Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

a cow attacking a stone lion in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

A cow with attitude at Shiva’s Kinder, outside the Palace in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu valley.

Why visit Bhaktapur?

Bhaktapur in the east Kathmandu Valleywas the capital of Nepal in the 14/15th centuries and now houses a dazzling collection of UNESCO World Heritage recognised temples, statues and other medieval street art.

Truly a living museum, Bhaktapur was founded in the 12th century and is renowned for its elegant art and culture. It’s 12 kilometres east of Kathmandu the capital and an easy day trip by public or private transport and spread over just 7 square kilometres. The distance, however short, also has the effect of keeping down the tourist numbers, so the city is not as crowded as Kathmandu.
Inside Bhaktapur is mostly pedestrianised so expect to do a lot of walking.

Durbar Square, Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Durbar Square temple, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu

No, you’re not mistaken, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan’s main squares are all called Durbar Square and all three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Durbar Square is the traditional Nepalese name for the open space in front of a royal palace where temples, fountains and all sorts of sculptures and ornaments were, and still are, laid out. The three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley used to belong to three small kingdoms that occupied the valley.

Durbar Square Baktapur is the core of this district’s incredible attractions, a place packed with elaborately carved teak temples, brilliant stone and golden statues of kings and gods. Patan’s Durbar Square is similarly endowed.

The Nyatapola Temple

Nyatapola Temple, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

The Nyatapola Temple.

This outstanding temple was built in 1702 on the command of King Bhupatindra Malla. This is thought to be one of the tallest in the country and a particularly fine example of medieval workmanship. The five-stories are surmounted by a five-tier roof that reaches over thirty meters high.

The flight of steps up is lined with massive, beautifully carved stone statues. Interestingly Nepal experiences regular earthquakes that destroyed temples and other buildings on a regular basis so the king decided to build a more powerful temple and ordered potent guardians be placed in pairs on each level. Thus on the first level kneel a pair of likenesses of Bhaktapur’s strongest man ever, Jaya Mal Pata, a wrestler. Then come two elephants followed by two lions, two griffins and finally Baghini and Singhini, Nepal’s tiger and lion goddesses.

Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square

Durbar Square, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, renovated. Photo by Spencer Weart.

Bhaktapur’s Durbar square seems more spacious than the two others in the Kathmandu Valley for the simple reason that it was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1934 that erased one third of the temples, monasteries and other ornate buildings, though not the The Nyatapola Temple, you’ll note, thanks to its super-power protection.

The Peacock Window

The Peacock Window in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

The Peacock Window embedded in rebuilt brickwork.

Sometimes called the ‘Mona Lisa of Nepal’, the Peacock Window is a masterpiece of woodcarving dating from the early 15th century. It’s unique in the Kathmandu valley, a region stuffed with exquisitely carved wooden ornaments. The building in which the window is set houses a Woodcarving Museum.

Kathmandu antiquities

A Kid riding a 600 year old statue in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

A kid riding a 600 year-old statue of a lion god in the street.

One of the delightful aspects of the Kathmandu’s ancient street furniture is how they are treated so casually by local people. Shrines are honoured and gifts presented regularly, goats sacrificed to Shiva, bronze statues and carvings are rubbed with paste or just dirty hands until they shine, and glorious ancient carvings – fountains, monuments, temples – are used daily by children or adults for play, for work, or for ablutions.

Playing ping pong in an antique room, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

Let’s play ping-pong. And never mind the antiquities!

An early morning street scene in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

An early morning street scene in Bhaktapur.

Patan’s Durbar Square

Also known as Lalitpur, Durbar Square in Patan – another part of the Kathmandu Valley – is easy to reach and encompasses a gorgeous space lined with the usual amazing carved temples, glittering monuments and an excellent museum but rather more tranquil that the other two Durbar Squares.
Patan is a less touristy region so much more natural than Bhaktapur or Kathmandu, with locals worshipping, selling goods, bathing in the community fountains and just peacefully hanging out, all surrounded by stunning, carved buildings hundreds of years old.
The museum in the Durbar Square is considered one of the best museums in Asia. It specializes in bronze statues and religious objects.