Kathmandu, the “City of Temples,” is the capital city of Nepal and the most popular tourist hub brimming with temples and stupas in every corner. Kathmandu, with Patan to the south and Bhaktapur to the east, boasts 7 of 10 UNESCO world heritage sites in Nepal. Kathmandu- then a royal capital of the Kingdom of Nepal- houses royal palaces, mansions, and gardens; some are still intact, and some conserved and maintained to attract tourists.
The street of Kathmandu city is often flavored with endless ceremonial processions and religious festivals, making it an intoxicating hub for travelers. The fluttering prayer flags at the highest spot in temples, shrines, and stupas, the riots of festivals alongside the sounds and music of traditional instruments, and the timeless cultural heritage in Kathmandu is obvious amazement for all travelers. That said, Kathmandu will also magnetize you to its old town that flaunts exquisitely carved wooden houses. Unless you fancy luxurious hotels and accommodations, you can always expect all the budget-friendly hotels in Kathmandu.
Whether you visit Swayambhunath or pay reverence to the holy Pashupatinath, you will enjoy the aura of the capital city. Whether you eat momo or dal bhat, you will fall in love with Nepal. And whether you walk in the busy street of Kathmandu or hike on the outskirts of the city, you will admire the beauty of the city.
Here are the top 10 places to visit in Kathmandu.
1. Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams is a neo-classical garden located at Kaiser Mahal, Kathmandu. It stands with Thamel, the most popular tourist hub in Kathmandu. Late Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana created the garden in the early 1920s and was considered as the most sophisticated private garden. The garden was designed by Edwardian style, supervised by Kishore Narshingh, who also designed the construction of Singha Durbar.
Within the garden walls, there is a beautiful water fountain, decorated furnished woods, and European inspired features like Varandas, pergolas, and balustrades.
2. Kathmandu Durbar Square
Also known as Hanuman Dhoka Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square is among the seven world heritage sites inside Kathmandu Valley. It is made up of two sub-areas: the outer complex and inner complex. The inner complex houses Hanuman Dhoka, and numerous courtyards, while the outer complex comprises of ancient temples like Kumari Ghar, Kasthamandap, Shiv-Parbati Temple, Jagannath Temple, and others.
The statue of Hanuman at the entrance is what gave the name of this palace (Durbar literally means palace). There are numbers of small temples build in pagoda style and embellished with intricately carved exteriors. This place is also the center of the celebration of major festivals like Indra Jatra, Gai Jatra, and several others.
Pashupatinath is the most sacred religious site of Hindus. It is the largest temple complex of Nepal and offers a religious, cultural, and spiritual experience. There are around 492 temples, 15 Shivalayas, and 12 Jyotirlinga with more than 100s of shivalinga within the complex.
It is also a holy place for Hindus cremation, Lord Shiva’s consort Sati Devi, a celebration of Maha Shivaratri and day to day evening Aarati. One of the world heritage sites, Pashupatinath temple, has been the most important religious site since the 5th century.
When Kathmandu was believed to be a lake, Swayambhunath was Island. Swayambhunath perched on top of the hill is also known as Monkey temple that offers a splendid view of the entire Kathmandu. It is a highly recommended place if one wishes to have an eagle eyesight of Kathmandu valley.
It comprises large stupa with Buddha eyes gazing sleepily, surrounded by small temples, chaityas, and numerous other religious objects. The long inclined stairway run through the forest is inhabited by hundreds of monkeys, which gave its name (Monkey Temple). Swayambhunath, a place of peace and prayer, is a holy shrine for Buddhists.
Boudhanath is one of the largest spherical stupas in the world with massive mandala. It is considered an important place of meditation for Buddhists and is the largest stupa in Kathmandu valley. Surrounded by countless monasteries, it is the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal.
Once entered from the main entrance, you will see a white dome with a golden spire that has Buddha’s eyes overlooking the city. The prayer wheels installed around the stupa are for spinning and sending prayer and mantras to heaven.
Thamel, a commercial neighborhood in Kathmandu, is a haven for every backpacker, a pit stop full of shops and vendors selling everything from intricate artifacts to trekking gears, walking gears, souvenirs, and attires catered specially to travelers from western countries. The narrow alleys in Thamel lead to pubs, travel agencies, small grocery stores, foreign money exchange booths, budget hotels, restaurants, and clubs on either side of the street. Strolling, or rushing the road of Thamel in a taxi or rickshaw will make you realize that Thamel is the hottest spot for tourism in Nepal.
7. Asan Market
Kathmandu’s busiest market square, Asan is crammed with shops selling everything from tea to yak tails, condiments to chicken, cup to cakes, clothes to chocolates, and everything imaginable. A swarm of pedestrians, two-wheelers, rickshaw, and sometimes even four-wheeler congest the streets of Asan. Visit Asan and surprise yourself with some classic photographs of busy alleyways, traditional markets, and temples and shrines.
8. Taudaha Lake
An hour from the busy streets of Kathmandu boasts beautiful places, and Taudaha is no exception. Taudaha Lake is a haven for bird-watching, and trust me, sunrise view from Taudaha is breath-taking. The serene ambiance of Taudaha lake and stunning views is not just an opportunity for photography but also an escape from Kathmandu’s mayhem.
If you want to revel in the panoramic views of the Himalayas, Nagarkot is the best place to be near Kathmandu. A few miles away from Kathmandu, Nagarkot is the vantage point for stunning views of mountains, including the mighty Everest. Not to mention, hundreds of tourists flock to Nagarkot to enjoy the sunrise view over the Himalayas.
Dhulikhel is a few miles away from the busy streets of Kathmandu. It is popular for a panoramic view of mountains, including Annapurna, Ganesh Himal, Langtang, Gaurishankar, Lhotse, and surrounding peaks. A short trip to Dhulikhel features beautiful forests, streams, green hills, monasteries, a panoramic hiking trail, and charming villages. Internal tourists flock to Dhulikhel to enjoy the incredible sight of the Himalayas it has to offers.