A sprawling modern city of nearly a million inhabitants, the Nepali capital can feel overwhelmingly crowded and chaotic on first impressions. But head for its ancient core, where the Shah and Malla kings erected their resplendently gilded stupas, palaces and carved wood pagodas, and things improve dramatically.
Durbar Square forms the epicentre of this superbly atmospheric quarter. More than fifty temples, 106 monastery courtyards (bahals) and countless shrines line its narrow, cobbled backstreets. Settle onto one of the terraced platforms of the Manju Devul tower to watch the exotic bustle of marigold sellers, saffron-clad sadhus, stray cows and pigeons - a scene little changed in centuries.
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