50+ Things to do in Kathmandu for Expat
Surprisingly, there is a lot to do in Kathmandu!
There are frequent talks, such as those given regularly at Martin Chautari or at the Indian Library, and Pecha Kucha and Ted Talks, are held every few months; poetry reading; speakers groups; writers groups, and a host of other things to do. We suggest you ask around, check out Facebook and the Internet.
Evening entertainment consists mainly of private parties, restaurants, bars, and music venues to suit every taste. See here for some of our favourite restaurants. Nightlife, on the whole, starts early and ends early. Public transport ends at 7.30pm and with strict drinking and driving laws Nepalis as a whole do not go out late at night. Most restaurants will take last orders by 9pm. The majority of bars close around 10pm to 11pm although some, mainly in Thamel, will stay open till midnight or 1pm. Clubs in Thamel and Durbar Marg may stay open past that time.
There is no lack of daytime activities if you or your spouses are free in the daytime. Below are some groups, organisations, and activities to check out: –
- Culture Studies Group Nepal
Mainly expats. Monthly talks and studio visits. Membership fee applicable.
A global expat group that meets once a month, in Kathmandu. Sign up via their website. A fee is charge at the event.
- American Club
For Americans and those with Duty Free status. Membership required. Restaurant, pool, gym, full sized running track, commissary.
- Organic Markets
A great way to meet people on Saturdays or Sundays.
Mainly locals. Arts based organisation involved in street art etc.
There are several theatre groups. Mainly in Nepali language but superb acting makes it worthwhile. Ticket prices are Rs 500 and under
- Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory
Now might be the time to take up a musical instrument or singing.
- Kathmandu Chorale
A fun, informal choir of expats and locals that perform twice a year, including a Christmas concert.
International jazz festival held every October/November.
QFX is the best, and air-conditioned! English language films as well as Bollywood and Nepali language films. See their website for locations and films. Ticket prices around Rs300.
Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival. Held every December. Dozens of international and local documentaries.
- Embassy Film Festivals
Several embassies, including the French and Russian, hold annual festivals of films from their country.
- International Tattoo Convention
Held every April. Dozens of international tattoo artists.
- Mother and Child Group
Expat mothers and pre-school children. Meets every Friday. Ask around for details.
Take up dancing at the Salsa Dance Academy, next to Soma Café in Baluawatar or The Dance Floor in the Woodlands Complex in Durbar Marg. Watch out for occasional dance festivals or events covering a wide genre of dance from B-Boying to Kizomba.
Available in a number of gyms or at the Salsa Dance Academy in the north of the city and Core Studio in the south.
The Hash meet most Saturdays and also has a walking group. Check their website for details. Watch out for running and outdoors festivals such as the Himalayan Outdoor Festival held annually in April or May.
There are a lot of gyms, from the inexpensive to the expensive around town. Ask what is available in your area.
- Swimming pools
The larger hotels all have swimming pools. While there are, larger, public pools, these are often not very clean.
Nightlife in Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a wicked music scene here if you know where to look for it – and until you find your way around, we have given you some suggestions below as to where to start. However, the nightlife in Kathmandu tends to start early and end early. Most of the bars and clubs are located in the tourist hub of Thamel, and Sanepa/ Jamsikhel, where most of the expats live. Thamel is more hustle and bustle, whereas Sanepa/ Jamsikhel are more laid-back.
Both locations are pretty safe for single women to walk around in although in Thamel you will attract the attention of the young local boys. Mostly they are harmless and just ignore them or tell them to go away (and they usually do!). There is definitely less of this kind of thing in Sanepa/ Jamsikhel since it is mostly expats in that area.
But that is not to say you should be careless about where you are walking and who you are talking to – just use your common sense. Be aware that pickpocketing and bag snatching is on the rise in Kathmandu.
What to Wear
What we say to visitors is: there is no dress code as such in Nepal. (Men please note that Nepali men do not walk around shirtless, even the most poor will wear a torn shirt or vest rather than go bare-chested.) You can wear your trekking gear or smart casuals in all bars and restaurants. But please keep in mind, this is still a conservative country so if you walk around in short shorts do not be surprised that you will be treated with less respect than someone wearing less reveling clothes. If you don’t respect local customs through skimpy clothing, don’t expect local custom to respect you. Period.
What we say to expats: ditto to above and we would expect you would take note of what your colleagues and neighbours are wearing and, if not exactly copy their dress style, dress appropriately for the country you are in.
The music scene, like the arts scene, is vibrant and we suggest you check out a few venues and bands to see what is happening. Below is a list of some of the better venues to try – particularly on a Friday and Saturday night. Wednesday nights also see most venues hosting music. Check out their Facebook page.
In Thamel and Around
- Purple Haze (Rock bands)
- Reggae Bar (Oddly enough, rock bands!)
- Sisha Bar (Rock bands and others)
- Revolution Café (Fusion)
- House of Music (All genres of music)
- OMG (Nightclub)
- Victory (Nightclub)
- The Factory (DJ and live bands)
- The Attic (Live bands and art events)
- Club 25 Hours (Live bands, events, DJ)
Jamsikhel and Around
- Moksh (All genres of music, events, day time events)
- Wicked Spoon (Blues/ rock/ jazz)
- Base Camp (All genres of music and events)
The most comfortable cinemas are those in the QFX chain. Log onto their website for information as to their location and what is playing. They show Hollywood, Bollywood and Nepali movies. Mainly the Hollywood movies are of the action variety and the Indian and Nepali movies rarely come with English subtitles.
Other cinemas include Big Cinema City Centre, Kamal Pokhari. Information about what’s on at other cinemas can be found in the Himalayan Times English language daily newspaper.
There is also a vibrant theatre culture in Kathmandu although most of the theatre groups perform in Nepali language. The acting is so good, however, that even without language skills you can still enjoy the performance. Recently a couple of theatre venues have been reclaimed by the landlords so the various theatre groups play in the remaining venues. Check their website or FB pages for details of what is playing. Theatre starts early (usually 5pm) so that the majority of the audience, who use public transport, can get home. All productions run 6 nights a week and matinee on Saturday (very crowded) and prices are around Rs 500, students are less.
- Theatre Mall, Kantipath (Nepali language)
- Mandala Theatre, Anamnagar (Behind Singha Durbar) (Nepali language)
- Shilpee Theatre, Battisputali, opposite Dwarika’s Hotel (Nepali language)
- Vajra Hotel, Swoyambhunath (English language plays twice a year directed by the German owner)
- One World Theatre Group, a theatre group which puts on productions in the above named venues in English language.
There are plenty of gyms and fitness venues of varying sizes in Kathmandu. Here are a few to get your started:
- Core Studio, Sanepa (In the International Club grounds) offers Zumba, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing etc.
- Pranayama Studio in Thamel, Bouddha and Jhamsikhel for yoga
- Shaligram Hotel, Jaulakhel (near the zoo), for Zumba and gym
- Radisson Hotel, Lazimpat, gym and swimming pool
- Shankar Hotel, Lazimpat, swimming pool
- Next Steps, Lazimpat, Zumba, kickboxing and gym facilities
- Rage, Naxal, gym
- Fitness Mantra, Baluawatar (Behind Chinese Embassy), gym
- Salsa Dance Academy, Baluawatar (Opposite Russian Embassy), Zumba, salsa and other dance classes
- The Dance Floor, Durbar Marg (inside the Woodlands Hotel complex), salsa and other dance classes
- Hyatt Hotel, Bouddha, swimming pool and gym facilities