Kathmandu Valley is one of the most popular destinations for tourists around the world. Those in search of a spectacular landscape and unique civilization arrive here and don’t leave disappointed. A cramped basin surrounded by towering hills, Kathmandu Valley is a congregation of 3 major cities i.e. Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. Each city is culturally important owing to the history and monuments developed by royal dynasties that date back centuries.
So why visit these epic cities? If you want to catch a glimpse of Newari heritage and lifestyle coupled with intricate architecture and a spiritual ambiance unlike any locale in the world, this is your best chance. Durbar squares in these cities are the best-preserved palace courtyards in Nepal and reflect on medieval Nepal through the monuments, palaces, and temples placed intricately within these squares.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square is located at the heart of Kathmandu city. Popularly known as Basantapur Durbar Square, it is a palace courtyard where intricate architecture meets unwavering religious faith. The courtyard dates back almost a thousand years with some temples and monuments dating five centuries back. While the square has undergone constant renovation and redevelopment, one should note that these structures have withstood numerous calamities, both natural and man-made, yet, stand tall.
With a collection of buildings and temples, the Kathmandu Durbar Square houses some of the oldest structures in Nepal. Predominantly Newari, its architecture reflects on the heritage and craftsmanship of an indigenous community. Kasthamandap Temple, for one, was carved out of a single tree while Taleju temple was built as a yantra suggesting it beholds mystical powers. While the first is undergoing renovation, Taleju temple is open for a visit once a year.
This square is home to Kumari Bahal (temple of living goddess-Kumari), Basantapur tower, Hanuman Dhoka, and numerous shrines placed intricately around the square. Visits in the morning reward you with a glorious spiritual ambiance. Do enjoy a stroll past Freak Street, known to have housed hippies during the 60s and 70s.
Patan Durbar Square
Lalitpur is a thriving city south of Kathmandu. And placed right in the center of Patan, aka. Lalitpur is the Patan Durbar Square. This palace square was a mainstay of Malla Dynasty. While they were credited with its development, legends have it Thakuri and Pradhan communities played a key role in its initial development, way before Mallas took over.
A perfect continuation to the heritage exploration, this hub of Newari art and architecture offers a glance into the royal lifestyle of medieval dynasties. The square is a Pagoda styled architecture coupled with the use of red bricks in the most structure that makes it a monotonous beauty. Most temples face the western wall of the Durbar (Palace). Some of the main shrines here include Krishna Mandir, Bhimsen Temple, and Taleju Bhawani temple. The palace square is a congregation of courtyards known as Chowk which include Keshav Narayan, Mul Chowk, and Sundari Chowk.
As you admire the intricate carvings and carefully sculpted idols of deities, spare time to visit Tusha Hiti which is a water fountain with delicate stone carvings. Bhandarkhal Garden and Patan Museum are few more attractions and places of importance. Wrap up your visit with a fulfilling meal at any of the rooftop restaurants with great 360° views of the Durbar square.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhadgaon, or commonly recognized as Bhaktapur, houses the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. This palace courtyard was developed by the Malla dynasty in the 15th century and has been renovated constantly. Famous for the 55 window palace conceptualized by Bhupatindra Malla, the square is also renowned for pagoda styled architecture of Naytapola, Bhairav Nath, and Dattatraya square.
An early morning excursion is a fantastic experience to be right in the thick of it. The square is a throwback to ancient architecture with intricate designs carved on wood and golden plates. The Golden Gate for one is a piece of art which serves the entrance to 55 window palace. This palace is another work of art with the 55 windows carved out in a peacock design immaculately preserved for 500 years.
The Naytapola Temple is yet another marvel of architecture and the tallest pagoda styled structure in the country. Its 5-storied design is eye-catching while Bhairav Nath Temple is another shrine with a similar design. The Naytapola Temple signifies 5 basic elements of life. While there, try the famous King Curd aka. Juju Dhau, a refreshing form of yogurt with a sweet taste.
Dotted with landmarks, Kathmandu valley is best identified by its Durbar squares. A visit to these landmarks offers travel back to the past in a bid to explore the ancient heritage and admire heights of craftsmanship. Brilliant reflection of religious inclination, culture, and art, Kathmandu Valley is a prime destination to revel in the cultural heritages which identify the valley and its people. Come take this spellbinding tour, a heritage exploration.