Tourists to Sri Lanka often skip the sprawling capital and go for the treasures that lie beyond instead.
What does the capital city have in store?
Colombo has a rich history, a hyped up culinary scene and an eclectic culture and most certainly deserves to be more than a side note to the other parts of the island. Whether you are comparing it to the tea country of the central highlands or the wildlife abundant national parks or the temples of the Cultural Triangle or the exotic beaches, the cosmopolitan hub of Sri Lanka deserves much better.
After the 30 year long civil war ended in 2009, the port city of Colombo has colorfully flourished. Security check points gradually went away and exciting bars, cafes and restaurants have been launching themselves ever since. The fort area still remains the island’s political hub and also, home to the oldest building – the Dutch Hospital. The Fort area also marks the beginning of the Galle Face Green, which is now a beautiful promenade of Colombo.
No other part of the island has energy levels to match the hustle bustle in Colombo. In fact Colombo also has plenty of temples and cultural sights to explore, not forgetting the thriving art and culinary scene.
Hence the least you could do is to schedule at least 2-3 days to properly explore the city but if that’s too much to ask for, here’s how you can make the most of those 24 hours in Colombo.
Highlights in Colombo
- Begin your day tour by strolling Colombo’s ancient colonial center – the Fort. Go around the President’s House, the General Post Office, the remarkable clock tower which was once a lighthouse, and the vacant Cargills Department Store.
- Get into a tuk (3 wheeler) and head to east Pettah – which is a maze of tightly packed roads, temples, mosques and extremely thriving markets where you can find anything from textiles to snacks to stationery items to spices to groceries, and even dried fish.
- For a cultural glimpse, you can visit the National Museum and learn about Sinhalese Kingdoms, observe the ancient sculptures as well as the throne of a King from the 17th century!
- Toward the evening, opt for a high tea package at one of the sea side hotels such as Galle Face Green or The Kingsbury and enjoy an evening full of delicious sweets and savories while gazing over the beautiful Indian Ocean.
- While the sun sets, stroll along the Galle Face Green and observe how families in Colombo spend an evening of leisure picnic-ing, kite flying, playing ball, or jogging alongside the coast.
- End your day by exploring the 17th century building – Dutch Hospital. The restored version now houses high end cafes, bars, restaurants and shops.
If you have a few more hours the next day before you head on to your next destination, visit these places…
- On Bagatalle Road – Colombo 03, you will find the former home of a legendary Sri Lankan architect – Geoffrey Bawa. He has come up with commendable projects throughout the island and contributed vastly towards the tourism industry.
- Grab another authentic cultural glimpse at the Gangarama Temple located on the center of Beira Lake. This masterpiece demonstrates a mix of Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese and Thai architecture.
- Next you could find your inner consumer by visiting Barefoot – a popular joint for crafts, clothes, and homeware.
- Enjoy Sri Lankan street food at one of the many roadside restaurants along the Galle Road stretch of Colombo 03 and 04.