Kathmandu is Nepal’s center of gravity. But just outside the city limits, all around the Kathmandu Valley, are historical and cultural treasures. The Kathmandu Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth exploring on a series of day trips from Kathmandu. And the easiest and most rewarding place to start is the small city of Patan. To help you plan a day trip there from Kathmandu, I put together this list of things to do in Patan.
(Need ideas for things to do in Kathmandu itself? Check out this post for a Kathmandu itinerary.)
Five things to do in Patan on a day trip from Kathmandu
1. Explore Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square is the most stunning display of ancient Newari architecture in the Kathmandu Valley. It’s full of elaborate temples and beautifully decorated palace courtyards. You could wander around for hours without getting bored. This isn’t just the highlight of Patan — it’s one of the top things to do in Nepal.
Unfortunately, the 2015 earthquake brought extensive damage to Durbar Square. Many of the buildings are now covered in scaffolding, unsafe to enter, and supported by wooden beams. Still, plenty of gems remain and it’s one of the best things to do in Patan. Pick up a Patan Durbar Square map at the ticket booths to keep track of which temples are which.
The north side of the square is dominated by a handful of large temples. The three-tiered Krishna Mandir is the most impressive. Non-Hindus can’t enter, but you can see the locals hanging out upstairs — often playing traditional music or just sitting in the windows and gossiping.
The nearby Vishwanath Temple features highly-detailed decorative wood carvings. The Bhimsen Temple has a unique rectangular shape, and the Krishna Temple is in the shape of an octagon.
Continuing south, you’ll come to the Royal Palace. The northern entrance is the entrance to the Patan Museum (more on that later), while the southern entrance brings you through a series of ornate courtyards. The first courtyard contains a handful of temples, while the second one is built around a water tank. You can climb up to the third floor of the surrounding buildings for great views over Durbar Square.
The far southern end of Durbar Square contains a handful of minor temples and structures. On the southern corner of the Royal Palace, look out for the orange-painted statue of Hanuman alongside Ganesh and Narsingha.
In order to restore and preserve Patan Durbar Square, the town charges an admission fee (which includes entrance to the Patan Museum). The current Patan Durbar Square entrance fee is 1,000 rupees (about $10). When you buy your ticket, the salesperson will give you a lanyard to hang around your neck, indicating that you’ve paid. A handful of officials scattered throughout the square chase down tourists who don’t have lanyards and bring them to the ticket booths at either end of the square. If you want your ticket to last for more than a day, let the salesperson know (it doesn’t cost extra). To learn more about Patan, hire a guide for about 1,000 rupees.
2. Visit the Patan Museum
The Patan Museum is undoubtedly the best museum in Nepal. It houses hundreds of historical and religious artifacts from around the Kathmandu Valley. The displays are well-thought-out, in English, and designed to educate visitors about Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal.
The museum sprawls out across several buildings inside the Royal Palace complex in Durbar Square. It takes at least an hour to visit. It’s one of the most worthwhile things to do in Patan.
The main takeaway you’ll have from this museum is that in Nepali culture, Hinduism and Buddhism coexist and mix together without conflict. Buddhists pray at temples with Hindu iconography. Hindus draw from Buddhist legends. Even the strictest practitioners — such as Tibetan Buddhist monks — are open-minded when it comes to their neighbors’ beliefs.
The first few rooms walk you through Buddhist symbolism and art. You’ll learn why Buddha’s hand positions matter in sculptures and statues and what those faces on all the stupas mean.
Then, the displays shift to Hinduism. After visiting, you’ll be able to name many of the Hindu gods and their various incarnations, and you’ll know why Ganesh is often shown with a broken tusk.
Finally, the Patan Museum contains a few displays on traditional crafts in Patan. You can see how they make the bronze sculptures the city is famous for.
When you get tired of looking at and reading about old religious artifacts, take a break in the open-air cafe. You can enjoy a pot of tea or cup of coffee while sitting in a beautiful garden, with views of the Royal Palace in the background.
Tickets to the Patan Museum are built into your Durbar Square admission. It is not possible to buy a separate ticket just for the museum.
3. Go to the Golden Temple
Patan’s most beautiful and best-preserved temple is not in Durbar Square itself. The Buddhist Golden Temple is well worth the walk a few blocks north.
The temple is largely covered in golden metal plates (hence the name). The main entrance is the eastern doorway, which is elaborately decorated. The center of the courtyard contains a small shrine (also decked out in gold), but the most important feature of the temple is the statue of Sakyamuni at the western end.
Remember to spin the prayer wheels clockwise as you walk around the courtyard. You can also visit the second floor of the building, where you’ll find a handful of additional statues and another perspective on the courtyard architecture.
The Golden Temple is very atmospheric — incense burns, flowers cover the shrines, and locals ring the bells as they come and go. While it’s firmly on the tour group circuit of things to do in Patan, it still feels like an authentic exposure to Nepali Buddhism rather than a tourist carnival.
Admission to the Golden Temple is 50 rupees. A handful of irritating guys hang around the temple and try to start conversations with tourists as a means of drumming up business for their nearby shops — don’t be duped into thinking they’re legitimate guides.
4. Go on a walking tour to find smaller temples and shrines
Patan is a fiercely traditional town, and despite its proximity to Kathmandu, it maintains its historical charms. The old town contains dozens of small temples and shrines, many hidden in courtyards you’d never even think to look for.
The best way to explore these neighborhoods is on a self-guided walking tour. You could just wander around the streets north of Durbar Square and see what you find. But if you want a little more direction, Lonely Planet has a great guide that covers most of the old town. It takes about two hours to really do it justice.
If you don’t have that much time, at least pay a visit to the series of quiet courtyards linked together to the west of the Golden Temple (if you exit through the western gate, you’ll come to the first of them). These courtyards are closed off to traffic (mostly). You’ll see kids flying kites, old men bringing offerings to the temples, and young professionals gossiping over a cup of tea at hidden tea shops. Nyakhuchowk Bahal is the most interesting of the courtyards.
Additionally, the road leading north from Durbar Square is one of the best places to get acquainted with the local temple architecture. At least a half dozen small Vishnu temples line this street, all of them slightly different.
5. Shop for unique handicrafts
One of the most popular things to do in Patan, and many peoples’ reason for visiting, is to go shopping. The town is famous for metalwork (which you’ll very quickly notice) and fair trade products. Many of these items also appear in Thamel’s shops, but if you visit Patan, you’ll find greater variety and have the opportunity to purchase directly from the source.
You’ll find most of the metalwork shops near Durbar Square. Check out the bronze statues in the alleys near the Golden Temple, or near the markets south of the square. Look for the large sheets of bronze. The Hindu and Buddhist statues are among the favorite things to buy in Nepal — expect to pay at least 10,000 rupees for a simple hand-made statue.
The handicraft and fair trade shops mostly lie just south of the river on the road from Kathmandu. They’re a good distance away from central Patan — take a taxi. Many of these shops support Tibetan refugees, people with disabilities, and other historically marginalized communities. Bargaining is not appropriate at many of them.
Practicalities for a day trip to Patan from Kathmandu
How to get to Patan and how to get around
Historically, Patan has made every effort to stay independent of Kathmandu. But the reality is today, it’s basically an extension of the Nepali capital. You won’t even be able to tell where one ends and the other begins.
In fact, Patan is so close to central Kathmandu that you could walk there. It would take about an hour from Thamel to Patan Durbar Square. The whole walk is along main roads.
If you don’t feel like dodging potholes and motorbikes for that long, you can take a taxi from Kathmandu to Patan for about 350-400 rupees. Alternatively, frequent buses, microbuses and tempos connect Kathmandu Ratna Park bus stand with Patan Durbar Square for just 20 rupees. I used a minibus and a tempo but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re on a seriously low budget — the routes are confusing, especially when you need to get from Patan to Kathmandu.
However you travel, try to avoid going between the two towns at rush hour (8-10 am and 4-6 pm). The traffic is a nightmare.
Patan is very easy to navigate on foot (well, aside from the motorbike traffic and lack of sidewalks). You can see everything in this list of things to do in Patan by walking. It’s a long walk or a quick taxi ride to the handicraft shops.
What to eat in Patan
Patan’s food scene squarely aims itself at two groups: expats who want to escape Kathmandu, and tour groups. In other words, eating is not a highlight of this list of things to do in Patan.
Many favorite restaurants based in Thamel, including Roadhouse Cafe and New Orleans, also have outlets in Patan. They’re a little out of the way and only really worth the trip if you can’t get a reservation at the Thamel branches.
For a more convenient meal, accept that you’re not going to get great food and instead find a tourist restaurant with a roof deck providing great views over Durbar Square. My favorite option, which has solid food and low prices, is Third World Restaurant. The views over the Krishna Mandir are outstanding.
If you need a coffee fix, Himalayan Java operates a branch south of Durbar Square. Take a left at the corner of the Royal palace and look for the plaza where all the microbuses park.
How much time do you need in Patan?
Many travelers rush through Patan as one part of a whirlwind one-day trip around the Kathmandu area. But there are enough things to do in Patan to justify a whole day trip here. You could leave Kathmandu around 8 am and you’d be ready to return by 4 pm.
If you’re looking for more places to see around Kathmandu, stay tuned for posts on Boudhanath and Bhaktapur — the other highlights of the Kathmandu Valley.
Patan is one of the most interesting places to visit in Nepal. Don’t miss this historical and cultural gem.
Have you been to Patan? What other activities would you recommend? Leave a comment!
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Nice post and Patan sounds like it is worth 2 days to take it slowly and absorb.
You could definitely take two days there — in fact, there are meant to be some nice, quiet guesthouses there. Good way to avoid the mass tourist crowds in Kathmandu.
What a wonderful post, I hope to visit Kathmandu in the future when I visit India
Thank you for sharing this, you post is very informative as well
It’s an easy hop over to Nepal from India for sure!
Patan sounds like a real gem in Nepal. It seems like there are so many temples to visit and even more “hidden” ones waiting to be discovered. We are going to have to make it to Nepal.
Soooo many temples. Like after a day or two, you see so many that you almost stop paying attention to them 🙂
Patan definitely sounds like it’s worth the trip! I like that it has a lot of historical charm and it sound a more relaxed in comparison the the frenzy of Kathmandu. Great tip abut the food!
It’s much more relaxed than Kathmandu, for sure. Although there are still motorbikes driving like crazy people down super narrow streets. Can’t escape that in Nepal!
I prefer small cities, so it’s nice to learn about Patan. It’s looks like there is plenty to do. I’d probably even go shopping there for some of the metal work, though I’m not much of a shopper. It sounds like they are slowly but surely recovering after the earthquake.
Yeah, for the most part Patan wasn’t too badly damaged by the quake — just Durbar Square. The rest of the city escaped the worst of it, luckily.
It’s places like that that really make me want to visit Nepal. It’s been on my list for a while, but for some reason it hasn’t materialised, yet.
Thanks for sharing this lesser known part of Nepal! Will add this to the list once I make it there 🙂
Very sad about the devastating effects of earthquake on Patan! They are so right about hiking ticket prices. I hope it comes back to its original state. I will plan a 2 day tour here.
Nepal is such a lovely place. Of course it is the gateway to the Himalayas but Kathmandu and towns like Patan are real treasures of rich history and heritage. Durbar square is like a living museum of the ancient culture that prevailed in the region.Though it is relatively easy to get to Nepal from India, we have not yet made it to this Himalayan kingdom. Hope to make amends soon. Loved reading your post and the nice tips and tricks. The pictures transported me to the wonderful land of Patan.
Nepal is really a great place to experience culture. The shrines are absolutely amazing.
The place looks very beautiful. Nepal is one of those countries I still need to visit. I almost went there this month, but canceled in the end. I will put Patan on my list of places to visit as well.
Patan looks like a really beautiful small city! Lovely shots! I cannot wait to visit!
When I went to Nepal, I mainly went for trekking. But I had time to visit Bhaktapur. I can’t get over how from your photos Patan looks almost exactly like Bhaktapur! Kathmandu was a bit too chaotic for me, but I really did enjoy my day in Bhaktapur.
I never visited Nepal but yes, thinking to go there. Can you tell me, how many days are enough to experience the Nepal. Generally I want to experience wildlife there.
It depends. If you want to go trekking you’d need at least a week-10 days just to do that. If you were VERY rushed, you could probably get to the jungle, do a safari to see rhinos and elephants, and get back to Kathmandu in about four days.
Nepal is really a beautiful country. I am going to visit North India and Nepal in February. I am gathering information from all the bloggers. Thank you for the info.