The Asan Tole 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.
Asan (also spelled Ason) is a bustling market area, but it’s also much more. It’s a hub of Newari culture, the ethnic group who were the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. Visitors will see many old houses with ornately carved doors and window frames, as well as important temples. All kinds of things can be bought at the market, particularly traditional Nepali foodstuffs. And it’s not just a market put on for tourists: This is where locals shop as they have done for centuries.
Many people visit the Asan Market as part of a walking tour of central Kathmandu. In fact, the central streets are so narrow and crowded that it’s far more comfortable (and even faster) to walk than to get there by car.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- The temple of Annapurna Ajima, temples dedicated to Ganesha and Narayan, and white Buddhist stupas in hidden courtyards can be found in the area.
- It’s easy to get lost in Asan’s tangle of streets, but don’t worry: Friendly locals will help point you in the right direction.
- Always bargain when shopping for goods, but there’s no need to go overboard. Don’t get angry or insult a seller’s goods.
Asan Tole Market is in the central part of Kathmandu, a short walk from Thamel, Ratna Park, Kantipath, and the Durbar Square. It’s best to walk between these places, as the streets are narrow and congested, and traffic jams common. From other parts of Kathmandu you can take a taxi to a nearby street and walk to the market area.
When to Get There
The market operates roughly sunrise to sunset. It’s best to go early in the morning to avoid the vehicle traffic. Any time of year is a good time to go, except during the monsoon (June–August) when the streets can be slippery, muddy, and even flooded after a downpour.
Walk to Freak Street
It’s easily missed these days, but just a short walk from the Asan market is Jhochhen, better known as Freak Street. This legendary area was once, for better and worse, the epicenter of the Western hippie scene in Kathmandu. Nowadays, travelers tend to stay in and around the Thamel neighborhood instead, and authorities long ago cleaned up and shut down the more ‘colorful’ parts of Freak Street. But for historical reasons, it’s still a fun place to walk, shop, and take photos.