Surrounded by rugged mountains and hills, Kathmandu, the modern capital and economic centre of Nepal, sprawls across the bowl-shaped Kathmandu valley with a million inhabitants, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country. As an ancient trade hub linking India and Tibet, it boasts more than 2000 years of history. Today, Kathmandu is the banking and business centre of Nepal, a rapidly modernising urban metropolis punctuated with glassy skyscrapers as much as ancient pagodas, palaces, stupas, and sculptures, all inspired by Buddhist and Hindu traditions. As the stage for a vibrant calendar of annual festivals, Kathmandu is a highly energised and visually compelling centre of Nepalese culture.
Home to some fifty temples and palaces, Durbar Square is the spiritual core of Kathmandu and a vital bastion of Nepalese identity. It has been an important public space for the best part of a millennia, beginning with the construction of a palace in 1000AD. Today, the square’s architecture spans four kingdoms and several centuries – seeing all of it requires a full day. Early morning is the ideal time to begin, when the Square is comes to life with men working on the monuments and Hindu women making offerings of incense and flowers to the gods.