The capital of Nepal is teeming with beautiful and historic places to visit. Many travelers come for the Himalayas, but there is so much more to see. This city is nestled in a stunning valley and surrounded by breathtaking mountain views.
Fun fact: Nepal is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites, most of which are in or close to Kathmandu.
This stupa, built in the 1300s, is one of the biggest in Nepal. It’s considered a sacred site for Buddhists and was once part of an ancient trade route dating back 1400 years.
Consider this a hidden gem of the city, which offers a 180-degree view of Kathmandu. It’s home to Tibetan Buddhism and welcomes tourists wishing to meditate and relax.
This neighborhood is the oldest section of the capital and was originally called Tabitha Bahal. Take a stroll through the streets and enjoy the madness of all the vendors and shopping. There is a mix of mountain gear, clothing stores, bookshops, and antiques, along with a variety of restaurants.
Swayambhunath Temple (aka the Monkey Temple)
This easy-to-spot landmark in Kathmandu is a popular place to visit. It features an impressive white stupa complete with a golden spire and Buddha eyes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple offers stunning views of the valley.
Considered one of the busiest squares in Kathmandu, there are endless vendors selling spices, vegetables, and all manner of food. Within this square is the Annapurna Temple as well as the Narayan Shrine.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Durbar Square is a must-see and is located at the heart of the city. A UNESCO site, kings were once crowned here. Unfortunately, it suffered some serious damage in the earthquake of 2015, but construction to repair the square is ongoing.
This grand temple is part of a larger religious complex and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is depicted wearing a snake and carrying Shani’s decapitated head. The 12-foot-tall idol of Kala Bhairav, along with the surrounding structures, dates back to the 6th century.
Known for its beautiful architecture, the carvings all over this temple draw thousands of tourists a year.
While it’s not open to the public, it’s easily the most magnificent temple in the square. Built in 1564 to honor the goddess Taleju Bhawani, this Hindu temple features miniature temples as well as intricately carved gates.
This temple, which is dedicated to Shiva, features a golden umbrella on top of a spire.
A UNESCO site, this palace complex contains multiple Pagoda-style temples along with a statue of the monkey god Hanuman.
Garden of Dreams
Also known as Swapna Bagaicha, this serene retreat offers a much-needed break from the crowded city streets. It was designed in the 1920s to resemble a traditional English garden. Ponds filled with lilies, soft green grass, and a mixture of lush trees combine to create the perfect paradise.
Devout Hindus spend a lot of time at this UNESCO site, located on the Bagmati River. The main temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, is only accessible by Hindus. One thing to see here is the Hindu cremation ceremony, where bodies are burned on raised platforms on the river.
Built in the 500s, this temple has some pretty unique decorations, including erotic figures and skeletons.
Located above the Mrigasthali Deer Park, it can be a bit challenging to find. It’s covered in reds and whites, which make it a standout from other temples here.
This temple is a must-see during the Maha Shivarati Festival.
Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Formally the royal palace of King Gyanendra, it was turned into a museum after his eviction in 2008. 52 rooms are available to be toured. This museum is a must-see for anyone wanting a glimpse into the life of Nepal’s royalty.
Located on the outskirts of the city, Patan, which was originally called Lalitpur, is the oldest town in the valley. There is a grand collection of monuments, palaces, and temples. The palace courtyard is stunning and the stone and wood carvings in the temples are well worth a visit.
The Kumari Devi (or The Living Goddess)
Catching a glimpse of this young girl is a challenge, but locals say seeing her brings good fortune. The Kumari, who usually reigns from around the age of 5 until puberty, is believed to be the incarnation of Durga, a fearsome and beautiful Hindu goddess. Many tourists are content to visit Kumari Bahal, the house where the Kumari Devi lives. The architecture is stunning and features a three-story courtyard.
Part architectural marvel, part dining experience, this building is worth the trip. Originally built for the royals, it’s now home to an impeccable five-course Newari feast that includes fantastic service and traditional dancing.
Planning a Visit
Seeing everything Kathmandu has to offer can feel overwhelming, but there are many local walking tours and hikes available that will showcase the best of what this city has to offer.