Thamel is located in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. This place has always been a very popular tourist destination. Comprised of 5 main streets and numerous smaller streets, Thamel can be quite daunting if you do not know your way. Thamel is a kaleidoscope of vibrant houses packed with souvenir shops and food stops. It will either have you wanting to be forever in it or won't make you get out of your hotel. Tourists usually end up in Thamel after leaving the international airport and getting in a taxi. There are numerous agents around to show you hotels to stay in if you have not made accommodations yet. Thamel is filled with travel agencies, travel guides, souvenir shops, clothing stores, and cafes all catering to the tourism industry.
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While Thamel was named "travel free" and "horn free" in 2017, only two streets follow the rules and in 2019, you can find bikes and rickshaws wheezing past you in jam-packed areas. Larger vehicles also try to enter the premise but are often unsuccessful. While as for the horn, it still continues to beep.
History of Thamel
Thamel is one of the oldest areas of Kathmandu valley and was previously known as Tabitha Bahal. With the houses made up in traditional Newari style, Thamel is a dazzling place housing a plethora of unique cultures.
While plenty of shrines, temples, and monasteries can be found in Thamel, tourists often do not recognize them. One of the first monasteries in the area, Bikramsila Mahadev or more commonly known as Bhagwan Bahal is located in North Thamel.
While manuscripts dating back 3000 years can be found there, the monastery is said to be over a thousand years old. One of the first monasteries constructed by Newari people, Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal lies to the South of Thamel. People are allowed to visit both monasteries.
Things to do in Thamel
Restaurants in Thamel
If you are someone who loves to indulge in food, Thamel is the perfect place for you. There are numerous cuisines you can choose from. With choices ranging from Chinese, Indian, local as well as continental restros, making the options here limitless. You should definitely not miss out on trying Nepali cuisines like Dal Bhat and Gundruk Dhido. Here are some of our recommendations for places to eat at:
Fire and Ice
Known for their Italian style stone-baked pizzas, Fire and Ice is simply delicious. While it is on the pricier side, the food makes it all worth it. They also have refreshing drinks, desserts and ice creams available. It is located on the left side of the main street before you enter the Thamel area.
Located at Saat Ghumti road, this restaurant specializes in Mexican cuisine. It also offers local as well as continental dishes. It has an easy-going atmosphere and the staff here are friendly.
Helena’s Rooftop Restaurant
This restaurant is one of the tallest rooftop restaurants in Kathmandu and the view of the city from here is stunning. It is located a few minutes North of JP school road in Chhetrapati. Their main cuisine is western and regional. With moderate pricing, excellent service and great food, Helena's rooftop is a must-visit.
Roadhouse Cafe is also known for its wood-fired pizza but they also serve excellent coffee as well as hot chocolate. With a pleasant and relaxing environment, this place is perfect to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. While there are many branches of roadhouse located in various places of Kathmandu, the one in Thamel is 200 meters North of JP school road.
This is a place famous for its Korean cuisine. The spicy Korean dishes are served with green tea, kimchi, rice, salad and sweet beans. This place is somewhat expensive but the taste makes up for it.
Although they are popularly known for their coffee, Himalayan Java also serves American breakfast, pancakes and pastries. It is on the second floor of the building opposite of fire and ice.
Yala Cafe and Coffee Shop
Tucked in a quiet part of Thamel with no traffic, Yala Cafe is a Nepali restaurant. This cafe has an option for breakfasts, lunches and dinners with excellent coffee.
Bar and Club in Thamel
There are plenty of places in Thamel where you can let loose after a rough day. Thamel is a party zone after 7 pm and it usually is till long after midnight. You can find plenty of bars you can hang out in and enjoy the music. Some of the popular bars currently are Purple Haze, Reggae, Buddha Bar, etc. While some of the best clubs are Senate, L.O.D (Lord of the Drinks), Club Fahrenheit.
Holistic healing with Tibetan Medicine
Chhetrapati chowk near Thamel has Kunphen Medical Center where you can get one of the best Tibetan herbal treatments. This medical center has been serving for more than a decade and offers a wide variety of treatments for numerous ailments. It is quite popular among locals. A 5 minutes walk towards Swayambhu from Chhetrapati leads us to another Tibetan clinic which is nearby Thamel called Men Tse Kha.
Local Shops and Souvenir Stores
Thamel has numerous shops that sell a wide variety of products. Whatever you need, you can probably find it here. It offers a wide variety of thangka paintings, singing bowls, printed local t-shirts and a bunch of other stuff. Buddha statues, fridge magnets, and different accessories can also be found here. Local carpet shops and wood carved furniture stores are also here if you're looking for something more substantial.
Unwind in the Garden of Dreams
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Thamel, Garden of Dreams is the perfect place for you. It is located near the entrance of Thamel in Kaiser Mahal.
The entry fee to enter this enchanting garden filled with Victorian architecture is just USD $2. This place has fountains, beautiful pavilions, garden furniture and it also has intricately designed verandas, urns, pergolas and birdhouses that add to the beauty of this place.
Ride through the streets of Thamel in a Rickshaw
While it is fun to explore Thamel on foot, for a dollar or two you can ride through the streets of Thamel. The rickshaws are quite expensive but if you've never ridden one, you should definitely get the experience.
Heritage Walk in Thamel
With places like Bhagwati Mandir, Ganesh, Hanuman and Shiva Shrines, Vikramshila Mahavihar, Chhwasal Ajima Sthan and many more located in Thamel, why not take a heritage walk. You should note that Hanuman is only allowed to be touched by a male. If you've finished all the commercial aspects of Thamel then you should leave it behind and take the Heritage Walk.
How to Get to Thamel
It is relatively easy to get to Thamel from the International airport as it is nearby. Taking a taxi is the easiest and most comfortable way to get to Thamel but it is expensive. You can get a bus from outside the airport and get to Ratnapark bus park from where you can get to Thamel by walking for 20-30 minutes at most. Taxis are currently banned from two streets in Thamel. There are also pick up services available from the hotel you stay at.
Narshing Chowk and J.P. road are places designated to be taxi spots. Rickshaws commonly take people from Thamel to the old heritage quarter near Kathmandu Durbar Square. In Sorhakhutte you can find the main tourist bus stop which takes you to Chitwan and Pokhara. They also do drop-offs during the evenings. You can reach the main bus park, Ratnapark Bus Park, by walking 20-30 minutes on foot.