The Thamel area boasts several great shops that showcase Nepal's wonderful homemade paper products and The Paper Park might be the best. Visitors can find photo albums, paper lamps, notebooks, paper hangings and much more, made from the country's special paper that comes from the lokta plant.
Thangkas are traditional Tibetan Buddhist scroll paintings on cotton or silk that usually depict Buddhist deities, religious scenes or mandalas. The thangkas on display here are beautiful and a great bargain, as they usually end up on sale at tourist hotspots for much higher prices. Pop in, watch the artists at work in the workshop and take home a unique souvenir.
The Kathmandu Valley is famous for its Newar woodcarvers, who are part of a woodworking tradition that dates back to the 10th century. The master carvers train for years to perfect their craft and the result is some of the finest craftsmanship you are likely to find most anywhere. Find ornate panels, mirror frames, tables, bookshelves and much more, and take home a true masterpiece.
The Baber Mahal was originally a Rana palace that dates back to 1919, but has now been redesigned and repurposed into a chic and beautiful shopping centre hosting clothing stores, galleries and some fine restaurants and bars. The quality of the products here is high and clearly aimed at tourists and the local elite, so expect higher prices than you might find elsewhere in the city.
Explorers and adventurers need look no further for their one stop outdoor gear shop in Kathmandu. Shona's sells and rents out everything trekkers might need to battle the elements and brave the mighty Himalayas, including backpacks, sleeping bags (they make their own) and warm down jackets.
The Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) is situated about 6km east of Kathmandu, right in the heart of the Kathmandu Valley. It is the country's only international airpoert, serving approximately 30 airlines with service to Asia and the Middle East, as well as Istanbul, and functions as the hub for Nepalese airlines. Getting from the airport to the city can be done by taxi, buses, hotel shuttles or rental car. Buses run regularly from dawn till dusk from just outside the airport gate, are very affordable and take approximately 30 minutes to reach the city. Passengers wishing to take a taxi are recommended to order one from the pre-paid booth inside the terminal.
Public transport in Kathmandu can be confusing, as there are no proper signboards. However, buses have a cashier or attendant who can let travelers know where the bus goes and let them know when they have arrived at their destination. Buses are usually quite old and not very comfortable, but traveling with the locals can be very pleasant, and they are always very friendly and helpful. Blue and green buses go in circles along the Ring Road.
Taxis can be found just about anywhere along major streets in Kathmandu. They are metered, but drivers will try not to use it in order to ask for higher prices. Either demand to use it or agree on a price before getting in. Note that rates rise after 9pm. An alternative in Thamel is to take rickshaws, which can often be seen around this tourist-heavy area.