There are boutique hotels, then there are former palaces, and if you stay at 3 Rooms by Pauline in Kathmandu, Nepal, you can experience both.
The boutique hotel is on the site of Baber Mahal, a Neoclassical palace built in 1910 by Maharaja Chandra Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana.
The original palace had 250 rooms, stables and staff quarters set around four courtyards, a Japanese garden and an English rose garden.
Now known as Baber Mahal Revisited, the renovated complex has five courtyards which are home to shops selling antiques, wood carvings, textiles and diamonds, as well as four restaurants: Chez Caroline, Mulchowk (international), Bawarchi (Indian) and Baithak (Nepali).
The restored complex still features white plaster walls, columns and a grand staircase bordered by palm trees and elephant sculptures.
3 Rooms by Pauline, in the first and newest courtyard, opened in 2014. Since then, Bollywood stars, French politicians and the Bhutanese Prime Minister have all stayed.
The French owner Pauline Driard has been visiting Nepal since she was 15. She says, “My brother moved to Nepal 12 years ago; he makes cheese here. I came back 10 years ago to renovate a slate guesthouse in Kathmandu Valley. I opened three guesthouses, but they were all destroyed by the earthquake in April 2015. Luckily, I’d opened 3 Rooms by Pauline six months before, which saved my company. I rescued the furniture from the guesthouses, some of which is now in 3 Rooms by Pauline.”
The hotel actually has four rooms: The Attic, which comes with a small kitchen; The Courtyard; The Terrace, which has a tall, beamed ceiling and a private leafy terrace with wicker garden furniture; and The Apartment, a duplex in the middle of the complex with its own entrance, terrace and wooden bath on a slate platform. This is where the Bhutan Prime Minister stayed.
I stayed in The Courtyard, which is the smallest but still as big as a typical one-bedroom flat in London. Like the other rooms, it has a comfortable queen-sized bed, dark wooden antique furniture and framed photos of local scenes on the walls. Thin white curtains drape from French windows which overlook the peaceful courtyard.
Breakfast is included and served in the rooms. With advance notice, the hotel accommodates dietary requirements – and you might well have your best breakfast in Nepal here. During my stay, my friend and I enjoyed omelettes; muesli, fruit and yoghurt; pumpkin seed butter, jam and cheese on warm French bread, and organic Nepali coffee with fresh milk – which is hard to find in Nepal. It was a feast fit for a king – or should I say maharaja?
3 Rooms By Pauline, Mahitighar Mandala, Tanka Prasad Ghumti Sadak, 44600, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: +977 1 422 15 37
If arriving by taxi, tell your driver ‘Baber Mahal Revisited’. Note that Baber Mahal is also the name of an area in Kathmandu. The complex is near Annapurna Hospital in Mahitighar Mandala, Tanka Prasad Ghumti Sadak, 44600. The hotel and complex are about 3km from Kathmandu’s main sights.
Type of Hotel: Small Boutique Hotel
Number of Rooms: 4 rooms including complementary Wi-Fi
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Book direct to benefit from the free airport shuttle.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Photographs by Sarah Riches