To get at the beating heart of Kathmandu, we love getting lost in Old City’s alleyways and discovering unexpected temples, secret gardens and markets. Or we’ll rickshaw over to the backpacker district of Thamel to trade stories with trekkers and climbers, many of whom are just back from conquering Everest.
Unfortunately, Kathmandu was devastated by the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Consequently, the historic sites we’d normally recommend are still being reconstructed.
Swayambhunath (+977-981-3551022) is located just west of Kathmandu city and features the stupa (tower) Boudhanath with the eyes of buddha looking out over the valley. Shrines, temples, a Tibetan monastery, museum and library are also found here.
Swapna Bagaicha (+977-1-4425340) is another must-see. Built in 1920, the garden originally featured six pavilions replicating the six Nepalese seasons. Note: only three pavilions remain. We’re always snapping selfies in front of the fountains, amphitheatre, ponds and pergolas. Make time for Kaiser Cafe (+977-1-4425341), an upscale continental restaurant on-site.
If chaotic markets are your game, head to Asan Tole where vendors sell everything from spices and yak meat to coconuts and brass pots.
First things first, find a shop that sells authentic momo. These small Nepalese dumpling are filled with veggies, meat or cheese and served with a few dips or chutneys. Ask your hotel concierge for a recommendation or two (they’ll likely have five or six nearby reco’s top-of-mind).
For a beautiful Nepalese dining experience, we usually head to Bhojan Griha (+977-1-4416423). The restaurant is inside a mansion and formally decorated. As is custom in Nepal, the majority of seating is on large colourful cushions or ottomans. The food is Newari, an ethnic cuisine predominantly located in the Kathmandu Valley. Cultural performances or music around 7pm.
If you don’t feel like Eastern, we like the popular Fire and Ice pizzeria (+977-1-4250210). The restaurant uses a combination of local/seasonal produce as well as high-end ingredients shipped in from Italy. Make a reservation as space at the communal wooden tables fill up fast.
Where to stay depends on your budget.
For the upscale traveller, Hotel Yak & Yeti (+977-1-4240520) is your best bet. It’s a heritage palace in central Kathmandu featuring numerous amenities such as an outdoor pool, tennis courts, gardens and even a casino.
If you’re travelling on a modest budget but don’t want to resort to hostels, our recommendation is Kantipur Temple House (+977-1-4250131). The hotel features a roof-top garden with an astounding view of Swayambhunath Temple. It’s eco-friendly and offers both yoga and meditation classes. The lobby and rooms are decorated in a rustic Nepalese fashion.
Catch us cruising PINK Tiffany Restaurant (+977-980-3580762) after sunset. The food is good but the atmosphere is even better. We love smoking a hookah in the LGBT-friendly lounge while chatting up all the QTs.
Explore Kathmandu with us as part of our Everest Base Camp Adventure.