Travel guide Nepal: what to do and see in Kathmandu in three days?

Kathmandu: the capital of Nepal can be just as overwhelming. With all colours, smells, sounds and people! No problem, in this travel guide we tell you exactly what nice things to see in Kathmandu, where you can eat well and what the best budget hotels are in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu street tour


Travel guide: Three days in Kathmandu

At first glance, Kathmandu looks like chaos: scooters are hovering by, rickshaws are trying to get you in their vehicle, dozen of street vendors, local people, tourists, and sometimes a goat or dog who try to find their way in the crowded centre. The city itself doesn’t have a beautiful skyline and sometimes the smog in the city is unbearable. In short, the city can be quite overwhelming and most visitors limit their time in Kathmandu. Still, Kathmandu has a lot to offer and there is a whole different world hidden behind this crowded Asian city: a world of ancient temples, delicious food and very nice people.

So don’t immediately write off this busy and polluted city and spend a few days here. You will learn more about the history of Nepal and you will appreciate other Nepalese cities a lot more. There is more than enough to do and see in Kathmandu!

Kathmandu tempel

How many days do you spend in Kathmandu?

We recommend that you stay in Kathmandu for three to four days. One full day on arrival and a one-day full day before you leave Nepal are normal but trust us, you will also need one extra day to get to know the city. The following activities are great to do fill these three days!


Travel guide: The best activities in Kathmandu!

Food tour: experience the cuisine of Kathmandu

For the people who know me well: I really love food! And often street food is the most delicious a country has to offer. But sometimes it is quite hard to know which food is “safe” and which street vendor’s food you get you to the toilet straight away!

A food tour offers the solution for this: a local guide takes you to the tastiest vendors while having Western stomachs in mind. This way you get to know the local cuisine and you come to places where no other tourist comes!

We did the secret food tour of Backstreet Academy, in total we ate six Nepalese dishes, each at a different restaurant/street vendor. My favourite dish: momo, Nepalese dumplings! Click here for more information about this food tour!

Tip: fancy more local food? Then consider attending a Nepalese cooking workshop. Click here for more information

Free walking tour through Kathmandu: Thamel and surrounding neighbourhoods

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 neighbourhoods. 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 tradition 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 afterwards, 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.


Curious what it costs to travel through Nepal? Click here for our budget blog on the country!


Kathmandu street tour

Visit the Boudhanath Stupa: the most beautiful temple in Kathmandu

The Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in all of Nepal. It is a beautiful temple with an entire square built around it. No matter how many temples you have seen, a visit to the Bouddhanath Stupa should not be missed during your trip. It has something magical to walk around the stupa, (always walk clockwise), to see the many monks and to smell the incense.

Go just before sunset to see the temple in the most beautiful light. The stupa is located seven kilometres outside the centre, with a tuk-tuk it will cost between RS 500-700 if you negotiate well (one way). Entry costs: Rs 400 per person.

Tip: if you want to view the Boudhanath Stupa from above, go to one of the many roof terraces in the restaurants that surround the square. From here you have a completely different perspective.

Boudha sunset-2Kathmandu

Shopping for souvenirs and trekking gear

Nepal is known for the many great treks that can be done here. We hiked for twelve days the Annapurna Circuit (click here for our experiences). In Kathmandu, you can buy a wide variety of hike-related products. From hiking poles to zip-off trousers and from water bottles to hiking boots, really everything is for sale here. And often for a reasonable price too. So don’t worry if you have forgotten something. Even products such as water purification tablets can be found here.

In addition to all those hike stuff, you can also fully indulge in finding beautiful souvenirs. For example, you have Nepalese tea and coffee, you will find singing bowls everywhere, leather bags, clothing made of yak and merino wool and lots of hemp bags. Jewellery lovers can also go wild here, every few meters you will come across silver and metal bracelets, earrings or necklaces.

Tip: negotiating is very normal in Nepal. Always stay respectful and try not to squeeze the seller. Sometimes ask yourself: are the 25 cents you are negotiating about going to make a big difference for you or not?


The ultimate packing list for a multi-day trek in the Himalayas!


Kathmandu street tour

Climb the 365 steps to the Monkey Temple: Swayambhunath Stupa

If you have not visited this temple during the free walking tour, then definitely visit Swayambhunath Stupa or the Monkey Temple. That name doesn’t just come from anywhere: the mountain on which the stupa is built is full of monkeys. Walk up the 365 steps and you will see dozens of monkeys playing, relaxing or stealing your precious food. Make sure you hide your food in your bag. The last thing you want on this holy mountain is to pick a fight with these local inhabitants, who by the way work together quite well and often succeed in their endeavour of robbing visitors of food.

Besides monkeys, the temple itself is beautiful to see, just like the view you have from here. And the stairs are a good exercise if you are going on a multi-day walking tour! Admission costs: Rs 200 (about 1,60 EURO) per person.

Tip: if the weather is clear, consider visiting the Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple) at sunrise. You then have a spectacular view of the entire Kathmandu Valley with the white snowy peaks of the Himalayas in the distance.

Monkey Temple


The best restaurants in Kathmandu!

Besides a lot of tasty street food, there are also more than enough nice restaurants in Kathmandu. Below a selection. Note: these restaurants are relatively Western, for local food I recommend the street food tour described above, or one of the many small street vendors.

OR2K – falafel and smoothie bowls

The Israeli OR2K is a bit strict: shoes are forbidden and you are sitting on pillows on the floor. But the delicious food is more than worth it: you have good falafel, tasty hummus and extensive salads here. The prices are slightly higher, but for 8 euros per person, you can eat well here! Click here for the location of OR2K.

OR2K

Himalayan Java Coffee – coffee and good wifi!
Himalayan Java Coffee is the Starbucks of Nepal. You can find this chain in different cities. Delicious coffee is served here, the lunch dishes are large and the WiFi is fast! There are several Himalayan Java Coffee locations in Kathmandu, this is our favourite place.

You may have noticed that some of the restaurants that you will find in Kathmandu are also in Pokhara. Click here for my restaurant guide for Pokhara with 16 trendy restaurants, nice coffee bars and nice breakfast hotspots!

More restaurants in Kathmandu

Fire and Ice Pizza – real Italian pizzas!
Fancy a crispy pizza topped with good cheese and juicy tomato sauce? Then go eat at Fire and Ice Pizza. This place is famous for its pizzas and is also in the middle of Thamel. Click here for the location of Fire and Ice Pizza.

Green Organic Cafe and Farmers Bar
We discovered the Green Organic Cafe and Famers Bar when I was looking for a place with salads. Overlooking one of the busy shopping streets of Thamel, this fun restaurant serves well-stocked salads and other vegetable dishes. If meat is indispensable for you, don’t panic, you can also order meat dishes here, but the focus is just a little more on vegetables. Tip: I drank a cucumber Martini here, very tasty! Click here for the location of Green Organic Cafe and Farmers

Boudha sunset-7

Pho 99 – Vietnamese dishes!
Pho 99 is in both Pokhara and Kathmandu. The food here is really delicious and the portions generous! The Pho soup is super tasty and the spring rolls also seem to come straight from Vietnam. Click here for the location of Pho 99 (next to the Bouddhanath Stupa).


The best budget hotels in Kathmandu!

Hotels, guesthouses and hostels in Kathmandu are abundant, but how do you find a good budget hotel here? No worries, we can help you! The three hotels below are all located in Thamel, the tourist centre of Kathmandu. If you prefer to sit outside, we can heartily recommend this Airbnb. Here you will find more peace and space.

Hotel Ganesh Himal

Ganesh hotel kathmandu

This cozy hotel has been named the author’s choice for the Lonely Planet and not without a reason. It is spacious, has nice rooms and a nice inner garden! From 22 euros per night (two people).

Nepal Pavillion Inn

Nepal Pavilion Inn Kathmandu

This tastefully decorated hotel has spacious rooms and very good Wi-Fi. It is located right in the center of Thamel, close to tourist attractions. You can sleep here for as little as 20 euros per night (with two people).

Newa Home

Newa home Kathmandu

Hotel Newa Home does not look really good from the outside, but appearances are deceiving, from the inside it is a nice hotel! The rooms are spotless and new, there is a nice roof terrace and you can sleep here for as little as 16 euros (with two people).

Book now


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