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21 Awesome Places to Visit in Kathmandu on Your First Trip

21 Awesome Places to Visit in Kathmandu on Your First Trip

Discover the top places to visit in Kathmandu, Nepal. Visit iconic temples & religious sites, famous cultural & historic landmarks, attractions, hidden gems, and epic day trips!

The Kathmandu Valley, nestled beneath the rugged and mighty Himalayas, is a jewel in the crown of Nepal. Kathmandu has long been a popular travel destination for adventurers and explorers, drawn to the city’s stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm, and welcoming people.

Whether you’re visiting Nepal’s capital before embarking on the famous Everest Base Camp Trek or to experience the city’s abundant UNESCO World Heritage sites including temples and religious monuments like the Boudhanath Stupa or its iconic Durbar Square– I have you covered.

I’ve visited Nepal on five separate trips and I’m sharing this useful travel guide to the best places to visit in Kathmandu based on my experiences exploring the city for first-time visitors and regular travelers!

Visiting kathmandu, nepal
Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler & adventure photographer for 6 years with 700+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

How to Visit the Top Attractions in Kathmandu

As the capital and largest city in Nepal, Kathmandu is huge! This 2,000-year-old city covers an area of around 49 square kilometers (19 square miles). And, many of the top attractions and points of interest are located in the surrounding municipalities like Bhaktapur and Patan (Lalitpur).

While you can follow your own independent Kathmandu itinerary, another convenient way to visit the best areas and must-see sites is by booking a full-day sightseeing tour. Below I'll link the private tour that I went on, visiting many top sites including:

  • Patan Durbar Square - see an array of temples, and wooden houses. Visit the former ancient royal palace of the Malla Kings of Lalitpur. 
  • Bouddhanath Stupa - visit one of the largest stupas in the world (largest in Asia)
  • Pashupatinath - see the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati River, where daily cremations occur.
Tourists visiting pashupatinath in kathmandu

Best Places to Visit in Kathmandu Valley

Below is a useful infographic map to help you find the location of the attractions and things to do in Kathmandu listed in this blog.

Places to visit in kathmandu infographic, nepal

1. Boudhanath Stupa (Famous Buddha Stupa in Kathmandu)

If there's one thing that you do in Kathmandu, it should be visiting the Boudhanath Stupa, also called the Boudha Stupa. This 36-meter stupa is the largest in Asia, with a base circumference of over 100 meters!

The Boudhanath Stupa is a sacred place and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive white dome-shaped structure is a beautiful holy site that's surrounded by colorful prayer flags. It's one of my favorite places to visit in Kathmandu for photography. This is especially true in the early mornings when you'll often see devout Tibetan Buddhists circling its perimeter.

These devotees walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction, spinning the prayer wheels and chanting mantras as they walk. Additionally, the area around the stupa is home to many traditional Tibetan monasteries (called Gombas). This makes this area a center for Tibetan culture in Nepal.

Boudhanath stupa in kathmandu, nepal
Boudha stupa stupa in kathmandu, nepal

2. Thamel - The Tourist Hub of Kathmandu

Thamel is the tourist hub of Kathmandu city. It's the area where most people stay to explore the city and is where you will find all of the best trekking shops, hostels, restaurants, bars, and hotels in Kathmandu.

The main street, Thamel Marg, runs through the neighborhood center, branching off to many bustling side streets. One of the best is Mandala Street, a walking street adorned with prayer flags and offering some great cafes and restaurants.

Looking for a place to stay in Thamel? Below are the three best options for all budgets.

  • Aloft Kathmandu - overlooking the city from the heart of Thamel, this is "the place" where climbers stay before big expeditions. It's a luxury pick with epic amenities like a gym, rooftop pool, and an EPIC buffet breakfast. This is where I stay every time I'm in Kathmandu before heading to the mountains.
  • Flock Hostel - the best backpacker hostel in Thamel. This place has very clean dorms with curtains and private rooms with excellent views. There's also an amazing on-site cafe and restaurant serving delicious coffees and international meals and is rated #1 on Trip Advisor for breakfast and dinner in all of Kathmandu!
  • Vastu Boutique Hotel - if you'd prefer a peaceful boutique hotel to escape the hustle & bustle, then Vastu will be the best mid-range pick. This place has a 9.7/10 rating on Booking.com with over 300 reviews!
Streets of thamel, kathmandu, nepal

3. Pashupatinath Temple

One thing that I always notice when traveling to Kathmandu is the acceptance and celebration of all religions. Sharing borders with two cultural behemoths, India and China, has resulted in diverse cultural and historical influence in Nepal from both Buddhists and Hindus.

While the most famous of the Buddhist temples is the Boudhanath Stupa, the Hindus have Pashupatinath Temple, one of the world's most renowned Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and located on the holy Bagmati River. With origins dating back to the 5th century, this is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in the world, especially during the Maha Shivaratri festival.

A vast collection of structures, including a number of shrines, courtyards, and cremation ghats, make up the temple complex. Travelers visiting Kathmandu can witness Hindu cremation ceremonies, where bodies are burnt in public view.

Pashupatinath, kathmandu
Cremation ceremony, pashupatinath temple, kathmandu

4. Garden of Dreams

When you inevitably find yourself walking the bustling streets of Thamel, make sure to check out the Garden of Dreams. This neo-classical garden is just a short walk from the North Face Store on Tridevi Sadak.

This impeccable garden was constructed by Kaiser Sumsher Rana, who was one of Nepal's most prominent military figures. Today, it is a public garden that many tourists visit for unique photo opportunities and a quick escape from city life.

Garden of dreams in kathmandu, nepal

5. Kopan Monastery

The Kopan Monastery (Kopan Gomba) is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery situated on a nearby hilltop in Kathmandu Valley, approximately 6 km northeast of the city center, or a 20-minute taxi or motorbike ride from Thamel (nearby Boudhanath).

Kopan is a peaceful and relaxing Buddhist site where you can experience a real Tibetan monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas. In fact, this site offers travelers the opportunity to visit on a day trip, or as a place to spend a few days or weeks learning about Buddhism.

Due to its elevated position, the Kopan Monastery is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kathmandu for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Kathmandu Valley.

Kopan monastery monk, kathmandu

6. Kathmandu Durbar Square (Hanuman Dhoka)

Another of Kathmandu's seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Hanuman Dhoka, also called the Kathmandu Durbar Square is a historic palace square dating back to the 4th Century AD.

The Hanuman Dhoka is one of three Durbar Squares of Kathmandu Valley. These are historic public squares located in front of a palace complex and were used for various ceremonies and events, including the crowning of the Nepalese monarch.

The Kathmandu Durbar Square is the largest in Kathmandu Valley and is located in the old part of the city known as the Basantapur area. Visiting this square is one of the best things to do in Kathmandu if you're exploring on foot, since it's just a 15-minute walk from Thamel.

Once you arrive, the top attractions you won't want to miss at the Kathmandu Durbar Square include:

  • Hanuman Dhoka Palace: The original royal palace of the Malla kings and the later Shah dynasty rulers.
  • Square Temples: Walk around the square and stop by the many temples including Taleju Temple, Jagannath Temple, and Kal Bhairav.
  • Kumari Chowk: See the living goddess of Kathmandu, the Kumari. She is considered Taleju's manifestation (a Hindu Goddess)
  • Durbar Square Museums: You'll find many museums in the KTM Durbar Square. The best ones are the Kathmandu Museum and the Tribhuvan Museum, both housing historical Nepali artifacts from different eras and dynasties.
Kathmandu durbar square

7. Taleju Temple

Although technically a temple within the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Taleju Temple is such an excellent attraction that I think it deserves its own spot on this list of places to visit in Kathmandu.

This is one of Nepal's most important religious sites and is dedicated to the Goddes Taleju Bhawani. Additionally, this Kathmandu temple is a great example of Nepali traditional architecture, featuring mind-blowingly intricate carvings, magnificent artworks, and superb metalwork.

Taleju Temple is built in a pagoda style, featuring a three-tiered roof adorned with tall, golden spires and statues. Unfortunately, non-Hindus can only admire it from the outside, so I wasn't able to go in for photos.

Taleju bhawani temple
Holy man in nepal

8. YOG Hostel Rooftop - Best Sunset Spot in Thamel

Whether you're a backpacker looking for a great place to hang out, or a traveler chasing a rooftop view for sunset, I highly recommend YOG Hostels's epic rooftop.

This is a real hidden gem and one I discovered on my first time in Kathmandu back in 2019. These days, sitting on the roof with a Gorkha beer while watching the sunset over the Himalayan foothills definitely brings back some memories.

There are many levels to the rooftop, with pool tables, lounges, and a bar. Travelers can visit the rooftop even if they're not staying at the hostel, so it's worth stopping by for some sundowners.

Sunset at kathmandu, nepal

9. Swayambhunath Stupa (Kathmandu Monkey Temple)

Staring out into the Kathmandu skyline, it's hard to miss the huge stupa atop the green hillside in the distance. This is the Swayambhunath Stupa, more commonly known as Kathmandu's Monkey Temple.

This Buddhist temple site is one of the oldest in Nepal, with supposed origins dating back 2,000 years. As one of Kathmandu's many UNESCO World Heritage sites, this temple attracts visitors who come to witness its religious significance, enjoy the epic view of Kathmandu, and see the many monkeys roaming the temple complex.

Kathmandu monkey temple, swayambhunath stupa

10. Mount Everest Mountain Flight from Kathmandu - Most Epic Thing to do in Kathmandu

If you're traveling to Kathmandu and want to witness the mighty Himalayas, then the best way to do that is to embark on one of the amazing treks. But, if you're short on time or unable to trek for multiple days, then the second-best option is to take the convenient sunrise flight to Mount Everest.

These Himalayan mountain flights depart daily from Kathmandu, flying past some of the world's tallest peaks, including an up-close-and-personal flyby of Mount Everest herself, standing proud at 8,848 meters.

The great thing about these scenic flights is that the pilots fly much lower than commercial flights, meaning that you can get a much better view of the mountain peaks.

Tip: I recommend booking online as I did to save haggling on the streets and avoid inflated Kathmandu airport prices. Also, these online tickets with GetYourGuide include free cancellation & changes in case of bad weather (which you won't get if you book at the airport).

View of everest region from plane window on scenic flight

11. Narayanhiti Palace Museum

If you're interested in the wild history of Nepal's monarch, then visiting the Narayanhiti Palace Museum is one of the best things to do in Kathmandu city.

In fact, the Nepali rulers used this residence as their official residence until it was converted to a museum following the abolishment of the monarch in 2008. This palace was the site of the famous 2001 Royal massacre, when nine Nepalese royal family members were shot.

Today, the Palace is a museum spanning five hectares. It houses beautiful gardens and 52 rooms including the staterooms, the queen's apartments, the royal bedrooms, and the throne room.

Museum artifact at kathmandu palace museum

12. Patan Durbar Square

Another must-visit site in Kathmandu is Patan Durbar Square, one of the city's most significant areas and one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is located in the Lalitpur district approximately a 15-minute drive from Thamel in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Similar to the Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan is surrounded by wooden temples, amazing shrines and stone sculptures, and intricate palaces, with architecture representing the Newari people from the Malla Dynasty.

The handiwork from this square is quite spectacular, especially the detailed wooden carvings on the buildings and the amazing stonework on the sculptures. You can easily spend hours here admiring the buildings. But, don't miss the Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahavihar), which is located just a short walk down a side street from the main square.

Patan durbar square in kathmandu, nepal
Kathmandu durbar square

13. Jagannath Temple

If you're looking for more Hindu sites to visit in Kathmandu, I'd recommend checking out the Jagannath Temple when visiting the Kathmandu Durbar Square. This is quite a unique site dedicated to Lord Jagannath, who is an avatar of Lord Vishnu.

The outside of the temple features some impressive wooden carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses, domestic animals, and mythical creatures.

Sadhu holy man at kathmandu pashupatinath temple

14. Bhaktapur Durbar Square

If you're short on time and want to know the best Durbar Square to visit in Kathmandu, I'd recommend the Bhaktapur Durbar Square as the best. This is one of Nepal's most beautiful historic sites and is often a poster boy for Kathmandu tourism.

The Bhaktapur area takes about an hour to get to from Kathmandu. So, I recommend visiting on a day trip. The one linked begins at sunrise so that you can beat the crowds and includes a local guide.

Although it has seen some damage from the earthquakes, Bhaktapur still has many well-preserved medieval Newari buildings, ancient temples, shrines, and amazing palaces that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the Newar community in Kathmandu.

Highlights include:

  • The 55-Window Palace
  • Bhaktapur Golden Gate
  • Vatsala Temple, Nyatapola Temple, & Bhairava Nath Temple
  • Nyatapola Temple - a must-visit place in Kathmandu. Nyatapola is a five-story pagoda-style temple that's widely considered one of the most beautiful and tallest in Nepal.

I found Bhaktapur's square much more relaxed and an overall more authentic atmosphere.

Bhaktapur durbar square, nepal
Bhaktapur durbar square

15. Kumari Bahal - The Most Interesting Place to Visit in Kathmandu

The final attraction on this list of places to visit in Kathmandu City is the Kumari Bahal, also called the Kumari Chowk. This is located within the main Kathmandu Durbar Square. This is home to a girl that many Nepalis worship as the human reincarnation of the goddess Durga, who they call the Kumari.

As a foreigner, this is kind of a strange tourist attraction in Kathmandu, since to me, it seems like a girl who is just locked up in a building. But, Hindus and Buddhists worship the Kumari, who was selected as a child for possessing magical powers.

Devotees can walk up to the Ghar's top floor to worship the Kumari. However, foreigners can only see her as she looks out of her window by standing in the courtyard.

Kumari building in kathmandu
Kumari girl in kathmandu
Photo: nirmal dulal

16. Nagarkot

If you're chasing the most epic sunrise views on a morning trip from Kathmandu, you'll want to check out Nagarkot. This is a hilly hiking area famous for its stunning sunrise and sunset views over the Himalayan mountains.

In fact, the Nagarkot hike to Dhulikhel is a must if you want to see snow-capped peaks from Kathmandu.

Sunset in nagarkot, kathmandu, nepal

Day Trips & Multi-Day Tours to More Amazing Places to Visit from Kathmandu

The above 15 Kathmandu attractions are all must-see tourist spots that are easily accessible from your accommodation in Kathmandu.

However, as Kathmandu is the first base for exploring Nepal and the mighty Himalayas, I've also included some amazing things to do in the region on day trips or multi-day excursions from the city.

17. Langtang National Park

Langtang National Park is a protected area of the Himalayas spanning 1,710 square kilometers. It's one of the closest Himalayan regions from Kathmandu, taking just 5-6 hours tor each by car to begin trekking.

While nowhere near as popular as the Khumbu (Everest Region), Langtang is a great trekking region, with towering, snowcapped peaks and home to the famous Kyanjin Gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery sitting at an altitude of 3,870 meters above sea level.

Climbing chhukung ri, nepal

The Best Trekking Experience in Nepal

I arrange all of my trekking in Nepal with Himalayan Masters, a small, local company that arranges trips to the Everest Region, Manaslu, & Langtang.

Use code OLLY5 to get 5% off your booking with Himalayan Masters for EBC or any other trek.

18. Chitwan National Park

Did you know that wild Indian rhinoceros (one-horned rhinoceros) roam the National Parks of Kathmandu? The best place to see them is in the amazing Chitwan National Park, located roughly 170 kilometers by road from Kathmandu city.

Apart from its famous rhinos, the park is also home to Bengal tigers, Asian elephants and sloth bears.

One of the most convenient ways to visit Chitwan from Kathmandu is to book the popular 3-day Safari tour from Kathmandu. This is in my opinion, ridiculously cost-effective as it includes all your transport, accommodation, food, guide and fees.

Reflection lake in chitwan national park, nepal

19. Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

The Shivapuri National Park is the closest forested National Park mountain area to Kathmandu city. Travelers can reach this park in just over an hour. As a result, this park offers the most convenient and accessible hiking trails in Kathmandu Valley.

If you're searching for Kathmandu Valley hiking trails, you'll likely find results in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. Nepal has named the park after Shivapuri Peak, the tallest point in the area. This is quite an impressive mountain, with its highest point rising to an altitude of 2,732 meters.

20. Khumbu (Everest Base Camp Trek)

The Solo Khumbu Region of Nepal (Everest Region) is by far the country's most famous destination. The region is home to several of the world's tallest mountains. This includes Mount Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu, as well as many entry-level trekking peaks like Island Peak or Mera Peak.

It's also the region where many trekkers begin the Everest Base Camp Trek, or the more challenging Three Passes Trek. To get here, there are convenient flights to the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, a mountain airport known for having one of the world's shortest runways.

Until recently, it was possible to fly directly to Lukla from Kathmandu International Airport to begin trekking. However, now flights are running from Ramechhap (5 hours from KTM) in the peak trekking seasons of October to November and March to May.

Sunrise on chhukung ri in khumbu region, nepal

21. Pokhara

Pokhara is one of Nepal's most beautiful regions. While quite a distance from the capital city (200 kilometers), it's often one of the most popular places to visit after Kathmandu.

Many travelers choose to visit Pokhara after their trekking trips, since it usually has warm weather and is a great place for swimming in the refreshing lake. There are many ways to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu, either by flight, local bus, or this convenient and affordable car transfer.

Pokhara is famous for its amazing scenery, lakes, forests, laid-back atmosphere, and as being the gateway to the Annapurna region for those doing the Annapurna Base Camp Trek. There are also many adventure activities you can do here, from paragliding to kayaking.

Pokhara, nepal

Where to Stay in Kathmandu

The trekking and tourist hub in Kathmandu is called Thamel. This is where you will find all of the best trekking shops, hostels, restaurants, bars, and hotels in Kathmandu.

If you're planning a trek in the Himalayas, you'll want to find a hotel or hostel that allows you to leave your luggage there until you return. Read my guide to Kathmandu's best hotels, or take a pick from the three best accommodation options below that offer this service.

Aloft luxury hotel room in kathmandu

1. Aloft Kathmandu Luxury

Overlooking the city from the heart of Thamel, this is "the place" where climbers including myself stay before big expeditions. It's a luxury pick with epic amenities like a gym, rooftop pool, and an EPIC buffet breakfast.

Flock hostel in kathmandu

2. Flock Hostel Budget

Best backpacker hostel in Thamel with very clean dorms with curtains & private rooms with excellent views. Amazing on-site cafe & restaurant serving delicious coffees & international meals.

Nirvana hotel in kathmandu, nepal

3. Nirvana Boutique Hotel Mid-Range

A peaceful boutique hotel to escape the hustle & bustle. Best mid-range pick with a 9.7/10 rating on Booking.com.

FAQs About Visiting Kathmandu

What is the best time to visit Kathmandu?

Nepal sees seasonal monsoons which result in heavy rain during the months of June to September. Therefore, the best time to visit Kathmandu is in the dry season from October to April. Alternatively, visit during the peak season of February to March. This is also the best time for trekking in the Himalayas.

Do I need a visa to travel to Nepal?

Yes, you need to check the Nepal Immigration website for updated information for your visa. Many Western countries need to pay for a visa on arrival at Kathmandu International Airport (Tribhuvan International Airport). At the moment this costs $50 USD and is payable in cash only. They also accept AUD, EURO, and GBP.

What should I wear to the religious sites in Kathmandu?

The best advice is to use common sense and wear respectable clothing, covering the shoulders and knees. Just dress modestly and remember to remove your shoes before entering temples. monasteries and other sacred places.

What is Kathmandu named after?

Locals and historians believe that Kathmandu is a shortened form of the word Kasthamandap from the Sanskrit words "Kastha", meaning wood, and "Mandap", which translates to temple. This stems from the many wooden temples and houses that make Kathmandu famous. .

Is it safe to drink the tap water?

No, don't drink tap water in Kathmandu unless you are using a filter or purifyer bottle like the Grayl GeoPress.

Where is the best place to visit in Kathmandu for couples?

Couples who are looking for a romantic spot should head to the Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple). Here, you can enjoy amazing views of the city and it's possible to find a secluded area away from the crowds (and cheeky monkeys). Thamel is also the perfect place to find top restaurants and bars.

What are the best things to do in Kathmandu for families with kids?

If the kids want to see the big peaks, you can't beat a mountain flight to Mount Everest. Alternatively, for places to visit in the city of Kathmandu, go try out the local food from the many food stalls around Thamel, or check out the National Museum. Alternatively, wander around the famous Kathmandu Durbar Square or see the monkeys at the Monkey Temple.

Is Kathmandu Nepal safe?

Kathmandu is a relatively safe city with low crime rates targeted at tourists. However, as with any populated city, it's still a good idea to exercise caution and common sense, especially when walking alone at night.

How far is Kathmandu from Mount Everest?

The shortest possible flight path distance to Mount Everest from Kathmandu is 160 kilometers or 99 mi. You can't really see Mount Everest from the city, but, on a clear Spring Day, it is possible to get a glimpse from certain areas of the valley, including Nagarkot.

Why is Kathmandu so polluted?

Unfortunately, Kathmandu has some of the world's worst air pollution. This is a result of heavy, congested traffic. And, the fact that Kathmandu is located in a valley, surrounded by huge mountains. As a result, smog and pollution is trapped.

Monkey at pashupatinath temple
Temple in kathmandu

And, that's a wrap for this ultimate travel guide featuring the best places to visit in Kathmandu, Nepal. I hope this guide has helped you find some fun things to do in the capital city of Nepal.

While you're still here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other guides to Nepal. I guarantee you'll find some inspiring and interesting travel ideas!

Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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