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Shopping in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is not a city for shoppers who crave international brand names. The best buys here are handicrafts and ethnic arts, made by traditional artisans in backstreets around the Kathmandu Valley.

Key areas

Thamel is one continuous strip of souvenir shops, selling everything from tie-dye T-shirts and gemstones to antique butter tea churns and Tibetan Buddhist dance masks. Not all the antiques are as old as they purport to be, but there are some fascinating cultural trinkets on sale.

South of Thamel, New Road is lined with camera stores selling high-spec equipment at reasonable prices. Numerous stores around Kathmandu sell knock-off trekking gear of varying quality; locally made trekking boots and waterproofs are a poor investment, but good quality fleeces are available for bargain prices. For the real deal, at international prices, head to the brand-name stores on Tridevi Marg.

Patan is famous for Tibetan jewellery and thangka paintings, while Bhaktapur is renowned for its woodcarving and ceramics, made in traditional kilns by local potters. Numerous fair trade handicraft shops are lined up along Kupondol, the road linking Kathmandu and Patan.

Markets

In the Old Town, the market between Asan Tol and Indra Chowk sells spices, dried fruit, incense, brass pots, block-printed fabrics and traditional Nepali clothes. In fact, the entire old town is one continuous bazaar, and almost anything can be found along the atmospheric alleyways between Thamel and Durbar Square.

Shopping centres

Kathmandu has a handful of modern shopping centres, packed with stores selling clothes and household goods, though none are quite up to international standards. Popular malls include City Center Mall on Pashupati Road, Civil Mall at Sundhara and United World Trade Center at Tripureshwor. The larger malls have cinemas, restaurants and stores with genuine, rather than counterfeit international, brands.

Opening hours

Saturday is the official day off in Nepal, but shops that cater to tourists generally stay open seven days a week.

Souvenirs

The most popular souvenirs are Buddhist handicrafts and thangka (cloth paintings), depicting Buddhist deities, mandalas, and the cities of the Kathmandu Valley. Shops and market stalls around the city are piled high with brass statues, Buddhist prayer wheels, inlaid ‘singing bowls’, Buddhist masks, jewellery decorated with Tibetan script, and other religious artefacts.

Himalayan textiles are famous around the world, and Kathmandu is a great place to pick up Pashmina shawls, yak wool blankets and ornately embroidered Buddhist wall hangings, as well as all sorts of hippy apparel and artfully embroidered T-shirts. Tibetan refugees knot ornate carpets in the backstreets of Jawalakhel in Patan. Almost everyone goes home with some Buddhist prayer flags, or leaves some tied atop a mountain pass while trekking.

Tax information

There are no tax-free shopping options for travellers, but prices for imported cameras in particular are similar to duty-free prices elsewhere.

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Tibet

A firm favourite with tour parties bound for Lhasa, this Tibetan-run hotel offers quiet, comfortable rooms in a quiet location away from the Thamel bustle. The grand lobby gives a sneak preview of Tibet, with its vivid Buddhist carvings and murals. Facilities include a rooftop terrace, a private garden, a restaurant and a meditation chapel.

Hotel Yak and Yeti

This famous 5-star hotel was founded by a Russian entrepreneur on the site of a former Rana's palace. The stylish rooms are set in two modern wings that were untouched by the 2015 earthquake, and damage to the Rana-era buildings was quickly repaired. As well as swish restaurants and bars and superior business and sports facilities, the hotel has lush gardens and its own casino.

Hotel Ganesh Himal

South of Thamel, this friendly, family-run hotel offers above-average facilities for budget travellers in quiet location away from the tourist hubbub. Rooms have reliable hot water, there's a sunny rooftop terrace and owners offer airport pick-ups and mountain bike hire.

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu

Kathmandu’s grandest 5-star hotel benefits from a secluded location, away from the centre but right on the doorstep of the Bodhnath stupa. The 290 rooms are luxurious, service is impeccable, and the hotel bar and restaurants are favourite hangouts for Kathmandu’s power players. Other facilities include a business centre, pool and spa.

Kathmandu Guest House

Probably the most famous budget hotel in Kathmandu, with a prime location in the heart of Thamel. The 121 rooms come in all shapes and sizes, from simple fan-cooled backpacker rooms to handsome air-conditioned rooms in an old Rana palace. However, the old wing was damaged in the 2015 earthquake and restoration work is ongoing. Bonus features include two courtyard restaurants with Wi-Fi, a peaceful garden and secure parking for bikes and motorcycles.

Kantipur Temple House

Built in traditional Newari style, with brick courtyards and carved timber window and door frames, this eco-friendly boutique hotel has 48 comfortable rooms decorated with traditional Nepali fabrics and furnishings. It’s Rana-style living without the royal budget.