Three words perfectly describe Kathmandu: magnificent, marvelous, and magical. Kathmandu is magnificent because of its otherworldly beauty; marvelous as it houses numerous medieval temples, royal palaces, glorious stupas, and religious shrines; and magical as it lures you for inexplicable reasons.

Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, is truly the crowning glory of Nepal. Dotted with many sacred temples, stupas, religious monuments, and monasteries, Kathmandu is also known as the “City of Temples.” For many first-time visitors, Kathmandu is an ordinary bustling little town, but as it reveals its beauty and charm, Kathmandu can be a place like no other!

Did you know Kathmandu valley houses 7 of 10 UNESCO world heritage sites in Nepal? From world-famous UNESCO sites to vantage hill stations and hilltop villages on its outskirt and significant landmarks, there are many sites in Kathmandu for you to explore for a week or two.

Choosing the best places to visit while in Kathmandu can be daunting. Therefore, I have compiled a list of 10 must-see attractions in Kathmandu for you.

Kathmandu travel essentials: (click below to view prices online)

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See also: Places to visit in Nepal | Pokhara Tourist Spots | Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary | Spots to See in Chitwan | Where to go in Lumbini.

1. Swayambhunath Stupa

Swayambhunath Temple, Kathmandu

Swayambhunath Stupa, also dubbed “the monkey temple,” is a famous world-heritage site perched atop a hill overlooking Kathmandu valley. If you’re wondering why it is called the monkey temple, it’s because more than 200 monkeys have been living in its immediate vicinity for generations. The whitewashed dome and gilded spire of the stupa can be seen from far away. History has it that the stupa self-evolved and hence the name Swayambhunath. According to the Swayambhu Purana, a Buddhist scripture, the stupa was a lotus flower in the middle of a lake.

It’s amusing that the stupa’s structure is symbolic: the gigantic white dome at the base is the earth; the 13-tiered structure represents the 13 stages of nirvana; the pair of eyes is Buddha’s eyes, and the nose-like structure below the eyes is the Nepali number Ek (one) symbolizing unity. Reaching the stupa feels like climbing a steep hill as you must climb more than 300 stone steps from the eastern side. Make sure to circumnavigate the stupa in a clockwise direction. Harati Devi Temple, Shantipur, Shree Karma Raj Mahavihar, and Ajima Temple are the must-see attractions in Swayambhunath.

Location: Kathmandu, Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

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2. Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square, Nepal

Kathmandu Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site in Nepal, is a prominent landmark and major attraction in Kathmandu. Also known as “Basantapur Durbar Square” or “Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square,” Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of three Durbar Squares within Kathmandu Valley and, beyond question, one of the most visited places in Kathmandu. This site was a historical place for royal events, royal ceremonies, and the coronation of the Nepalese monarch. Even today, the palace is used for religious ceremonies.

Kathmandu Durbar Square was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. With several buildings dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this site is truly a majestic place to explore in Kathmandu. History has it that the construction of this site dates back to the Licchavi era, around the 3rd century. Kasthamandap, Kumari Bahal, Taleju Temple, Gaddhi Baithak, Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple, and Hanuman Dhoka museum are some of the must-see highlights in Kathmandu Durbar Square.

The catastrophic earthquake in 2015 had unfortunately damaged several temples, towers, and buildings in the square complex, and the reconstruction and renovation are still ongoing.

Location: Kathmandu city center. Save on Google Maps.

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Kathmandu Full Day Exploration

3. Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest Hindu temple in the world, is a major tourist attraction in Kathmandu. Constructed in 1696, Pashupatinath temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site in 1979 and is now among the 7 UNESCO world heritage sites scattered in Kathmandu valley. Pashupatinath literally translates to “Lord of all animals,” and the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Standing on the bank of the holy Bagmati River, Pashupatinath temple dates back to 400 BC. The main temple complex is open to Hindus only, and photography is strictly prohibited within the compound of the main temple.

Pashupatinath temple is only a few miles from the Tribhuvan International Airport and a short drive away from Thamel. As you walk to the temple on the western bank of the river, you can find an open-air cremation site shrouded in the commotion that can overwhelm you. And on the opposite side, you can indulge in the evening rituals of Pashupatinath Aarati. If you travel to Kathmandu, make sure to visit and pay homage to this sacred site.

Location: Pashupati Nath Road, Kathmandu. Save on Google Maps.

4. Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square is picturesque, pretty, and pure. It is a living museum of Newari art and architecture that can awe anyone with its unmatchable grandeur. Located in the center of Patan city, this ancient royal palace of the Malla kings is one of the three durbar squares, which are all UNESCO heritage sites. This magnificent durbar square is the finest collection of over 600 stupas, 136 courtyards, and 55 major temples. The complex of this site remains bustling every day as it welcomes hundreds of local and international tourists every day. Any tourist who lands in Kathmandu definitely visits this site, and you must too.

Patan Durbar Square remains the glory of Kathmandu and a major draw for tourist attractions. The laidback atmosphere, rich art, exquisite craftsmanship, and appealing architecture sprinkled within the square’s walls and roofs are unimaginably extraordinary. Patan Museum, the erstwhile Malla King’s residence, is a must-visit place in the vicinity of Patan Durbar Square. Krishna Mandir, Taleju Bhawani Temple, Mul Chowk, and Vishwanath Temple are some of the important sites you can explore when visiting this square.

Location: Lalitpur, Kathmandu Valley. Save on Google Maps.

5. Boudhanath

If there’s one stupa not-to-miss in Kathmandu, Boudhanath Stupa arguably is the one, and for good reasons. This stupa, with a diameter of around 100m, is one of the largest spherical stupas in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal, Boudhanath Stupa welcomes hundreds of travelers and pilgrims daily. When flying into Nepal, you can quickly notice the whitewashed dome and gilded tower of the stupa. History has it that it was built around the 14th century, and mythology suggests that millions of dewdrops were used for its construction. It is believed that Boudhanath entombs the relics of one of the ancient Buddhas, Kassapa Buddha.

Boudhanath Stupa is marvelous and tops the list of must-see attractions in Kathmandu. If you’re wondering about the meaning of Boudhanath, it’s “the Lord of Awakening.” The architecture of the Boudhanath stupa, from its gigantic dome to the gilded lotus canopy, is highly symbolic. You can embrace the best view of the stupa from the rooftop cafe with a sip of coffee and scrumptious momo.

Location: Boudhha, Kathmandu Valley. Save on Google Maps.

6. Everest Mountain Flight

For those fixated on the idea of seeing Everest at least once in their lifetime, trekking for days through the rugged trail to the base camp is not the only option. I mean you can hop on a plane and fly parallel to the Himalayas of Nepal, and admire the sheer beauty of Everest and neighboring peaks. If you’re short on time and hate to walk for a couple of hours a day to the base camp of Everest, just to see the sight of Everest, nothing is ideal as this mountain flight. The aerial perspective of the majestic mountains and the cityscape from the plane is simply amazing.

This 1-hour Everest mountain flight is a chance to tick off the Everest adventure from your bucket list. Drive to Tribhuvan Airport, hop aboard a plane and catch the glimpse of more than 18 peaks. Undoubtedly, it is one of the unique attractions in Kathmandu. Rest assured that everyone on the plane will be guaranteed a window seat and don’t forget to receive a personalized Everest Experience certificate to cherish for a lifetime.

7. Thamel

If you’re in Nepal for trekking or mountaineering, chances are you will end up in Thamel before and after your trip. Thamel is beyond question the most popular and thriving tourist hub in Nepal. Also dubbed backpacker’s paradise, Thamel serves as a one-stop shop for adventure in the Himalayas of Nepal. Besides, it is unbelievably magical and mystical. However, for a first-time visitor, Thamel can be chaotic and overwhelming; there’s a lot to see and things to do in Thamel.
Thamel is a friendly neighborhood in Kathmandu teeming with budget-friendly hotels, star-rated hotels, cafes, pubs, money-exchange booths, travel agencies, and guest houses and gear shops selling everything for treks and expeditions. Wikipedia cites that Thamel acts as the pre-base camp for mountaineers. It is also popular for lively nightlife, live bars, international cuisine, and indoor sports like wall climbing and archery, to name a few. Garden of Dreams, Mandala Street, Tridevi Temple, Kaathe Swyambhu Shree Gha Chaitya, and Dharmadhaatu Stupa are some of the Instagrammable places in Thamel.

Location: Kathmandu city center. Save on Google Maps.

8. More Spots to See in Old City of Kathmandu

If you’re in Nepal for trekking or mountaineering, chances are you will end up in Thamel before and after your trip. Thamel is beyond question the most popular and thriving tourist hub in Nepal. Also dubbed backpacker’s paradise, Thamel serves as a one-stop shop for adventure in the Himalayas of Nepal. Besides, it is unbelievably magical and mystical. However, for a first-time visitor, Thamel can be chaotic and overwhelming; there’s a lot to see and things to do in Thamel.

Thamel is a friendly neighborhood in Kathmandu teeming with budget-friendly hotels, star-rated hotels, cafes, pubs, money-exchange booths, travel agencies, and guest houses and gear shops selling everything for treks and expeditions. Wikipedia cites that Thamel acts as the pre-base camp for mountaineers. It is also popular for lively nightlife, live bars, international cuisine, and indoor sports like wall climbing and archery, to name a few. Garden of Dreams, Mandala Street, Tridevi Temple, Kaathe Swyambhu Shree Gha Chaitya, and Dharmadhaatu Stupa are some of the Instagrammable places in Thamel.

Interesting places + tourist spots

Garden of Dreams

Location: Tridevi Sadak, Kathmandu city center. Save on Google Maps.

Kathesimbhu Stupa

Location: Kathmandu city center. Save on Google Maps.

9. Chandragiri Hills

Chandragiri Hills at 2551m is one of the best viewpoints perched on the southwest side of Kathmandu Valley. The hill is famous for its spectacular views of Kathmandu valley and mountain ranges, including the mighty Everest. Chandragiri Hills is one of the 4 hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley. In recent years, the hiking trail to Chandragiri Hills has attracted hundreds of young Nepalese hikers from Kathmandu valley and international travelers.

You can either drive or hike to reach the hill from Kathmandu. However, many travel enthusiasts suggest you hike to Chandragiri to enjoy what it has to offer. From the base of the hill, you can catch the cable car to the top of the hill station. At the top of the hill is Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to lord Shiva. Spring and autumn are the best time of the year to visit this hill station. However, many Nepali people flock to Chandragiri in winter to play in the snow.

Location: Chandragiri, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

10. Dakshinkali-Pharping and Kirtipur

A 1-day tour to Dakshinkali-Pharping and Kirtipur is arguably one of the best short tours around Kathmandu valley. Pharping is a beautiful Newar town that houses several Buddhist monasteries. Dakshinkali is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Kali, the goddess of death. And Kritipur is an ancient Newari town praised for boasting Newari culture. Combine these 3 places, and you get a great tour jampacked with enthralling experiences.

Dakshinkali-Pharping and Kirtipur tour starts with a scenic drive to Dakshikali, passing Chovar and Taudaha Lake. You can stop by and pay homage to this sacred temple and head to Pharping. Pharping monastery and the cave of Guru Padmasambhava are the two significant places in Pharping. After exploring Pharping, drive to Kritipur to relish the authentic experience of Newari culture. You can try delicious Newari cuisine, and if time permits, explore Chilamchu Stupa and the Bagh Bhairab Temple.

Location: Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

Where to go near Kathmandu

11. Bhaktapur

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Bhaktapur Travel Essentials

Where to stayTours + discounts

12. Nagarkot

Location: Bhaktapur district. Save on Google Maps.

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Nagarkot Sunrise Tour

13. Changunarayan Temple

Location: Changunarayan, Bhaktapur district. Save on Google Maps.

Beyond Kathmandu

Pokhara

Location: Central Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

Pokhara Travel Essentials

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Lumbini

Location: Lumbini province, Central Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

Lumbini Travel Essentials

Where to stay

Chitwan

Location: Sauraha, Chitwan National Park, Central Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

Chitwan Travel Essentials

Where to stay

Everest region

Location: Sagarmatha National Park, East Nepal. Save on Google Maps.

Everest region Travel Essentials

Where to stayTours + discounts

What places have you added to your bucketlist? Have you been to beautiful places in Kathmandu that should be on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Places to visit in Kathmandu

Kathmandu tourist spots, things to do in Kathmandu, where to go in Kathmandu & more.

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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Where to Stay in Kathmandu

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