Whether it’s a guidebook or novel translated from Nepali, a trekking map or a picture book for kids, there’s a bookshop in Kathmandu to suit your needs. Read Culture Trip’s guide to the most browse-worthy bookstores in the Nepali capital.
Second-hand bookstores and map shops are a dime a dozen in the tourist hub of Thamel. But if you’re looking for something a bit more esoteric (or don’t need another well-thumbed copy of Into Thin Air or The Snow Leopard), there are plenty of other shops around the city selling books in the English language. Many also sell other products, from children’s toys to essential oils.
Pilgrims, in the heart of Thamel, was established in 1984 and was one of the largest bookshops in Asia. It was an institution in itself. That is, until a devastating fire swept through it in May 2013, destroying almost everything inside. But, it reopened not far from its original site and while the selection of books isn’t what it once was, the multi-story bookshop is still a great place to browse. As well as all the expected guidebooks and maps to remote regions of Nepal, Pilgrims sells handmade paper products and interesting textiles from across India and Nepal. The bookshop also has a publishing wing, which operates out of Varanasi, India.
Tibet Book Store was once owned by the Tibet Government in Exile and while it isn’t any longer, the establishment still holds what is probably the best collection of books related to Tibet in the region. From photographic coffee-table books on Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh to Tibetan language primers, if a book is related to Tibet and Buddhism, it can probably be found here. Tibet Book Store also sells a selection of other reading material relating to Nepal more broadly.
Vajra Books is owned by the knowledgeable Bidur Dangol, who can advise customers on the best books to suit their needs. While they stock the ubiquitous tourist guides, they particularly specialise in more academic books. This is a great place to come if you need a title on the anthropology of Nepali hill tribes or want to read up on Newari architecture.
Conveniently located beside the colourful Patan Dhoka and the lovely Dhokaima Cafe, the Patan Book Shop is a bit cramped but covers the basics. Although it sells all kinds of books, its collection of Indian and international bestsellers and popular titles (from Chetan Bhagat to Zadie Smith) is solid. It’s worth a browse if you find yourself in the Old Patan area (which you should).
As museum gift shops go, this is an excellent one. For those interested in reading a book on Nepal but don’t have time to seek out a dedicated bookshop – or who just don’t know what they want – then spend a few minutes browsing the titles at the Patan Museum Gift Shop. While not as extensive as other collections on this list, it still stocks a good selection of quality titles and is very convenient when doing the Kathmandu sightseeing circuit.
The floor-to-ceiling stacks of specialist books at Mandala Book Point are the stuff academics’ dreams are made of – especially academics specialising in the Himalayan region. It’s also a welcome respite from the eternally dusty and traffic-clogged Kantipath Road outside.
There are lots of bookstore options in Thamel for travellers seeking out trekking maps, second-hand paperbacks to read on a trek or an odd assortment of German/Dutch/French/Spanish-language books. The Nepal Book Depot is a convenient and relatively spacious option, as it’s right in the heart of Thamel beside the iconic Kathmandu Guest House.
Located in the expat enclave of Jhamsikhel, Patan, Wisdom Books is a particularly good place to go for kids’ books in Nepali and English (great for bilingual families) and magazines, although it does stock a broader range of new releases and bestsellers. The friendly proprietor is happy to share his latest recommendations. Wisdom Books is also well-known as a great place to buy essential oils and handmade soaps.