From ancient bazaars once on the crossroads of international trading routes to contemporary art markets, Kathmandu has plenty to satisfy a range of interests.
As the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu is a buzzing multicultural city where people have been bringing their wares to trade and sell for centuries. Nowadays, you can shop for Himalayan rock salt in one market and buy gourmet cheese at another.
More than just a market, Asan (also spelled Ason) is a lively neighbourhood with temples and stupas, old Newari buildings, its own festivals and a very long and distinguished history. Asan was on the old India-Tibet trade route and has been a bustling marketplace for many centuries. The location is actually a square upon which six streets meet. If market browsing is on the agenda, Asan should be the first port of call in Kathmandu. Along the congested lanes around Asan, vendors sell traditional Nepali items like dried spices, cheap textiles, Nepali wedding paraphernalia and much more.
The Kalimati Market is less of a tourist experience and more of a local, wholesale market that sells everything from marigold garlands to dried chillies. Travellers who are particularly interested in food and fresh produce will enjoy a stroll through the busy market, checking out the raw ingredients that go into many meals served in the city’s restaurants.
The 1905 Restaurant and boutique hotel in Naxal (previously on Kantipath) holds an organic farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. It’s a popular weekend hangout for foreign residents of Kathmandu residing on the north side of town. As well as meal ingredients that can be bought to prepare at home, there’s also a range of ready-to-eat items for sale, such as pastries and cakes. Prices are high, but the quality is good.
Another weekend farmer’s market, this one is convenient for those staying in the Boudha area, which is also known as the Tibetan enclave of Kathmandu. It’s held on the grounds of the red-brick, modernist Taragaon Museum, beside the upmarket Hyatt Regency Hotel. The quality of the produce here is particularly good as it’s the only market in Kathmandu certified by the District Agriculture Development Office.
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The Art Market, held once a month on a Saturday at The Yellow House in Sanepa, focuses on the contemporary arts and crafts of Nepali designers. Here, you can expect to find one-off paintings, screen-printed t-shirts, contemporary photography, handcrafted jewellery and more. There’s usually live music and The Yellow House is a popular choice for brunch. The market is especially lively in the couple of months before Christmas as more vendors seem to appear on the grounds.
Kathmandu is not known as a lively place once the sun sets. The NexUs Night Market – which started operating at the beginning of 2018 – is taking small steps to change that. On the last Friday of every month, live music, food and stalls selling handcrafted items set up in the garden of NexUs, a community arts and activism space. It’s connected to The Village Cafe, a Newari restaurant run by local women, which is a great place to head to for some post-market-browsing dinner.