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Things to do in Kathmandu

Abhishek Subedi July 9, 2020

Kathmandu valley is the perfect destination for those who want to experience the tradition, culture and typical Newari culture of Nepal. You can witness the many historical and religious monuments. The visitors can indulge themselves in the ancient arts and artefacts of the place. However, some of the heritage sites are in process of renovation due to the destruction caused by the earthquake of 2015. But, travellers can still find themselves in the true paradise of the mesmerizing arts and architectures.  When visiting Nepal, the capital city Kathmandu is where you’ll most likely end up first. Don’t make it a fleeting stop on your itinerary though. It’s worth staying a while in this captivating place and soaking up its atmosphere. These top things to do in Kathmandu encompass heritage, architecture, culture, spirituality, and shopping. 

Things to do in Kathmandu

Abouth the Kathmandu Valley

The majority of offices and headquarters are located in the valley, making it the economic hub of Nepal. It is popular with tourists for its unique architecture and rich culture that includes the highest number of jatras in Nepal. The newars are the indigenous inhabitants and the creators of the historic civilization of the valley. They are known for their contributions to art, sculpture, architecture, culture, literature, music, industry, agriculture and cuisine. Newa architecture consists of the pagoda, stupa, shikhara and chaitya and other styles.

The Kathmandu valley has many beautiful and stunning tourist attractions all over the place. The valley is the home to the large to the small temples, viharas and monasteries. It also contains the most specific history and cultural heritage sites of the nation. The night life of the Thamel to the religious and traditional values of the Pashupatinath, it has everything that the visitors want. Kathmandu is also the largest city in the Himalayan Hill region. 

1. Walk through the Old City

From Durbar Square to Thamel, wandering through old Kathmandu’s fascinating maze of narrow streets and alleyways will keep you busy for hours, if not days. You’ll be surprised to discover shrines and statues hidden away in unlikely places. So, grab a map and get exploring!

Things to do in Kathmandu

At Makhan Tole, on the northeastern corner of Durbar Square, head along Siddhidas Marg to the teeming market square of Indra Chowk, where five roads converge. Continue straight along Siddhidas Marg to Kel Tole, which has one of Kathmandu’s most ornate temples – the Seto Machhendranath Temple. Furthermore along Siddhidas Marg, you’ll reach Ason Tole, the busiest junction in Kathmandu. A mesmerizing mass of people ply this route from morning to night, and produce from all over the Kathmandu Valley is sold there. It’s worth spending some time just absorbing it all.  There’s also a magnificent three story temple dedicated to Annapurna, the goddess of abundance, which draws the pious.

Turn left onto Chittadhar Marg and walk for about 5 minutes, turn right onto Chandraman Singh Marg, and continue until you reach Tahiti Tole. It’s home to a 15th century Buddhist stupa and the Nateshwar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Dominating a secluded courtyard on the way is Kathesimbhu Stupa, a 17th century copy of the great Swayambhunath Stupa located just outside Kathmandu. North of Tahiti Tole is Thamel Chowk, in the center of Kathmandu’s tourist hub.

2. Durbar Square Kathmandu

Explore the culture or history of Kathmandu by visiting the Durbar Square. Located in front of the former Kathmandu Palace Kingdom, the Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is originally known for vivid showcases of artists and craftsmen. The palace here is stunningly decorated and the overall areas reflect the beauty of Nepalese culture. However, the palaces and the square itself have gone through reconstruction on several occasions. People of finer taste should add this place to their list of best places to visit in Nepal. 

Things to do in Kathmandu

Also, the place includes a museum and other parts of the palace here are opened for visitors. The place is home to Kumari Chowk as well- it is one of the most curious attractions of Nepal. Here, a gilded cage contains Kumari, a girl who was chosen to be the human reincarnation of Hindu Goddess Durga. This mere fact alone places this place among places to visit near Kathmandu.

3. Visit Narayanhiti Palace

Want to know how the politics have transformed Nepal? Well, things will get a lot clearer when you visit the Narayanhiti Palace and Museum. Full of meeting rooms and 1970s glamour, the palace has opulent interiors. The place is well known for its museum beauty. Once, King Gyanendra lived in it, but he was given 15 days to vacate the property after his fall from the throne. This palace is also the place where Prince Dipendra massacred his family in 2001. The place is morbidly marked and the bullet holes are still visible on some of the walls. But nevertheless, this place offers a peek into the regal lifestyle of the royals, the one that people only dream about.

Things to do in Kathmandu

4.  Visit Temples in Kathmandu

Nepal is a Hindu and a visit to this country is one of the best ways to discover the rich Hindu culture, which dates back for centuries. One of the best ways to explore the diverse and rich culture is to visit the temples in Kathmandu. The city of temples has several places to visit, including Bodhnath Stupa, one of the largest stupas in the world along with Swayambhunath Temple, the popular Pashupatinath temple, Dakshinkali and other temples. These temples offer a unique cultural experience, with the opportunity to explore something new altogether. These Hindu Temples are a reflection of magnificent architecture as well. They are usually dedicated to Hindu deities such as Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu among others. Visit them for a unique social experience. 

5.  Shop and Hang out in Thamel

Kathmandu’s Thamel tourist district is crowded and frenetic at times but it still manages to retain an old-world feel, perpetuated by the rows of Tibetan prayer flags and cycle rickshaws that trundle by. The streets of this lively area are lined with shops overflowing with brightly colored clothing, jewelry, paper lanterns, thangka paintings, wood carvings, bronze statues, music, and books. Bargain hard to get a good price (aim to pay only a third or half the original quoted price), as shopkeepers can be ruthless. 

6. Try the Local Cuisine

Just around the corner from Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, Roots Eatery opened in 2016 as an extension of a foundation set up by the owners after the earthquake. It aims to promote the Newari heritage of the region, and serves delicious authentic Newari cuisine cooked by the family. Apart from the food, the ambiance is really lovely with friendly staff, groovy interiors made from recycled materials, and outdoor seating area.Also portions are large and prices are affordable. Nepali beer is served too. Roots Eatery is open daily except Sundays, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Its address is 23 Nabahi Chowk, just off Freak Street near Eden Hotel, Ombahal.

7. Visit Swayambhunath Temple

Swayambhunath, Nepal’s famous Buddhist temple, sits atop a hill to the west of Kathmandu city. It’s reached by a tiring walk up a flight of 365 stone steps. One of the first things you’ll notice, even before you start climbing, is the monkeys. Hundreds of them live on, and roam around, the temple premises. Also they’re believed to be holy, although it’s best not to think about the reason why -they’re said to have been formed from the head lice of Buddhist deity Manjushri, who was raised there. Fortunately, most of the Swayambhunath temple complex survived the 2015 earthquake. It was founded in the beginning of the 5th century and is the oldest of its kind in Nepal.

Things to do in Kathmandu

8. Get a Blessing at Pashupatinath Temple

Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath draws devotees from the Indian subcontinent along with a motley collection of painted sadhus (Hindu ascetics). Most of the sadhus are friendly and happy to be photographed for a small fee, in return for which they’ll give a blessing. Moreover, Ancient Hindu rituals, astonishing and unchanged by time, are practiced inside the temple complex. Enter, and you’ll get an uncensored (and confronting) perspective of life, death and reincarnation including the open-air cremation of bodies on funeral pyres along the river bank.

Things to do in Kathmandu

Furthermore, tickets cost 1,000 rupees for foreigners. The main temple is off-limits to anyone who’s not Hindu but you can wander about the rest of the vast grounds. If you don’t want to pay to go in. Also, you can get a decent view from the opposite side of the river. The most interesting time to visit is early in the morning from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. to see the cremations. Or in the evening from 6 p.m. to see the aarti (worship with fire). Eventually the temple is closed from noon until 5 p.m. daily.

9. Visit Monasteries in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is one of the most beautiful destinations where you can discover Buddhist monasteries and temples. Nepal as a country has a rich Buddhist culture and the temples here center on a blend of Buddhism and Hinduism.Likewise the most famous monastery in the country is called Swayambhunath Monastery, which is a legendary Buddhist Shrine. Besides this, there’s Kopan Monastery and Boudhanath monastery that should be visited. The stupa at Boudhanath Monastery is included in the World Heritage Cultural Site list by UNESCO. Besides this, the Swayambhunath Monastery is well known for being one of the oldest monasteries in the world. Other monasteries, such as Namo Buddha Monastery are located close by as well. 

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