Separated from Kathmandu by the Bagmati River, Patan (also called Lalitpur or Manigal) is the Kathmandu Valley’s second largest town, boasting an even greater concentration of religious monuments than the capital. Most of them are grouped in the streets around Durbar Square – one of the world’s most beautiful piazzas – where the Royal Palace of the Malla kings houses a wonderful museum dedicated to Nepal’s sacred arts.
Bhaktapur, further down the valley but easily reachable in a day trip, boasts another impressive concentration of medieval palaces, bahals (monastery courtyards) and monumental squares – all in high Newari style. Despite being Nepal’s third city, it’s a much more easygoing destination thanks to the absence of traffic from its historic core. Wandering the pretty cobbled streets around Durbar Square, you’ll see traditional potters’, weavers’ and wood-carvers’ workshops, and local people spreading raw rice to dry in the sun.