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Kathmandu – the City of Newars

is described as “an enormous treasure house of art and sculptures”. Various temples, monasteries and stupas adorn the city’s landscape and the city, considered the gateway to the Himalayas, is home to several world heritage sites.

I was in Kathmandu for nine days, but unfortunately it coincided with a weeklong holiday, so most official museums and attractions were closed. These are some of the historical and cultural landmarks I visited.

1: Kathmandu Durbar Square
2: Swayamhunath Stupa
3: Kaathe Swyambhu Stupa
4: Pashupatinath Temple
5: Boudhanath Stupa
6: Narayanhiti Palace
7: Garden of Dreams



Durbar Square literally means “place of palaces.” Located in the heart of old Kathmandu and it is also known as Basantapur Durbar and Hanuman Dhoka. It contains heritage buildings representing four kingdoms (Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur).

Built during the Licchavi period (4th to 8th centuries AD), King Pratap Malla significantly expanded the property in the 17th century. The square has the highest concentration of historic structures, including palaces, courtyards, and temples.

It is also known as “the Museum of Temples” since it has more than 50 temples spread across two quadrangles of the Durbar Square. The Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar and Shiva-Parvati Temple are located in the outer quadrangle, while the inner quadrangle has the Hanuman Dhoka palace. The squares were severely damaged in the April 2015 earthquake.


Major attractions within Kathmandu Durbar Square

Hanuman Dhoka

It is spread over five acres. The eastern wing, with ten courtyards, is the oldest part, dating to the mid-16th century. It was expanded by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century with the addition of many temples. The royal family lived in this palace until 1886, when they moved to Narayanhiti Palace. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace gets its name from the stone statue of Hanuman, the Hindu deity, that near the main entryway.

Some floors have been converted to museums dedicated to three generations of Shah kings of Nepal. Most parts of the palace premises are open to tourists throughout the week. Unfortunately, the palace and museum were closed by the time I ended my tour of the square. They close at 5 pm. As a result, I was unable to go inside.


Kumari Ghar

The official residence of the Living Goddess Kumari of Kathmandu. The Kumari is believed to be a bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepali name for Durga). The current Kumari, Trishna Shakya, age three at the time of appointment, was installed in September 2017.

Visitors can get a peek of the living goddess and seek blessings. I was luck to see her. But its a bit of an anti-climactic though – she begrudgingly (but understandably – she has to do it twice a day every day!) stands at the window for tourists and devotees to gawp at her for 30 seconds, before disappearing.

Check with the local guides for the exact time. Photography of the Kumari Devi is strictly prohibited.


Shiva-Parvati Temple

The glorious temple of Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati, was built in the 18th century by King Rana Bahadur Shah, the son of Prithvi Narayan Shah. Every inch of the temple wall is covered in immensely intricate carvings. The striking idols of Shiva and Parvati, coloured in white and blue and seen wearing colourful accessories, are installed in the window right in the centre of the top floor of this two-storey pagoda style temple.



This three-storey temple enshrines an image of Gorakhnath. It was constructed in the 16th century in the pagoda style, entirely of wood. The name of Kathmandu is a derivative of the word Kasthamandap. It was built under the reign of King Laxmi Narsingha Malla and stands at the crossroads of two ancient trade routes linking India and Tibet at Maru Square. It was originally built as a rest house for travellers.

My guide told me that he was inside the temple showing guests around roughly 10 minutes before the 2015 earthquake struck, causing the entire temple to collapse, killing many people who were still inside.


Kal Bhairab

One of the largest 17th century stone statues in Kathmandu, representing the terrifying aspect of Lord Shiva.


Taleju Temple & Jagannath Temple

The tallest of all structures, it was built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 AD. Every year during the Dashain festival, this temple is open to the public for one day.

Built in the 16th century, the Jagannath Temple is known for the fascinating erotic figures carved on the wooden struts. Major parts of the temple were reduced to rumble during the earthquake and are slowly being rebuilt.


Narsingha Statue & Swet Bhairav

Thought to be Lord Vishnu in his man-lion avatar, disembowelling a demon. According to the inscription on the monument, Pratap Malla erected the stone image in 1673, and he did so because he was afraid of upsetting Vishnu.

A large statue of Bhairav, Shiva’s avatar, is installed in the temple, which is open to the public once a year during the Indra Jatra festival in August-September.


There are many other things to see around the Durbar Square, and it is advisable to take a local guide along. It will take you roughly 2 hours to complete the guided tour. But to truly appreciate the square you’ll need at least half a day which you can do at leisure after the tour. For Indians, the entry fee is Rs. 150/-


Krishna Ram Pradhan is the guide who showed me around. He speaks English, Hindi and Spanish fluently.
contact: 9841282310 / 9808391786




A Buddhist stupa atop a hillock is among the oldest and holiest religious sites in Nepal. Swayambhu literally means “self-existent one”. It is believed to date back to 460 AD, was built by King Manadeva, and by the 13th century, it had become an important centre of Buddhism. The stupa has stood as a hallmark of faith and harmony for centuries, with Hindu temples and deities incorporated into this Buddhist site. The glory of the Kathmandu Valley is said to have started from this point.

On each of the four sides of the main stupa, there are a pair of big eyes. These eyes are symbolic of God’s all-seeing perspective. There is no nose between the eyes but rather a representation of the number one in the Nepali alphabet, signifying that the single way to enlightenment is through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye, signifying the wisdom of looking within. No ears are shown because it is said the Buddha is not interested in hearing prayers in praise of him.

Visitors for whom the name was a tongue twister have called it “Monkey Temple” because of the hundreds of monkeys who scamper around the temple complex. Swayambhu overlooks most parts of the valley, giving visitors a panoramic view of the city. The exceedingly 365 steep stone steps that lead up to the shrine are quite a challenge. However, there is also a motorway going up almost to the top, from where it is a short walk.

Free entry.
Time needed to see: 2 hours




A replica of Swayambhunath. It was built around 1650 AD and is a popular Tibetan pilgrimage site. The main stupa is surrounded by smaller chaityas, inscriptions and statues. A statue of Avalokiteshvara lies before the stupa. The 13 steps on the spire of the stupa symbolise the 13 stages to reach Nirvana. There are two temples in the square, one of which is dedicated to the Goddess of smallpox, Hariti, while the other is the Drubgon Jangchup Choeling Monastery.

Time required to view: 30 minutes




One of the most holiest Hindu places, this temple is a holy pilgrimage site for devotees of Lord Shiva, known as the Destroyer God, because he removes all evil from the world. Built in the 5th century, the temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It’s the largest temple complex in Nepal, spanning both banks of the sacred Bagmati River.

The magnificent sanctum draws thousands of devotees who come to offer their prayers and seek blessings from him. It is believed that the Jyotirlinga housed in the Pashupatinath temple is the head of the body, which is made up of the twelve Jyotirlinga in India. Due to local customs, only Hindus are permitted inside the inner sanctuary, which houses the Shiva lingam. Visitors can explore the complex outside, which includes 492 temples and 12 shrines.

Many regard the Pashupatinath temple as the gateway to Nirvana and the final resting place before the afterlife. Most Hindus conduct their final rituals and cremations near this temple. As a result, seeing a funeral or a dead body is not uncommon here. Please be respectful of grieving families.

Manish is the guide who showed me around. He is fluent in English and Hindi. Contact no: 9841239072
Time required to view: 2 hours




It is situated about 11 km from the centre of Kathmandu. The largest spherical stupa in the world, it was most likely built during the 14th century. For many centuries, Tibetan merchants have rested and offered prayers at Boudha Stupa. Following the Chinese invasion in 1959, many Tibetans migrated here, which has since become one of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhist centres. The stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha.

The base of the stupa has 108 small depictions of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha. It is surrounded by a wall with 147 niches, each with four or five prayer wheels engraved with the mantra, om mani padme hum. For hundreds of years, the Boudhanath Stupa has stood as a beacon of Buddhist belief, towering over the surrounding town as a giant mandala of peace and beauty.

The entry fee is Rs. 100/-. If you have seen the Swayambhunath Stupa then you can skip visiting Boudhanath Stupa if you are limited by time.
Time needed to see: 45 minutes




The Narayanhiti Palace was home to the Shah Kings of Nepal. It was built by the late King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in 1963, where he and his successors lived. The last king of Nepal, King Gyanendra, abdicated on May 28th, 2008, after Nepal became a Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The palace has since been opened to the public as a museum.

The name Narayanhiti derives from the Newari language and is a blend of two words: “Narayan” signifies the Hindu god “Lord Vishnu”, and “Hiti” translates to “water spout”.

The museum showcases the old furniture, art pieces, and ornaments of the royal family and the lifestyle once adorning the durbar (halls) of the exquisite palace.

Narayanhiti Palace is where the infamous Royal Massacre took place on June 1, 2001, which is considered a dark event in the history of Nepal. In this royal massacre, the whole family of King Birendra was killed. Various conspiracy theories exist regarding the shootout, as there is no legit evidence of the event, leaving several questions unanswered.

The complex also houses the Shree Sadan, a private residence of the late king Birendra and the royal car museum, which includes a fleet of historic vehicles, of which one was gifted by Hitler to King Tribhuvan.

The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is open from 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM every day except Wednesday. It remains closed on public holidays too. The entry fee for Indians is NPR 500.

You are not allowed to carry anything inside the complex. Handbags, phones, cameras, and water bottles have to be kept in the lockers provided at the ticket counter. Taking pictures and videos inside the Narayanhiti Museum is strictly prohibited.

Only if you are really interested should you visit the palace museum. It involves a lot of walking. No drinking water stations are provided inside.

Time needed to see: 3 hours
read more: http://narayanhitipalacemuseum.com




The garden, which is part of the Kaiser Mahal complex, was built by Kishore Narshingh in 1920. From the mid-1960s, upon the death of its patron, Kaiser Sumsher Rana, it lay in neglect but was recently restored to its former grandeur with the help of the Austrian government and reopened to visitors. The 24-acre garden’s main attractions include neo-classical pavilions, an amphitheatre, fountains, and European-inspired features like pergolas, balustrades, urns, and birdhouses. There is also a small museum that has photos of the garden before and after restoration.

The entry fee is Rs. 400/-. Nothing great. Go only if you have plenty of free time and nothing else to do or if you wish to see “love birds” or “tiktokers”.

Time required to view: 30 minutes.


Other attractions:

Rani Pokhari, which translates to “Queen’s Pond,” is a historic artificial pond in the heart of Kathmandu City. It was constructed by king Pratap Malla in 1670 AD for his beloved queen after she lost her son and could not recover from her loss.

Ghanta Ghar is the oldest clock tower in Nepal. It lies in front of Rani Pokhari and near Trichandra College. It was built by Rana Prime Minister Bir Shumsher. The original clock tower was designed after Big Ben in London. The Ghanta Ghar that stands today was rebuilt after the old tower was destroyed by the earthquake.

The Pancha Kashmiri Takiya Masjid is one of the oldest mosques in Nepal, commonly known as the Kashmiri Masjid, it was constructed in the 15th century AD. The current mosque, which consists of three complexes, was constructed during the reign of King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Within the grounds are the tombs of Haji Mishkin Shah and Khwaja Gyasuddin Shah.

Asan Market is a constantly busy area. Travelers will find this place more alluring because of the vivid and bright colours, as well as the wide variety of goods and products sold here.

And at every turn, you will find intricate and religious artwork.


Hotel I stayed:

Hotel Ganesh Himal is a quaint hotel with friendly staff and a wonderful charm with its beautiful paintings and woodwork décor. The room I stayed in was spacious and clean, with a large, comfortable bed. It is a 5-minute walk from the busy touristy Thamel Street, yet away from the noise. The restaurant served delicious food too. The hotel does not have an elevator, so if you have trouble climbing, ask for a room on the first floor.


Getting around:

I walked to all the attractions as they were within a 3km radius. There are different other options to go around Kathmandu. If you like an adventure, you could hire a cycle and explore the city on your own, or hop on to a three-wheeled cycle rickshaw and get taken around at a leisurely pace. Or there is the option of moving around quicker on a two-wheeler or in a taxi.

Shree Pandey (+977 98035 71211) who works at the hotel I stayed at, took me to the Pashupatinath Temple, Bhaktapur, and Paltan on his 2 wheeler. During the day, he works for Pathao, an app-based service similar to Uber that is widely used in Kathmandu.

Kumar – President of Nepal (+977 98414 35558 – Taxi) – to know why he is called the president, watch this video: https://youtu.be/JQ76zmexTwU


Other posts in the Nepal travelogue:
1. Nepal – travel guidelines
2. Kathmandu – city of Newars
3. Bhaktapur – cultural city & Patan – city of artisans
4. Pokhara – the adventure capital of Nepal
5. Tansen – a charming hill town
6. Lumbini – birthplace of the Lord Buddha



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