Kathmandu is a city of 3.5 million people, but when you’re actually exploring the compact and easily managed downtown area, it hardly feels that way! Kathmandu is a city to explore and wander.
There are a few main roads and a ring highway that wraps around the whole area; but, aside from those, there is just a massive network of narrow alleys and side streets connecting everything. You never know what you will find when you turn a corner, stumbling onto a religious shrine, stupa or just open market square.
Easily managed by foot, the main neighborhoods I visited were — Thamel, Asan & Durbar.
This is sort of the tourist center of Kathmandu, and a popular area for young people. It has a few main streets packed with coffee shops, small trekking companies, restaurants and souvenir shops. I loved walking around in this area, since there were so many shops with local handcrafts. No surprise there… I’m obsessed with handcrafts and Nepal has a very strong craft culture. Masks, thanka paintings, felt creations, metal & stone jewelry, hand-woven rugs, you can find anything here!
This has much more of a local market feel than Thamel. This is also a very historical part of the city, so it seems like every square has a famous shrine or stupa to see. I don’t know the names of any of them since I was just wandering and there’s no signs, but lots of interesting things to see!
Since Kathmandu only has a few main roads, its really easy to figure out the public transit. There is 1 major north-south street, and there are these little electric tompos (similar to a large rickshaw). Just look for the number 5, and you’re good to go. It only drives up and down the street. And then when you’re ready to get off, you just bang the ceiling with your hand and the driver immediately pulls over. For only 15 rupees ($.15 USD!!), this is my choice way to hop around downtown. For longer trips, there is a variety of buses which you can hop on and off for only 20 rupees. It’s so cheap to get around here!