In 1979, UNESCO designated Kathmandu Valley as a World Heritage Site based on seven groups of cultural monuments (Monument Zones).
Kathmandu Durbar Square was the seat of Nepal’s royalty till 1896. Here you will see many fine examples of Malla, Shah and Rana period architecture. The construction of the Taleju Temple by King Mahendra Malla in 1576 heralded its cultural history and 61 listed monuments dating from the 17th and 18th centuries can be seen here. The Kumari Bahal (residence of Living Goddess Kumari) is one of the most famous sites in the square.
Patan Durbar Square has one of the most diverse collection of traditional architectural styles found within a square anywhere in the world. This is evident in some of the temples on the western part of the square: Krishna Temple, Kumbheswor Temple, Bhimsen Temple and Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple). The Square has three main courtyards: Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keshav Narayan Chowk. Sundari Chowk has a famous sunken royal bath known as Tusha Hiti.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square has a unique collection of monuments, some notable ones being: the Batsala Devi Temple with its bronze bell (known as the “bell of barking dogs” because when it rings out, the local dogs start barking); the Lion Gate (with images of an angry Shiva and an enraged Ugrachandi); the Golden Gate (a beautiful example of Newari artistic skills); and, the 55-Window Palace built in 1427.
Pashupatinath Temple is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu shrine. The temple, with its two tiered gold plated roof and silver embossed doors, houses the six feet lingum (phallic symbol) of Shiva which has four faces, is known as Chaturmukhi, and dates back to the 14th century. Facing the main entrance of the temple is a 300 year-old bronze statue of Nandi (Shiva’s carrier, the bull).
Boudhanath Stupa is set on a 3-layered base around which are 108 Buddhist deities and rows of prayer wheels. Buddha’s all-seeing eyes gaze out on all sides from the upper tower which is capped as a pyramid. With a diameter of 100 m and a height of 40 m, it is said to be the biggest stupa in the world. Located 7 km east of Kathmandu city center, it is also known as Khasti Chaitya. Monasteries from all four schools of Mahayana Buddhism are located within the complex.
Swayambhunath Stupa is located on the top of a hill and distinguishable by its lofty white dome and glittering golden spire as well as the all-seeing-eyes of the Buddha. One can reach the shrine either by climbing 365 steps up the hill, past a gilded Vajra and two lions guarding the entrance, or by a metalled road that winds up the hill on the other side. One will see many chaityas, temples and deity images as well as a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Harati within the complex.
Changu Narayan Temple is located 4 km from Bhaktapur. This pagoda-style 4th century temple displays some of the finest examples of stone, wood, and metal craftsmanship of the Licchavi period (2nd to 9th century) including a life-sized 5th century stone statue of Garuda, the mythical man/bird carrier of Vishnu. Guarded by stone lions on either side, the gilded door has intricate gilded windows and a fascinating torana (a wooden or metal structure that adorns temple doorways)—a Garuda consuming a serpent at each side of the mouth.
Indeed, Kathmandu’s Monument Zones will leave you mesmerized, however, the city has many more interesting sights that will leave you with images and experiences that will remain forever on your mind as cherished memories—memories of a city that has often been described as a “living museum”.