Thamel is a popular tourist district within the capital city of Kathmandu. It's comprised of 5-7 main streets and many more smaller ones that criss cross the area.
Most first time visitors to Nepal will usually end up in Thamel after leaving the airport by taxi. Accommodation is easily found around Thamel and if not, there will be plenty of agents around to show you one.
While Thamel may be the center of Kathmandu to many tourists it's also one of the oldest areas in the capital.
The old buildings throughout Thamel are designed in Newari style (the first traditional inhabitants of Kathmandu valley).
Thamel is filled with tour agents, trekking guides, trekking stores, clothing, restaurants, cafes and bars all catering to the countries number one industry: tourism.
Thamel can be difficult to understand when you first arrive. There are no street names. It's best thought of as a mass of unorganized streets. There's no real boundary to Thamel as such. But, knowing its center is a good way not to get lost.
I choose the center of Thamel to be the street junction between the 3 mini supermarkets by Hot Breads Bakery.
From there you can head south to Durbar Square, south-east to Thamel Marg / the bus stops for Chitwan / Pokhara or north for Sam's Bar/ or much further out and to the east- Swayambhunath Monkey temple.
If you get lost, ask for Hot Breads Bakery- everyone knows where it is and will point you back towards this central area.
Never take a taxi around Thamel. It's simply too small an area. Walking is the best way to get around. If you are really stuck there are cycle rickshaws but again they are more trouble than they are worth.
There are small maps on this page to give you an idea of locations. But please visit my larger more detailed map of Thamel for a better way of locating places.
Thamel is a maze of side streets filled with wonderful stalls selling everything you can imagine in Nepal. However be aware that Thamel is touristy so the prices are higher than in other areas.
Credit cards or cash? Many of the stores and restaurants in Thamel take international credit cards. However I recommend you pay in cash to avoid additional charges that tend to appear on Nepalese bills.
Here are some of the best and recommend places to buy things in Thamel. Use this huge map of Thamel to follow along (it opens in a new window).
Summit book store has the largest collection of second hand books in Kathmandu. Turn south-east down the road for another new bookstore but it's expensive. For cheap books you're better off continuing south to Paradise book sellers, where they will order you anything you need. Continue heading all the way south passed Roadhouse cafe to find the new Pilgrims Book House - the old one burned down in May 2013. Continue south until you come across a Parallel street where there is Rabindra Book Store.
In all of these book stores you can trade in your old books for half price.
There are so many it's impossible to list them all. Officially there is the "real" North Face Store opposite Fire & Ice along Tredevi Marg. This is the only store selling official NF merchandise. Ask for Sabina the manager say Dave from The Longest Way home sent you. Do however be aware that the prices are about the same as Europe or the USA.
Beside the North Face Store are a few other stores selling branded names like Mammut and Columbia. They too are a little pricey.
After that there is a two story Korean trekking store beside the south entrance to Mandala street which has reasonable gear. And another store opposite Road House cafe.
Lastely it's very much worth your while to check out the Shona trekking stores. It's Tibetan owned and they sell a mix of genuine and fake gear. The stores are usually large and it's easy to pick things up quickly there. The largest outlet is around the corner of J.P. Marg along Thamel Marg.
La Dolce Vita Restro or Fire & Ice are good options for Italian. Everest Steak house or OR2K in Mandala street. Northfield cafe for Mexican food and curries, Roadhouse cafe for continental food. Rumdoodle only for celebratory drinks/meals. The best place to eat in Thamel is unquestionably Black Olives just passed Z Street in North Thamel.
You are in for a treat if you have a sweet tooth for cakes! There's a bevy of bakeries in Thamel. To find the best places check out this exclusive article on bakeries & cakes in Nepal.
Sam's bar is an easy going place. For new age try Z streets offerings. Funky Buddha for live music, especially on a Friday. Tom & Jerry's has live music and good offers on drinks. Neon Pub has nightly live bands still playing 80's. J-Bar is a western place with prices to match.
Illy Coffee can be found on the north side of Mandala street with free WIFI. Pumpernickel bakery is overrated and hugely popular, too crowded for a quite sit down. Within the south section of Mandala street are several coffee cafes with free wifi albeit a little expensive. Himalayan Java near Fire & Ice have okay coffee but expensive WIFI. Green Organic have free wifi and is very quiet.
There are couriers and exports on every street in Thamel. A word of warning though - many add additional charges onto their first price. Generally speaking all your goods will arrive safely. It's just a question of being overcharged.
I you'd like to know the honest courier I've used for years then please feel free to contact me.
If you are looking for souvenir bargains stay away from Thamel. Try closer to New Road, Durbar Square or better yet wait for your trip to Bhaktapur. If you must buy in Thamel the area down by Rabindra Book Store is okay to pick up trinkets, or for larger souveniers try the junction at Thamel Marg; just remember to bargain!
If you want to wander a little further the souvenier stands in Kathmandu Durbar Square are the best value in Kathmandu.
For Nepalese stores, cashmere and woolens try along the street south of McDonald on the Northern part of the map all the way down to the sandwich point and further south.
Aside from shooting some pool in one of Thamels many bars there are also a couple of indoor sports centres.
offers archery, video gaming and indoor soccer. There's a basketball club next door but it's not affiliated to them. Rates start from 600 per hour for archery with packages available. Indoor football is usually held in the evenings. There's a Fussball table and several video game consoles with larger screens.
Indoor Sports Arena, Thamel. https://www.facebook.com/isanepal
Tel: +977 1 4433515
offers an indoor climbing wall that reaches 50 feet. There's also a bouldering option. Rates start from 400 per hour not including equipment. You can read more about indoor climbing in Kathmandu here.
Thamel is relatively noisy for a quiet nights sleep as traffic and people are constantly moving. That said there are still some great bargains out there for budget travelers.
Kathmandu Guest House: overrated and not what it once was. It is however quiet.
Hotel Kathmandu Terrace: Dorm rooms and singles/doubles a cheapy that works well.
Hotel Visit Nepal: Noisy front facing rooms, but otherwise a quiet area for those on a budget.
Do check out my full listing and reviews of accommodation in Kathmandu.
if you are in a rush you can just use my search box below to find the cheapest rates.
Thamel is not for everyone. It's filled with people, traffic, rickshaws and motorbikes. Unless you are used to this sort of environment it can get tiring after a while.
Hop into a roadside cafe to get away from it all rather than shop all day long.
- Do be careful of the traffic. Motorbikes often speed by while rickshaws trundle by and taxis try to squeeze by.
- Street children are often plying the streets of Thamel looking for cash or handouts. Dealers of narcotics also tend to congregate here (it's illegal to purchase drugs in Nepal the and police are often undercover here)
- Thamel at night is relatively safe. Bars and clubs tend to close early.
- If shopping do bargain hard. It's a touristy area so prices are higher than elsewhere.
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