Bhaktapur—also called Bhadgaon and referred to as The City of Devotees—is a city in the Kathmandu Valley revealing ancient charm through architecture and plenty of ambitious artistic works. Bhaktapur's altitude rises above 4,500 feet. Originally founded in the late ninth century, Bhaktapur ranks high in historical significance and is the historic seat of the country's aristocracy. The city was also once ruled by the renowned Malla Dynasty, which made monumental advances in economic and social reforms near the fourteenth century. The grandeur and triumph seen throughout the Malla period is reflected in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, an illustrative commemoration of this ancient era that leaves an enduring first impression on visitors.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the most prominent and magnetic attraction in the area. Evidence of the Malla dynasty's most ancient industries—weaving and pottery—can be seen all over the square today. The square is comprised mainly of Shikhara-style and pagoda temples, surrounding a phenomenal wood and brick palace built by King Ranjit Malla that features fifty-five gleaming windows. The term "Shikara-style" refers to the Sanskrit word "Shikhara," meaning mountaintop and deriving from ancient Hinduism. The Shikhara is a tower-like architectural detail that first appeared in Northern India. The entrance to this incredible monument is through the Golden Gate, the main portal to the square and another huge attraction. It is a riveting example of old Nepali architecture and features some of the most richly and intricately carved illustrations in the entire world. The many smaller palaces and temples in Durbar Square show the cultural and religious lives of the Nepali people over the passing centuries. The importance of Bhaktapur Durbar Square descends from the fact that kings were once crowned and their inaugurations consecrated here.
During Bhaktapur travel, most visitors enjoy a thorough exploration of Durbar Square. Most hotels are very accommodating and an overnight stay is ideal. Durbar Square is extremely captivating and through all of its gateways, lintels, windows, and struts, all adorned with beautiful wood carvings, paints a picture of a kingdom once well respected and immensely aspiring. The Lion Gate is another one of the biggest draws during Bhaktapur travel. It dates back to near the turn of the seventeenth century and is protected on both sides by a group of massive lion statues. Adjacent to the gate are dual stone statues—one of the goddess Shiva and the other of her companion Ugrachandi.
Batsala Devi is also situated in Bhakatpur's celebrated square. This stone temple is covered in intricate engravings and represents Shikhara-style design. Bell of Barking Dogs is found on the terrace of Batsala Devi and has been there since 1737 AD where it was once used to indicate curfew times. Bhaktapur travel plans should include a look at least some of the seemingly endless array of temples throughout the square. Though many get skipped as visitors blaze ahead to larger attractions, Bhaktapur Durbar Square offers a compelling look at a multitude of fascinating historical elements as a whole. After the Golden Gate, the Lion Gate, and the palace, other major attractions in Bhaktapur Durbar Square include the Batsalla Temple, the Picture Gallery, ancient works in The Art Gallery, and The Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, which sits on a column facing the palace. This last attraction is so highly respected it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Monument since 1979.
With only fourteen miles separating Bhaktapur from Kathmandu, transportation between the two urban areas is easy and affordable along the connecting highway. A day trip from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur is how many tourists see the city. There are an abundance of cheap tours available, or it's just as easy to catch a local bus and see Bhaktapur for yourself. Once in the city, Bhaktapur travel is just as simple to figure out and a simple tourist map will show the way to all the main attractions. The entire city is in the shape of a conch shell, which is one of the symbols of the Hindu god Vishnu. There are plenty of great dining options to choose between all around the square as well as good shopping at stalls and shops. One of the best things about Bhaktapur is it is completely free of traffic, making it one of the rarest and most appealing urban areas to visit in Nepal.