Kathmandu, the City of Temples is more than just a capital city. It has a lot to offer, from historical heritage, foods, culture to colorful markets. These factors make Kathmandu one of the most popular sightseeing places for tourists and Nepalese.
Numerous historical monuments, museums, galleries, indoor sports centers, cafes, and restaurants are spread across the entire city. And not only that, there are several day hiking routes and short getaway hill stations located around the city. With all these options, it’s obvious to get indecisive to pick the best places to explore in Kathmandu in your limited stay and make the most out of it.
So, in this blog, we are going to talk about the top 15 popular places for sightseeing in Kathmandu. These are the must-visit tourist sites in Kathmandu, and you should make it to as many as you can before going out of this list to explore other places.
Boudhanath Stupa: The Little Tibet of Nepal
Location: Northeast side of Kathmandu Valley (11 km from central Kathmandu).
If you are looking for spirituality, beauty, and peace in one place, then you will definitely enjoy walking around Boudhanath Stupa. Boudhanath is known for its dome-shaped architecture and colorful prayer flags. This stupa attracts thousands of people every day and is one of the popular sightseeing places in Kathmandu.
Boudha is also known as the little Tibet as it resembles Barkhor, a marketplace in Tibet. So, if you want to experience a mini Tibet without going to Tibet, Boudha will give you that experience. The stupa has beensaid to be built after the demise of Lord Buddha and stores the ashes & remains of him.
If you want to visit the other monasteries inside Boudhanath, you should know that not all monasteries are open throughout the day. They are usually opened during morning prayers and evening prayers and rituals. The monks pray during this time, so it would be better not to disturb them & take pictures and just observe them.
Restaurants and Souvenir shopping:
There are plenty of rooftop restaurants in and around the stupa. You can try authentic Tibetan food in Tibetan restaurants. Likewise, there are many other great restaurants with a wonderful view of the Boudhanath Stupa, offering world-class cuisine.
After taking a tour of the monastery and enjoying the food, you can buy souvenirs. There are many small stalls inside the temple premises that sell Tibetan singing bowls, jewelry, incense, paintings, and many other artifacts.
Swayambhunath Stupa: The Monkey Temple
If you want to see the best view of Kathmandu city, Swayambhunath is your place. Located at a hilltop, Swayambhunath provides a panoramic view of Kathmandu Valley. If the sky is clear, you might get to see a glimpse of the Himalayas.
Swayambhunath aka the Monkey Temple is an important cultural heritage that has a long history of existence. It is believed that Kathmandu city was once a lake, and lord Buddha planted a lotus. The lotus that Lord Buddha grew and changed into a hill, which is known as Swayambhu.
Swayambhunath is only a stupa in the world where all the five celestial lord Buddhas are placed in four different directions. This place is crowded during Buddha Jayanti, celebrated as Lord Buddha’s birthday by Buddhists.
The 365 Steps:
To reach Swayambhunath stupa, one has to walk up 365 steps. The 365 represents 365 days in a year, meaning one step a day to reach the top of the hill. As you climb the stairs, you will see Buddha statues, prayer wheels, and flags.
The stupa has many symbolic meanings. The unique eyes represent the wisdom eyes of the Buddha. The nose has a Nepalese character of number 1, which means unity. The prayer flags are in five significant colors. White color represents purity, green is peace, yellow is for beauty & wealth, blue is for enlightenment, and red is for love and compassion. And the dome installed at the top symbolizes the world.
Kathmandu Durbar Square: Most accessible place in the city
Location: Central Kathmandu (10 minutes walk from Thamel)
Kathmandu Durbar Square is the heart of the city. Locals love to come here to spend time with their loved ones. Kathmandu Durbar Square or Basantapur Durbar Square is one of the most crowded and vibrant places in Kathmandu and super accessible.
It used to be the residence of the Shah and the Malla kings before they shifted to Narayanhiti Palace. At the present day, some parts of the palace are open as Museums to the public.
The temple was built for worshiping goddess Taleju Bhawani (Newari Variant of goddess Durga) during the Malla period. Taleju goddess was worshiped by early inhabitants of Kathmandu City, the Newari people who followed mixed Hinduism combining Newari culture and Buddhism.
Taleju temple is opened only once a year on the 9th day of Nepal’s biggest festival Dashain. Taleju temple is famous for its three-storeyed pagoda-style architecture. It is the main temple surrounded by twelve other mini temples.
Kumari is the living incarnation of Goddess Taleju Bhawani. You can visit the Kumari Ghar to see the living goddess. The Kumari Ghar is in the south entry of the durbar square. You will be able to see the goddess between 9 to 11 am & 4 to 6 p.m.
Kasthamandap is known for being built from a single timber called Kalpavriksha, a tree that grows back no matter how many times you cut it. This temple has been reconstructed after the huge destruction by the 2015 earthquake. The base of the temple was not destroyed by the earthquake, so you will still be able to feel the essence of the temple and the story behind it.
Hanuman Dhoka was the residence of the royals. The place got its name as the entrance of the palace has a statue of Hanuman, the Monkey God, who was a faithful devotee of Lord Ram.
Jagganath temple is dedicated to Lord Shree Krishna. It is known for its architecture. The temple is built in such a way that no shadow falls on the ground at any time of the day.
The Nilchakra is installed on the top of the temple, made up of eight metals that represent Lord Krishna. The amazing part is that all the holy trinity idols inside the temples are carved with wood rather than stones.
Patan Durbar Square: A Place for People to Meet
Location: South of Kathmandu (10 mins ride from Kathmandu)
Patan is a meeting point, a place to be during the evening time, and a place to hang out with your friends. Besides Bhaktapur, Patan is a place where people can sit for hours and enjoy observing people and the architecture.
Patan Durbar Square is an excellent example of Newari architecture. It was built during the Malla period. The area is inhabited by Newari people, from ages ago, and the whole palace reflects Newari culture.
Patan museum is famous for being one of the must-visit museums in Nepal. Sacred artifacts and bronze statues are displayed in the museum. The interiors of the palace reflect the rich old history and traces of the Malla dynasty. After the short trip, you can enjoy coffee as there is a cafe inside the museum.
This temple is built for worshiping the Hindu god, Lord Krishna. The temple was built on the Sikhar style architecture with stones. It is situated in the middle of Patan Durbar Square. There are three floors in the temple, each dedicated to the different gods Krishna, Shiva, and Lokeshowr.
A total of 21 golden pinnacles rise above the three floors. T
he interior of the Temple is decorated by the scenes from the Ramayana in Newari translation, which makes the temple’s architecture even more interesting. If you happen to visit during Krishna Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna, the temple is decorated with bazillion lights and flowers.
The 10 minutes walk from the Patan Durbar square leads you to Baglamukhi temple. It is believed that if you sincerely worship Bangla Mukhi with a pure heart, all your desires will come true.
The temple premises also has other mini temples like Sarweshwor Mahadev temple, Badri-Narayan temple, Satya-Narayan temple, Ganesh temple, Manakamana temple, Haratimata temple, Gauri Kunda, and others. The major attraction of this place is the small pond named Gauri Kunda.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square: An Open Museum in Old Bhaktapur
Location: Eastern part of Kathmandu City (40 minutes drive from Kathmandu)
Bhaktapur Durbar square is a must-visit place. It is called an open museum because visitors can sit here and watch the architecture for hours. The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is filled with sculptures, wood carvings, and pagoda temples.
Enjoy pottery in Bhaktapur.
The 55-windowed palace:
The 55 windowed palace or Pachpannajhyale Durbar is Nepal’s oldest architectural design. It is made up of an impressive wooden balcony and made up of fifty-five windows. The 55 windowed palace is located within the brick wall with its gracious setting and sculptural design.
Some parts of the palace were destroyed during the earthquake. Later, the palace was remodeled using the same windows. The palace has wood carvings with black paintings and has paintings of Malla kings. The paintings are not open to people, but you may be able to enjoy the wood carvings of the museum.
The golden gate is the entrance to the main court of 55 windowed palaces and is placed like Jewels. A Hindu goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical griffin) guard the door, along with two heavenly mythical creatures.
The five-storeyed temple is the biggest and the highest (over 30 meters) pagoda that was ever built in Nepal. From bottom to top, those five stories represent earth, water, fire, air, and sky.
Except for the architecture, you might enjoy the taste of Juju Dhau in Bhaktapur, which is a local Newari yogurt. The yogurt is served in a clay bowl and has a sweet and creamy taste. Locals love to visit this just to eat this yogurt most of the time.
Discover the Bustling Alleys of Thamel
Thamel is the hottest place for tourists. This place has been famous since the hippie days, and many artists during the 1970s visited Thamel. The live music in the restaurants of Thamel during the nighttime makes this palace even more attractive for tourists to chill. Thamel gives everything to the tourists, from cultural temples, restaurants, and narrow alleys to handicraft shops & window shopping.
Thamel is the place for trekkers and mountaineers. You can shop/rent trekking gear and mountain gear in Thamel. Most of the travel agents are situated here, and you can stay in the hotel in Thamel before starting the trek.
Thamel has an uncountable number of souvenir shops that sell almost everything. You can buy Pashmina clothing, jewels, stones, singing bowls, paintings, toys, books, and whatnot.
The lanes inside the Thamel are vehicle free. You can walk through the narrow alleys and discover markets. To best explore the narrow lanes, check out our short 2.5 hours Old Bazaar Walk package.
Garden of Dreams:
Garden of Dreams is an open area where you can relax and enjoy the unique composition of the garden. It used to be a royal garden. The garden’s architecture encourages visitors to stroll around and discover its treasures from many different perspectives. The garden has beautiful fountains, decorative garden furniture, and birdhouses.
Pashupatinath Temple: An Experience of Bittersweetness
Pashupatinath Temple is a sacred Hindu temple of Lord Shiva. The temple is situated at the banks of the Bagmati River. It is one of the most visited and crowded temples in Nepal. The temple premises is huge and has many small shrines and other temples dedicated to numerous deities. Likewise, there are numerous shops selling different sorts of prayer stuff and goodies.
Pashupatinath is a bitter-sweet experience for visitors because the temple reminds how every life will come to an end someday as you watch the cremation ceremonies. The elderly from India and Nepal come here to shelter for the last few weeks of their lives. The belief is that people who die in the Pashupatinath will be reborn as humans even if they have not led a proper life.
If you wish to perform puja, you can buy the religious items in the market, which is surrounded by the temples. You will see lots of people selling various items needed for pujas.
Aarati ceremony in the evening:
At the bank of the Bagmati river, you will notice people humming and singing every evening. People light incense, lights, and chant the name of Lord Shiva. The energy during the aarti is very powerful. You will feel it as you see the crowd getting together dancing and singing in the name of Shiva.
Learn about the Infamous Massacre at Narayanhiti Palace Museum
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum was home to the Shah kings of Nepal. When King Gyanendra stepped down from his position, the palace was opened to the public in 2009. The museum gives insight into the lifestyle led by the kings of the Shah dynasty.
The palace has old furniture, art collections, and ornaments that are centuries old. There are a total of 52 rooms in the museum. Each room displays artifacts, utensils used by the royals, paintings, portraits of the royal family lifestyle.
One of the saddest and the most shocking massacres that took place in the history of Nepal happened in this palace. The family of King Birendra, one of the most loved kings of Nepal, was killed here.
Narayanhiti museum is a must-visit if you want to know what the monarchy looked like 15 years ago in Nepal.
Experience Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings at Kopan Monastery
Kopan is one of the less explored places in Kathmandu by tourists. It is located 3 km from Boudhanath. Kopan is home to monks and lamas. The monks come from all over Tibet and have devoted their lives to practicing and learning the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
People come here to enjoy the spirituality of the place. This place is lively with a garden, interesting paintings, as well as architectural masterpieces.
Kailasnath Mahadev Shiva Temple: Home to Nepal’s tallest statue of Lord Shiva
Location: Suryabinayak, Bhaktapur (between Bhaktapur and Kavre border)
More than tourists, you will find locals in this place. However, it is one of the must-visit places for tourists. The Kailashnath Mahadev Shiva Temple is known for the tallest Shiva statue (144 feet) and the second tallest of all the Hindu deities in the world. It is popularly known as Sanga. The statue is made up of steel, concrete, zinc, and copper.
The main attraction is the statue itself. People can take a quick hike up to the world’s tallest Shiva statue. Recently another major attraction is the suspension bridge that was built over the Araniko highway. The views of the Himalayas and Kathmandu valley from the suspension bridge are amazing, and the hike through the bridge is just worth it.
Location: Kavre (40 km from Kathmandu)
Namobuddha is one of the three important pilgrimages for Buddhists. The sight is sacred and has legends about Buddha. It is believed that Buddha in his previous life saw a starving tigress here. Buddha, in return, offered his flesh to the tigress. This sacrifice helped him to be reborn as Lord Buddha.
This place is quiet and clean. It is one of the best places for meditation and practice. You can enjoy stunning sunrises and sunsets too. This place also offers an excellent view of the snow-covered mountains.
Visit Shivapuri, the only National Park in the Kathmandu Valley
Location: North of the Kathmandu Valley
Shivapuri National Park is the only national park in Kathmandu. Shivapuri can be reached from many locations. You can hike up to Shivapuri from Budhanilkantha. Shivapuri has an amazing hiking and cycling trail for adventure enthusiasts.
Shivapuri is accessible through Sundarijal. Close to the area, you can enjoy resorts and restaurants. The park also offers an immersive experience of birdwatching, and you can see various species of birds with your eyes.
We have the best one day Shivapuri hike package at the best price.
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Shivapuri National Park is the source of the holy river Bagmati and has many pilgrimage destinations. People can visit Bagdwar, Bishnudwar, Jamacho, Buddha Gupha, Manichur Mahadev, Kageshwori, Sundari Mai, Baudeshwor, Tarkeshwor, Pachali Bhairav, and Nagi Gumba within the National Park.
Location: Southwest side of Kathmandu valley ( 30-40 mins drive from Kathmandu Valley)
Chandragiri, which is less than an hour’s drive from Kathmandu, is at the hilltop. You can view the entire Kathmandu Valley from here. This place has a historical significance as Prithvi Narayan Shah decided to annex the Kathmandu Valley after seeing it from Chandragiri hills. You can see Himalayan ranges like Mount Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, and Langtang Himal from here.
If you have a couple of days in your hand, then we highly recommend our two days Chandragiri & Chitlang hike.
Chandragiri Cable Car:
You can reach the top of Chandragiri Hill by taking the famous cable car. It takes 9-14 minutes to reach the top of the hill through a cable car. The forest view from the cable car is just breathtaking. Every view from fog to snow looks better from here.
The view tower is at 2,547 meters, which gives the best view of the Himalayas. The view tower also has binoculars for a clear glimpse of the mountains.
The playground has swings, slides, seesaws for children to play.
Nagarkot: Land of Gorgeous Sunrise & Sunset
Location: 20 mins, 32 km from Kathmandu
Nagarkot is one of the best places for not only sightseeing but to enjoy peace away from the chaos of Kathmandu. Nagarkot provides a mixed experience of rural and urban Nepal. Nagarkot is so little yet so much to do in Nagarkot. You can relax and enjoy the panoramic view, sunset, and mountain ranges. Nagarkot is also popular as a palace to hike.
Hike: The panoramic hiking trail is popular in Nagarkot. You can enjoy a short half-hour walk to the view tower. The view from here is killer. The walk to the viewpoint passes through an army barrack and pine forest. The trail gives you views of the countryside. People wake up early to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Himalayas from the viewpoint tower.
Check out our short Nagarkot Trip here.
Experience the Champadevi Hiking Trail
Location: Southeast of Kathmandu
If you are looking for a short hiking adventure near Kathmandu, Champadevi is the most popular place. To hike to Champadevi, you will have to take an early bus to Dakshinkali. You will come across an important Buddha shrine next to the tree.
Make sure you take a packed lunch because once you start hiking, you will not find a place to eat. Champadevi is the third highest hill in the Valley, so be ready for the excellent views of Kathmandu Valley. The trail is easy, and you will walk through and pass by the pine forest. You will enjoy the view of Langtang and Gauri Shankar upon reaching the top.
Kathmandu sure has a lot to offer, and you have to go on a separate Kathmandu tour to visit all the above places. Even our top 15 popular places for sightseeing in Kathmandu is not enough to know the city inside out, but it will leave you with deep insights about the Nepali culture, art, architecture, history, and food. With that being said, here is the link to our Secret Foodie Tour that is designed to offer you the local taste of Nepal.