Kathmandu is home to Nepal’s only international airport, so it’s a natural jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the country. With many cultural attractions, delicious food, shops selling Nepali handicrafts, and Himalayan views, there’s plenty to do in Kathmandu. Here’s how to fill an action-packed day in the Nepali capital.
Morning: Sacred Sites
Get up early to experience Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple, at its most atmospheric. Many Nepali people come here to die or be cremated, and there’s a somber but celebratory feel to the temple complex. The mixture of Nepali architecture and traditional culture makes this a must-visit site. Pashupatinath is close to the Boudha neighborhood, the center of Kathmandu’s Tibetan community and site of the Boudhanath Stupa, with its huge white dome, golden spire, and colorful prayer flags. Have a relaxed lunch at one of the many restaurants overlooking the stupa.
Afternoon: The Medieval Kingdom of Patan
After lunch, head south of the Bagmati River to Patan. Now part of Kathmandu’s urban sprawl, this neighborhood was once a separate kingdom and maintains a unique atmosphere. The focal point is Patan Durbar Square, a collection of redbrick palaces and temples that represent Nepali carving and metalsmithing at its finest. Visit the Patan Museum here for an informative overview of Buddhist and Hindu culture in the Kathmandu Valley, then dip into the lanes around the square—they’re among the best places in Kathmandu to shop for handicrafts, including paper products, metal statuettes, and Buddhist thangka paintings.
Night: Sample Nepali Cuisine
Many visitors stay in the Thamel area of central Kathmandu, which has a plethora of restaurants and bars and is the center of the city’s nightlife. Most venues are not open much past midnight, so a good night out in Kathmandu means enjoying a hearty dinner and a few relaxed drinks at a bar. You can’t leave Kathmandu without a full dal bhat experience. At its simplest, the Nepali national dish is lentil curry and rice, but at many higher-end restaurants you’ll get a huge platter with several vegetable and meat curries, pickles, a salad, and, of course, rice. It’s a great way to end the day.