Both magical and mythical, only the name of Kathmandu evokes images of ancient and imposing temples which rise in the middle of the imposing Himalayas. While the capital of Nepal is certainly an attractive place, its overcrowded, chaotic and colorful nature threatens to be overwhelming at times.
The “City of Temples”, which fills the Kathmandu Valley, is home to a wealth of amazing historical and cultural tourist attractions to explore. So, you will find magnificent ancient palaces and temples as well as bustling bazaars that sell all kinds of goods imaginable.
In addition to being the commercial, cultural and political center of the country, it is also its spiritual and religious heart. Therefore, one of the most interesting things to do in Kathmandu is to watch the religious and cultural festivals that parade through its streets. Filled with alluring sights, sounds and smells, Kathmandu is truly an amazing place and a great gateway to the majestic mountains that lie in its surroundings.
1. Boudhanath stupa
Dominating the skyline of Kathmandu, the golden spire of the Boudhanath Stupa shines in the sun from its hilltop location. This colossal monument, one of the largest uniquely structured spherical stupas in the world, is certainly a marvelous sight. As the original was destroyed by Mughal invaders, the current stupa dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. Loaded with symbolism, every part of its magnificent architecture and design reflects the Buddha’s path to spiritual enlightenment.
Many beautiful images and statues, as well as monasteries and shrines, surround it, while brightly colored flags fly above. Even though it is often very busy and noisy, the Boudhanath Stupa is worth a visit and will leave you with a lasting and endearing image of Nepal and its many charms.
Located on a hill west of the city, Swayambhunath is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kathmandu. Known as the “Temple of the Apes” because of the mischievous creatures that scale its shrines and temples, it is one of the holiest places in Buddhism. In its center is an impressive stupa on which are painted the eyes and eyebrows of Buddha.
The dome of the stupa represents the world, and every morning devotees surround it with diligence and devotion, hoping to achieve enlightenment. Although it was built almost 1,500 years ago, Swayambhunath is still in use, with pilgrims, priests and revelers meeting there every day.
3. Durbar Square
It means “royal square” in English, and it is here, in Durbar Square, that the ancient kings of Kathmandu were crowned. In reality, it consists of three interconnected squares, and inside are important and impressive buildings, temples and palaces.
Although most of the current buildings date only to the 17th century, as they replaced the older ones, incredible old-looking architecture can still be seen. All this despite the fact that much of the area was damaged by the disastrous earthquake that hit Kathmandu in 2015. Located in the heart of the old town, Durbar Square is just one of the many highlights. which you can see in the city of temples.
4. Hanuman Dhoka
Although it was founded over a thousand years ago, much of the sprawling Hanuman Dhoka Palace complex actually dates back to the 17th century. It was once the home of the Malla kings of old, and its many beautiful buildings and temples are dotted with divinely decorated courtyards for you to explore.
In addition to its splendid statues of Hanuman, Dancing Shiva and Narsingha, there are many excellent stone carvings and important images on display. In addition, it has a series of fantastic museums that trace the history of the palace and the kings who resided there. With so many artistic and architectural wonders on display, Hanuman Dhoka is not to be missed.
5. Feast of Dashain
Celebrated by Buddhists, Hindus and Kirats, Dashain is the most auspicious and anticipated of Kathmandu’s many religious and spiritual festivals. For 15 days, this fascinating spectacle brings the faithful, finely dressed, to important and impressive shrines and the banks of sacred rivers.
With endless ceremonies, parties and festivities, the air fills with tantalizing colors and smells, and music echoes everywhere. During this period, a multitude of ceremonial and ritual processions dedicated to the goddess Durga are organized. Aside from the rather sinister animal sacrifices, the Dashain festival is undoubtedly the most wonderful time to visit Nepal and Kathmandu and experience their many charms.
6. Dakshinkali temple
Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Dakshinkali Temple is hidden between mountains and forests where two sacred rivers meet. Dedicated to the goddess Kali, it has long been an important Hindu pilgrimage site and is often full of worshipers.
The respectful yet lively atmosphere makes it a captivating place to visit, as does its pretty and picturesque setting. However, Dakshinkali Temple is not for the faint hearted, as priests regularly sacrifice animals to the goddess, especially during the Dashain festival.
7. Kopan Monastery
Perched on a hill, Kopan Monastery has long attracted Westerners interested in learning more about Tibetan Buddhism in its colorful ceremonial halls. During their month-long meditation classes, visitors learn about the Buddha’s teachings and various spiritual practices, while following a vegetarian diet.
In recent years, more and more locals and tourists have visited the monastery due to its magnificent decoration and ornamentation. Add to this its special atmosphere, it is easy to understand why so many people make the trip to the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Home to a labyrinth of atmospheric alleys lined with cozy cafes, traditional restaurants and lively bars, Thamel’s many treasures entice you in a seductive way. With a plethora of shops, stalls, and stalls, this is a great place to shop for souvenirs. At night, the neighborhood has a fun nightlife.
As it has been at the heart of the city’s backpacker scene for over four decades, there are plenty of hostels, guesthouses, and hotels for visitors to choose from. Within walking distance of most of Kathmandu’s main attractions, Thamel is both a destination in itself and a gateway to untold treasures.
9. Garden of dreams
Built in 1920, the Jardin des Rêves lives up to its name and is a very serene and peaceful place to relax. Tucked away in a lavish complex, this Edwardian garden features many exquisite fountains, pavilions and pergolas, with charming patterns wherever you look.
With a very elegant appearance, the garden is a great place to grab a book or a snack and just enjoy the impressive surroundings. Located a stone’s throw from the bustling streets of Thamel, this idyllic garden is an ocean of peace and tranquility amid the bustle and noise of the outdoors.
10. Kumari Chowk
Located in the center of Kathmandu, Kumari Chowk is a beautiful courtyard which houses a living goddess. Adored and revered by Hindus, a prepubescent girl is selected from various castes to be the living manifestation of divine feminine energy. Every day, this goddess can be seen appearing in front of spectators from her ornate balcony.
Built in 1757, the magnificent red brick building in which it resides features beautiful architecture and carvings. However, the main reason for the visit is to see the Kumari, who relinquishes her position when her first period begins and the goddess leaves her body.
11. Hills of Chandragiri
The Chandragiri Hills, reaching a height of around 2,500 meters, can be reached by a scenic cable car from Thankot. This ride takes you above an enchanting nature, with breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys, hills and mountains. Annapurna and Everest are visible in the distance.
In addition to its fabulous vistas, there is also an exhilarating amusement park that you can visit, as well as a charming botanical garden and the magnificent Baleshwar temple.
12. Pashupatinath Temple
Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath Temple is an absolutely extraordinary place to visit; the complex includes more than 500 monuments, temples, shrines and pagodas. Although it is revered by Hindus and Buddhists, only the former can enter its majestic main temple.
Built in the 17th century on earlier temples that had collapsed, the site boasts impressive architecture, with many intricately carved images and inscriptions. With so many amazing details, like its huge bronze statue of Nandi, Pashupatinath Temple is a must see in Kathmandu.