People who think of visiting Kathmandu usually think of the Himalayas and soaring mountain views. And in fact, this city is one of the most popular places to access the Himalayas and all the outdoor activities they offer. It’s also a vibrant, culturally fascinating city, and a trip to Kathmandu is always memorable.
People who first arrive in Kathmandu often find themselves underwhelmed. The city is famously polluted and the mountain views you probably imagined are far in its past. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other amazing places to visit in Kathmandu and just outside of it. And the busy, vibrant culture is well worth exploring and trying to understand as well, not to mention the great food!
So, if you’re ready to explore everything this city has to offer, here’s our expert’s guide to the best Kathmandu itinerary possible.
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighborhood in Kathmandu:
This is the small neighborhood immediately south of the main tourist area of Thamel, but so close you can touch it!
- Go and eat your fill at the Chhetrapati Party Palace. What a name!
- Temple tour – find as many as you can in a set period of time.
- Check out the Chittadhar Hridaya Memorial Museum to learn a bit about your surroundings.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Kathmandu!
#1 – Durbar Square – A great place to see in Kathmandu if you love architecture
Why it’s so awesome: This area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and was where the kings of the city were once crowned. Today, it remains the heart of the city and of Kathmandu’s traditional heart. It also holds some of the oldest and most architecturally significant buildings in the city. No backpacking trip to Nepal is complete without a visit.
What to do there: When you explore this area, you should expect lots of construction. The area was badly hit in the 2015 earthquake and some of its most amazing buildings needed to be rebuilt or re-supported. Make sure that you check out Taleju temple, the House of the Living Goddess and Basantapur tower, all of which were damaged by the earthquake but are still standing. Also, take a picture with one of the colorful Sadu, but you will have to give them money afterwards.
#2 – Kophan Monastery
Why it’s so awesome: This monastery is beautiful and it’s an easy trip from the center of the city. You can get a taxi there easily and once you’re at the monastery, you’ll be in the center of a famously tranquil setting. You can also take part in the morning meditation classes or do a course.
What to do there: If you’re interested in trying meditation or have been doing it a while and want to get re-inspired, then book in a class at this monastery. The serene settings are the perfect place to go inwards and learn more about this ancient practice. You can get a taxi to the monastery, but there are also tours that will take you out there. So, if you don’t feel like going through the hassle of getting a taxi and want to learn more about the monastery while you’re there, try one of the many tour options.
#3 – The Garden of Dreams – A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Kathmandu
Why it’s so awesome: Kathmandu is an incredibly hectic and busy city and sometimes you just need some time away from it. You can escape to this garden, which is right in the middle of the Thamel and provides a welcome oasis. This garden was built in the 20th century and is known as the garden of six senses. You will have to pay a small entry fee, but it’s worth it to get a break from the city.
What to do there: This is the best places to visit in Kathmandu if you need to relax, so take a book and a snack and find a quiet area. There’s also a café on site if you forget to bring your own snacks, so you can sit and have a coffee and enjoy having nature all around you.
#4 – Pashupatinath Temple
Why it’s so awesome: This temple is located on the riverbanks and close to the airport and it’s a working temple. Every day, people are cremated at this location and you’ll also see people mourning in the public square. When you visit this location, you’ll get a unique and essential view of the local culture and its customs. So, don’t let any fears drive you away and make sure that you experience this side of Kathmandu.
What to do there: Avoid the morning and early afternoon if you’re concerned about seeing a dead body because that’s when they hold their cremations. Pashupatinath Temple is open from 4am to 9am and it will take you about an hour to experience it. If you only want to see the temple, get a guide so that you can get an insider’s view of the landmark building and its place in the city’s daily life.
#5 – Langtang National Park – A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Kathmandu
Why it’s so awesome: There are several national parks in Nepal and this is the closest to Kathmandu. The Himalayas are within clear view of the park, which also has a number of popular treks so you can enjoy the outdoors and the mountains. After all, aren’t these features exactly what people travel to Kathmandu to see?
What to do there: People usually visit Kathmandu for the access to the Himalayas so you must visit this park while you’re in the city. Get a good view of the Himalayas without the pollution of the city clouding and try one of the park’s hikes. There are several popular treks including Langtang Valley and Gosaikunda lake. Just be aware that you may experience altitude sickness and will need to stay in a group and carry provisions with you.
#6 – Thamel – A great place in Kathmandu if you love to shop!
Why it’s so awesome: Whether trekking is on your Kathmandu itinerary or if you’re just there to explore the city, this is the place to go for souvenirs and supplies. Thamel is filled with markets and shops that sell everything from trekking gear to singing bowls, and you could easily spend a day wandering its streets and enjoying the spectacle.
What to do there: If you’re looking for something fun to take home then you’ll find it in this area. It’s also a popular spot to visit if you want to pick up some supplies for trekking. And it’s probably cheaper to buy your rucksacks, clothing, poles, and shoes in this area than it would be back home, so keep that in mind! And if you want some really unique souvenirs, keep your eyes open for gifts such as paper or cards made of elephant dung or singing bowls.
#7 – Champa Devi Hiking Trail
Why it’s so awesome: If you like the idea of mountains more than the physical exertion, then you should try the Champa Devi Hiking Trail. Champa Devi is a hill to the south of Kathmandu Valley and it offers a 3-hour incline walk with views of the valley and the Western Himalayan Ranges.
What to do there: If you aren’t interested in the long hikes or don’t have the money, this is a good place to get a taste of it. You’ll walk for 3 hours up the mountain before coming to a Hindu and Buddhist shrine at the top. The elevation is only 2,285m and you’ll get some amazing views of the ranges, so make sure you take your camera with you.
#8 – Swayambhunath Temple
Why it’s so awesome: This is one of the most popular landmarks in Kathmandu and it’s mostly populated by monkeys! The monkeys are considered holy at this temple because they were supposedly created from the head lice of the Buddhist deity Manjushri. But whatever you believe, it’s adorable to see them sitting all over the steps and building. The temple is also culturally significant. It was founded in the 5th century and survived the 2015 earthquake mostly intact.
What to do there: It’s a long and tiring trek up to this temple. You’ll have to walk up 365 steps, and there are no elevators, so you’ll need to be in reasonable physical condition. Once you’re there, it’s probably best to take a tour guided by one of the temple monks. They’ll be able to give you an insider’s view of the history and significance of the site and you’ll be able to participant in ceremonies as well.
#9 – Bungmati Village
Why it’s so awesome: If you want to see a more traditional way of life then you need to get out of the city. Bungmati is a small village that’s been virtually untouched by modern development and the villagers live very traditionally and simply. The village dates back to the 6th century and is believed to be the birthplace of the rain god Rato Mahhendranath.
What to do there: You can take a day trip from the city to this village as well as another that’s close by. Make sure you spend some time enjoying and perhaps even buying wood carvings or sculpture at the local workshops. The locals have been practicing these crafts for generations and supporting these traditional arts is highly beneficial.
#10 – Boudhanath – One of the most religious places to see in Kathmandu
- The largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal.
- This stupa is an important center of Tibetan Buddhism and culture and you’ll find locals praying and chanting there at almost all hours of the day.
Why it’s so awesome: This is the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s definitely worth adding to your Kathmandu itinerary. It’s also one of the most important religious landmarks in Kathmandu and you can’t start to understand the culture without visiting this site.
What to do there: If you go early in the morning or late in the evening then you’ll be able to avoid the tour groups and get a more authentic experience. At these times of day, prayers are offered and the Tibetan community comes out to walk around the stupa, spin prayer wheels, and offer chants. If you have time, make sure you visit one of the many monasteries called gompas around the stupa. They’re decorated with vibrant murals and are located within a short walk from Boudhanath.
#11 – Patan – A must visit place to visit in Kathmandu on the weekend!
Why it’s so awesome: Patan is known as the City of Beauty and when you spend some time there you’ll understand why. The Newari Architecture includes painstaking details and fine work, which makes the wood and stone carvings in the temples and palaces absolutely stunning.
What to do there: You could spend a whole day exploring this city and taking in the architecture, temples, and palaces. It’s also an easy drive from Kathmandu and is much less busy than the major city, which is why you should spend some time there if you want a break from the city.
#12 – Everest Base Camp
Why it’s so awesome: You don’t need anyone to tell you why you should go to Everest. It’s the highest point int the world and a physical challenge that has inspired numerous stories and legends. Even if you have absolutely no intention of actually trying to climb the mountain, you can trek to Everest base camp and get a good taste of the experience without most of the physical dangers.
What to do there: There are numerous ways to get to the Everest base camp from Kathmandu. You can fly to the Lukla airport and walk a couple of days from there to the Sherpa capital. From there, you need to wait a few days to adjust to the altitude before you start the seven-day walk to the Base Camp.
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#13 – Chhauni Museum
Why it’s so awesome: This national museum is close to Swayambhunath and it’s also located in a stunningly beautiful venue. The treasures inside of it are just as incredible, which is why you absolutely must visit this museum while you’re in the city.
What to do there: You’ll find a range of exhibits in this museum. The Judda Art Gallery is particularly popular because it’s home to a range of beautiful stone, terracotta and metal statues of Nepali deities. You should also spend some time looking at the famous cloth paintings as well as the 1800-year-old statue of Jayaraman which was discovered in 1992. The Buddhist Art Gallery section is amazing as well, so make sure you take the time to explore everything this museum has to offer.
#14 – Ashok Binayak Temple – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Kathmandu
Why it’s so awesome: Located in the center of temple rubble at the top of Maru Tole, this shrine is tiny and golden and is one of the most important religious sites in the city. That’s why it’s a Kathmandu must-see. Thousands of locals and tourists visit every, so make sure that you don’t miss out.
What to do there: It obviously doesn’t take long to explore this site as it’s a small shrine. Make sure that you’re respectful while you’re there, remembering that the locals still worship there. The temple also has a self-serve tika dispenser and the bells ring regularly, so make sure you stay long enough and partake in the whole experience.
#15 – Asan
Why it’s so awesome: This is one of the most popular areas in Kathmandu for travelers because it’s so bright and colorful. The streets converge in this area and the colors are bright and enticing. The stalls also cell an incredibly wide range of different goods and souvenirs, everything you could want as a traveler.
What to do there: This is the perfect place to do some people watching, so set aside an afternoon and settle down to watch the world go buy. You should also bring your wallet along and see if you can grab some bargains to take back home with you. The market sells everything from electronics to food, textiles and bulllions, so there will definitely be something you need at this market!
#16 – Phulchowki
Why it’s so awesome: This mountain peak surrounds Kathmandu and is an easy 4 hour trip from the center of the city. It’s a great place to enjoy some easy trekking without having to travel far from the city and the roads are well kept and suitable if you have a reasonable level of fitness.
What to do there: The flowers on this mountain are amazing and include wild roses, iris, jasmine and native flowers. To enjoy them all, you need to explore and take your time trekking through the trails. This area is well known for its resorts and it’s a peaceful, natural area that makes for an easy, short hike.
#17 – Casino Royale – Great place to visit in Kathmandu for couples!
Why it’s so awesome: Even if you’re in Kathmandu for the trekking, it’s still nice to get dressed up and have an elegant night out. The Casino Royale is located in the former Rana Palace at the Yak and Yeti Hotel. The casino has gambling, card games and an amazing dinner buffet, which is why it’s popular amongst tourists and locals alike.
What to do there: Make sure you dress up in your best clothes, grab your friends or partner, and get ready for a sumptuous night out. Try a few of the tables, see if you can win some travel money on the slot machines, and sit down for a delicious buffet dinner. This is one of the hotspots in Kathmandu for socializing, so make sure you take advantage of the chance to have a good chat.
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#18 – Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
Why it’s so awesome: This park protects 177 species of birds and a variety of rare orchids. The sprawling forests are one of the last areas of primary woodland in the valley and there are monkeys, leopards, and bears in the national park as well.
What to do there: This is a popular hiking spot, so if you’re looking to get even more trekking done during your trip to Kathmandu then this is your chance. The flora and fauna in this area are also famously unique, so make sure you take the time to appreciate it and take a few photos as well.
#19 – Utse Restaurant
Why it’s so awesome: This restaurant is located in the hotel of the same name and was first established in 1971. That serves as proof of the quality of the food, so if you want some authentic Tibetan dishes, then you need to have a meal at this restaurant.
What to do there: There are a variety of interesting, tasty, and unique dishes that you can try at this restaurant. Drink authentic butter tea or try the hot millet beer with your meal and make sure you have dessert as well. The restaurant serves some delicious options such as dhay-shi, which is curd, sweet rice, and raisins.
#20 – Taudaha Lake – A nice quiet place to see in Kathmandu
Why it’s so awesome: If you’re ready to get off the beaten track when you travel to Kathmandu, then this is the place to do it. The lake is located in Kathmandu’s outskirts and according to legends was once drained by a mythical character, leaving the half snake, half-human inhabitants homeless. An underground lake was built in response, which made the former inhabitants much happier and supposedly accounts for the tranquillity of this Kathmandu landmark.
What to do there: There is a lot to do at this lake if you enjoy nature and animals. The birdwatching is great because of the migratory species that visit the lake and it’s also a great place to sit and relax in natural surroundings.
#21 – Chabahil Stupa – One of the most underrated places to see in Kathmandu
Why it’s so awesome: When you visit stupas in Kathmandu, you’ll end up fighting with the crowds to find a good spot. But this stupa gets fewer visitors, so you’ll be able to enjoy your visit and really take in the surroundings in peace and quiet.
What to do there: This is one of the most interesting points of interest in Kathmandu and it’s worth exploring during your trip. Luckily, this stupa wasn’t damaged during the 2015 earthquakes, so you’ll be able to see it in all its glory.
#22 – Narayanhiti Palace
Why it’s so awesome: Over the years, Nepal has gone through a lot of changes and one of the biggest ones was the change from a monarchy to a democracy. This palace is a sign of this history. It’s located close to Thamel to the east of the Kaiser Mahal and was once home to the monarchs of Nepal. This long history makes it irresistible to tourists and to history buffs.
What to do there: If you want to understand Nepal, then you need to know about the incredible changes that the country has gone through over the years. And this is the place to learn about those changes. So, explore the palace and make sure that you take a look at the temple of Lord Vishnu, which is located opposite.
#23 – Hanuman Dhoka – One of Kathmandu’s coolest historical sites!
Why it’s so awesome: This area was once the royal palace of Malla kings and the Shah dynasty and consists of several monuments and buildings. Different buildings are dedicated to different gods and the entire complex is derived from the idol of Lord Hanuman which stands near the entrance.
What to do there: You’ll need a couple of hours to explore this complex because there are a lot of buildings that are worth some attention. Make sure that you explore Nasal Chowk, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was the location of the crowning of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975. You should also check out the Mul Chok, which is to Goddess Taleju Bhawani.
#24 – The Last Resort – A very cool place in Kathmandu to go for a day
Why it’s so awesome: This resort is perched on top of a gorge of the Bhote Kosi River which is close to the Tibetan border. It’s surroundings by lush forests and jungles and offers something for everyone, no matter what you’re looking for. You can enjoy the plunge pool or just relax in the middle of all that stunning nature!
What to do there: This is the perfect place to get away from the city and relax with some sports, exercise, or just a few hours by the pool! Relax in a hammock and read a book, spend some time in the plunge pool, or just take in the views of the jungle with your camera in hand. If you’re looking for something more exciting, the resort offers a range of adventure activities like bungee jumping and white-water rafting. And if you get hungry, make sure that you check out the delicious foods served in the dining hall or the Karma Bar.
#25 – The Royal Botanical Gardens
Why it’s so awesome: When you’re visiting Kathmandu, you’ll probably need a few breaks from the busyness of the city. And the best place to have a break is in a garden. This botanical garden is surrounded by evergreen forests and includes indigenous plants, trees, lilies, ferns, medicinal plants and orchids all on display for you to enjoy.
What to do there: This is a lovely serene place to visit and if you’re interested in botany, then it will allow you to learn all about the plants in the region. The medicinal plants are particularly interesting, and of course, there are a range of orchids for you to enjoy as well.
#26 – The White Monastery
Why it’s so awesome: You can see the whole of the Kathmandu Valley from this site and it has a soothing atmosphere that draws in travelers from all walks of life. But this monastery isn’t only aesthetically appealing, it also has a strong religious significance to the local people which adds to the value of visiting this site. The architecture too is magnificent, and the building includes a range of statues, paintings, and murals that depict the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha.
What to do there: The best time to visit this monastery is at night or early morning so you can watch the sunset or sunrise over the Kathmandu Valley. The scenery around the monastery is amazing because of the bright green terrain, so you’ll definitely want to take your camera with you.
#27 – Kaiser Library – A great place to visit in Kathmandu if you are alone/traveling solo
Why it’s so awesome: If you enjoy libraries, then you must explore this prime example. Established in 1969, the library took a major hit during the 2015 earthquake, though the lower floor has been restored and reopened to the public. Unfortunately, the grandeur of the site was mostly lost in the restoration, but the books are still worth exploring.
What to do there: This is one of the most popular attractions in Kathmandu because of the range of artifacts and books it contains. At the moment, most of these books and artifacts are stacked haphazardly, but you can still find some gems if you look. You can also borrow a book from the library if you need something to read while you’re in the city. A great place to visit in the library is the outside area, which include a beautiful garden that’s filled with fountains, pavilions, a lotus pool and verandas.
#28 – Siddhartha Art Gallery
Why it’s so awesome: This art gallery contains a wide range of contemporary Nepali art and was established to give local artists a place to display their work. The gallery has been performing this service for the last 20 years and it also provides a place to have artwork evaluated and restored.
What to do there: The work that this art gallery is doing is worth supporting, so make sure that you spend some time there. When you explore the artwork in this gallery, it will give you a unique window into the art culture of Nepal and Kathmandu, so make sure you take the opportunity to get to know this facet of the local culture.
#29 – Changu Narayan
Why it’s so awesome: The complex at this site is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and there are seven groups of monuments and buildings in the area. The temple complex includes shrines to Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Ashta Matrika, Kileshwor, Krishna and Chhinnamasta. It’s the oldest complex in the Kathmandu Valley and one of the oldest in Nepal, which is why it must be on your Kathmandu itinerary.
What to do there: This is a working temple complex so it’s important that you’re respectful when you visit it. The carvings throughout the temple complex and the statues surrounding it are some of the best and most beautiful you’ll see in Kathmandu, so make sure you take the time to appreciate them. The oldest statue dates back to the Licchavi era between 400 and 750 and the oldest stone inscription in the Kathmandu Valley is also located near them. It’s a story etched in 464 of a king convincing his mother not to commit suicide after the death of her husband.
#30 – The Toothache Tree – Quite the quirky place in Kathmandu!
Why it’s so awesome: If you don’t know what you’re looking at, you might wonder what this Kathmandu attraction actually is. It’s a gnarled thing that’s covered in nailed on coins that the locals have put there as an offering to the god of sore teeth. It’s said to be a cutting from a legendary tree known as Bangemudha and is located right in the center of the dental district.
What to do there: If you have a toothache, then it can’t hurt to follow local customs and nail a coin to the tree as an offering to Vaishya Dev, the Newar god of the toothache. This tree stump looks great in photos too, because it’s covered in so many coins that you can’t see the wood anymore!
#31 – Kakani – A must visit place to visit in Kathmandu on the weekend!
Why it’s so awesome: Kakani is an old hill station and the home of the Tamang ethnic group. It was once the chosen summer retreat of diplomats from the British Embassy and is a peaceful parkland area where the locals go when they need a day away from the city.
What to do there: When you need a nice, peaceful break, this is where you’ll find it. On Saturdays, the site is filled with picnickers, so make sure you choose another day to visit if you can so you can enjoy the peace and quiet without the crowds. You should also spend some time at the Thai Memorial Park, which commemorates the 113 victims of the 1992 Thai Airlines crash.
#32 – Chitwan National Park
Why it’s so awesome: if you’ve ever wanted to see rhinos and Bengal tigers walking around free in the wild then this is your chance! It’s also your chance to see an amazing range of trees and plants, some of which you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
What to do there: You can take a safari to this park, which will give you the best chance of seeing some animals in the wild. If you enjoy bird watching, then you will need to arrive early as the birds prefer the early mornings. You should also do some nature walks while you’re in the area, as there’s a wide variety of flora, each of which have their own history and appeal.
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Final Thoughts on the Coolest Places to Visit in Kathmandu
When you visit Kathmandu, you’ll have access to some of the most remote and amazing natural landscapes on the planet. But you’ll also be in a city that’s busy, noisy, and famously polluted. Don’t let this put you off though, because there is a wide range of amazing places to visit in Kathmandu for great food, a cultural experience, or amazing shopping. So, take a few large steps outside of your comfort zone and explore everything this city has to offer with our easy guide to the attractions and landmarks that are worth your time.
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