Nightlife in Pokhara is characterised by an 11pm curfew, so if you’re in a bar and it’s getting near to 11, don’t leave. The police then make their way down the strip, so by 11.30 most bars have kicked out. By midnight it’s a ghost-town. (If you want to know how to break the curfew, read this post.)
All the action in Pokhara takes place Lakeside, on the main drag – Lakeside marg. In addition to one of the best collections of Western style restaurants and bars in India and Nepal, you also have several Nepali “dance bars” peppered into the mix.
There are lots of shops selling the standard Nepali beers: Everest, Gorkha and Nepal Ice, don’t expect to drink them beside the lake after dark without being moved on by the cops. You’ll probably have to drink them at your hotel.
Pokhara also has an excellent (though often hit-or-miss) live music scene, with some very talented local musicians playing both local and international music.
Live Music Venues in Pokhara
Sometimes it seems like the Pokhara music scene is stuck in the 80s. Expect to hear the likes of Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd and Guns n’ Roses on a daily basis. I stayed 10 nights and heard the latter’s rendition of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” no less than 17 times. (Yes, I counted.)
Some of the restaurants play more relaxed, sit-down, acoustic stuff while you eat, but when it comes to live music there are really three main contenders.
|Busy Bee||Easily the biggest and most popular restaurant, bar, club and live music venue in town. Good food and 2-4-1 happy hour cocktails.|
|Club Amsterdam||Everyone has their personal favourite of the three and this is mine. I happened to see a better quality and selection of music in here. Like Busy Bee but quieter. Also happy hour cocktails.|
|The Blues Bar||Tucked just off the strip on a little side road, the Blues Bar is an old Pokhara institution. It attracts an older and, in my opinion, cooler crowd, of course has great music and offers a less main-stream, but not inferior, drinks selection: whiskies, other spirits, alcoholic teas…|
What’s with the “Dance Bars” in Pokhara?
These are a strange affair. On the one hand, the clientele is pretty much entirely young Nepalese, guys and girls, and the live dance show on stage usually features a man and a woman, both fully clothed in Nepalese dress and dancing to Nepalese music.
On the other hand, you’re likely to be approached by flirtatious women who’ll try to persuade you to buy them drinks (for example a ridiculously overpriced glass of wine) in exchange for their unsolicited company. These girls are almost always plastered – no doubt the result of all those free drinks – and I have it on good authority that as the night draws to a close, other services are offered.
(Stripping is illegal in Nepal, which may have something to do with all this.)
I’ve heard horror stories about their Thamel (Kathmandu) counterparts, but all in all, I saw nothing to convince me these places were inherently dodgy. If, like me, you feel it’s a side of Nepalese culture you’d like to experience, just exercise caution. Obviously it should go without saying, never order anything without seeing a menu.
Recommended Restaurants in Pokhara
Here’s a few of my favourite hang outs:
- It was pretty universally agreed amongst our group in Pokhara that Lemon Tree did the best food in town (including the best breakfast) and you get free peanuts with your ice-cold beer.
- Double view does a great “rum steak” and, as the name suggests, commands views of both the lake and the strip, to suit your mood.
- Lotus corner. I love this place, though the owners are Syrian so I’m pretty sure you can’t get an alcoholic drink in there.
- Merhaba is a Turkish restaurant up at the northern end of the strip and the only place outside Turkey I’ve ever been able to find an İskender kebap…and a good one at that! Recommended to us by a Pokhara regular.
Where to Stay in Pokhara?
As I always like to point out, this is a nightlife guide, not an accommodation guide, but if you want a sociable hostel in Pokhara, these two have dorms and had the best rates in town.
- Hotel Celesty Inn has dorms for 400 Nepali rupees, plus service charge, tax, or whatever.
- Hotel Angel is the cheaper of the two at 300 rupees in total. For some reason it has a constant flow of Chinese people coming by word of mouth, most of them hitchhiking via Tibet.