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Best 5 Things To Do In Kathmandu (Nepal Travel Guide)


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Kora Fincher



Welcome to the vibrant city of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and a gateway to the majestic Himalayas. Nestled in a valley surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, Kathmandu is a cultural and historical treasure trove that offers a plethora of experiences for travelers. From ancient temples to bustling markets, the city immerses visitors in a rich tapestry of sights, sounds, and flavors.


As you navigate the bustling streets of Kathmandu, you will encounter a fascinating blend of old and new. Ancient palaces and temples stand side by side with modern buildings, while the echoes of traditional rituals intertwine with the buzz of contemporary life. The city’s vibrant culture, warm hospitality, and stunning architecture make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a unique and enriching experience.


In this Nepal travel guide, we will explore the best things to do in Kathmandu, providing you with a glimpse of the city’s rich heritage and vibrant atmosphere. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or an adventure lover, Kathmandu has something to offer for everyone.


From exploring Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where ancient palaces and temples are beautifully preserved, to visiting the sacred Swayambhunath Stupa, known as the “Monkey Temple,” where you can witness breathtaking panoramic views of the city, there is no shortage of cultural and historical wonders to discover in Kathmandu.


If you are in search of a vibrant and eclectic shopping experience, a visit to Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist hub, is a must. Here, you can wander through its narrow streets, lined with a myriad of shops, cafes, and restaurants, offering everything from traditional handicrafts to trendy fashion items.


No trip to Kathmandu would be complete without a visit to Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the world. Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, this temple complex is not only a significant religious site but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its stunning architecture and religious rituals.


Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to hike up to Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world. Surrounded by a vibrant Tibetan community, this spiritual landmark is a hub of devotion and meditation, offering a tranquil and serene atmosphere.


So, pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourself in the charm and wonders of Kathmandu. Let this Nepal travel guide be your companion as you explore the best things to do in this captivating city.


Explore Durbar Square:

Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the historic heart of Kathmandu. This sprawling complex is home to an impressive collection of ancient palaces, temples, and courtyards that provide a glimpse into the rich history and architecture of Nepal.


As you enter Durbar Square, you will be greeted by the magnificent Hanuman Dhoka Palace, which served as the royal residence for centuries. Marvel at the intricately carved wooden doors and windows, ornate courtyards, and stunning architecture that showcase the grandeur of the Malla and Shah dynasties that once ruled the Kathmandu Valley.


One of the standout structures in Durbar Square is the Taleju Temple, dedicated to the goddess Taleju Bhawani. This three-tiered temple, adorned with beautiful carvings and gold-plated roofs, is a prime example of Newari architecture. Take a moment to climb the steps and admire the panoramic views of Durbar Square from the temple’s elevated platform.


Another notable attraction in Durbar Square is the Kumari Chowk, a courtyard that houses the Living Goddess, or Kumari. This revered tradition dates back centuries and involves the selection of a young girl as the living embodiment of the goddess Kumari. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the Kumari when she appears at her window for a brief period each day.


As you explore Durbar Square, be sure to visit the intricately carved temples that dot the area. From the magnificent Jagannath Temple to the elegant Kasthamandap, believed to be constructed from a single tree, these temples are not only architectural gems but also hold immense religious and cultural significance.


For a deeper insight into the history and significance of Durbar Square, consider hiring a local guide who can share fascinating stories and legends associated with the various structures. They can also point out hidden gems and provide historical context that will enrich your visit.


To make the most of your time at Durbar Square, plan your visit in the early morning or late afternoon when the crowds are smaller, and the lighting is ideal for capturing stunning photographs. Take your time to soak in the ambiance, explore the narrow alleyways surrounding the square, and marvel at the intricate details that make Durbar Square a true architectural masterpiece.


Whether you are a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply seeking to immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of Kathmandu, a visit to Durbar Square is an absolute must. Prepare to be enchanted by the grandeur and beauty of this historical site as you uncover the rich tapestry of Nepal’s past.


Visit Swayambhunath Stupa:

Perched atop a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley, Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the “Monkey Temple,” is a sacred Buddhist site that holds immense significance for both locals and pilgrims. This architectural marvel is not only a spiritual haven but also offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city below.


The journey to Swayambhunath begins with a climb up a staircase adorned with colorful prayer flags. As you ascend, you’ll be greeted by the mischievous antics of the resident monkey population, which has earned the temple its popular nickname.


At the summit, you will be captivated by the sight of the magnificent stupa, a large hemispherical structure adorned with the watchful eyes of Lord Buddha. These all-seeing eyes symbolize his wisdom and compassion, and their glistening presence adds an air of serenity and spirituality to the surroundings.


Take a moment to circumambulate the stupa in a clockwise direction, spinning the prayer wheels as you go. This meditative ritual is believed to bring good fortune and purify the mind. As you walk, absorb the peaceful atmosphere and marvel at the intricate carvings and prayer flags fluttering in the wind.


From the main stupa area, venture further into the complex to discover hidden gems like the sacred shrines and larger-than-life statues of Buddhist deities. Explore the surrounding monasteries and meditation centers, where you might encounter monks quietly engaged in their daily practice.


One of the highlights of visiting Swayambhunath is the bird’s-eye view of Kathmandu. Climb the stairs of the western side to reach the hilltop viewpoint, where you can soak in the panoramic vista of the sprawling city, surrounded by majestic mountains. The view is particularly breathtaking during sunrise or sunset, when the sky is ablaze with a spectrum of colors.


During your visit, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the enchanting evening ambiance at Swayambhunath. As the sun sets and the city lights twinkle below, the stupa and its surroundings are bathed in a tranquil glow, providing a truly magical experience.


When visiting Swayambhunath, be respectful of the religious practices and customs. Dress modestly, remove your shoes before entering the sacred areas, and refrain from disturbing or feeding the resident monkeys. Remember to carry sufficient water and sun protection, as the climb can be challenging on hot days.


A visit to Swayambhunath Stupa is a spiritual and visual delight, offering a unique glimpse into the rich Buddhist heritage of Nepal. Whether you seek inner peace, cultural immersion, or simply a breathtaking view of Kathmandu, this iconic temple is a must-visit destination during your time in the city. 

Stroll through Thamel:

No visit to Kathmandu is complete without a stroll through the bustling neighborhood of Thamel. Known as the tourist hub of the city, Thamel is a vibrant and eclectic district that offers a unique blend of traditional Nepalese culture and international influences.


As you enter Thamel, you’ll find yourself immersed in a lively maze of narrow streets filled with an array of shops, cafes, restaurants, and guesthouses. The atmosphere is vibrant and energetic, with a constant hum of activity as locals, tourists, and backpackers mingle and explore the area.


Thamel is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of traditional handicrafts, clothing, and jewelry. You’ll find shops selling beautifully carved wooden statues, colorful textiles, intricate metalwork, and exquisite jewelry. Take your time to browse through the treasures on offer, haggle with the friendly shopkeepers, and find unique souvenirs to take home with you.


Food enthusiasts will be delighted by the diverse culinary scene in Thamel. From traditional Nepalese dishes to international cuisines, the district is home to numerous restaurants and cafes catering to all tastes and preferences. Sample mouthwatering momos (dumplings), indulge in aromatic curries, or savor a cup of chai while people-watching from one of the many rooftop cafes.


Thamel is not just about shopping and dining; it also offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local arts and culture scene. Attend a traditional music and dance performance, watch a handicraft demonstration, or visit art galleries showcasing the works of local artists. The district is also home to several bookstores and libraries, making it a haven for literature enthusiasts.


Despite its modernization, Thamel has managed to retain its traditional charm, with ancient temples and shrines scattered amidst the bustling streets. Take a moment to visit the iconic Kathesimbu Stupa, a peaceful oasis amidst the chaos, or seek solace in one of the neighborhood’s many hidden courtyards.


Thamel comes alive after dark, with its lively nightlife scene. Enjoy live music performances at one of the many bars, dance the night away at a nightclub, or simply relax with a drink and soak in the vibrant ambiance. Whether you’re seeking a wild night out or a cozy evening with friends, Thamel has something for everyone.


When exploring Thamel, be prepared for the hustle and bustle that comes with a popular tourist area. Keep your belongings secure, be cautious of your surroundings, and negotiate prices when shopping. It is recommended to visit Thamel during the day to fully appreciate the vibrant streets and colorful sights.


A stroll through Thamel is an essential part of experiencing Kathmandu’s charm and energy. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere, indulge in the local delicacies, hunt for unique souvenirs, and soak in the fusion of tradition and modernity that defines this charming district.


Discover Pashupatinath Temple:

Situated on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the world and a revered pilgrimage site. This architectural masterpiece not only attracts devotees from far and wide but also fascinates visitors with its rich cultural heritage and spiritual ambiance.


As you approach the temple complex, you’ll be struck by its stunning architecture adorned with intricate wood carvings and golden spires. The main temple is dedicated to Lord Pashupatinath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism.


Inside the temple, you can witness priests performing daily rituals and hear the sounds of bells clanging and devotees chanting prayers. It is an experience that encapsulates the devotion and religious fervor that permeates the air.


Exploring the grounds of Pashupatinath Temple offers an opportunity to witness various aspects of Hindu funeral rituals. The “Arya Ghat” on the banks of the Bagmati River is where cremation ceremonies take place. Observing these rituals can be a poignant and profound experience, offering insights into the cycles of life, death, and spiritual beliefs.


The temple complex is home to numerous smaller temples, each dedicated to different Hindu deities. Admire the beautiful statues and architecture, and witness the floral offerings and lighting of oil lamps by devotees seeking blessings.


As you wander through the lush greenery and open spaces of the temple complex, you may come across sadhus, holy men dressed in vibrant robes, with long matted hair and ash-covered bodies. These ascetics renounce worldly comforts in their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and are often willing to pose for photographs in exchange for a small donation.


Pashupatinath Temple is not just a religious site but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its architectural and cultural significance. It serves as a center for religious and cultural festivals, with the Maha Shivaratri festival attracting thousands of devotees each year. This vibrant celebration involves colorful processions, devotional singing, and night-long vigils.


When visiting Pashupatinath Temple, it is important to respect the religious customs and traditions. Dress modestly, remove your shoes before entering the main temple area, and approach the religious rituals with reverence and sensitivity.


Whether you are a devout Hindu seeking spiritual solace or a curious traveler interested in exploring different faiths and cultures, a visit to Pashupatinath Temple is an enriching and enlightening experience. Discover the profound spiritual energy, witness age-old traditions, and immerse yourself in the sacredness of this iconic temple.


Hike to Boudhanath Stupa:

Embark on a memorable hiking adventure to Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world and an iconic symbol of Nepal’s rich religious heritage. Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, this majestic structure exudes a sense of tranquility and spirituality, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and travelers.


The hike to Boudhanath Stupa takes you through the bustling streets of Kathmandu before gradually transitioning into a more serene and peaceful environment. As you approach the stupa, you’ll catch your first glimpse of its imposing white dome adorned with prayer flags fluttering in the wind.


Once you reach the base of the stupa, take a moment to absorb the breathtaking sight before you. Marvel at the intricate details of the stupa, which is adorned with paintings, statues, and symbols representing Buddhist teachings and iconography.


As you circumambulate the stupa in a clockwise direction, join the local devotees and pilgrims who walk in meditation and prayer. Breathe in the serene atmosphere and feel a sense of calm wash over you as you immerse yourself in the rhythmic chants and spinning of prayer wheels.


Boudhanath Stupa is not only a place of worship but also a hub of Tibetan Buddhism. The surrounding area is home to a vibrant Tibetan community, with monasteries, schools, and Tibetan handicraft shops lining the streets. Take the opportunity to interact with the locals, learn about their rich cultural heritage, and perhaps even participate in meditation or chanting sessions.


For a unique perspective of the stupa and its surroundings, climb up to one of the rooftop cafes or monasteries that offer panoramic views. Here, you can savor a cup of traditional Tibetan butter tea or enjoy a meal while taking in the awe-inspiring sight of the stupa against the Kathmandu skyline.


If you visit Boudhanath Stupa in the evening, you may have the chance to witness the mesmerizing candlelit prayer ceremonies. As dusk falls, devotees gather around the stupa, lighting butter lamps and offering prayers, creating a beautiful display of flickering lights and an ambiance of spiritual devotion.


Throughout the year, Boudhanath Stupa also hosts various Buddhist festivals and events, including the Tibetan New Year (Losar) and the Butter Lamp Festival. These vibrant celebrations showcase the deep-rooted faith and cultural traditions of the Tibetan community and provide a unique insight into their way of life.


When embarking on the hike to Boudhanath Stupa, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and carry a water bottle. Sunscreen and a hat are also advisable, as the climb can be exposed to the sun. Respect the religious customs, dress modestly, and remember to remove your shoes before entering the stupa.


A hike to Boudhanath Stupa is not just a physical journey but also a spiritual and cultural experience. Allow yourself to be immersed in the peaceful atmosphere, connect with the teachings of Buddhism, and marvel at the grandeur of this impressive structure that stands as a testament to Nepal’s profound religious and cultural heritage.



Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is a city that captures the essence of the country’s rich history, spirituality, and cultural heritage. From exploring Durbar Square’s magnificent palaces and temples to visiting the sacred sites of Swayambhunath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, and Boudhanath Stupa, there is no shortage of immersive experiences to be had in this vibrant city.


Through this Nepal travel guide, we have delved into the best things to do in Kathmandu, providing insights into the diverse array of attractions and activities available to visitors. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or an adventurer, Kathmandu offers a range of experiences to suit your interests.


Exploring Durbar Square allows you to step back in time and witness the grandeur of ancient architecture and rich cultural heritage. The temples, palaces, and courtyards tell tales of the city’s illustrious past and its significance in the Kathmandu Valley’s history.


A visit to Swayambhunath Stupa, the Monkey Temple, provides a sense of serenity and spirituality. From the stunning stupa itself to the panoramic views of Kathmandu, this sacred Buddhist site is a captivating destination that invites introspection and offers a glimpse into the city’s religious traditions.


Thamel, the vibrant tourist hub, offers a unique blend of traditional Nepalese culture and international influences. The bustling streets are filled with shops selling traditional handicrafts, trendy clothing, and mouthwatering cuisine. Exploring Thamel is a sensory adventure that immerses you in the heart of the city’s energy and charm.


Pashupatinath Temple, with its architectural beauty and religious significance, provides a profound experience for both Hindus and visitors interested in cultural immersion. Observing the rituals and ceremonies, exploring the temple complex, and witnessing the cremation ceremonies on the banks of the Bagmati River offer a deeper understanding of Hinduism and the cycle of life and death.


Lastly, hiking to Boudhanath Stupa takes you on a spiritual and scenic journey. The largest stupa in Nepal, surrounded by a vibrant Tibetan community, offers a space for meditation, reflection, and an opportunity to witness ancient Buddhist practices. Exploring the area, interacting with the locals, and taking in the panoramic views create a truly memorable experience.


In conclusion, Kathmandu is a city that captivates the hearts of those who visit. Its rich cultural heritage, breathtaking architecture, and spiritual atmosphere make it an enchanting destination. Whether you immerse yourself in the historical sites of Durbar Square, delve into the spiritual realm of temples and stupas, explore the vibrant streets of Thamel, or embark on a hike to Boudhanath Stupa, each experience will leave you with lasting memories and a deeper connection to the beauty and charm of Nepal.