A traveller’s guide to the food, culture and history of Kathmandu

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Kathmandu, nestled in a valley surrounded by majestic mountains on all sides. I spent three days exploring the cashmere weaving units by the day and the city by the night. What started as a work trip soon turned into discovering everything that the city has to offer with its age-old culture and traditions, exotic food and brilliant architecture. The crowd and chaos of Kathmandu lends a certain charm to the city. For those who love to people-watch, this place is heaven, with the hustle-bustle of the locals and the tourists who flock from all over the world to Nepal. The city takes over all your senses, transporting you to a different world altogether.

From meeting new people to really experiencing the place as is, the entire trip was a breath of fresh air, quite literally. I’ve curated a few of my favourite experiences from Kathmandu here:

Stay at Dwarika’s

Dwarika’s Hotel transports you to the splendour of the ancient architecture of Kathmandu, with its revived terracotta structure interspersed with intricate carved woodwork. The stay offered an authentic experience of Nepal’s culture with an intimate amalgamation of tradition, warmth and great hospitality.

Dwarikas 2

The hotel is situated in a convenient location, being close to the stupa at Bouddhanath and the Pashupathinath Temple. The space itself is like a museum, housing artifacts from centuries ago — a dream for any creative individual.

Dwarikas 3

Farmer’s Market at Le Sherpa

The smell of freshly baked bread and organic produce engulfs you as soon as you enter the Ramalaya Complex’s sprawling green lawns on a Saturday morning, where Le Sherpa hosts one the most popular farmer’s markets in Kathmandu.

Le Sherpa 1

Home to over 40 vendors selling fresh, local produce, breads, homemade jams and more, Le Sherpa perfectly ties together its farmer’s market with a weekend brunch at their restaurant and is a must to truly enjoy the local experience.

Le Sherpa 2

The splendour of Patan

On the outskirts of Kathmandu lies the ancient settlement of Patan. Visiting Patan is like turning the pages of history — its splendid architecture dates back to nearly 250 BC. The most unique attraction of Patan is the Durbar Square, which is an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist temples, forming a fascinating walk through the varying cultures that Nepal has to offer.

Patan 3

My personal favourite part of Patan was the winding narrow lanes of the area that give you a true sense of the lifestyle of the Newari folk, from small shops selling antiques in bronze and copper, to tiny settlements of people. I loved walking around and really immersing myself in all that Patan has to offer, including a photo-exhibition that I happened upon.

Patan 3

Monkey Temple and Boudhanath Stupa

Since most of my days were spent with the cashmere weavers, I got a chance to visit the Swayambhunath temple at night, an experience out of the ordinary and one I would recommend to everyone. The temple stands on elevated ground, surrounded by prayer flags all around and provides a beautiful view of the city at night. The shimmering lights of the city lend a certain tranquility to the space, a paradox to the hustle-bustle of the town.

Temple 4

Boudhanath Stupa is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kathmandu and it takes going there to understand why. The Stupa is not just grand in its structure, but also creates an atmosphere that emits good energies into the universe.

Temple 5

Knick-knacks at Babar Mahal

My last stop in the city was the tiny, quaint shopping area in Babar Mahal. I happened to chance upon a lovely shop selling artifacts made from handmade paper where I picked up a few knick-knacks.

Babar Mahal

The beautiful cluster of historic buildings houses an art gallery and some handicraft shops, away from the touristy ones you’d find outside the premises. I stopped for a quick bite at a lovely French restaurant in Babar Mahal, Chez Caroline, that serves some heart-warming dishes with a burst of flavour.

Trek 2

A short getaway to the majestic Himalayas surrounding the valley of Kathmandu was the perfect end to the trip. Accompanied by a few other travellers, I took an aerial tour witnessing the grandeur of the Himalayas from a bird’s eye view, concluded by a short trek. The vastness of the Himalayan range makes one realise how much there is to the world and we are all but a part of a bigger picture.

All images: Ruchika Sachdeva

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