Kathmandu is the capital and largest municipality of Nepal. It is the only city of Nepal with the administrative status of Mahanagarpalika (Metropolitan City), as compared to Up-Mahanagarpalika (Sub-Metropolitan City) or Nagarpalika (Municipality). Kathmandu is the core of Nepal's largest urban agglomeration located in the Kathmandu valley consisting of Lalitpur, Kirtipur, Madhyapur Thimi, Bhaktapur and a number of smaller communities. Kathmandu is also known informally as "KTM" or the "tri-city". According to the 2011 census, Kathmandu has a population of close to 1 million people. The municipal area is 50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi) and has a population density of 3000per km² and 17000 per km square in city.
The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur), has the highest population density in the country, and is home to about a twelfth of Nepal's population.
Historically, the Kathmandu Valley and adjoining areas were known as Nepal Mandala. Until the 15th century, Bhaktapur was its capital when two other capitals, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established. During the Rana and Shah eras, British historians called the valley itself "Nepal Proper". Today, Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also the headquarters of the Bagmati Zone and the Central Development Region of Nepal.
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.
The city of Kathmandu was named after Kasthamandap temple, that stands in Durbar Square. In Sanskrit, Kastha means "wood" and Mandap means "covered shelter". This temple, also known as Maru Satal, was built in 1596 by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The two-storey structure is made entirely of wood, and uses no iron nails nor supports. According to legend, all the timber used to build this pagoda was obtained from a single tree.
The colophons of ancient manuscripts, dated as late as the 20th century, refer to Kathmandu as Kasthamandap Mahanagar in Nepal Mandala. Mahanagar means "great city". The city is called "Kasthamandap" in a vow that Buddhist priests still recite to this day. Thus, Kathmandu is also known as Kasthamandap. During medieval times, the city was sometimes called Kantipur . This name is derived from two Sanskrit words - Kanti and pur. "Kanti" is one of the names of the Goddess Lakshmi, and "pur" means place.
Among the indigenous Newar people, Kathmandu is known as Yen Desa , and Patan and Bhaktapur are known as Yala Desa and Khwopa Desa . "Yen" is the shorter form of Yambu , which originally referred to the northern half of Kathmandu.
Archaeological excavations in parts of Kathmandu have found evidence of ancient civilizations. The oldest of these findings is a statue, found in Maligaon, that was dated at 185 AD. The excavation of Dhando Chaitya uncovered a brick with an inscription in Brahmi script. Archaeologists believe it is two thousand years old. Stone inscriptions are an ubiquitous element at heritage sites and are key sources for the history of Nepal
The earliest Western reference to Kathmandu appears in an account of Jesuit Fathers Johann Grueber and Albert d'Orville. In 1661, they passed through Nepal on their way from Tibet to India, and reported that they reached "Cadmendu, the capital of the Kingdom of Necbal"