Kathmandu's Tranquil Garden of Dreams
Exploring a big Asian city on foot can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Many a senior traveller will appreciate finding a quiet spot to relax and catch their breath.
One of the best such places I know is the Garden of Dreams in Kathmandu.
This beautiful hideaway is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the heart of Thamel, the city’s chock-a-block tourist district. It’s a place where you may want to spend a few hours rather than just a few minutes.
It began life in the 1920s as a private garden for Kaiser Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana, the son of a prime minister who himself held several top government posts.
He had the walled garden built alongside his mansion in the style of Edwardian estates he saw in England, with some local adaptations. Originally called the Garden of Six Seasons, it had a pavilion dedicated to each season, along with other decorative structures and landscaped lawns.
Kaiser Shumsher was a member of the Rana dynasty, a powerful private family that ruled Nepal from 1846 to 1951, usurping the powers of the monarchy and turning the prime ministership into a hereditary position.
In addition to holding several senior ministerial posts, he served as Ambassador to the UK and become a field marshal in Nepal’s army. He was a linguist and a lover of art and literature.
After Kaiser Shumsher died in 1964, the garden fell into disrepair. The buildings crumbled and weeds took hold. It remained that way for decades. The garden was eventually restored between 2000 and 2007, with the support of the Austrian government.
Maintained today by the Ministry of Education, the garden covers about half a hectare and has pavilions, an amphitheatre, a large pond, fountains, pergolas and even a large, traditional swing. It’s full of beautiful trees, flowers and lawns, and is popular with local people and foreign visitors alike, with many quiet corners to find a little privacy.
Games or loud music are not allowed, allowing visitors to enjoy genuine tranquillity. The noisy city just outside seems a world away as you sit in the garden or stretch out on its spacious lawns.
Foreign visitors pay an admission fee of 200 rupees (less than US$2). Nepalis pay half this. The fees help maintain the garden and ensure it doesn’t become overcrowded, as it surely would if entry were free. It’s open daily from 9am to 10pm. Wi-Fi is available at 50 rupees an hour.
A restaurant in the garden, the Kaiser Café, offers meals and snacks throughout the day. It’s operated by the famous Dwarika’s Hotel, one of Kathmandu’s finest. (The hotel, which incorporates traditional architectural traditions, is well worth a separate visit of its own).
Kathmandu remains a fascinating city but when the clamour becomes too much, you could do a lot worse than escaping to the Garden of Dreams for some respite. I wouldn’t dream of visiting Kathmandu without spending some time here.
The garden is situated at the corner of Tridevi Marg and Kantipath, near the former Narayanhiti royal palace. Conveniently close to Thamel, it’s also within walking distance of hotels in the Durbar Marg area.
Header image: © Alan Williams