Patan is a one of the largest cities in Nepal and is located just across the Bagmati river from Kathmandu. Confusingly, it is also known as Lalitpur, both names deriving from the Sanskrit "Lalitapattan". Like its larger neighbor, Patan also boasts a Durbar Square full of temples, statues, and palaces and, in addition, has the must-see attraction of Patan Museum. As a traditional center of handicrafts, Patan is a great place to purchase jewelry, Buddha statues and masks.
It is possible to walk from Kathmandu, though the pollution and heat makes it seem longer than the 90 minutes to 2 hours.
The city and its sites are best seen on foot.
Durbar Square is the Palace Square of Patan. Approaching the square from the south end you have the palace on your right and a series of temples on your left. (Admission to the area for tourists is R200. You are trusted to pay this at a booth at the south end of Durbar Square or at another entrance to the area further to the north as there is no formal ticket control).
The Palace was built on the site of a fort that stood until 1734 and served as the residence of the Malla rulers of the then Patan state. It is divided up into a succession of courtyards (or “chowks”). Unfortunately only the last of these on the right (which houses a museum) is open on a regular basis, due to problems with theft of artifacts. Try peering through cracks in the doors to see what you are missing! The first palace building is Sundari Chowk which was constructed in 1647. The three-storey temple on the palace side is the Degutale temple, constructed in 1661 after an earlier one burned down. Mul Chowk was the central part of the old palace and in recent times has suffered much theft of ornamental woodwork.
The Museum is in Keshab Narayan Chowk. (Admission to the courtyard is free; entrance fee for the museum is R250. Hours 10.30 to 17.30). An excellent and well-presented little museum with descriptions of various artistic techniques.
There is a confusing array of temples and other interesting items on the left-hand side of the square. Again, walking from the south end of the square, you pass:
Octagonal stone Krishna temple, constructed in 1647.
A huge bell that dates back to 1737 and is still rung once a year.
The Shankar Narayan temple, with kneeling stone elephants in front.
The temple with a statue of Yognarendra on a pillar in front.
Two smaller temples dedicated to Vishnu, dating back to 1590 and 1652.
The oldest temple in the complex, dating back to 1566.
A stone temple to Krishna, considered to be a masterpiece, with some amazing stonework. Note the Garuda on the pillar in front, which has eyes of crystal.
The Vishwanath temple, with two stone elephants and riders in front.
The Bhimsen temple, constructed in 1680 but with more recent marble additions.
South of Durbar Square
Mahaboudha Temple is a must-see 5-10 minutes walking distance from Durbar Square. This is a a stone temple covered with terracotta tiles, which include 1008 Budha images. It was modelled on a larger temple in Bodhgaya, India and took one family four generations to complete.
Rudravarna Mahavihar (also known as Uku Bahal). A gem of a temple close to Mahaboudha, but much less visited. One of the oldest temples in the Kathmandu Valley with some strange and interesting statues.
Machchhendranath temple. This is a good illustration of the problems now faced with theft of artifacts. The temple is now surrounded by a strong fence and each statue has its own individual fence. Statues are missing from two stands, suggesting that the temple has already fallen victim. Machchhendranath also gives his name to an annual festival when a 25 meter tall "chariot" is paraded through Patan. If you note all the wires and cables across the streets at levels much lower than 25m. you can realise what a complicated exercise this is. The parade takes place between April and June, with the chariot staying the night at different locations. The end of the parade is supposed to coincide with the onset of the monsoon rains. The wheels of the chariot are over 2m in diameter. For the rest of the year these can be seen in the building next to the Ashok Stupa (see below).
North of Durbar Square
Golden Temple. (Admission R50) An enormous number of gold- and silver-covered decorations and some excellent bronze statues make this well worth being the only temple in Patan you have to pay to enter. Construction goes back to the early 1400s, although some pieces pre-date construction.
Kumbheshwar Temple. One of the two five-story pagoda temples of the Valley. The sunken basin is usually empty but around August is filled for the Kumbheshwar Mela full moon day festival. At this time the temple becomes packed. Sheep roaming the temple are those that have been spared sacrifice.
Ashok Stupa. Old Patan can be reached by turning left off the main road from Kathmandu after the Himalaya hotel or by continuing on the main road to Pulchowk and then turning left. Immediately after the pedestrian bridge at Pulchowk is the old Buddhist stupa of Ashok. Next to that is the building where the structure of the Machchhendranath chariot is kept when not being used,
Wooden and Metal Handicrafts. There are many metalworking shops near the Durbar Square.
Traditional Paintings (Thanka)
Books. Pilgrims Books on the right-hand side of Sahid Sukra Marg as it climbs the hill after crossing the Bagmati river (opposite the Himalaya Hotel) has an amazing selection of books on Nepal and Kathmandu, on Buddhism, Hinduism and many other religions, as well as a good selection of novels in English. Several small rooms of souvenirs too. Search out the oddities, such as a Kama Sutra colouring book, strangely sold next to children's colouring books!
Cafe de Patan - a pleasant, centraly located restaurant and cafe (see 'sleep' section)
Patan Museum Cafe
Kidz: The food station - great place to eat small pizzas, sandwiches, footlongs, wraps, sundaes, mocktails and gourmet coffee. They also have the most correct (by Irish standards) Irish coffee in Kathmandu Valley.
Downtown - one of the best value restaurants in Patan - great food.
La Soon - a small restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating set in a nice garden and serving a mixed menu with daily specials. Try the La Soon Plate or the La Soon Platter, one of which is vegetarian. They also do nice chocolate brownies. It's very good value and well worth a visit.
Summit Hotel - good on a Friday night as they have a barbecue by the Pool.
Roadhouse, (Near St.Mary's school). Good pizza, pasta, dessert, ice-cream and coffee.
New Orleans (The road towards St. Marys). Good coffee, nice garden, live jazz some nights
Red Dingo, (Near Standard Charter Bank, Jawalakhel). Good western (Australian) food
Lazy Gringo, (Jawalakhel chowk). Food from the American South-West
Masala, (The road towards St.Mary's school). One of the best Indian restaurants in Kathmandu
JaZoo, (Next to NTC-building). Inexpensive Nepali and Chinese food
Chinatown, (2. floor, next to Stand.Chart.bank, Jawalakhel). Good Chinese food
Jalan, (Near Summit). Good Thai, and other Asian food
The Bakery, (opposite the United Nations building). Use sign language and point to menu items here as the waiters suffer speaking and hearing impairments. Noodles, MoMo, sandwiches and, on most days, a lunchtime buffet.WiFi.
Patan, unlike Kathmandu, shuts down just after dark, and so nightlife is restricted to restaurants and hotel bars.
Absolute Bar, (Next to Namaste supermarket). One of the best bars in Kathmandu
Cafe de Patan, Patan Durbur Square, Mahapal Mangal Bazaar, Tel:537599, 530208, . A centrally located guesthouse in a traditional Newari house. There are great views over the temples of Durbar square, and the dining room is a very pleasant area of foliage blended with stylish Newari decor. Standard (common bath room) - Single: 300Rs, Double: 400Rs. Deluxe (attached bathroom) - Single: 500Rs. Double 600Rs.
Newa Chěn, Kulimha, Kobahal – 9, Patan, . The "Newa Chén" is a well-preserved and restored example of a traditional Newari house in the Kathmandu Valley. Located at Kulimha tole, North of Patan’s Durbar Square, it is built of brick and timber in traditional Malla style around a central courtyard. $20-30 single.
Himalaya Hotel, . is a four star hotel with swimming pool and several other facilities. Mainly Indian and United Nations clientele. Food disappointing. $70-100. Prices quoted on website are ridiculous and can be negotiated.
Summit Hotel, (to the right of the main road after crossing the Bagmati on the hill in a residential area), . Nice location, good food. Garden wing has small rooms, but the other rooms are good.$20-80 single.