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Kathmandu is the largest and most populous city in Nepal, as well as the heart and soul of tourism, the economy and cultural heritage in the country. It lies in the stunning Kathmandu Valley, along with its sister cities of Patan and Bhadgaon, where mountain life, religious tradition and big city buzz coexist. For centuries an important centre for both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, it is a city steeped in spirituality, with temples, shrines and altars seemingly everywhere you look, but the Nepalese capital is by no means stuck in the past. It is emerging as a modern, dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis, offering all the amenities and luxuries of contemporary living without losing its sense of self and historical roots. Kathmandu also serves as either a starting or finishing point for many trekkers and explorers of the Himalayas and few mountaineers don't at least pass through it. The city is surrounded by stunning mountain views that by themselves could be enough to warrant a visit. Adventurers would do well not to miss the chance to visit.
Kathmandu is a spiritual and cultural centre of great importance for both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, and as such, it boasts a dizzying wealth of stunning temples, shrines and sacred places that have been delighting visitors for years. The city is also home to a few genuinely interesting museums that record the at times tumultuous history of Nepal, which are well worth a visit.
Nepal's geographic, climatic and cultural diversity means that its cuisine is equally varied. The national dish is Dal Bhat Tarkari, a lentil soup (dal) served on boiled rice (bhat) with curry (tarkari). There are countless variations on this staple, and it is not to be missed. The city also offers an emerging fine dining scene where visitors and locals can find top-class cuisine from around the world.
Nepal has historically been more of a tea-drinking culture, rather than favouring coffee, but there has been a recent explosion in interest, and a taste for a good cup of joe has been developing around the country. Beans are now grown locally, and a number of sleek cafes serving high-quality roasts have been popping up for years, providing a welcome respite from the sometimes hectic city streets.
Nightlife in Kathmandu revolves mainly around the area of Thamel, where backpackers and hip locals can be seen frequenting the trendiest bars and nightclubs in the city, some of which have live music. Though music in public places is forbidden after 10pm, many of these places manage to keep it going until later. More upscale establishments can be found in big hotels. Additionally, cultural centres and some high-end restaurants offer traditional dance shows.
Kathmandu offers everything from luxury boutiques and shopping centres to bargain outlets and outdoor markets. Visitors can shop for designer clothing or interesting souvenirs, but where the city really shines is in handicrafts and antiques: everything from scroll paintings and metalwork to handwoven cloths, gems, incense, teas and spices. Of course, adventurers can also find their share of trekking gear shops to prepare for their mountain expeditions.
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