Did you know that a jet airliner that crashed while landing on the runway was converted into the Aircraft Museum? Or that the Narayanhiti Museum was actually a palace, where the royal family lived for generations and got killed one night in a massacre?
Many stories of the brave legends and heroic battles echo in the walls of the numerous museums situated in Kathmandu. All these museums highlight the glorious history, vibrant biodiversity and vibrant culture of Nepal. From the king's handwritten works to the battle weapons and a bizarre specimen of a two-headed snake, the treasure trove of these museums have been well preserved over the decades and displayed to signify Nepal's grand heritage.
This heritage site glorifies the remarkable history and culture of Nepal, emphasising the heroic acts of the war veterans during battles fought in the 18th and 19th century. Intriguing artefacts like weaponry, paintings, sculptures and murals dating back centuries have been preserved and are on display in the three buildings. The first one, the main building, has been divided into three sections - the natural history section displaying elusive flora and fauna species, the philatelic section featuring old coins and stamps, and the cultural section. The second and third buildings of the museum are Juddha Jayatia Kalashala and Buddha Art Gallery.
The history of Nepal's largest museum dates back to 1928 when it was known as Chhauni Silkhana and was the mansion of the ruling prime minister, Bhimsen Thapa. The residential building had a collection of war weapons and artefacts, and only foreign delegates or special guests of the prime minister could lay their eyes upon them. In 1939, Prime Minister Juddha Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana made the museum open for Nepalese people and inaugurated an art museum containing the prized collection of famous paintings and murals. Finally in 1943, during the reign of King Mahendra, the museum was renamed as Rashtriya Sangrahalaya or the National Museum of Nepal.
Location: Museum Road 1271, Chhauni
Entry fees: For nationals of SAARC countries, the entry fee is NPR 50 per person and NPR 75 if you wish to do photography. For citizens of other countries, the entry fee is NPR 150 per person and NPR 100 if you wish to do photography.
Timings: The museum remains closed on Tuesday and national holidays. On Monday, it opens from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM, while on the other days of the week, it opens till 4:30 PM.
'Narayan' stands for Lord Vishnu, whose temple has been established in the grounds, and 'Hiti' stands for waterspout, which is beautifully carved near the entrance of the palace. The momentousness of Narayanhiti Palace in the history of Nepal and era of the monarch cannot be encompassed merely in words. The walls of this palace have witnessed the massacre of the royal family and withstood the deadly earthquakes. The Halls are adorned with the opulent chandeliers and skins of the tigers hunted by King Mahendra and Crown Prince Birendra. The walls are decked with life-size portraits of the Shah Kings and their aristocratic guests.
The stupendous palace comprises of buildings separated by courtyards and has a total of 52 rooms, each named after the 75 districts of Nepal - each room is a mark of royal grandeur and radiance. The main rooms of interest are the Kaski Sadan, the Reception Hall were all political proceedings took place, and Gorkha Baithak, containing the magnificent throne of His Majesty. Visitors could observe the court proceedings of the Reception Hall from the Dolpa Sadan while all the main ceremonies were held in the grand Dhanusha Baithak.
Location: Narayanhiti Palace Museum, North Gate Rd, Durbar Marg
Entry fees: For localities, the entry fee is NPR 100, and for students, it's NPR 20. Tourists belonging to SAARC nations have to pay NPR 250 while those coming from other foreign countries have to pay NPR 500. Photography or video recording is not allowed inside the premises.
Timings: The museum remains closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and opens from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM from Thursday to Monday.
3. Taragoan Museum
In 1972, Australian architect Carl Pruscha constructed an ancient styled Taragaon Hostel, and 42 years later, it was renovated into a modernised museum. Since then, the Taragaon Museum has worked to preserve and publicise the exuberant culture and architecture of Nepal. With paintings, photographs, sculptures, maps and many other artworks from the 18th and 19th century exhibited in seven buildings, the impressive museum is ideal for those who wish to discern the changes that Nepalese tradition has witnessed over the years. Spreading over an area of 35,000 square feet and constructed using red facing brick, the framework of these buildings is an amalgamation of architectural styles and are separated by stone paved quadrangles. Besides the displays, the building also has a cafe bar, an event hall and two amphitheatres in its premises. Several events like fashion shows, conferences and film screening also take place here.
Location: Boudhanath Sadak
Entry fees: Entry is free for everyone.
Timings: The museum remains closed on Saturday and all public holidays. It opens from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM from Sunday to Friday.
4. Natural History Museum of Nepal
With preserved bodies of species stored in bottles filled with formaldehyde, this museum is certainly not good for the faint-hearted. For those wishing to get an acumen into the extraordinary biodiversity of Nepal, this museum is their holy grail. From elusive algae and arthropods to giant reptiles and mammals, from mineral samples to fossils dating million years old, the Natural History Museum has some of the finest collections of Nepal's sublime natural heritage. The evanescent species of Nepalese Spiny Babbler and Indian Chevrotain, or the mouse deer, can be found exclusively here. Some peculiar specimens of an eight-legged goat embryo, a four-legged chick, and a two-headed snake can also be found on display.
Established in 1975, the specimen exhibits of this museum are commendable and visited by nature enthusiasts and archaeologists all over the world. The world heritage site of Swayambunath is in its vicinity. Educational promotion is a prime objective of this museum, and hence, it welcomes all school and college students or scholars visiting the museum for research purpose. It also conducts awareness programs and publishes yearly journals.
Location: Swoyambhu Circle Road
Entry fees: For SAARC nationals and localities, the fee is NPR 40 while for tourists from other foreign nations, the fee is NPR 100. Camera and video recording are allowed with additional charges of NPR 100 and NPR 400 respectively. Students with valid ID get discounts up to 50%.
Timings: The museum remains closed on Saturdays and all public holidays. It opens from 10:00 AM every morning closing around 5:00 PM during summers and 4:00 PM during winters
5. Nepal Military Museum
A walk into the rooms of the Nepal Military Museum will make you envisage the bloodshed on the grounds of Nepal and the deadly battles fought by the brave Nepalese soldiers. The valour and devotion of Nepal's military forces depicted through an array of exhibits will give you goosebumps. As you enter through the enormous gates, you will be greeted by the sight of a military tank, a plane, few cannon launchers, and the famous Queen Elizabeth's gifted Rolls Royce. Inside the stellar museum, in its various rooms, you will find the original weapons, trophies, battle attires and steel armours used by the soldiers during the battles. Several paintings of battle scenes from the World Wars and wars fought against Tibetians are adorned on the walls. Oil portrait of the fearless warrior Queen Rajendra Laxmi Devi Shah is also there. Lastly, as an ode to his struggle and resolution in integrating Nepal, a statue of Prithvi Narayan Shah has been installed inside the premises.
Location: Chhauni Road, Kathmandu
Entry fees: For SAARC nationals, the entry fee is NPR 40 while for tourists from other countries, the fee is NPR 100. Photography and videography are allowed with an extra charge of NPR 50 and NPR 200 respectively.
Timings: The museum opens from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM from Wednesday to Sunday. On Mondays, it closes a bit early, around 2:00 PM, and remains closed on Tuesday and public holidays.
For many decades, the Hanuman Dhoka Palace served as the residence of the Shah monarchs. The majestic King Tribhuvan lived here along with his family. Known for his fight against the Rana rulers and benevolence for his people, King Tribhuvan is also named the father of the Nation for his efforts to establish democracy in Nepal. The opulent wooden carved architecture of the palace took centuries to build after the onset of its construction in the mid-17th century. The delicate charm of its framework has fascinated many tourists all over the world. As you walk inside, you will be greeted by a graceful statue of Lord Hanuman, the Hindu Deity after whom the palace is named.
A building inside this grand palace was reconstructed and established as the modern day Tribhuvan Museum. With the aim to sensitise people about the personal life of His Majesty, the museum contains exhibits of the personal belongings of the king. His walking stick with a secret sword hidden inside, his ornate jewellery, his drained aquarium, his king size bed and his majestic throne are some amongst the innumerable displays showcased inside the museum. Effects and touches have been given to provide an authentic feel to each item. Paintings and portraits of the members from the Royal family are decked all over the palace walls. Inside the premises, you will come across the Basantapur Tower, which provides a panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley is known to be used by the king to ensure that no house goes to bed with empty stomachs.
Sadly, when the catastrophic earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, the Hanuman Dhoka bore the pangs of destruction and was severely damaged. Tribhuvan Museum was affected as well. Since then its restoration work has started, and though it may take a few years, all efforts will be made to restore it to its primitive beauty.
Entry fees: Nepalese citizens and children below 10 years of age have free entry. For SAARC nationals, the entry is for NPR 150 while for tourists from China or other foreign nations, the entry is for NPR 1000. Photography and video recording are permitted.
Timings: The museum remains closed on Tuesday and opens from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM from Saturday to Thursday. On Friday, the museum closes an hour early, i.e. at 2:00 PM.
7. Mahendra and Birendra Museums
Standing in the vicinity of Tribhuvan Museum are the small architectural marvels of Birendra and Mahendra Museums built after the successors of the benevolent King Tribhuvan. Both the museums are a representation of fine architecture and contain relics of the three king's personal belongings. These splendid museums were also impacted during the 2015 earthquake, but you can still visit some of the wings.
Mahendra Museum is named after the son of King Tribhuvan, King Mahendra. The stark contrast in the personality of this king will astound you as you get a peek at his personal life through the collections of poetry, literature texts, stamps, coins and medals showcased inside the museum. King Birendra was a true reflection of his grandfather when it comes to compassion and dedication for his people. Due to the ban implemented on opposing political parties by his father, he inherited an absolute monarchy. However, as soon as he was crowned the king, he started working on promoting education and bettering Nepal's relations with other South Asian countries by fetching the idea of SAARC. His reign saw a lot of progress in primary education. Birendra Museum contains weapons, gifts from foreign nations, coins, watches and a lot many items belonging to the three kings.
Entry fees: Nepalese citizens and children below 10 years of age have free entry. For SAARC nationals, the entry is for NPR 150 while for tourists from China or other foreign nations, the entry is for NPR 1000. Photography is not permitted inside the complex.
Timings: The museum opens from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM from Tuesday to Saturday. On Sunday, it closes two hours early, i.e. around 2:00 PM while it remains closed on Monday and public holidays.
8. Aviation Museum
The term "Aviation Museum" was perhaps taken too literally when Captain Bed Upreti saw the demolished remains of Airbus 330-300 that had crash-landed on the runway of Tribhuvan International Airport and decided to revamp it into a classy museum. The tragic incident took place in March 2015 - the aircraft had flown for only 8 months, and two years later it was inaugurated as the Aviation Museum of Nepal. It is a collective effort of Captain Bed Upreti's creative vision and the labour of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
The explicitly designed museum incorporates around 200 aircraft miniatures, including the fighter planes flown in the World Wars and the first aircraft built by the famous Wright Brothers. Photographs of magnificent aeroplanes and the panoramic skyline of Nepal captured by them are on display as well. As you enter the cockpit, you will be delighted by the comfy Cockpit Cafe. To enlighten the tourists and students about the significance of aviation, a documentary is also shown, and guided tours are conducted inside the museum.
Location: Ring Road, Sinamangal
Entry fees: For localities, students, foreign tourists, and specially-abled, the entry fee is NPR 300, 150, 500, and 150 respectively.
Timings: The museum opens from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM during the summers and from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM during winters.
Relics from the past are not mere objects for photography, they carry a story inside them. Take guided tours inside the museum and discover the tale behind each item displayed. Let their history entice you more than their appearance, and witness the journey of Nepal to what it is today.