Exploring Colombo hasn’t always been an obvious choice for travellers, but attitudes are changing. This contemporary, character-filled city is having somewhat of a rebirth. You’ll find an intriguing combination of old and new architecture, with a diverse population of cultures, religions and ethnicities.
Here’s our list of top ten things to do in Colombo.
1. Galle Face Green
Here, you’ve got the best of both worlds. Take a leisurely walk along this long stretch of green which was first build by the Dutch in the 16th century, while soaking up the sights of the ocean. There’s an enormous selection of street food vendors to keep your hunger at bay while you catch stunning sunsets. At your sight you’ll see the Galle face Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean, The Taj, Kingsbury Hotel, the Shangri La and ITC hotel in the making and the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
2. Pettah Bazaar
Pettah is jam-packed full of tiny stores, markets and street vendors, all of it nestled in-between some must-see buildings in Colombo. It won’t be a quick visit; there are piles of items on offer and it’s easy to get lost in the traditional bazaar layout. Each narrow, bustling street is dedicated to a particular commodity. It is chaotic at its best, but clearly many tourist loved to experience this historic trading venue of Colombo.
3. Dutch Museum
Sri Lanka has a strong connection with the Dutch, due to its takeover in the 1600s. This museum is home to over 3,000 artifacts from this period, including dancing costumes and musical instruments. The structure is designed as an urban Dutch house which was official residence to Sri Lanka’s Dutch Governor during 1692-1697, Thomas Van Rhee. It was then used by the British in 1796 as a hospital, a Police training centre and Pettah Police station. The time you spend there will be thought provoking and will trigger your imagination of the transformation that occurred during the 17th century.
If you’re a keen cyclist, Colombo is the starting point for an 11-day Sri Lankan adventure. You’ll ride through Buddhist monuments, breathtaking rain-forests, botanical gardens, the rock fortress, and end up in Negombo to head back home. The night cycling accompanying one of our expert cycling guide would be an exciting activity.
5. Sunset at Galleface Hotel
Galleface hotel, one of Colombo’s iconic structures which was once home to a British Governor is located perfectly overlooking the Indian Ocean. It’s ‘Verandah’ Restaurant, and the pub which overlooks straight in to ocean is the ideal venue to catch a glorious sunset.
Grab a cocktail, keep your camera by your side and enjoy the sunset and its golden rays pour in to the Galleface hotel bringing smiles to everyone. Probably one of the best way to end the day. Once the sun is set, take a walk inside the hotel to learn about its proud history.
6. National Museum
If you’ve got a thirst for knowledge, a trip to the National Museum is required. You’ll be greeted by a charming 9th century stone Buddha, before exploring an array of ancient findings, such as swords, carvings and antique demon masks. It is another stunning Colonial building white washed and standing proud amidst its busy surrounding. You’ll be also surprise to see the statue of Queen Victoria, gloriously sitting in a side of its large garden. Thought provoking and indeed plenty of history between the Britain and then Ceylon.
7. Gangaramaya Temple
This is one of the most prominent temples in Colombo, which hosts a varied collection of buildings and monuments. It has Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese cultural influence, all mixed into one beautiful area. The Buddhism of Sri Lanka though practises Theravada Buddhism this is of the temples that appear to unite all the branches of Buddhism with its grand collection of sculptures that are mostly from the region. The temple also has a beautifully created ‘Seema Maalaka’ in the Beira Lake with more in appearance of a Thai Temple than a local. It is created by Geoffrey Bawa, the Sri Lanka’s most reputed architect of all time.
Notice the assembly of all ‘Deva’ the Gods surrounding the magnificent Buddha statue inside.
8. Fine Dining at The Gallery Café and Ministry of Crab
The Paradise Road’s, Gallery Cafe’ is the former office of Sri Lanka’s iconic architect Geoffrey Bawa. The classical design of the building has brought to life by Sri Lanka’s design guru Shanth Fernando. Its menu is an absolute treat for epicures.
The Dinner at the Gallery Cafe’ is our best experience. The lighting the dinner menu and the ambience with often full house restaurant is the probably the best dinner out in Colombo.
The Ministry of Crabs is owned by the two former Sri Lanka Cricket captain, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardana. It soon became a highlight of fine dining in Sri Lanka often requiring reservations well ahead to secure a seat. It’s fresh crabs are cooked with ingredients that will indulge your taste buds creating a memory to last a long time.
The attentive service, the ambience in both restaurants full of character with addictive cuisine made its way to be in one of our top ten things to do in Colombo.
9. Watch a Cricket Match
Cricket is played in every corner of the island and it is much more than a sport in Sri Lanka. It is the national panacea that every age of man, woman and and child follows with great passion. There are many international Cricket grounds in Colombo, but the R Premadasa Cricket ground with a capacity nearly 37,000 is certainly the most exciting venue to watch the game. It’s one day international matches under lights are the most popular among all. If you are a Cricket fan, happen to be in Colombo during either Australia or England Cricket team is playing against the Sri Lankan side at R Premadasa, then it certainly is the place to be.
10. Grab a cocktail at the Sky lounge
Kingsbury hotel’s roof top bar the ‘Sky Lounge’ quickly became famous for its cocktails and for the stunning ariel views over Galleface green, the old British parliament to a side and the harbour on to its other-side and ofcourse the Indian Ocean. It is the second best place to catch the sunset on a good day. Ideal time to be there would be 6:30pm and onwards. The music, the sea breeze and some bites with a drink over looking Colombo in the making would be a pleasant memory.
Don’t bypass this wonderfully eclectic city on your trip to Sri Lanka, because you’ll probably regret it.
To incorporate a trip to Colombo in your Sri Lankan holiday, speak to us at Tropical Vacations and we can put together your dream itinerary.