When visiting Nepal, setting aside a few days to explore Kathmandu is a must. This impressive city is Nepal's the capital of history, art, culture and economy. While it is possible to spend weeks exploring every corner of this expansive city, here are some tips on what to see and do with only a few days.


Day One: Soak in the City’s Ancient Wisdom

Located just southeast of central Kathmandu, Patan Durbar Square is one of the city's many historic centers. Spend the morning touring the temples and courtyards found in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as the fine arts capital of Nepal.

Prayer wheels are everywhere at Kathmandu’s religious and historic sites, like the ones here at Swayambhu, or Monkey Temple. One full rotation of a prayer wheel symbolizes the repetition of a buddhist prayer. Photo: John Burcham

Next, head to one of the most sacred Hindu temples of Nepal. Pashupatinath Temple is located on the banks of the Bagmati River on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. Pashupatinath is the most important temple dedicated to god Shiva. Every year this temple attracts hundreds of elderly followers of Hinduism.

Venture a little farther northwest to the Boudhanath Stupa. Badly damaged in Nepal’s 2015 earthquake, this stupa was one of the first historic sites to be completely renovated. This impressive structure dominates the skyline and is one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal.

The Boudhanath Stupa, taken just after the structure was restored after the 2015 earthquake. Photo: Phurba Gyaltsen Sherpa


Day Two: Shop, Eat and Mingle with the Locals

Head towards Kathmandu’s central-western district and spend a leisurely day exploring some of Kathmandu’s lively markets. Start at Ason Bazaar, a bustling market full of locals shopping for vegetables, garlic and spices. Come early to shop from street vendors who break down and leave for the day before noon. Or come anytime and browse the established shops that line the streets and are open all day.

Find anything from fresh fruits and vegetables to textiles and electronics at Ason Bazaar. Photo: John Burcham

Spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring nearby Thamel, which has been the center of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for years and teeming with locals, travelers and mountaineers. Shop for trinkets and souvenirs or do some last minute gear shopping for your upcoming trek.

Catch a rickshaw ride, like this one at Ason Bazaar where drivers line up at the end of the busy market streets. Give your feet a break from walking and enjoy a convenient way to see the city. Photo: John Burcham

When hunger strikes make your way east towards nearby Thukche Thakali, an unassuming but delicious restaurant and try Nepali Thaali, a traditional Nepali dish with rice, lentils, curry, vegetables and pickles.

Nepali Thaali, a traditional Nepali dish with rice, lentils, curry, vegetables and pickles. Photo: John Burcham


Day Three: Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Nagarkot is a small village roughly 18 miles northeast of Kathmandu in the foothills of the Himalayas. Famous for its distant Himalayan views, eight out of the thirteen ranges of the Nepal are visible here, including the Annapurna range, Manaslu range, Langtang range, Rolwaling range and Mahalangur range (Everest range) to name a few.

Head to Nagarkot from Kathmandu in the evening and stay in one of the villages many lodges and guest houses. Make sure to wake up early for a stunning sunrise view of the mountains. Spend the rest of the day exploring the network of hiking trails that meander through pine forests, villages and rice paddies.

Hike through villages and past tea houses as you explore Nagarkot. Photo: John Burcham


For those who have more time and are up for a longer adventure, many guide outfits in Kathmandu offer packaged treks through Nagarkot and to nearby villages, complete with transportation, lodging and guiding services.