Exploring Kathmandu: A Three-Day Travel Itinerary in Nepal’s Capital

Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, can be as intimidating. Filled with every hue, scent, sound, and human being! No worries, we’ve got all the information you need in this travel guide, including the top cheap hotels in Kathmandu, places to dine well, and attractions to see.

Three days in Kathmandu

At first glance, Kathmandu seems like pure chaos: scooters whizzing past, rickshaws clamoring for passengers, a multitude of street vendors, locals, tourists, and occasionally even goats or dogs navigating the crowded streets. The cityscape itself lacks the charm of a picturesque skyline, and the pervasive smog can sometimes be intolerable. Consequently, many visitors opt to limit their time in Kathmandu, overwhelmed by its initial impression. Yet, beyond this bustling facade lies a hidden gem: a world of ancient temples, tantalizing cuisine, and the genuine warmth of its people, waiting to be explored.

Don’t dismiss this bustling and polluted city right away; consider spending a few days here. You’ll delve deeper into Nepal’s history and gain a greater appreciation for other cities in the country. Kathmandu offers plenty to explore and experience!

How long do you plan to stay in Kathmandu?

We suggest spending three to four days in Kathmandu. It’s common to have one full day upon arrival and another full day before departing Nepal but trust us, you’ll also want an extra day to explore the city. Here are some great activities to fill these three days!

Find the best activities in Kathmandu!

Tasting adventure: savor Kathmandu’s delectable cuisine

For those who are familiar with me: I adore food! And I often find that street food offers the most delicious culinary experiences a country has to offer. However, it can sometimes be challenging to distinguish which food is “safe” to eat and which street vendors might send you running to the restroom immediately!

A food tour provides the perfect solution to this dilemma: a knowledgeable local guide leads you to the most delicious vendors while keeping Western stomachs in consideration. This allows you to sample authentic local cuisine and discover hidden gems away from the usual tourist spots!

We opted for the secret food tour offered by Backstreet Academy, where we indulged in six Nepalese dishes, each from a different restaurant or street vendor. My personal favorite was the momo, Nepalese dumplings!

Take a free walking tour around Kathmandu: Thamel and the neighboring areas.

Another nice way to get to know Kathmandu is through a free walking tour. We did a tour with Shiva (recommended by my mother-in-law) a positive Nepalese guy who has been a mountain guide for years. In four hours, he led us through all of Thamel (the tourist district) and surrounding neighborhoods. He brought us to hidden temples, beautiful courtyards, and local markets.

Along the way, Shiva tells a lot about daily life in Nepal but also explains what certain customs and traditions stand for. He gives a brief explanation about the caste system, shows us where the deceased is cremated, and ends with our group at the Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath Stupa). The concept of a free walking tour is that afterward, you can give a tip as a thank you. You determine the amount or whether you give anything at all.

Shiva gives a free walking tour daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. His starting point is the entrance to the Garden of Dreams. If you want to participate, send him a message in advance via his Facebook Page or WhatsApp number

Tip: this free walking tour takes quite a while (3-4 hours). So make sure you have something to eat and enough water with you.

Explore the Boudhanath Stupa: Kathmandu’s most exquisite temple.

The Boudhanath Stupa stands out as one of Nepal’s largest stupas, featuring a stunning temple surrounded by a bustling square. Regardless of how many temples you’ve explored, a visit to the Boudhanath Stupa is an absolute highlight of your trip. There’s an undeniable magic in strolling around the stupa, always in a clockwise direction, observing the monks and catching whiffs of incense wafting through the air.

For the most breathtaking experience, consider timing your visit just before sunset to witness the temple bathed in a captivating light. Situated seven kilometers outside the city center, you can hop on a tuk-tuk for around RS 500-700 (with good negotiation skills) for a one-way trip. Admission fee: Rs 400 per person.

Here’s a tip: if you’re interested in getting a bird’s-eye view of the Boudhanath Stupa, head to one of the numerous rooftop terraces at the restaurants surrounding the square. You’ll enjoy a whole new perspective from up there.

Souvenir shopping and purchasing trekking gear.

Nepal is famous for its amazing trekking opportunities, and we got to experience a twelve-day hike along the Annapurna Circuit (you can check out our adventures here). In Kathmandu, you’ll find a wide range of trekking gear available for purchase. Whether you need hiking poles, zip-off trousers, water bottles, or sturdy hiking boots, you can find it all here, often at reasonable prices. So, if you forget to pack something essential, don’t worry; Kathmandu has got you covered, including items like water purification tablets.

But it’s not just trekking gear you’ll find in Kathmandu; the city is also a treasure trove of fascinating souvenirs. From aromatic Nepalese tea and coffee to the ubiquitous singing bowls, stylish leather bags, cozy garments made from yak and merino wool, and an array of hemp bags, there’s something to please every traveler. And for those who love jewelry, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice with the abundance of silver and metal bracelets, earrings, and necklaces on offer.

Here’s a tip: Bargaining is common practice in Nepal, so feel free to negotiate respectfully. Remember, sometimes it’s worth considering whether saving a few cents will make a big difference to you.

Ascend the 365 steps to reach the Monkey Temple: Swayambhunath Stupa.

If you haven’t checked out this temple during the free walking tour, make sure to visit Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple. The name isn’t just for show: the mountain where the stupa stands is home to numerous monkeys. As you climb the 365 steps, you’ll encounter plenty of these playful creatures, lounging around or attempting to snatch your snacks.

Remember to keep your food safely tucked away in your bag to avoid any unwanted altercations. You don’t want to get into a tussle with these clever locals, who are experts at swiping food from unsuspecting visitors.

Besides the monkeys, the temple itself is a stunning sight, as is the panoramic view from the top. Climbing the stairs provides a good workout if you’re preparing for a multi-day trek! Admission fee: Rs 200 (approximately 1.60 EURO) per person.

Tip: If the weather is clear, consider visiting Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple) at sunrise. You’ll be treated to a breathtaking view of the entire Kathmandu Valley, with the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas in the distance.

Top dining spots in Kathmandu!

Apart from the delicious street food options, Kathmandu boasts plenty of excellent restaurants. Here’s a curated list. Note: these establishments tend to offer more Western cuisine. For authentic local flavors, I suggest trying out the street food tour mentioned earlier or exploring the numerous small street vendors.

OR2K – falafel and smoothie bowls

OR2K, the Israeli restaurant, has a somewhat unique atmosphere: patrons are required to remove their shoes and dine while seated on floor pillows. However, the delectable cuisine more than compensates for this quirk: you’ll find excellent falafel, flavorful hummus, and a variety of hearty salads. While the prices may be slightly higher, at 8 euros per person, you can enjoy a satisfying meal here!

Himalayan Java Coffee – serving up coffee and offering reliable wifi!

Himalayan Java Coffee is often referred to as the Starbucks of Nepal, with multiple locations across various cities. Here, you’ll find delicious coffee, generous lunch servings, and speedy WiFi. Among the various Himalayan Java Coffee outlets in Kathmandu, this particular location is our favorite spot.

Fire and Ice Pizza – serving up authentic Italian pizzas!

If you’re craving a crispy pizza with delicious cheese and juicy tomato sauce, head over to Fire and Ice Pizza. Renowned for its exceptional pizzas, this eatery is conveniently located in the heart of Thamel.

Green Organic Cafe and Farmers Bar

We stumbled upon the Green Organic Cafe and Farmers Bar while searching for a spot offering fresh salads. Situated overlooking one of Thamel’s bustling shopping streets, this lively restaurant offers a variety of well-prepared salads and vegetable dishes. For those who prefer meat, fear not, as meat dishes are also available here, although the emphasis is slightly more on vegetables. Tip: I highly recommend trying the cucumber Martini here; it’s delicious!

Pho 99 – serving up Vietnamese cuisine

Pho 99 has branches in both Pokhara and Kathmandu. The cuisine here is truly delightful, with generously sized portions! The Pho soup is exceptionally tasty, and the spring rolls taste just like they’re straight from Vietnam. Click here for Pho 99’s location (next to the Bouddhanath Stupa).

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