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Things to do in Kathmandu

Things to do in  Kathmandu

Welcome to Kathmandu

Nepal's chaotic and colorful capital is set in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley, surrounded by the jagged, snowy peaks of the Himalaya. You'll want to explore Kathmandu's old city center, a crowded warren of small shops and cobblestone alleyways, by foot or rickshaw—the streets are too narrow for most cars. Crumbling buildings open onto courtyards where chilies, rice, and laundry dry in the sun, and around nearly every corner you'll find temples, shrouded in incense smoke and bedecked with marigolds. Learn more about the region's dominant religions by touring Buddhist Bouddhanath Stupa and the impressive Pashupatinath Hindu temple complex (note, however, that only Hindus are allowed inside its gates). A 2015 earthquake devastated some of Kathmandu's historic sites, including UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, a former royal residence that dates to the 16th century, but many others were unharmed. Popular short excursions from Kathmandu include Shivapuri National Park, the medieval village of Bhaktapur, and the former hill station of Nagarkot. And of course, Kathmandu is the main hub for trekking in the Himalaya. Trekking tours can be arranged to suit almost any budget, ability, and available time. Consider a guided trek in the Annapurna Sanctuary or, if you’re short on time, book a helicopter flight to get a glimpse of Everest. Safari tours to Chitwan National Park can also be organized from Kathmandu. The former royal hunting ground is now a protected ecosystem of marshes, jungle, and grasslands, home to more than 400 animal species, including Bengal tigers and rhinos.

Top 15 attractions in Kathmandu


Thamel is the beating heart of Kathmandu’s traveler scene. Hiking and rafting businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops are jam-packed into the narrow streets of Thamel. While Thamel is hardly typical of the rest of Kathmandu, it’s a lively place to spend time, and is convenient for planning your travels around Nepal.More


Pilgrims from Nepal and India flock to Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest Hindu site in Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Pashupatinath is also where many Hindu Nepalis come to die and be cremated.More

Boudhanath (Boudha Stupa)

One of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, Boudhanath is a major pilgrimage point near Kathmandu. Every day, Buddhists fill the square to light incense, turn prayer wheels, and perform kora (clockwise circumambulations) around the monument. Rebuilt after the 2015 earthquake, the stupa is one of Nepal's most unmissable attractions.More

Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur)

The heart of Kathmandu, the Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur) is a vibrant public square was once the Kathmandu Kingdom royal residence. It has one of the world’s highest concentrations of well-preserved ancient buildings, making for a stunning open-air museum. Although the square was damaged during the 2015 earthquakes, there is still an array of architectural gems to see.More

Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)

The oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley, Swayambhunath Temple (sometimes called the Monkey Temple) was said to have been built over 2,000 years ago. Situated at the top of a winding staircase, Swayambhunath has one of the city’s best panoramic views. The complex, containing multiple shrines and a stupa, is considered holy to both Buddhists and Hindus.More


Bhaktapur, once medieval Kathmandu Valley’s seat of power, earns its accolade as Nepal’s best-preserved city. The earthquake of 2015 claimed many historic buildings, but the one-time flourishing kingdom is still packed with old-world charm. Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and heart of the city, is well-worth a visit.More

Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Mount Everest, and the Sagarmatha National Park is where the tallest mountain in the world sits. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of natural wonders: other high mountains, trekking trails, diverse wildlife, and Sherpa culture. It’s Nepal’s most popular trekking destination.More

Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar is a small, busy market town perched high in the Himalayas. It’s been on trade routes to Tibet for many centuries, and is now an essential stopping point on hikes in the Everest (Khumbu) region. As it’s located at 11,286 feet (3,440 meters), hikers and climbers stop at Namche to acclimatize before heading higher into the mountains.More


Nagarkot, a small town on the eastern edge of the Kathmandu Valley, is popular for its sunrise and sunset views of the Himalaya. On a clear day, it’s possible to see Mount Everest to the northeast and the Annapurna ranges to the northwest. There are many places to stay within Nagarkot and cultural attractions, too.More

Garden of Dreams

In the middle of dusty, traffic-clogged central Kathmandu is the neoclassical Garden of Dreams. The garden and pavilions were created in the 1920s as private gardens, but now they’re open to the public and provide a peaceful contrast to the busy streets outside.More

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is in the north of the Kathmandu Valley, a chance to enjoy nature close to the city. There are many hiking and mountain biking trails through the park, and on a clear day visitors can see snow-capped mountains to the north. It’s a great place to come for a quick escape from Kathmandu, or to embark on a longer trek.More

Changu Narayan

The Changu Narayan Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and is thought to be the oldest temple in Nepal. Parts of it date back to the third century, but most of the structure and its decorations date from between the fourth and 18th centuries. It’s uncrowded, and a nice destination from Bhaktapur.More


The gateway to the Chitwan National Park, Sauraha is located on Nepal’s jungle-filled plains (called the Terai). It’s not the small, local village it used to be—it’s now filled with tourist-oriented businesses, hotels, and restaurants. But it’s a convenient place to stay if you’re looking to explore the park on a safari or a boat ride.More

Patan (Lalitpur)

Patan, also called Lalitpur, was once a separate kingdom from Kathmandu, with its own kings, culture, and traditions. Now, it is essentially the southern part of Kathmandu city. With its strong Newari culture, exquisite temples, and vibrant handicrafts traditions, it’s a favorite day trip destination for travelers to Kathmandu.More

Asan Market

The Asan Market area is one of Kathmandu’s most ancient parts. It’s sat at the crossroads of trade routes through the Himalayas for centuries, and is still a busy, thriving, and culturally fascinating part of the central city.More
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Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Kathmandu

How to Spend 3 Days in Kathmandu

Top activities in Kathmandu

Everest Base Camp Trekking

Everest Base Camp Trekking

Half day cooking class in Thamel kathmandu
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All about Kathmandu

When to visit

Though many associate Nepal’s capital with the bright, snowy climes of the Himalayas, the country’s climate is significantly impacted by its annual monsoon season (June through September). For drier, sunnier days, join trekkers during the April and May shoulder season, or visit in October and November, which is considered Kathmandu's high season.

A local’s pocket guide to Kathmandu

Elen Turner

Elen moved to Kathmandu to work in the local media. It was the start of a long love affair that has included many treks, white-water rafting trips, plates of dal bhat—and a Nepali Hindu wedding.

The first thing you should do in Kathmandu is...

visit Swayambhunath Stupa to get a view of the Kathmandu Valley. Located on a hill within walking distance of Thamel (where many travelers stay), the honeycomb-like stupa is a beautiful introduction to Nepali culture.

A perfect Saturday in Kathmandu...

Saturday is the only day of rest in Nepal (Sunday is a working day) so this is a great day to walk around the city. There’s less traffic too, so it’s quite comfortable getting among points of interest.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Patan Durbar Square. One of three royal squares in the Kathmandu Valley, it's wonderfully preserved (2015 earthquake damage notwithstanding), and the Patan Museum in the old palace is one of the best museums in Nepal.

To discover the "real" Kathmandu...

stay in a local Newari homestay in Patan or a Tibetan-run guesthouse in Boudha, rather than in tourist hub Thamel.

For the best view of the city...

Swayambhunath Stupa has a great view, but if you have more energy, take a day hike up Mt. Phulchowki, the highest “hill” in the Kathmandu Valley, at 2,782 meters (9,127 feet).

One thing people get wrong...

Many people think Kathmandu is a peaceful town nestled at the foot of the Himalaya. It’s a sprawling, congested, polluted megacity of 3 million-plus inhabitants. Accept this reality and you won’t be disappointed, as there’s so much to do here.

People Also Ask

What's Kathmandu famous for?

Kathmandu is an ancient city famous for its combination of Hindu and Buddhist culture. Attractions like Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath Stupa (the Monkey Temple), and the Durbar Square, as well as the Kumari Living Goddess, are star attractions in Kathmandu. Unfortunately, Kathmandu is also famous for a destructive earthquake that damaged parts of the city in 2015.

How can I spend a day in Kathmandu?

In one day, pick one neighborhood of the Kathmandu Valley and focus on that, rather than sitting in heavy traffic trying to see too much. Central Kathmandu (the Basantapur Durbar Square area), Patan (also called Lalitpur), Boudhanath and nearby Pashupatinath, and Bhaktapur all have plenty of cultural and historic attractions to keep you occupied for a day.

What tourist attractions does Kathmandu offer?

Kathmandu’s tourist attractions are centered on religious and historic sites. The enormous Boudhanath Stupa is the most sacred Tibetan Buddhist site outside Tibet, while the hilltop Swayambhunath Stupa offers sweeping views (and monkey friends). The Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares are the centers of the Kathmandu Valley’s previous separate kingdoms.

How can I spend 3 days in Kathmandu?

With three days in Kathmandu you can spend two days in the city and one in the countryside, enjoying mountain views and fresher air. Spend days one and two in central Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur, learning about local history and culture. On day three, hire a driver to take you to Namo Buddha or Nagarkot.

What can people do for fun in Kathmandu?

As well as sightseeing at the Kathmandu Valley’s many cultural highlights, many travelers like to dine out and party in the Thamel district, and shop for handicrafts and souvenirs in Ason or Patan. Thamel is Kathmandu’s nightlife district and although most places shut by around midnight, you can enjoy live music (especially cover bands).

Is Kathmandu safe?

Yes, Kathmandu is generally a safe city. Violent crime is rare, although petty crime is more common. However, the risk from earthquakes in the seismically active country is high, especially due to poorly constructed buildings. Air pollution levels are also high in winter and spring, and often unsafe for those with respiratory problems.


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