Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal. It is also the hub of the country's economy. It has the most advanced infrastructure of any urban area in Nepal, and its economy is focused on tourism, which accounted for 3.8% of Nepal's GDP in 1995/96. Tourism in Kathmandu declined thereafter during a period of political unrest, but since then has improved. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia.
The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu's people follow Hinduism and many others follow Buddhism. There are people of other religious beliefs as well, giving Kathmandu a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city. English is understood by Kathmandu's educated residents. Historic areas of Kathmandu were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25 April 2015.
Swayambhu is a Buddhist stupa atop a hillock at the northwestern part of the city. This is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Although the site is considered Buddhist, it is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. The stupa consists of a dome at the base; above the dome, there is a cubic structure with the eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions.[clarification needed] There are pentagonal Toran above each of the four sides, with statues engraved on them. Behind and above the torana there are thirteen tiers. Above all the tiers, there is a small space above which lies a gajur.
The Boudhanath, (also written Bouddhanath, Bodhnath, Baudhanath or the Khāsa Chaitya), is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Katmandu, along with Swayambhu. It is a very popular tourist site. Boudhanath is known as Khāsti by Newars and as Bauddha or Bodhnāth by speakers of Nepali. Located about 11 km (7 mi) from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupa's massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal.Boudhanath became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous 5th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Pashupati). Located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It served as the seat of national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal was secularized. However, a significant part of the temple was destroyed by Mughal invaders in the 14th century and little or nothing remains of the original 5th-century temple exterior. The temple as it stands today was built in the 19th century, although the image of the bull and the black four-headed image of Pashupati are at least 300 years old. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shivaratri, or the night of Lord Shiva, is the most important festival that takes place here, attracting thousands of devotees and sadhus.
The literal meaning of Durbar Square is a "place of palaces". There are three preserved Durbar Squares in Kathmandu valley and one unpreserved in Kirtipur. The Durbar Square of Kathmandu is located in the old city and has heritage buildings representing four kingdoms (Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur); the earliest is the Licchavi dynasty. The complex has 50 temples and is distributed in two quadrangles of the Durbar Square. The outer quadrangle has the Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar, and Shiva-Parvati Temple; the inner quadrangle has the Hanuman Dhoka palace.
Kumari Ghar is a palace in the center of the Kathmandu city, next to the Durbar square where a Royal Kumari selected from several Kumaris resides. Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in South Asian countries. In Nepal the selection process is very rigorous. Kumari is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepali name for Durga) until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body. Serious illness or a major loss of blood from an injury are also causes for her to revert to common status. The current Royal Kumari, Matina Shakya, age four, was installed in October 2008 by the Maoist government that replaced the monarchy.
Kathmandu is home to a number of museums and art galleries, including the National Museum of Nepal and the Natural History Museum of Nepal. Nepal's art and architecture is an amalgamation of two ancient religions, Hinduism and Buddhhism. These are amply reflected in the many temples, shrines, stupas, monasteries, and palaces in the seven well-defined Monument Zones of the Kathmandu valley are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This amalgamation is also reflected in the planning and exhibitions in museums and art galleries throughout Kathmandu and its sister cities of Patan and Bhaktapur. The museums display unique artifacts and paintings from the 5th century CE to the present day, including archeological exportation.
Kathmandu is a center for art in Nepal, displaying the work of contemporary artists in the country and also collections of historical artists. Patan in particular is an ancient city noted for its fine arts and crafts. Art in Kathmandu is vibrant, demonstrating a fusion of traditionalism and modern art, derived from a great number of national, Asian, and global influences. Nepali art is commonly divided into two areas: the idealistic traditional painting known as Paubhas in Nepal and perhaps more commonly known as Thangkas in Tibet, closely linked to the country's religious history and on the other hand the contemporary western-style painting, including nature-based compositions or abstract artwork based on Tantric elements and social themes of which painters in Nepal are well noted for. Internationally, the British-based charity, the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre is involved with promoting arts in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu is home to Nepali cinema and theaters. The city contains several theaters, including the National Dance Theatre in Kanti Path, the Ganga Theatre, the Himalayan Theatre and the Aarohan Theater Group founded in 1982. The M. Art Theater is based in the city. The Gurukul School of Theatre organizes the Kathmandu International Theater Festival, attracting artists from all over the world.A mini theater is also located at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square, established by the Durbar Conservation and Promotion Committee.