Whether you are a mountain climber, volunteer or a tourists your first stop in Nepal will be Kathmandu, the capital and the largest city of this young republic. Situated in the Kathmandu Valley, this huge, crowded city is really a crazy place. From awesome temples and holy sites to bustling, dirty streets full of people, cows, dogs, dust and old vehicles of all kinds, Kathmandu will in the same time shock you and surprise you.
There is a lot to do in the city, give yourself a few days to explore all of its attractions. Here’s a list of my favorite things to do in Kathmandu, don’t miss any!
1. Visit Durbar Square
No visit to Kathmandu is complete without visiting the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square. Located at the heart of the ancient city, it’s a complex full of Hindu and Buddhist temples, palaces and shrines (some dating back to the 12th century). This UNESCO World Heritage Site was one of the places that suffered the most from the horrible earthquake in April, 2015. Many temples and buildings are still destroyed witnessing the horrible tragedy.
What to see: Hanuman Dhoka, the complex of royal palaces, Taleju Temple, the Kumari Bahal (palace where the living goddess, a young girl, still lives)
Entry price for tourists: 1000 RS
2. Count the monkeys at Swayambhunath (Monkey temple)
Climb the 365 stairs to the top and enjoy the most amazing views of Kathmandu. On your way you’ll be amused by many macaque monkeys that live here. Swayambhunath was founded by King Mānadeva at the beginning of the 5th century. Whole complex contains a stupa, temples, shrines, Tibetan monastery, museum and library.
Entrance fee: 200 RS
3. Walk around Boudnath
Walk clockwise around the one of the largest stupas in the world and spin the prayer wheels!
Tip: there is a small entrance fee to this site, you can avoid paying fee by entering the stupa from one of the side streets.
4. Watch cremation at Pashupatinath temple
Standing on the banks of the Bagmati river, Pashupatinath temple is one of the most impressive places I have seen in the whole city. This is a place known for a ritual cremations. From the ritual bathing in the river to the burning of the dead bodies, it was a really interesting and a bit shocking experience for me. If you wish to take a photo of a Sadhu (Hindu holy man) be prepared to pay for it.
It’s so fascinating to see how for Hindu people dead is not the end, it’s just one step forward to the new beginning in the circles of reincarnations.
Entrance fee: 1000 RS
5. Walk the streets of Thamel
Probably one of the most popular tourist districts in Kathmandu is known for its good restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels and shops. Walk around Thamel, buy some Nepali souvenir, sit and relax over a nice coffee, then head to some nice restaurant or get lost in one of the many side streets and find out hidden temples, shrines and houses.
6. Eat Momo
One of the most delicious food you simply cannot miss while in Nepal is Momo! It is a type of South Asian dumpling; native to Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India. Momos can be vegetarian or with meat! Bon Appetit!
7. A day trip to Patan
Some eight kilometers south of the central Kathmandu is situated ancient, little city, Patan. From Patan’s Durbar Square to narrow site streets this place is full of Hindu temples and monuments.
Entrance fee: 1000 RS
8. A day trip to Bhaktapur
Renown as being a city of culture, temples and craft work, Bhaktapur is a real gem of Kathmandu Valley. Don’t miss: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, The Golden Gate, The Palace of Fifty-five Windows, Peacock window, Potters’ square, Taumadhi Square)
Entrance fee: 1500 RS
9. Relax in the Garden of dreams
In the heart of the concrete jungle, not far away from bustling, nosy Thamel, you’ll find beautiful, green, peaceful Garden of Dreams! Enjoy and relax in this pleasant place so different from the rest of the city.
Entrance fee: 200 RS
10. A rickshaw driving through the streets of Kathmandu
Rickshawssss! What a fun way to go around the city center. You can find them in Durban Square, or they’ll find you, rickshaw drivers are waiting for you there to hop on and have a cheap, crazy ride.
If you have time, energy and desire to help Nepalese people than volunteer is something you should do! Kathmandu offers a wide range of humanitarian organizations and volunteer opportunities, from teaching English to little monks to helping in orphanages or disable centers.
12. See Mount Everest from above
If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad will go to the mountain, right? Book one of many daily Mount Everest flights and enjoy amazing views of the world’s highest mountain.
13. Celebrate Nepal’s awesome festivals
All people in Nepal are crazy for festivals. They simply enjoy it and celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. Kathmandu is a place where you wanna be if you come in Nepal during one of many festivals.
14. Take Cooking Classes
Take cooking classes (the best one are in Thamel) and learn how to make dal bhat, momos and other Nepali delicious food. After that you are ready to have a Nepal night when you come home and show your family and friends the true taste of Nepal!
15. Get lost!
From Thamel to Durbar Square, Kathmandu is a city made of many narrow, side streets, like a big, interesting, colorful labyrinth! Get lost in these streets and just wander around, without any special reason. Soak up the atmosphere, energy and spirit of the place. You’ll find beautiful ‘non-tourist’ temples, little local shops, children playing and running to school, people praying… so different experience than just visiting typical tourist attractions.
16. Shop, shop & shop
Shop for authentic souvenirs and gifts, handicrafts, traditional clothing (like Kurda), spices, tea, trekking gear, cashmere, silver and gold, Nepali paper, dolls & puppets, paintings… so many things to buy! Prices are cheap just don’t forget to bargain!
17. Go trekking
Kathmandu is the gateway to many various climbs, treks, hikes and walks. Book one of many tours and go trekking. It’s cheaper if arranged it when you come to Kathmandu than online, before your trip. In Thamel you’ll find many local companies and guides that can be hired at most times without notice.
18. Visit Kopan Monastery
Situated north of Boudhanath, on Kopan hill, Kopan Monastery offers daily and longer courses in meditation and yoga. This is a perfect escape from the chaotic, crowded, nosy Kathmandu.
19. Visit Royal palace – Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Situated at the central area of Kathmandu this beautiful royal palace was turned into a museum in 2009. Visit the museum and learn more about Nepal’s long and rich history!
Entrance fee: 500 RS
20. Explore a rooftop restaurants
Although Kathmandu is a ‘dirty, old town’, you’ll be surprised how many good and fancy restaurants are there. Especially rooftop restaurants! Eat Nepali food with an amazing view of Kathmandu.