Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Located in the heart of Kathmandu Valley is a sprawling city of art with a handful of other names.
Also known as Lalitpur, Patan is the 3rd largest city of Nepal. Celebrated for its handicrafts and well-preserved temples, the entire place is like a huge art exhibition offering its visitors a charming sight to behold .
Patan is a popular day trip from Kathmandu, but to experience the city in all its glory we highly recommend an overnight stay... or longer.
Best time to visit: Late February-Mid May for pleasant weather and festivals.
Currency: Nepalese Rupee (रू)
Language: Nepali, Newari, English (some of the locals speak English)
Tribhuvan Airport (KTM) is the only international hub of Nepal. Although there are few direct flights, it is easily reached with just one layover.
The bus company, Sajha Yatayat, connects the airport to Patan in about 1 hour.
Tip: Take a cab for a more convenient and a less dusty ride.
Getting around: With its maze-like streets, it's best to explore the city on foot.
Thank you : dan-ni-bad
Hello and Bye : na-mas-teh
How much? : kah-ti poy-sha?
Bill please : bill kah-ti bah-yo
Yes : hoh
No : hwuy-nah
Do: Ask for consent when taking pictures of the locals; Eat with your right hand; Use two hands when receiving and giving things
Don’t: Point with your index finger; Wear leather items inside Hindu Temples; Shake hands (greet with namaste instead)
So here you go, a 2 day guide for Patan's top sights and must visit.
10AM DURBAR SQUARE
To Marvel at Newa Architecture
Patan's most popular site is a royal plaza with unclear origins. Being the smallest of all Durbar Squares in the valley, you can cover the entire area in about 1.5 hours… more, if you scrutinise every intricate, decorative pattern carved on the beams, doors, and walls.
Despite its size, the place is jam-packed with temples standing alongside each other—giving you an impression of a scale model. Unfortunately, 2 major temples were damaged by the 2015 earthquake. Don't be discouraged though, you could still see it behind scaffoldings and carpenters racing to put it back together.
Check out each temple. Visit the museum to look at ancient artifacts. Then proceed to the royal palace to commend the Malla Kings for a job well-done.
Entrance Fee: 1000रू
1.30PM COFFEE TEA & ME
For a Twist on Newari Food
A nondescript restaurant with incredible food, hidden in an alley branching off the Durbar Square.
Coffee Tea & Me is run by Chef Rubey, a jovial, cosmopolitan guy who knows his way with food.
The menu—written on a giant board behind the open kitchen—is simple and straightforward. Go ask for the day's special, and after the first bite, you'll wish you live in Patan just to eat all of their dishes.
Business hours: Serving Lunch and Dinner. Closed on Mondays.
3.30PM SWOTHA ROAD
For More Newari Arts and Crafts
Lined with paintings, sculptures, jewelries, scarves, and other handicrafts—this road is the ideal place to find unique souvenirs from Patan. If you're not out to buy, admiring every piece is also a nice way to pass your time.
4:30PM SWOTHA KIOSK TEA & COFFEE SHOP
To People Watch and For Great Coffee
Nestled in a small square is a tiny café with just three seats and a petite server. But don't let its size fool you, the drinks they serve are full of flavor and aroma, you'll think you're sitting in some fancy hipster place.
Order the Himalayan blend for coffee, and try the silver tips for tea.
5:30 KWALAKHU ROAD
For Local Stores
Use up your caffeine rush by going on another stroll. Kwalakhu road is a bit less organised and a bit more chaotic compared with Swotha, but you can find better deals here—especially for teas and coffees.
10AM KWA BAHAL
The Golden Temple
Wake up to the sounds of ringing prayer bells and beeping horns. Your first stop of day 2 is Kwa Bahal, a 3 storey pagoda built in the 12th century. And like all other temples in the city, it is heavily decorated with ornate carvings and majestic statues.
Entrance Fee: 50रू
The Living Goddess
After perusing the features of the Golden Temple, walk westward to reach the humble abode of Patan's goddess.
Goddesses, for many of us, live in myths, books, and movies. But for the Newaris, a prepubescent girl could become the living embodiment of Taleju, a Hindu deity. Once chosen, she has to live a secluded life of rituals and give blessings to devotees on a daily basis.
//Personal musings: I must say, a visit to the Kumari needs some form of mental preparation. If you expect a grandiose room complete with magnificent decors, you're in for a shock. The living quarters are small and bare, and the throne room is also devoid of fixtures apart from a worn carpet and a red, velvet chair.
When I entered the throne room, the mother prodded me to kneel in front of the Kumari to receive her blessing. Hesitantly, I strained my knees, bowed first, then eventually knelt before her. At that moment, I felt lost and confused, not knowing what to do and how to act; then I felt a nimble finger brushed my forehead. The mother said it's done, I glanced up at her and heard the Kumari cleared her throat with palms open. I shouldn't linger, her eyes gave me that kind of stare, I should just stand up, give my donation, then exit the room. But I was still very conflicted, thus very slow. I tried to make conversation, but it was obvious they wouldn't have any of it, just my payment for the blessing. So I smiled, took out my purse, pulled out some bills and laid it on a golden platter at her feet.
After that, I left the room dazed, and happy to be outside in the open air. I loitered in the courtyard, pondering what I've just experienced. Undeniably, I felt very uncomfortable, I felt I have objectified a 6yr old girl, I felt it was all part of a show.
Yet this is their belief, their culture, and I admire the Kumaris (past and present) for their unwavering resolve in upholding this tradition.//
Tip: It is easy to visit the Kumari on your own, no need to join hefty-priced tours.
2:30PM GETTING LOST
A Feel of the Locals’ Life
Patan is a great city to get lost in. This can be the perfect activity to shake off any unease you might feel from the Kumari place (if you do feel uneasy).
Don't be afraid to wander off the main road, since most of the local action happens at the end of narrow alleyways. Surprise yourself. It’s also amusing to witness the people in their element.
The Place of a Thousand Buddhas
Find your way southeast of the Durbar Square and you can visit Mahabouddha. This temple also fell victim to the 2015 earthquake, thus still enveloped by scaffoldings (at the time of writing). It’s a considerably small site, nonetheless engaging, for each terracotta tile bears Buddha’s image in different forms and sizes.
Entrance Fee: 50रू