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Guide to Thamel, Kathmandu City

For decades the thriving tourist center of Kathmandu
Updated: June 1st 2018 | Nepal travel guides

My Rating: 4.0
about - places - maps- how to get around - tips

About Thamel

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.

Did you know?

While Thamel may be the center of Kathmandu to many tourists it's also one of the oldest areas in the capital when it was known as Tabitha Bahal.

The old buildings throughout Thamel are designed in Newari style (the first traditional inhabitants of Kathmandu valley).

In October 2017 Thamel was made 90% "traffic free" alongside it being a "horn free" zone. However, the reality is motorbikes and speedy bicycles still ride in this area. Larger vehicles also continue to try entering. As for horns ... well beep, beep contnues too.

Thamel is filled with tour agents, trekking guides, trekking stores, clothing, restaurants, cafes and bars all catering to the countries number one industry: tourism.

Navigating the streets of Thamel

The center of Thamel Map of book stores in Thamel

Thamel can be difficult to understand when you first arrive. There are no street names on signposts in general. 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 west- 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.

In October 2017 Thamel was made a vehicle free area. Taxis are now banned from entering. This is a good thing as walking is the best way to get around. Hotels can still offer airport pickups with a private vehicle. As with most things in Nepal, this new regulation may not last long!

Sadly Narshing Chowk and Thamel Marg (the main areas) are still not traffic free. The reality is, motorcycles, bicycles and everything else with four wheels still try to and do enter elsewhere in Thamel. Even if walking, it's best to stay alert for traffic.

"Car honking" was also banned in 2017 but it's still rampant and annoying in 2018.

Previously traffic in Thamel was terrible from 4pm onwards to 7pm. It was not the best at other times either. Most shops open around 10am and close at 8pm. Restaurants open around 7am and close at 9pm (if you arrive then they will usually stay open 11pm).

There are 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.

For the very best details on Thamel my guidebooks to Nepal have it all.

Sample map of Thamel from Nepal Guidebook

Best streets to buy things on

Thamel is a maze of side streets filled with wonderful stalls selling everything you can imagine in Nepal. However do be aware that Thamel is touristy so the prices are higher than in other areas. Here's a list of the best things to buy in Kathmandu and how to bargain for souvenirs in Nepal.

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.

ATM "Lounge's" can be found near Fire Club (close to Hot Breads), on the way to Tri Devi just after Narshing Chowk and up by Hotel De Arts. There's also an ATM inside the gates of Kathmandu Guesthouse.

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).

Book stores in Thamel


Three locations in Thamel for good bookstoresMap of book stores in Thamel

For cheap books you're better off taking a left at Hot Breads continuing south to Paradise book sellers, where they will order you anything you need. Along the way you'll pass Roadhouse cafe to find the new Pilgrims Book House - the old one burned down in May 2013. Alternatively for new books go straight form Hot Breads passed the first supermarket and look to your right for Himalayan Map House.

If you are in Himalayan Map House and show them this webpage, you can get a 10% discount on my paperback guidebook to Nepal - now a national best seller!

In Paradise Bookshop you can trade in your old books for half price.

Here is my full list of bookshops in Kathmandu.

Trekking stores in Thamel

There are so many it's impossible to list them all. Officially there are the "real" North Face Stores opposite Fire & Ice along Tri Devi Marg. These are the only stores selling official NFmerchandise. 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.

Lastly it's very much worth your while to check out the Sonam 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.

I give a full list of recommended trekking stores and agents in my full guidebook to Nepal and first time trekking in Nepal books.

Eating out in Thamel

For local cheap eats: try Momo Star and Mc Donald Fast Food for good food or for edible burgers try the Burger House neary Saatgumti (seven corners). All are located in the northern portion of the larger interactive map at the bottom of this page. Narshing Chowk has a selection of late night kebab and sandwich stores - the oldest is Sandwich Point.

It is best to avoid the street carts selling food in the evenings. The meat is not refrigeratored. Likewise, wash the fruit with your own water rather than the jugs of water used on the streets.

For mid to high level restaurants: La Dolce Vita Restro or Fire & Ice are good options for Italian. Himalayan Steak house near Chhetrapati or OR2K in Mandala street are great eat places. Northfield cafe for Mexican food and curries, Roadhouse cafe for continental food. The best place to eat in Thamel is unquestionably Black Olives just passed Z Street in North Thamel. Rosemary restaurant is always packed during peak season with some great staff and excellent food. Brezel serve up the best breakfasts at great prices and unquestionably have the best burgers in Asia! In 2018 try Cafe Mitra which is under new management (the same as Black Olives as of 2017) and for more breakfast options try Yala Cafe (next to Rosemary).

Bakeries, cakes and snacks: You are in for a treat if you have a sweet tooth for cakes! There's a bevy of bakeries in Thamel. The latest to offer baked goods is Flat Iron Grill who serve up baguettes amoung other goodies in Mandala Street. To find the best places check out this exclusive article on bakeries & cakes in Nepal.

My guidebook to Nepal has extensive reviews of all the best places to eat in Thamel for all budgets - I pay for everything (no sponsors), so you you know the reviews are 100% genuine.

Bars in Thamel

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.

Fire Club is a thumping nightclub for weekenders. Purple Haze is a great live modern music and dance bar worth a trip to. Otherwise leave it to the sometimes smoky Club OMG where Nepali party goers like to hang out at weekends.

Coffee and Cafes in Thamel

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 quiet 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. Green Organic have free wifi and is very quiet.

At Seven Corners there are a few new places springing up worth checking out.

Perhaps the best untold secret is Papalsa Cafe near Chhetrapati so long as it's a quite morning. A new owner took over in early 2018 and it's lost some of it's appeal we hope it will make a full comeback soon.

The latest coffee shop is Yala Cafe next to Rosemary Restaurant. Opened in early 2018 they offer Jalpa Coffee at great rates.

Do read my article on coffee shops in Nepal so discover more including my highest rated coffee shop!

If you are a fan of tea, then there's no better than Himalayan Garden Tea. It is a wholesaler but you might get a free cup if you buy some tea leaves. Read more about the best place to buy tea in Kathmandu.

Couriers and exporters

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.

Souvenir stores in Thamel

Two locations in Thamel for good souvenirsMap of souvenirs in stalls in Thamel

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 J.P road is okay to pick up trinkets or for larger souvenirs try the junction at Narshing Chowk; just remember to bargain!

If you want to wander a little further the souvenir stands in Kathmandu Durbar Square are the best value in Kathmandu.

For Nepali stores, cashmere and woolens try along the street south of McDonald Fast Food on the Northern part of the map all the way down to the Sandwich Point and further south.

Nepal has a great reputation for locally made jewelry and beads. Thamel is one of the best places to find these items in Kathmandu. For beads and jewelry do read about where to by beads in Kathmandu.

Another popular item is tea. There are many types of tea grown in Nepal and it's well worth checking some of the tea store out. For the best do read where to buy tea in Kathmandu.

Indoor sports in Thamel

Aside from shooting some pool in one of Thamel's many bars there is also a an indoor sports centre.

Astrek 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.

Discover more about Thamel

The following articles and photographs are great for those wanting to discover more about Thamel.

Thamel: how it has changed over ten years.

Discover the Temples of Thamel

Thamel Heritage Walk

Thamel at night - photographs

Thamel Dark Star of Kathmandu book review

Budget alternative to Thamels bustling tourist atmosphere - Freak Street.

Find out more things to do in Kathmandu

Venture out of Thamel with this free guide to Kathmandu city and the Kathmandu Valley.

Accommodation in Thamel

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 travelers of all budgets.

Kathmandu Guest House: One of the first hotels in Thamel and one of the largest with private gardens and a priority on heritage.

Fairfield by Marriot: Thamels newest and most upmarket hotel.

Hotel Visit Nepal: Noisy front facing rooms, but otherwise a quiet area for those on a budget.

Hotel Yala Peak is a one of the best options for those on a budget looking for clean accommodation.

Do check out my full listing and reviews of accommodation in Kathmandu.

Meanwhile if you are in a rush you can just use my search box below to find the cheapest rates.

Need more personal reviews? Again, my guidebook to Nepal has an extensive list of accommodation reviews in Thamel. Every stay was paid for my me as I don't accept sponsored stays. It means you get genuine reviews for all budgets.

Map of Thamel

By walking: cycle rickshaws and taxis are available from Tri Devi Marg - from there you will need to walk unless you have arranged a hotel pickup. The best way to get around Thamel is to simply walk. It's only about 20mins from end to end.

The Map: use the above map of Thamel as a rough guide to finding your way around. Do visit my full map of Thamel for a better view.

Travel tips for Thamel

Thamel is not for everyone. It's filled with people, souvenir shops and stores. There's a push to make it more up market. Unless you are used to this sort of environment it can get tiring after a while. The new no vehicle policy has certainly made it more pleasant - time will tell how long this lasts.

Hop into a roadside cafe to get away from it all rather than shop all day long.

Download my guidebook to Kathmandu City

Liked this page? You'll love my book! It's a guidebook that's better than the rest. Yes, really! In it I cover all of Kathmandu cities attractions (including Durbar Square) with well researched information, photographs and travel tested walking tours.

It's an interactive & printable guidebook like no other.

Kathmandu city travel guidebook
Find out more!


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Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal

Main road in Thamel, Kathmandu
Click photo to see a larger photograph of a main road in Thamel, Kathmandu!
Big photo of the way to Everest Base Camp sign Take a boat ride on the Rapti River in Chitwans jungle Nepal Om mani padme hum written onto stone Streets of Kathmandu
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Full guide:
» Guide to Patan    
Central Patan
  - Patan Durbar Square
 South Patan
  - Mahaboudha Temple
  - Uku Bahal
  - Machchhendranath temple
North Patan
  - The Golden Temple
  - Kumbeshwar Temple Complex
West Patan
  - The Kumari Living Goddess
East Patan
  - The Balkumari Temple

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Full guide:
» Guide to Bhaktapur City
Inside Bhaktapur city:  
» Guide to Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  - Erotic Elephants Temple (Shiva Parvati)
  - Basantapur Chowk (Sculptures)
  - National Art Gallery / Museum
  - The Golden Gate (Sundhoka)
  - Taleju Temple (Mul Chowk)
  - Naga Pokhari 
55 Window Palace
  - Siddhi Lakshmi
  - Stone Lions
  - Pashupatinath Temple (Bhaktapur)
  - Vatsala Durga Temple & Taleju Bell
  - Chyasalin Mandap
Near Durbar Square
» Taumadhi Square
» Pottery Square
» Dattatreya Square
Just outside Bhaktapur
» Kailashnath Mahadev (Tallest Shiva statue)
» Nagarkot

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Street in Thamel

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