Kathmandu is enchanting. It’s medieval and spiritual and alive. And the only way to really see this chaotic cobbled maze is by foot.
Start your exploring in Thamel – a traveller enclave with some great hotels and hostels. Thamel is loads of fun and crammed with touts and colourful stalls. Looking up, the vibrancy continues in a mash of wires, shop signs and overhanging balconies. And if you need them, you can get home comforts such as a good-quality wine or chocolate.
Head south of Thamel's main market (Thamel Chowk) towards Kathmandu's beating heart, Durbar Square. Winding your way through markets, alleys and bahals (monastery courtyards), keep your eyes open for the architectural wonders that seem to appear on every corner. From Thamel Chowk you'll reach Thahiti Tole, a square with a central stupa and, along its northern edge, the Nateshwar Temple, with doors showing creatures playing musical instruments. South of here is Kathesimbhu Stupa, which radiates colourful prayer flags, and further along you'll find the triple-roofed Ugratara Temple.
Turn east and immerse yourself in the frantic vegetable and spice markets of Asan Tole, one of the busiest intersections in old Kathmandu, before wandering past the octagonal Krishna Temple. Then it's on through Indra Chowk, another of Kathmandu's markets and the traditional centre for blanket and cloth merchants (look around and you'll also find bangle and bead sellers). Head west and enter Yatkha Bahal, a huge open courtyard with a white-washed central stupa.
As you wind your way through these crowded alleyways, you’ll pass many wonderful things - stalls alive with Buddhist prayer flags, rows of dental surgeries, gleaming brass and glittering glass bead shops…not to mention the odd wandering cow!
South of Yatkha Bahal, you'll reach your goal: Durbar Square. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed area is really a series of three squares and the finest remaining example of Kathmandu's traditional architecture. It’s easy to spend hours wandering around and watching the world go by from the terraced platforms of the towering Maju Deval. When the shadows begin to lengthen, head back to Thamel, find a rooftop garden, and relax with a beer or pot of tea.