Must see attractions in Kathmandu

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Durbar Square

    Kathmandu’s Durbar Sq was where the city’s kings were once crowned and legitimised, and from where they ruled ( durbar means palace). As such, the square remains the traditional heart of the old town and Kathmandu’s most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture. The square bore the brunt of Kathmandu's 2015 earthquake damage. Half a dozen temples collapsed, as did several towers in the Hanuman Dhoka palace complex, but it's still a fabulous complex. Reconstruction will continue for years.

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    Hanuman Dhoka

    Kathmandu's royal palace, known as the Hanuman Dhoka, was originally founded during the Licchavi period (4th to 8th centuries AD), but the compound was expanded considerably by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century. Sadly, the sprawling palace was hit hard by the 2015 earthquake and damage was extensive. At the time of research, the main Nasal Chowk courtyard was open and the Tribhuvan Museum was close to reopening, with other buildings closed for reconstruction.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Nasal Chowk

    From the entrance gate of the Hanuman Dhoka palace you immediately enter its most famous chowk. Nasal Chowk was used for coronations, a practice that continued until as recently as 2001 with the crowning of King Gyanendra. The coronation platform is in the centre of the courtyard, while the earthquake-damaged Basantapur Tower looms over its southern end.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Seto Machhendranath Temple (Jan Bahal)

    Southwest of Asan Tole at the junction known as Kel Tole, this temple attracts both Buddhists and Hindus – Buddhists consider Seto (White) Machhendranath to be a form of Avalokiteshvara, while to Hindus he is a rain-bringing incarnation of Shiva. The arched entrance to the temple was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake and the temple is currently closed for repairs.

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    Itum Bahal

    The long, rectangular courtyard of the Itum Bahal is the largest bahal (Buddhist monastery courtyard) in the old town and remains a haven of tranquillity in the chaotic surroundings. On the western side of the courtyard is the Kichandra Bahal, one of the oldest bahals in the city, dating from 1381. A chaitya in front of the entrance has been completely shattered by a Bodhi tree, which has grown right up through its centre.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Kumari Bahal

    At the junction of Durbar and Basantapur squares, this red-brick, three-storey building is home to the Kumari, the girl who is selected to be the town’s living goddess and a living symbol of devi – the Hindu concept of female spiritual energy. Inside the building is Kumari Chowk, a three-storey courtyard. It is enclosed by magnificently carved wooden balconies and windows, making it quite possibly the most beautiful courtyard in Nepal.

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    Garden of Dreams

    The beautifully restored Swapna Bagaicha (Garden of Dreams) remains one of the most serene and beautiful enclaves in Kathmandu. It's two minutes' walk and a million miles from central Thamel.

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    Asan Tole

    From dawn until dusk the six-spoked junction of Asan Tole is jammed with vegetable and spice vendors selling everything from yak tails to dried fish. It’s the busiest square in the city and a fascinating place to linger, if you can stand the crowds. Cat Stevens allegedly wrote his hippie-era song 'Kathmandu' in a smoky teahouse in Asan Tole.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Tribhuvan Museum

    The section of the Hanuman Dhoka palace west of Nasal Chowk, overlooking the main Durbar Sq area, was constructed by the Ranas in the middle to late part of the 19th century. This wing bore the brunt of the damage in the 2015 earthquake. Many exhibits were destroyed and the Department of Archaeology has estimated that reconstruction will take years. It is unclear at this stage whether such offbeat treasures as King Tribhuvan’s favourite stuffed bird survived the disaster.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Taleju Temple

    Durbar Sq’s most magnificent temple stands at its northeastern extremity but is not open to the public. Even for Hindus, admission is restricted; they can only visit it briefly during the annual Dasain festival. The 35m-high temple was built in 1564 by Mahendra Malla. Taleju Bhawani was originally a goddess from the south of India, but she became the titular deity, or royal goddess, of the Malla kings in the 14th century.

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    Indra Chowk

    The busy street of Makhan Tole spills into Indra Chowk, the courtyard named after the ancient Vedic deity, Indra. Locals crowd around the square’s newspaper sellers, scanning the day’s news. Indra Chowk is traditionally a centre for the sale of blankets and cloth, and merchants cover the platforms of the Mahadev Temple to the north. The next-door black stone Shiva Temple to the northeast is a smaller and simplified version of Patan’s Krishna Temple.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Kathesimbhu Stupa

    The most popular Tibetan pilgrimage site in the old town is this lovely stupa, a small copy dating from around 1650 of the great Swayambhunath complex. The stupa is set in a hidden courtyard. Just as at Swayambhunath, there is a two-storey pagoda to Hariti, the goddess of smallpox, in the northwestern corner of the square. In the northeast corner is the Tibetan-style Drubgon Jangchup Choeling Monastery. It’s just a couple of minutes’ walk south of Thamel.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Bangemudha

    At the southern end of the Sikha Narayan Temple square, just across the crossroads on the corner, you will see a lump of wood into which thousands of coins have been nailed. The coins are offerings to the toothache god, which is represented by a tiny image in the grotesque lump of wood. The square at the junction is known as Bangemudha, which means ‘Twisted Wood’.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Seto (White) Bhairab

    Seto (White) Bhairab’s horrible face is hidden away behind a grille in an earthquake-damaged pavilion opposite King Pratap Malla’s Column. The huge mask dates from 1794, during the reign of Rana Bahadur Shah, the third Shah-dynasty king. Each September during the Indra Jatra festival the gates are opened to reveal the mask for a few days. At other times of the year you can peek through the lattice to see the mask, which is used as the symbol of Nepal Airlines.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Kala (Black) Bhairab

    North of the Jagannath Temple is the figure of Kala (Black) Bhairab. Bhairab is Shiva in his most fearsome aspect, and this huge stone image of the terrifying Kala Bhairab has six arms, wears a garland of skulls and tramples a corpse, which is symbolic of human ignorance. It is said that telling a lie while standing before Kala Bhairab will bring instant death and it was once used as a form of trial by ordeal.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Mohankali Chowk

    Mohankali (Mohan) Chowk, inside the Hanuman Dhoka complex, was once used as a residence by the Malla kings. It's currently closed for post-earthquake repairs but should reopen soon.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Sundari Chowk

    This courtyard in the Hanuman Dhoka palace is currently off-limits for post-earthquake reconstruction but should reopen eventually.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Lohan Chowk

    King Prithvi Narayan Shah ordered the construction of the four red-coloured towers around Lohan Chowk. The towers represent the four ancient cities of the valley: the Basantapur (Kathmandu) Tower, the Kirtipur Tower, the Bhaktapur Tower (Lakshmi Bilas) and the Patan (Lalitpur) Tower (known more evocatively as the Bilas Mandir, or House of Pleasure). The upper parts of the Basantapur and Bhaktapur towers collapsed in 2015 and are currently under reconstruction, with Lohan Chowk closed to visitors.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Indrapur Temple

    Little is known about this mysterious temple. Even the god to which it is dedicated is controversial – the lingam inside indicates that it is a Shiva temple, but the Garuda image half-buried on the southern side connects it to Vishnu. To compound the puzzle, the temple’s name clearly indicates it is dedicated to Indra! The temple’s unadorned design and plain roof struts, together with the lack of an identifying torana (pediment above the temple doors), offer no further clues.

  • Sights in Kathmandu

    Krishna Temple

    This old building, jammed between gleaming brass shops just southwest of Asan Tole, looks decrepit at first glance. Look closer and you'll notice some fabulously elaborate woodcarvings, depicting beaked monsters and a tiny Tibetan protector, holding a tiger on a chain like he’s taking the dog for a walk. Look also for the turn-of-the-century plaques depicting marching troops on the building to the left and the ornately carved entryway just below it.