When people ask me what sure to visit in Kathmandu, The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is one of the things that instantly springs to mind. This royal palace built in 1963 is not only a time machine back to the 60’s, it is also the scene of a rather gruesome yet important page of recent Nepali history.
Joshua and I only visited the Palace Museum because our trip to Bhaktapur fell through. I had been looking for things to do on Google Maps and the Palace Museum sprang up as one of the attractions in the area.
We soon found out that the palace of the former Nepali royal family is not only a well-preserved shrine to the still highly regarded Nepali royal family, but also to 60’s and 70’s design. Let me explain why you should visit the Narayanhiti Palace Museum in Kathmandu and where to get tickets in this complete guide to the Narayanhiti Palace Museum.
History of the Narayanhiti Palace Museum
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum was built in 1963 and its name consists of two parts: Narayan which is another name for the Hindi god Vishnu and Hiti which means water sprout.
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum was built to replace the 18th century royal palace on the Katrhmandu Durbar Square. Bringing the old royal palace into the 21st century with modern features would not only have cost millions, it would also have meant cosmetic changes had to be made, changing the historical palace forever. The royal family rightfully so decided to build a new palace just outside of Thamel and to make the historical royal palace into a museum.
Regretfully, the historical royal palace was destroyed by the 2015 earthquake. Nepal is currently working to restore the museum but due to the extensive damage this will take a considerable amount of time and funds.
In 2001 crown prince Dipendra of Nepal shot his parents and siblings in the back garden of the Narayanhiti Palace Museum. Dipendra. Dependra then shot himself and was in a coma in the hospital for three days after which he succumbed to his injuries. The motive for the shooting is still unknown, but theories are that Dipendra wanted to marry Devyani Rana, an Indian royal girl he met during his studies in England. Due to her caste his parents objected. Another theory is that Dipendra was unhappy with the shift the country made from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in the 90’s.
However, we will never know his true reasons for murdering almost his complete family. Dependra’s uncle Gyanendra took over the throne and later abolished the monarchy. He is still acting head of state of Nepal.
Highlights of the Narayanhiti Royal Palace Museum
What is there to see in the Narayanhiti Palace Museum? The museum itself is divided into 4 sections: the guest wing where you can see how royalty of other countries slept while being a guest in Nepal, the state wing, the private wing and the palace gardens.
The guest wing:
When walking through the guest wing you soon enough notice the multiple pictures on the wall of the Nepali royals shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth, Jaques Chirac and other notable heads of state. I also enjoyed seeing where a king, queen or president was supposed to sleep. The rooms are comfortable but dated, yet classy. There is a royal room, a couple of rooms for diplomats and a room for any kids the royal family might have brought.
The State wing:
The State wing (basically the upstairs of the guest wing) is where the king’s throne is situated and where the ministers would listen to and interact with the king. The throne room is quite impressive with its painted walls, massive throne and abundance of light. Nowhere else in the palace can you find such a big window with this much natural light.
In the state wing it will also be explained how ministers would be able to interact with the king and what ministers would sit where and why.
The private wing:
In the private wing you will be able to see the living room, the office of the king, the office of the queen, a coffee room and many other rooms used by the royal family. What I love about the rooms in the Narayanhiti Palace museum is that it seems as if time stood still. All décor is from the 60’s or 70’s while every now and then you notice a massive 90’s stereo installation or TV.
The gardens of the palace museum are an oasis of rest in an otherwise bustling city. The gardens are very well-kept with gardeners working in the gardens every single day. I loved just sitting here watching the monkeys swing from tree to tree.
Why I am so excited about the Narayanhiti Royal Palace Museum
Joshua and I both studied history in university and we can get very excited about silly or geeky history things.
One of the reasons the Narayanhiti Palace Museum makes my heart beat faster is by how well the museum has been preserved. It is like taking a time machine back to the 60’s. Tourists often visit castles in France to see their Medieval interiors or townhouses in London to experience real Victorian décor… but the 60’s?
If you love vintage, interior design or if you are looking to fill time when in Kathmandu, I would recommend visiting the Narayanhiti Palace Museum!
5 reasons why you should visit the Narayanhiti Palace Museum
So why should you visit the Narayanhiti Palace museum on your off-day in Kathmandu?
Important part of Nepali History
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum plays an important part in recent Nepali History. Would the monarchy still be standing if Dipendra hadn’t murdered his family in cold blood? Who knows.
It is important to consider the impact this has had on Nepal. It is also great to just walk through the halls and see the many smiling heads of state on the pictures. I like to imagined what they thought of Nepal. It is one of my favourite countries in the world and I wondered if they loved it as much as I did.
The museum is a vintage lover's heaven
As I have mentioned multiple times before: stepping into the museum is stepping back into the 60’s.
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is an amazing museum to visit for Vintage lovers and people who actively lived through the 60’s.
You get to see where Queen Elizabeth slept when she stayed in Nepal
Another reason why visiting the Palace Museum might be interesting is that you can see how heads of state lived, slept and spent their time inside the palace.
It was fun to imagine that Queen Elizabeth walked these same halls in her pajamas!
Destress in the tranquil gardens
The gardens of the palace are an absolute haven of tranquility. Take your time to walk through them and discover the many beautiful flowers and trees in the gardens. It is a haven of tranquility in an otherwise bustling, busy and polluted city. You won’t hear a single car horn in these gardens!
Western tourists hardly ever visit the museum
When Joshua and I visited the Narayanhiti Palace Museum we were two of a handful Western Tourists who visited the museum. Most visitors were Nepali.
Where is the Palace Museum located
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is located on the Narayanhiti Path, a busy road just outside of Thamel. It is down the road of the Garden of Dreams and looks out over Jamal road, a street known for its many (western) food outlets such as Pizza Hut and KFC.
Narayanhiti Palace Museum useful Information
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is open from 11 am to 2 pm from Thursday to Tuesday.
Entry tickets cost 500 NPR for tourists (that is about 5 dollar) or 100 NPR for locals.
You can buy tickets at the entrance gate of the museum. You are not allowed to bring in any bags, phones or video equipment. They are quite strict when it comes to this. In fact: They will search you before entering the premises.
You can hand over your stuff to a guy in the locker room. I was a bit scared as I had expensive photo equipment in my bag, but nothing was touched.
What to do after visiting the Narayanhiti Palace Museum
With opening hours between 11 am and 2 pm, you will not be able to fill your whole day with a visit to the palace. So what can you do in the area? What else can you do after visiting the Palace Museum?
Head out into Thamel to get some MoMo. Newa Momo is one of the highest rated and best-known momo places in Thamel. If you would rather have some Western food I can recommend Rosemary’s.
Are you up for something more adventurous? Try one of the many local places around Ason. We ourselves keep to the rule that if a place is busy with locals, it’ll be a good and safe to eat there.
Drink a cocktail at the Garden of Dreams
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It is a downright miracle!!! I have been trying to find a way to keep up a theme for the past 4 months. I finally found a way!!!! 50 minutes after downloading lightroom haha. So many bloggers and articles recommended lightroom... But I just wanted to keep tinkering with Photoshop. Guess what? I was stupid for doing so. After creating a preset I liked it took me 10 minutes to edit and save the rest of the 100 pictures I imported. This is me in the garden of dreams in Kathmandu!! We had cocktails and great food in the restaurant behind me.
Josh keeps going on about how much he loved the garden of Dreams – and I get it! The Gardens are absolutely beautiful and the food and cocktails in the Garden of Dreams are amazing!
After drinking a long island ice tea on the terrace overlooking the gardens one afternoon, Joshua and I decided to head to the Garden of Dreams for a date night. We had 3 courses each, drank 2 or 3 cocktails each and our bill ticked off at $78. Holy Jebus! That was good food for not a lot of money!
Head into Ason to do some shopping
Ason is one of my favourite parts of the city. This district with lots of small, busy and winding roads is the shopping district. If you are looking for beautiful garments or non-tacky souvenirs, this is your place to be. Not only will you get better quality than in many shops in Thamel, it will also be cheaper!