Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, is known for its rich culture and history. Bustling streets, vibrant markets, and delicious food make Kathmandu a unique and unforgettable destination.
In this article, I’ll give quick tips on 11 unforgettable things to see in Kathmandu.
11 Fun Things To Do In Kathmandu
Kathmandu (its name meaning ‘the wooden temple’ in Sanskrit) is the capital city of Nepal. It's located in the central part of the country, bordering the Baghmati and Vishnumati rivers. It was also once home to the Shah, the royal family, for a period of more than 200 years.
Kathmandu is a bustling metropolis with a rich cultural and religious heritage, featuring numerous historic temples, palaces, and shrines. The city is also a gateway to the Himalayas Mountain range, offering unique opportunities for trekking and tourism.
Below are 11 epic ideas for what to do in Kathmandu during your visit.
1. Stroll through Durbar Square
Located in Lalitpur, Durbar Square is recognised as one of many significant UNESCO World Heritage sites. Its rich tapestry of Newar architecture and heritage pays homage to the unique Nepalese traditions.
Visitors can marvel at the intricately carved wooden windows, doors, and balconies of Hanuman Dhoka Palace, getting a rare glimpse into the history of the Nepalese royal family. Entry to the former Royal palace is free and makes for a memorable experience.
You can also go walking through the tranquil courtyard of Kumari Chowk, located in the southern section of Durbar Square. The famed courtyard is home to the Kumari, a young girl who is worshipped as the living incarnation of the Hindu goddess Taleju.
While visitors are encouraged to try and catch a glimpse of the captivating Kumari through the courtyard window, you are unfortunately not allowed to take pictures during your visit.
2. Go Temple Hopping
The Buddha Stupa is a peaceful and serene place to visit, and there are many things to do and see while you are there. Entrance to see the Buddha costs between 100-400 NPR (about $1-$3).
We highly recommending spending several hours here studying Buddhism and honing your meditation skills. It’s a fantastic place to visit when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of modern living and get in touch with your inner self.
Pashupatinath Temple is a sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, one of the principal Hindu gods. Pashupatinath is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world for followers of Hinduism.
The temple complex spans across a large area and includes numerous shrines, ashrams, and other religious structures. The main temple is a pagoda-style building with intricate carvings and gold-plated roofs.
Sadly, non-Hindus aren't allowed inside Pashupatinath, but visitors can always participate in the Aarti ceremony held on the riverbanks across from the temple. It truly is a humbling and cathartic experience witnessing the melodic chanting and humming of the Hindu devotees.
Fondly nicknamed the Monkey Temple, Swoyambhu Mahachaitya offers a unique blend of spiritual significance, cultural richness, and natural beauty that makes it a must-visit destination in Kathmandu.
Prayer flags line the staircase right up to the white dome-shaped stupa at the top. From here, you have spectacular views of Kathmandu Valley below.
After the sun sets, you will note groups of people lighting lamps and incense at the shrines gathered around the stupa. Feel free to join in and make a small offering as thanks for your safe travels.
Entrance to the temple costs between 50-100 NPR (just under $1).
3. Walk through the Garden of Dreams
The Garden of Dreams is a neo-classical garden located across the street from the former Royal palace and in close proximity to Thamel.
Built in the early 20th century, it was originally named the Garden of Six Seasons and designed by Kishore Narshingh, a prominent architect of that time.
The garden features beautiful pavilions, fountains, and ponds surrounded by lush greenery. Like Boudhanath Stupa, it too is a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling capital city.
The Garden of Dreams is a popular destination for both tourists and locals. It's open every day from 09:00-18:30.
Entrance to the garden costs NPR 200 (just over $1.50) per person for foreigners (with a 50% discount for children and senior citizens).
4. Explore the Tourist Neighbourhood of Thamel
Thamel is a vibrant neighborhood in Kathmandu, known for its colorful shops, and diverse food scene. Visitors can try a variety of local dishes and also find decent international restaurants (for those that are missing home!). While here, you can shop for clothing and pick up a few more souvenirs.
The area is a hotspot amongst foreigners. Streets are lined with numerous hotels, guesthouses, and travel agencies. Some travellers dismiss it as being 'over-touristy' but I'd say it's still worth a visit.
Appreciate Thamel for what it is. If you are prepared for the inflated prices and haggling by street vendors, you will still have a good time.
5. Take a ride on the Chandragiri Cable Car
The Chandragiri cable car system was built by Doppelmayr, an Austrian company, in 2016. It is about 2.4 kilometers long and takes less than 10 minutes to reach the top of Chandragiri Hill from Thankot.
After that, you’re free to explore popular tourist spots like the Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple. Tickets for the cable car cost 415 NPR/$13 per person (one-way) and 700 NPR/$22 (round trip) per person for foreigners.
The Chandragiri cable car makes our list of best tourist experiences, offering picturesque views of Kathmandu Valley and the Himalayan Mountain range in the distance.
6. Buy souvenirs in Asan Bazar
Asan bazaar is famous for its narrow streets and alleys lined with shops selling everything from clothing and jewelry to spices and souvenirs. The shops are usually small and family-owned, and many of them have been passed down through generations.
Apart from shopping, Asan Bazar is also a great place to try traditional street food. There are numerous vendors and restaurants in the area that serve a variety of Nepalese dishes like momos (dumplings), chaat (savory snacks), and thukpa (noodle soup).
You can reach Asan Bazar quite easily from either Thamel or Durbar Square. Take a 5-minute drive or work of some of that street food sampling with a brisk 10-15-minute walk.
While being a sensory delight, Asan Bazar can be quite overwhelming and crowded. Make sure you get there early in the day and be prepared to haggle like it’s your job while pushing your way through the mobs!
7. Visit the National Museum of Nepal
The National Museum of Nepal (also called Rashtriya Museum) is known for its extensive collection of ancient Nepalese art and artifacts. There are some very cool bronze and stone sculptures, coins, textiles, and manuscripts.
The museum’s famed collection of stamps is particularly exquisite. Even non-enthusiasts leave with the motivation to start a collection!
The museum opens at 10:30 from Monday-Friday (except on Tuesdays and public holidays) and closes at 16:30 every afternoon. Entrance to the national museum costs roughly NPR 300 (just under $3) per person for foreigners.
8. Indulge in Kathmandu Cuisine
Dal Bhat is a traditional dish from Nepal consisting of steamed rice (bhat) and lentil soup (dal). It is often served with vegetables, pickles, and chutneys. Dal Bhat is a staple food in Nepal and is considered a complete meal, providing a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, and vitamins.
Bhojan Griha serves up some of the best Dal Bhat in Kathmandu. The fact that this restaurant is housed inside a real palace in Dillibazar will make anyone feel like royalty for the day!
Momo dumplings from Kathmandu are a favourite amongst locals and tourists due to their delicate dough, savory filling of spiced meat or vegetables, and aromatic blend of herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, and coriander.
Dine out at The Ship Restaurant Bar & Lounge for the best vegetable momos and Bagmati Sweets for the best momo dumplings made with paneer, a type of delectable Indian cheese.
Trust me, your mouth will start watering from anticipation before these delectable dumplings even touch your lips.
Choila is a traditional dish made with grilled or roasted meat (usually buffalo) and mixed with spices and mustard oil.
It is often served as an appetizer or snack and a popular dish during festivals like Dashain, a 5-day Nepalese extravaganza for family celebrated in September/October.
Honacha in Durbar Square (just behind the famed Krishna Temple) serves some of the tastiest choila in the city.
9. Have a Day of Fun at Funland
If temple visits or street food aren’t your thing, you can always switch things up a bit with a day of frivolity at Funland in Bhadrakali, a 30-minute drive from the tourist neighbourhood of Thamel.
It's a great place for the whole family as it offers indoor activities like ice skating, trampolining, rock climbing and even ninja training for the Bruce Lee fans.
Entry fees range from 1,000 NPR (about $8) for the basic package (including unlimited activities) to 3,000 NPR (just over $20) for the extreme package (which includes close to 3 hours of ice skating and 3 attempts on their thrilling bull ride).
If screaming children bum-rushing you at every turn isn't your scene, then you might want to avoid Funland altogether. But we recommend giving it a chance; it's a decent prepping station before doing some classic Nepal hiking in nearby areas like the Annapurna Circuit.
Funland is open 7 days a week from 10:00-20:00.
10. Place your Bets at Casino Mahjong
All bets are on at Casino Mahjong at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza in the Tahachal area of Kathmandu. Rated as the Best Casino of 2022, Casino Mahjong offers a wide range of games and entertainment options.
Visitors can try their luck at the casino, enjoy live music and fine dining at the hotel. After some adventurous exploits in the city, it's bliss to kick back with one of their luxurious spa treatments.
11. Dance the Night Away at Privé Nepal
If you feel that ‘Saturday Night Fever’ taking over your body during your stay in Kathmandu, why not take your dancing feet to Privé Nepal – one of the city’s most popular nightclubs?
Located within the Soaltee Kathmandu, Privé Nepal is known for its luxurious ambiance, top-notch sound system, and high-end drinks. The club attracts a trendy and upscale crowd with its stylish decor, comfortable seating, and VIP areas.
Privé also hosts regular events and performances by both local and international DJs. It's the place to be for partygoers looking for a fun night out. The DJs tend to play a lot of Bollywood classics, which I think adds to the experience. However, you might want to stay away if that’s not your thing.
The entrance fee is reasonable - 1000-1500 NPR (about $7-$11) per person. If you're driving there, parking is free, which is an added bonus.
Thanks for reading our Things to Do in Kathmandu article! If there are any other local things to do in Kathmandu that haven’t been mentioned in this article, please feel free to let us know by leaving a comment below.
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