Kathmandu at a glance is nothing but one heck of dusty, busy, noisy, polluted, crowded and unorganized bustling city with terrible traffic. But, on the good side as cliche as it sounds it is home to a plethora of ancient monuments, temples and historical sites. Besides these, narrow alleyways, colorful shops in almost impossible corners and religious shrines, stone water sprouts, beautiful cities in the outskirts and people obviously, add charm to this ever-busy city.
Apart from the famous UNESCO heritage sites, popular tourist hub - Thamel, if you thought there was nothing to look at then think again! This ancient city will never cease to amaze you. Walking around, you might never know what you will come stumbling upon. You can never visit all of this city stuffed with amazing places in one day.
Be it local marketplace or religious shrines, it doesn’t matter! Even if you think you know all the whereabouts of this city there will always be a few places you might have missed. It might just be that small temple just around the corner or some amazing non-touristy place.
To make sure you don’t miss out on these hidden gems in this city and regret later. Here we have a list of some well-hidden gems within Kathmandu worth a visit.
Not too far from the airport or the Kathmandu city, this place Babarmahal revisited is not very well known to many, including some of the locals. It is a restored Rana palace which at present is a domicile to many fancy shops and exquisite restaurants, galleries and much more.
Perfect hideaway at the heart of the bustling city, Babarmahal revisited is quite expensive but worth it. Shops within the courtyard sell a wide range of high-quality clothes, jewelry, and crafts, Japanese whiskey, leather goods, furniture, and homewares. And of course, don’t forget to stop at a wonderful french cafe there - Chez Caroline.
Unfortunately, the opening hours of the shops are irregular so don’t expect to find everything open in the morning.
Horrible to give directions as there are no street names. Print a google map to 'Babar Mahal Revisited'. If you take a taxi to Babar Maha revisited then be aware the Babar Mahal is the name of an area nearby with an old palace building now occupied by the department of roads and Nepal oil corporation. So, most taxi drivers will most likely drop you there instead of the renovated complex if you ask for 'Babar Mahal'.
Narayanhiti Palace Museum
Located towards the east of the Kaiser Mahal next to Thamel, Narayanhiti Palace Museum is the former royal palace in the focal point of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. The royal residence which since a long time ago filled in as the main living place for the nation's rulers is now an open museum. Often overlooked while gushing over all the UNESCO heritage sites, the royal palace museum is fully in its original state as if time stopped in 2001 making the visit an incredibly interesting experience.
The museum showcases the vintage furnishings and royal belongings of the residents. Walking across the various rooms, you can have a slight idea about the lavish lifestyle led by the royals within the palace. The crown jewels preserved in the museum are the most valuable possessions of the country.
The next thing you are sure to see is the remnants of the bullet holes from the tragic massacre of the royal family on June 1, 2001. For those interested in modern history this place can’t be ignored!
The palace museum opens every Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. You are required to pay the entry fee to get inside the museum.
The entry fee for Nepalese is Rs 100 while students(required identification card) only have to pay Rs 20. The entry fee for SAARC nationals is Rs 250. Others must pay Rs 500 to enter the museum.
Ason- The Bustling Marketplace
Not so far from Ratnapark, cluttered alleyways lead to the bustling and vibrant street life, shops selling everything from spice to saris, crazy crowd of shoppers of all kinds, busy people but not so busy to welcome you with a smile, such is the charm of this ever-busy market place Ason.
Full of tiny shops, roadside stalls, a mix of traditional and modern houses, temples everywhere, Ason is best explored in the morning before it gets too crowded. Wandering around make sure you stop for chiya( milk tea) at least once and see if you can spot a pan of steaming momos.
Ason is full of wonders. Try exploring the alleyways you will never know what you will come across. Make sure to look for Kaathe Swayambhu Shee- A hidden miniature version of Swayambhu hidden in an alleyway from Ason, Indrachwok.
The best way to approach this place is just to wander around – you’ll spot plenty of hidden gems and get a true sense of how the streets of Kathmandu run.
A perfect getaway from the hectic city and regular tourist spots, Taudaha is the only natural lake in the Kathmandu valley. Taudaha Lake, right on the foothills of Chobhar holds religious and mythological importance in Nepal.
Situated near Kathmandu, its proximity to the capital city makes it a very popular destination for worshippers, families, young couples seeking privacy. Besides, it is a migratory bird haven perfect for birdwatchers. The lake is a stopover for numerous migratory bird species such as cormorants, Ruddy Shelduck, Serpent eagle, common teal. In addition, you can also feed the fish in the lake. As the lake holds religious importance fishing and swimming in the lake are not allowed.
Getting there, don't expect regular tourism services. You can either take a local bus or go on a hike. You might be required to pay a small fee if you're not Nepali (locals who sell tickets will be rather surprised when non-locals actually visit).
Chandragiri hills located approx 1-hour drive from Kathmandu is a perfect vantage point to observe mountains and enjoy a cable car ride of 1000 meters in the steep hill. The cable car will take you from the bottom to the Chandragiri hilltop. Depending upon the weather the ride will take approx 12 minutes.
The hill opens up to the beautiful scenery of Kathmandu valley on a clear day. During winter, lots of people come to this place to enjoy the snowfall. In May you wouldn’t see anything so pick a better time of year or be prepared for not seeing much. Queues are long for the cable car ride but efficiently handled by staff at both ends of the station. But be prepared to wait for some time. You will require a personal ID to show at the entrance of the facility. So make sure you have your passport before leaving for Chandragiri hills.
Freak Street- The 90’s Thamel
Gone, but not forgotten!
Freak Street is just around the corner from Kathmandu Durbar Square. Immediately, upon leaving Kathmandu Durbar Square you’ll be walking on the smooth stone slabs that cover Freak Street.
When hippies came from Europe in the 1960s and ’70s, it was often their destination. Nowadays, it’s not quite as hippy-ish as it was back then – but there’s still an interesting mix of shops and cafes here.
Don’t be too excited, keep your expectations low and look for hints of the past to truly appreciate Freak Street. It takes 5 minutes to walk down the once infamous street. If you are looking for an official indication of the freak street then there aren’t any. Official signpost will mention Jhhonchen and not Freak Street, but look at the shop signs, in case you are confused!
Walking down the street, to the right you’ll see a “colored pipe” store next to a chip shop. Hookah pipes are technically illegal in Nepal but colored pipes are not! It’s the only thing that gives a reference to when Freak Street was known for something else.
To some, it might be a great disappointment as the atmosphere is gone. There remains little to remind one of a bygone era. The glory days of Freak Street are long gone.
Nowadays, the street is full of a variety of restaurants, trinket shops and memories of the past. The Snowman Cafe, situated right off the main street, is one of the only remaining establishments from the 1960s. As with so many other historical sites, the thrill of visiting is in wondering "Did (famous person name) stand here and look at this site too?
Set on the banks of the Bagmati River, (Gokarneshwar, or Lord of Gokarna) Temple is an easy 5km trip from Bodhnath along the road to Sundarijal.
The little-visited temple at Gokarna, famous amongst locals but not as much with tourists, this Shiva temple is worth seeing. Within its periphery is a collection of temples, cremation ghats, and rare statues. It is the only other place to observe cremation besides Pashupatinath.
You do not require an entrance fee to visit Gokarna. However, to enter the Gokarna temple complex there's a 100 rupee ticket. Get the ticket from the main entrance or the one near the bottom of the main road steps.
About an hour away from Boudha, you will get to explore the typical Nepali village Sankhu at its most original state. Sankhu is a typical Nepali Newari town resembling Bhaktapur 20 years ago.
It is famous for its sankha shaped town structure. It is one of the best attractions for both national and international tourists, especially for hiking. The streets, shops, and sweet smiling locals, not to miss the heritage temple Bajrayogini up on the hill, which is about half an hour walk from the village proudly donning ancient craft and structures of the temple.
Bajrayogini is the major attraction of Sankhu which stands on the hillside north of the village where goddesses are worshiped with high devotion. Besides, it is also famous for celebrating the Shalinadi festival where goddesses Swosthani and lord shiva are worshipped throughout the month through fasting, meditating and worshipping by both men and women.
No tourists, interesting village Sankhu is a getaway perfectly tucked away from the city. You can continue from Nagarkot to Sankhu on foot or by (infrequent) bus.
Have you been to any of these places? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comment section below.