Patan, or Lalitpur as it is usually called, is the second-largest city in the Kathmandu Valley and lies just across the Bagmati River from Kathmandu. The town is much quieter and its main sights can be covered in an easy day walk. It is located just five kilometers south from Thamel and it can be easily reached it by bicycle, taxi, bus, riksha or foot. The last option is the most appealing since along the way are many attractions you will cross: Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, colorful temples and nice local coffee shops.
The main attraction of Lalitpur is its Durbar Square; a wise planning will allow a very early visit there because later in the morning the place crowds up. The square has the major display of Newar woodcarving-architecture in Nepal and it includes the Royal Palace, and the two-tiered brick Jagannarayan Temple; just below the roofs are carvings of very active couples. The Patan Museum is located there as well, but as usual in Nepal, the building is more interesting than its collection. The Newar architecture is exquisite; not only the delicate woodcarving but the tasteful use of ordinary bricks in rounded structures. The green hue added by moss perfectly complements the reddish bricks, adding a bit of life to what would be otherwise a rather dry visit.
North of the square is the Golden Temple, a Buddhist monastery watched over by tortoises and the Kumbeshawar, the oldest temple in Patan. It dates back to 1392. South of the square is Mangal Bazaar an area of narrow streets lined with many of the artisans’ shops the town is so proud of.
Four Stupas delimit the historical city and – surprisingly - they are called the Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western Stupas. Finding them is a little tedious; the eastern one is on the very outskirts, the western and the southern are within densely constructed areas (the last is very close to the bus terminal) and the northern one is off the way to Kathmandu, just before a secondary bridge.
Lalitpur has a small Zoo in its eastern part, but if you just came back from the Chitwan National Park, then you can skip it in favor of Jawalalkhel, a huge Tibetan Refugees Centre just south from the zoo. There you can buy colorful carpets and help to their precarious economy.
On your way back to Kathmandu, give some attention to the Bagmati River. It is shallow and wide, its rocky riverbed and riverside does not invite for a splash or a picnic, but you may spot cremation rites performed by the local Nepali/Hindu population within an adjacent temple in its northern shore. Unless you are Hindu, your participation or even visit to the site is not allowed, hence a camera with a good zoom is recommended. See more on the Pashupatinath temple in the Surrounding Kathmandu entry of this journal.