Best Cafes in Kathmandu

There’s not a single Starbucks (or other Western chain) in Kathmandu, and that’s good news for finding unique, atmospheric places to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. While Nepalis still prefer sweet, milky, heavily spiced chiya (tea) or Nestle instant coffee when relaxing at home, there’s a growing cafe scene in the capital where you can get a good mug of whatever you prefer, with a tasty slice or cake or sandwich on the side. Here are some suggestions for places to seek out. Most will have Wifi.

Thamel

Himalayan Java

There are a few branches of Himalayan Java around town, but the largest, with the nicest interior, is on Narayanhiti Path, on the main road leading into Thamel. There are comfortable couches, low coffee tables or even large group work tables with power points--ideal for bringing your laptop and catching up with emails. The food menu is not extensive, but there is always a collection of cakes in the cabinet. The iced coffees and smoothies are particularly good, but the hot coffees are also some of the best you’ll find in Kathmandu.

Kaiser Cafe

Situated within The Garden of Dreams--a tranquil landscaped garden on Narayanhiti Path--you have to pay a small entrance fee just to enter the complex. But it’s worth spending a couple of hours relaxing here, as it’s such a contrast to the busy, noisy world of tourist Thamel outside. Kaiser Cafe itself is located within and around an old, renovated Rana-era palace. While Kaiser Cafe is not cheap, it has a large menu, so it’s good for a meal as well as just a drink. It’s especially atmospheric at night when the gardens and water features of The Garden of Dreams are lit up.

There are also lots of smaller bakeries and cafes around the lanes of Patan. While the quality of the coffee varies enormously between cafes, there are many places to get some good, affordable bakery treats and smoothies. If the items on display in the cabinets look fresh and tasty then they probably are.

Patan

Karma Coffee

Karma Coffee House, Kathmandu
Karma Coffee House in Lalitpur, Kathmandu (© Birgit Lienhart-Gyawali)

Located above the Pranamaya Yoga Studio in the Moksh complex in Jamsikhel, Karma Coffee is a favorite of young Nepalis as well as the many expats who live in the area. It is an ethically run enterprise and sources its fair-trade coffee from the Himalayas. About once a month, Karma Coffee holds special events on Friday evenings, where they serve wine, beer and a range of home-baked cakes and snacks.

Dhokaima Cafe

Dhokaima Cafe is conveniently located at the entrance to old Patan, right by the big white Patan Dhoka (gate), so is a good place to head before or after sightseeing at the Patan Durbar Square. Although it doesn’t look like much from the outside, behind the red-brick walls and shutters is a large outdoor seating area, with plenty of plants and shade. Dhokaima Cafe does Western and Asian meals throughout the day, good coffee, and has a fully equipped bar. The creamy Irish Coffees are especially potent. Dhokaima Cafe is also attached to the Yala Maya Kendra event space, where lectures, film screenings or music performances are often held.

Cafe Soma

Cafe Soma is a popular hangout among the many Western expats who live in the Jamsikhel area. Although the area is a little far from the main tourist attractions of Patan (the Patan Durbar Square is a twenty-minute walk away), the area is known as ‘Restaurant Road’ because of a large number of cafes and restaurants here. Therefore, it’s a good place to head if you are interested in checking out Kathmandu’s contemporary food scene. Cafe Soma is one of the few, top-quality cafes in the area that is open mainly in the daytime and shuts early. The coffees are good, as are the sandwiches, all-day breakfasts, and the selection of books available for purchase.

Cafe Swotha

While the cafes around the perimeter of the Patan Durbar Square have better views, the food is much fresher and tastier at Cafe Swotha, around the corner. It used to be easily locatable as near the Swotha Temple on Swotha Square, two minutes’ walk from the main Durbar Square, but that small temple, unfortunately, fell down in the 2015 earthquake. It’s a small, quiet place but serves very tasty sandwiches, salads, and French press coffee. It’s attached to the beautiful boutique Swotha Bed and Breakfast, also a top choice for a place to stay around the Patan Durbar Square.

Lazimpat

Tings Tea Lounge

Tings Tea Lounge is also a hotel, located a short drive (or a fifteen-minute walk) north of Thamel, just off Lazimpat Road. It takes the ‘lounge’ in its name seriously and is a hub for creative activities in Kathmandu. Art exhibitions and film screenings are often held here on Friday nights, so it’s really an artistic meeting space. They have an extensive tea menu, with highlights from around Asia, and the food menu is also diverse, with lots of fresh salads.

Boudha

Tea-Zen-House

Tea-Zen-House is a relatively new place in Boudha, overlooking the magnificent Buddhist stupa, run by a Taiwanese couple. And they really know their east Asian-style tea. Your selection will be made according to traditional Chinese tea ceremony methods, and served in cups specially selected to complement the type of tea. Stopping for tea at Tea-Zen-House is extremely relaxing, as the whole experience is treated like a meditative ritual. Exquisite Chinese tea sets are also for sale.

Around town

The Bakery Cafe

The Bakery Cafe has nine branches around Kathmandu, including near the United Nations Headquarters in Patan and at Boudha. The name is a little misleading, as the menu and ambiance at some branches resemble more a top-quality fast-food restaurant than a bakery or cafe. They serve a wide variety of tasty and affordable Nepali, Indian, and Western items. What’s special about The Bakery Cafe is that it employs deaf Nepali staff, who otherwise would struggle to find work in Nepal. The servers are deaf, so you are asked to make use of signing, pointing to the menu and writing down and special requests.