Freak Street—or Jhochhen Tole—got its English-language name from the “freakish” appearance of the hippies who hung out here in the 1960s and ’70s, when Kathmandu was a stop on the “hippie trail.” A short walk from Kathmandu Durbar Square, this legendary place retains just a shadow of its past, but travelers still come to check it out.
Freak Street lies between the larger Nishtananda Marg and Guna Kamdev Marg, to the south of Kathmandu Durbar Square. Back in the day, flower children hung out here smoking marijuana and staying in ultra-budget accommodations. When marijuana was outlawed in 1973, many businesses on Freak Street went bust, but there are still some nice budget cafés and souvenir shops in this historic area. Many travelers visit on a tour that includes nearby Durbar Square.
What to Know Before You Go
- If you’re craving cake, visit Snowman Café. It’s one of the originals from the hippie era, and still serves great cake with a chilled out (and very basic) ambience.
- While Freak Street itself is short, it’s worth wandering through the connected side streets to see examples of traditional Newari architecture.
- There is no entry fee for Freak Street, but there is for the nearby Durbar Square.
How to Get There
Freak Street is an easy, short walk just south of the Durbar Square. If you’re staying in Thamel, it’s about a half-hour walk south. Though you can get a taxi, the traffic is usually bad in this central part of Kathmandu, so walking is preferable and often faster.
When to Get There
Saturday is a day of rest in Nepal, and many businesses are shut. On other days, there is always something to see or somewhere to eat or drink on Freak Street.
Visit Pashupatinath Temple During Shivaratri
Although marijuana is illegal in Nepal 364 days a year, the day of the Shivaratri festival (usually held in early March) is the exception. Travelers who want to see a colorful, flamboyant display of Shiva worship should head to the Pashupatinath Temple on that day, when Sadhus (Hindu holy men) from across India and Nepal converge on the temple. It can get very crowded and boisterous, so avoid this festival if you dislike crowds.