FT6KD4 Nepal, Kathmandu.  Narayanhiti Royal Palace, now a Museum.

Charles O. Cecil/Alamy

Narayanhiti Palace Museum


Few things speak clearer to the political changes that have transformed Nepal over the last 15 years than this walled palace at the northern end of Durbar Marg. King Gyanendra was given 15 days to vacate the property in 2008 and within two years the building was reopened as a people’s museum by then prime minister Prachandra, the very Maoist guerrilla leader who had been largely responsible for the king’s spectacular fall from grace.

The palace walls and gates were damaged in the 2015 earthquake, but the palace itself dates from the 1960s and was largely unaffected.

Full of chintzy meeting rooms and faded 1970s glamour, the palace interior is more outdated than opulent; it feels a bit like the lair of a B-grade Thunderball-era James Bond villain. The highlights are the impressive throne and banquet halls and the surprisingly modest royal bedrooms. Stuffed gharial, tigers and rhino heads line the halls next to towering portraits of earlier Shahs and photos of the royal family taken with other doomed leaders – Yugoslavia’s Tito, Romania’s Ceaușescu and Pakistan’s Zia ul-Haq.

The locations where Prince Dipendra massacred his family in 2001 are rather morbidly marked, though the actual building was rather suspiciously levelled after the crime. Bullet holes are still visible on some of the walls. Just as interesting as the building are the locals’ reactions to it, as they peek behind the wizard's curtain at a regal lifestyle that for centuries they could only have dreamed about. Cameras and bags are not allowed inside the complex but lockers are available.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kathmandu attractions

1. 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…

2. Kaiser Library

0.22 MILES

Also known as the Keshar Library, this place is definitely worth a visit. The main reading room has antique globes, stuffed tiger's heads and suits of…

3. Three Goddesses Temples

0.25 MILES

Next to the modern Sanchaya Kosh Bhawan Shopping Centre in Thamel are the often ignored Three Goddesses Temples. The street on which the temples are…

4. Rani Pokhari

0.43 MILES

This large fenced tank just off Kantipath is said to have been built by King Pratap Malla in 1667 to console his queen over the death of their son (who…

5. Annapurna Temple

0.55 MILES

The three-storey Annapurna Temple in the southeast corner of Asan Tole is dedicated to the goddess of abundance; Annapurna is represented by a purana …

6. Asan Tole

0.56 MILES

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…

7. Yita Chapal

0.56 MILES

On the south side of Asan Tole is the Yita Chapal (Southern Pavilion), which was once used for festival dances (the dance platform out front is just…

8. Kathesimbhu Stupa

0.57 MILES

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…