Get to know Colombo with this two-day itinerary that introduces you to the best bits of Sri Lanka’s colonial capital.
Local prayers in Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo
Start your first day in Colombo with a walk to familiarise yourself with the best-known part of the city, Fort, which started life as a fortified Portuguese base in the 16th century. It’s now where you’ll find an impressive clock tower (formerly a lighthouse), the President’s House, Parliament building, the old General Post Office and numerous other notable colonial buildings, which sit alongside modern buildings including the World Trade Center. If you have time, pop round to the Pettah markets for a flavour of a busy Sri Lankan shopping experience - it’s worth seeing what it’s like, even if you don’t want to buy anything.
The old Town Hall from Viharamahadevi Park
Grab a bargain bite from a street stall for lunch - just LKR120 (about US$0.90) will get you a hearty meal of rice and vegetables that will keep you going for the afternoon. Then get a tuk tuk (also known as a trishaw) over to Gangaramaya Vihara, Colombo’s biggest Buddhist temple. This impressive structure is adorned with Buddha statues, intricate carvings and brasswork, and fresh flowers are left as offerings.
After that, relax in nearby Viharamahadevi Park, the city’s largest park, which has imposing views of the town hall and is at its finest in spring, when its multitude of trees starts flowering.
Towards the end of the afternoon, head to the seafront for a relaxed walk down the Galle Face Green Promenade, a long stretch of grass where you can imbibe the lively atmosphere and watch the sun setting over the ocean.
For dinner, enjoy the delicious Sri Lankan flavours of the seafood at The Lagoon, at 77 Galle Road (in the Grand Cinnamon Hotel). A full meal at this charming restaurant will set you back about LKR4,000, or around US$30.
Spend the morning exploring the National Museum (LKR250, or US$1.90), which is home to a tremendous treasure trove of Sri Lankan culture, from 9th century sculptures to a 17th century throne and colonial artifacts aplenty.
Take time to explore Colombo’s many markets
After your cultural morning, grab a tasty street snack for lunch and enjoy a relaxed afternoon on the shores of Lake Beira. This lake is divided into a larger and smaller body of water separated by a canal, and the smaller one is a popular recreational area with a central island. For maximum fun, hire a swan-shaped pedalo and go out onto the lake.
For your second and final evening in Colombo, treat yourself to a sumptuous dinner at Ministry of Crab, a restaurant owned by two former Sri Lankan cricket captains who’ve teamed up with a friend of theirs who happens to be the top chef Dharshan Munidase. As the restaurant’s name suggests, it specialises in crab - a major Sri Lankan export - which can be enjoyed in numerous different dishes (there are veggie options too). It’s a bit pricier than many of Colombo’s restaurants, so budget around US$35 for a meal here. You’ll find the restaurant in the Old Dutch Hospital, a beautiful building in the Fort area, in which you can soak up something of the city’s colonial history while you dine.