Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo is a city that was once under the rule of Dutch, Portuguese, and British for a long period of time. It is a bustling city that is home to numerous natural landscapes, pristine lakes and beaches, and cultural relics, adding to the tourist value of the city.
Following is our list of things to do in Colombo and the places where you can spend the best moments of your trip. Moreover, the city has a lot of places where you can try out new stuff. With this list, you can decide and prioritize what you should plan on your Colombo getaway. Find different tourist spots, local hangout places, and open space areas. Make the most of your trip to Colombo with credence.
Must Do Things in Colombo
Go for A Day-Night Cricket Match at R Premadasa Stadium
All cricket lovers must visit one of the famous and main venues for cricket in Colombo, R. Premadasa International Stadium. Earlier called Kettarama Cricket Stadium till 1994, the stadium got renamed after former Sri Lanka president Ranasinghe Premadasa. It is the biggest stadium in the country with a seating capacity of 35,000 and media-box accommodation for 200 journalists.
Since its establishment, the stadium has hosted many test matches, ODI’s, and T20s. The Prime Minister and President boxes are famous for offering a beautiful view. The site is home to numerous food stalls fully equipped with snacks and drinks. For decades, this place has witnessed many international matches and the Sri Lankan team’s wins.
Try Authentic Sri Lankan Food
As Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural country, it is filled with its regional flavors. The cuisine is famous for its great combination of spices, herbs, seafood, rice specialties, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and lentils. Many of the authentic Sri Lankan food dishes are centered around the main staple rice and coconut while seafood is an important part of the cuisine.
Kiribath, or Sri Lankan milk rice, is another traditional dish presented in a thick and creamy form. You can also try the Pol Roti which are coconut flatbreads served with gravy. Some other authentic food dishes include Kola Kenda (Herbal Porridge), Kukulmas Mirisata (Spicy Chicken Curry), Jaffna Crab Curry, Kalupol Wattaka (Pumpkin Curry), and more.
Spend an Evening at Galle Face Green Promenade
The largest open space in Colombo, Galle Face Green is a huge urban park that offers a half kilometer of walking along the water. Its velvety green promenade was constructed in 1859 to protect the site from Portuguese invasions. The beachfront promenade always remains filled with vendors and is a great area for night fun.
Besides enjoying lots of leisurely activities and people watching, among the many reasons to come here is people hang out to enjoy nice eats during the evening. Many people prefer to take a walk at sunset and enjoy some great Sri Lankan street food – a great way to finish one’s day.
Pay A Visit at Gangaramaya Temple And Seema Malaka Temple
Witness the great fusion of religion, architecture, nature, and spirituality at Gangaramaya Temple. Sits next to Beira Lake, this temple is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Colombo. It is not only a Buddhist place of worship but also a learning center that educates people about Buddhism.
In the main Sanctorum, there is a huge Buddha figure and paintings on the walls displaying various stories of Buddhism. There is also an on-site museum with a huge collection of old artifacts, from coins and jewelry to vintage Rolls Royce. You can also see the lock of Buddha’s hair – the temple’s most sacred relic.
Another important religious site in Colombo is Seema Malaka Temple that is visited to pray, as well as meditate. Seema Malaka is a floating temple, a part of the Gangaramaya Temple, located in the peaceful natural settings amid the green water of Beira Lake. Its structure was built in the 19th century but it sank into the water of the lake.
In 1976, the temple was reconstructed having elements of Kandyan style. The figure of reclining Buddha, numerous seated Buddhas, blue-tiled roof, Shiva, Vishnu, and Ganesha shrines, flowering shrubs, and the cooling breeze – these elements collectively create an amazing atmosphere.
Visit the Tallest Tower in South Asia – Lotus Tower
Head to the tallest man-made structure in the region and have some of the best experiences at Colombo Lotus Tower. It is the most famous landmark that lately became a part of Colombo’s skyline. Its design is inspired by the iconic lotus flower, often linked with Buddhism. Standing 1,168-ft high above the ground, it is the tallest tower in South Asia and the 19th tallest tower in the globe.
Basically, it serves as the transmission tower for radio and TV. The tower is home to many banquet halls, museums, auditoriums, hotels with suites, and so much more to explore. The star attraction here is the revolving restaurant at the top that completes one single rotation every 90 minutes. There is also an observation deck to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city and beyond.
Praise the Unique Exterior of The Red Mosque
The Red Mosque, aka Jami ul Alfar Mosque, is a striking structure and one of the oldest mosques in the city. It is constructed in the early 20th century and draws everybody’s attention with its red and white exterior. The mosque is located in the heart of the Pettah Market and serves as a visual landmark for arriving ships because of its candy-striped walls.
Initially, its prayer hall could accommodate only 1500 devotees, but to cater to the increasing religious need of local Muslims, four additional wings were added to capacitate 10,000 devotees for prayer. Note that the mosque remains closed for non-Muslims during Fridays and prayer times.
Seafood has a great impact on Sri Lanka’s cuisine and the country’s lagoon crab are famous worldwide for their succulent meat. The number one place to eat the scrumptious crab dishes in Colombo is the Ministry of Crab. This restaurant got featured among Asia’s top 50 restaurants and is quite famous among the locals and foreigners alike. Their well-seasoned crab curry or chili crab is the star dish on the menu.
Some other great places to eat the tasty crustaceans include Seafood Cove (a joint that offers fresh seafood specialties), The Ocean Seafood Restaurant, The Manhattan Fish Market, Curry Leaf, and more.
Drink All Sorts of Tea
Sri Lanka became famous as a tea country and since tea holds great importance, there are many forms of tea that you can try in Colombo. Each tea has its unique property, aroma, and taste. When you are in Colombo, don’t miss out on the chance of drinking all kinds of tea available. Black tea is the most common type of tea which is dark in color and has a deep aroma. A cup of black tea with milk and sugar is a staple for all occasions.
Green tea goes through less processing as compared to black tea. It provides several health benefits, including weight loss properties, better brain function, and diabetes prevention. White tea is the most expensive type of tea in Sri Lanka. It contains less caffeine and more antioxidants than other types of tea.
Temples and Religious Places
For those who are wondering what to do in Colombo for a day, the temples and religious sites are enough to keep them occupied for the entire day. It is a must thing to experience a tour of the popular religious places in the city. All of those are the epitome of architectural brilliance and reflect the fusion of different designs.
Find Peace at Gangaramaya Temple and Seema Malaka Temple
Right next to Beira Lake sits the city’s oldest Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya Temple. In addition to a place of worship for Buddhists, the temple also serves as the learning center that educates visitors about Buddhism. The site features numerous figures of Buddha and a museum with a wide range of old artifacts. Pay a visit to this temple during the February full moon to see the annual ceremony which includes the procession led by the temple’s elephant.
The other important temple in the city is Seema Malaka which floats amid the Beira Lake. The temple is famous among people for its flowering shrubs, reclining Buddha statues, beautiful architecture, and so much more.
Admire the Eye-Catching Red Mosque (Jami ul Alfar Mosque)
Established in the 20th century, the Red Mosque is one of the oldest and pretty mosques in Colombo. It is known for its eye-catching red and white exterior. The mosque can accommodate nearly 10,000 devotees for prayer at a time. The mosque remains closed for non-Muslims during prayer times.
Pray at The Famous Wolvendaal Church
Head to the most important colonial-era Dutch building in Sri Lanka to observe it from the outside, as well as inside. Constructed in 1749, Wolvendaal Church is a beautifully preserved Dutch structure in the country. The church got its name as the Europeans misunderstood jackals for wolves. As a result, the area got the name Wolf’s Dale or Wolvendaal in Dutch.
During the construction of this church, the nearby region was covered in the wilderness. The main highlight is the Dutch furniture, having elegant ebony chairs, wooden pulpit, lectern, and baptismal font. The church is still in use and many people join the prayers here.
Praise the Impressive Architecture of Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthan Temple
If you are confused about what to do in Colombo, start with visiting the famous religious site, Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthan Temple. It is one of the oldest and biggest Hindu temples in Colombo, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Ganesha. The tiered towers of the temple are adorned with multi-colored miniature statues of Hindu deities.
These intricately designed figures of the temple attract several tourists from all across the world. Inside the temple, there are many beautiful paintings and scriptures on the walls which makes the structure stand out. Today, it has become one of the most popular matrimonial sites in the region.
Worship at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Temple
Head to the epitome for the grand welcome that Sri Lanka offered Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Temple. Constructed in the 5th century, it is a Buddhist temple visited by millions of people every year. It is believed that this temple has been visited by Buddha when he visited Sri Lanka for the third time, together with 500 monks in 500 BCE. Since 2007, the temple holds great historical significance not only among Buddhists but Sri Lankans as well.
The temple is divided into four different sections: The Golden Buddha Image House, The King’s Image House, The New Temple House, and The Reclined Buddha Image House. The expansive shrine room, the famous picture of the reclining Gautama Buddha, and the dagoba surely can’t be missed. Moreover, there are many nice wall paintings made by local artists named Solias Mendis. The upper terrace features the image shrine, Bodhi tree, stupa, bell tower, and some other structures. The stupa is home to a throne adorned with gems, on which Buddha used to sit and preach, sculptures, gold studded chairs, and carpets.
Witness the True Serenity at Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya Temple
Join the people praying for their health and business at the amazing Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya Temple. Located in the Bellanwila, Colombo District, it is one of the oldest and venerated Buddhist temples in the city. The temple is well-stocked with beautifully crafted Buddha figures, balustrades, and nice murals adorning the inner walls of the edifice. The temple attracts several devotees on a daily basis.
It is famous among people for its annual Esala Perehera festival, which normally happens in August or September. The temple has one of the 32 saplings from the sacred Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, distributed more than 2000 years ago. Many of the devotees worship the sacred Bo tree here.
Visit the Symbol of Hope and Resurrection – St. Anthony’s Church
Seek hope, peace, and harmony at one of the most renowned Catholic churches in the city, St. Anthony’s Church. In Sri Lanka, St Anthony of Lisbon and Padua has several devotees and various churches have been built in his honor. However, the most famous one that attracts tons of people is the one located in the heart of the city, Kochchikade. Constructed in 1828, it is a Roman Catholic church with a significant history.
It is declared as a national shrine and minor basilica. The church has the tiny piece of St. Anthony’s tongue preserved along with the figure of the saint near the entrance of the edifice. There are so many statues of Christian saints where you’ll see people making offerings to all of them. On the 1st floor, there is a museum dedicated to the memory of the patron saint, St. Anthony. Within the premises is a small shop also where you can get some relics.
Offer Prayers at Sri Ponnambalam Vanasesvar Kovil
If you are in the ancient city of Colombo, don’t miss out on visiting the most significant Hindu temple. Built in dedication to Lord Shiva near the end of the 19th century, Sri Ponnambalam Vanasesvar Kovil is a sacred Hindu temple. It sits in the middle of the city and flaunts the impressive architecture. The temple is made of granite and its pillars are intricately carved with the motifs of peacocks, birds, cows, and Hindu deities.
Though the main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva, the idols of Lord Chandran, Lord Vishnu, Lord Suryan, Lord Hanuman, Lord Murugan, and Goddess Amman also rest within the temple. This magnificent temple is swarmed by numerous pilgrims, especially during the Pongal and Maha Shivaratri festivals to offer prayers to their deities.
Explore the Impressive St Thomas Chapel, Mount Lavinia
While in Colombo, don’t miss the chance to pray and marvel at the great architectural examples in the city. Sits on the hillock amid trees and grass, St. Thomas Chapel is a part of the oldest church in Sri Lanka, St. Thomas Anglican Church, and the school with the same name. It is an Anglican-styled chapel featuring white walls, wooden structures within the church, and simple architecture.
The chapel is known for its impressive mural of transfiguration done by an eminent Sri Lankan artist named David Paynter. Within the premises, there is a graveyard with Dutch tombstones carved in Gothic inscriptions. At Christmas, the choir service that sings the carols is quite famous among its patrons.
Landmark Places and Buildings
Colombo is a beautiful city housing a range of landmarks and buildings. From the architecture and art to history and culture, do not miss out on these best places to visit in Colombo to enjoy the most of your Sri Lankan vacation. As it is the country’s capital city, it is filled with various places that illustrate the rich history of Sri Lanka.
Go for a Colombo Fort Tour and Explore Colonial Buildings
Discover the city’s historic old town and enjoy the hustle of Pettah’s trading lanes and paths in your guided walk tour. Walk past the buildings and monuments that display colonial architecture and look at how well preserved they are. Visit the historic clock towers and restructured buildings hiding beautiful chandeliers and colonial crests or go down the hidden paths to discover olden structures.
Peek Through the Ancient Past of Sri Lanka at The National Museum of Colombo
While preparing your list of things to do in Colombo, a visit to the National Museum has to be a part of this since it is one of the top cultural places in the country. National Museum of Colombo is the official museum of the country which takes visitors on a journey over the thousands of years of Sri Lankan culture. Dating back to 1876, this beautiful white edifice is home to some of the most celebrated works of renowned artists.
To greet you on your entry is the smiling Buddha figurine which dates back to the 9th century. It is the largest museum in Sri Lanka where visitors can find valuable national treasures. In the gallery, one can find the throne and crown of the Kandyan monarchs. Moreover, the top floor has 13 galleries that display hand-carved furniture, paintings, weapons, pottery, coins, and art and craft displays.
Praise the Architectural Marvels of Independence Square and Memorial Hall
If you are looking for the taste of local life in Colombo, there is no better place than Independence Square. It is an ideal attraction with lots of green space, historical structures, and cafes. Visitors can take a stroll or jog on pristine paths almost any time of the day. There is also a new spot added, which displays some of Colombo’s best local handicrafts and goods. Many shopping complexes and restaurants surround this area.
Right in the heart of Independence Square is the Independence Memorial Hall that serves as an open pavilion of all kinds. It is constructed in 1948 to commemorate the independence of the country from British rule, the place where religious events are celebrated. The hall is covered with an array of stone-carved lions and flower pots are placed in the corners. Inside the hall is a lovely collection of stone pillars, nicely carved with traditional Sri Lankan designs.
Admire the Views from Old Galle Buck Lighthouse
Head to the Old Galle Buck Lighthouse and enjoy the magnificent views of the Western Coast. Close to the famous Galle Face Green sits the amazing Old Galle Buck Lighthouse, located in the middle of the Colombo Port. It was constructed in 1952 when the Old Colombo Lighthouse was deconstructed as its light got obscured by nearby tall buildings.
Due to the popularity of Galle Face Green, the lighthouse got overshadowed, which made this place a tranquil tourist spot visited by very few travelers. At the base here, there is a naval gun battery, fired once a year on National Day, i.e., February 4th. Moreover, one can find the statues of four seated lions at the base. Due to the scenic views of the Indian Ocean it offers, it now has become a city landmark. If you want to visit the clock tower, the ideal time is sunset.
Don’t Miss Out on The Old Colombo Lighthouse
Head to one of the tallest structures in the city, Old Colombo Lighthouse and find places to take cool photographs. Also called Colombo Fort Clock Tower, it is a famous landmark of the city. It is located at the corner of Chatham Street and the road called Janadihipathi Mawatha in the North West of Colombo Fort. The tower used to be a lighthouse since the lamp still exists; however, it is no longer in function as the light started to get blocked due to the construction of tall buildings near it. The tower remains and works as a clock tower. This 29-m-high tower was the tallest building in the city at that time. The clock tower features the main bell of nearly 250 kg and a couple of auxiliary bells of 152 kg.
Visit Geoffrey Bawa’s House (Number 11)
Step back in time and get up close with the personal life of the famous artist at Geoffrey Bawa’s House Number 11. Geoffrey Manning Bawa was an eminent Sri Lankan architect who himself created the style called tropical modernism. At the end of the quiet street of Bagatelle Road, he stayed in the house for almost 40 years. The house has many of his influences and his rooms and office have been kept as he used them. Within the house, you’ll find a collection of art and sculpture, vintage cars, drawings, documents, and other artifacts belonging to his life. Nowadays, the house is also used as guest accommodation, so you can even stay here if you like.
Head to The Dutch Period Museum
Pay a visit to the timeless Dutch Period Museum and get the idea of the Dutch colonial period in Sri Lanka. Also called Colombo Dutch Museum, it is a classic building that has some amazing history and architecture of Dutch colonial rule in the country. It was once the residence of the Dutch governor and has since been used as a military hospital, college, post office, police station, and Catholic seminary.
Today, it has been restored into a museum depicting how life used to be during the Dutch era of Sri Lanka. It has over 3,000 artifacts like coins, weapons, furniture, ceramics, glassware, documents, paintings, and other relics of the bygone era. The collection highlights the 200-year history of Dutch governance of the island’s coastal regions, from 1658 to 1796.
Become a Part of Ceylon History at Old City Hall
Get yourself engaged with history at one of the historic monuments of Colombo, Old City Hall. It is a British-era municipal building that tells the history of Ceylon extending over the ages. The Old City Hall was established in 1865 in the neoclassical architectural style. This edifice is the headquarters of the Colombo Municipal Council, as well as the office of the Mayor of Colombo and the meeting site for Municipal Council of Colombo’s elected officials.
Also, the building is home to a gallery that showcases fire engines, old trucks, and municipal equipment used when Colombo was established for trading. On both sides, there is an open courtyard dotted by the offices of various Municipal Council departments. The vintage mahogany staircases lead up the old council chambers having remarkable waxwork pieces. This place also has Colombo’s old map from 1785, an age-old radio, and some old typewriters.
Visit the Symbol of Colombo’s History – Cenotaph War Memorial
Head to the excellent history artifact, Cenotaph War Memorial to learn about the lives lost during the wars. Located at Viharamahadevi Park, it is exclusively built for the military personnel who lost their precious lives during the two world wars. The site has a Cenotaph and Memorial Walls.
The first stone was laid by the Governor of Ceylon, Brigadier-General Sir William Henry Manning, and was unveiled at the Galle Face Green in 1923. Later, it was deconstructed and re-erected at Victoria Park during WWII due to the fear of getting attacked. The Cenotaph features the names of people killed during WWI, while the Memorial Wall bears the names of those killed during WWII.
Nature and Beautiful Places
Colombo is a bustling city packed with a plethora of places to visit, which includes verdant parks also. Green open space is always a great place to spend a satisfying day away from the hustle of the city. While in Colombo, you can explore various walking trails and picnic spots and enjoy thrilling rides in beautiful places full of nature.
Spend a Great Time at Galle Face Green Promenade
Galle Face Green Promenade is one of the best spots in Colombo to spend some quality time with your family. This place is worth stopping by to catch some fresh ocean air and click some photos of the colorful kites in the daylight – kite-flying is among the most popular pastimes in the country. In the evening, you can head to this place to enjoy some delicious street food in Colombo. Within the premises, you can sit down at any stall or restaurant and enjoy the great selection of Sri Lankan eats.
Visit Beira Lake
Head to the famous Beira Lake to spend a great time while holidaying in Colombo. Located right in the heart of the city, Beira Lake is one of the most renowned landmarks that has been existing since the 16th century. The lake spreads over an area of 160 acres and is often used for local celebrations, fireworks displays, and famous regattas. The color of this waterbody is green due to pollution.
The two main attractions here are the Seema Malaka Viharaya (a Buddhist temple) and Kaala Doowa (a gateway for couples). You can also spot animals like pelicans, storks, egrets, monitor lizards, and different species of fish in and around the lake. The lake is joined with many other lakes for transporting goods within the city and it ends up in the Indian Sea.
Enjoy the Incredible Sunset at Mount Lavinia Beach
Stroll, unwind and enjoy the insanely beautiful sunset at Mount Lavinia Beach. This place takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city for some peace. It is an ideal beach destination that sits on the southern outskirts of Colombo. Turquoise blue waters, cool breeze, golden sand, and delicious Tamil food makes this place one of the best in the city. Along the beachfront promenade, there is an array of pubs and restaurants and the beach itself remains crowded with vendors selling all kinds of goods. Avoid visiting Mount Lavinia Beach on weekends as this place will be crowded.
Spend Relaxing Time at Viharamahadevi Park (Victoria Park)
Plan a picnic and relax with your friends and family at the only large open-space green area, Viharamahadevi Park. Sits between the National Museum of Colombo and City Hall, this heritage park is full of spots to relax and enjoy the sunshine. It is one of the largest and oldest parks in the country. The park was initially named Queen Victoria Park but later got renamed after the mother of King Dutugemunu.
It is known for its beautiful flowering trees, which blooms during the Spring season. The park features a huge, 15-ft-tall Buddha figure accompanied by a series of water fountains, which gives the place a sense of tranquility. There is also a mini zoo and a children’s play area within its premises. You can also visit the Cenotaph (war memorial figure) and the National Library located within the park. Moreover, there is an open stadium which is used for events and concerts.
Watch Sunsets over The Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean can bear sunsets full of vivid colors that your brain and eyes can’t handle. Many people go for the outdoor bars in the surroundings of the Galle Face Hotel, but you can also enjoy a more authentic experience at Galle Face Green. Both locals and tourists gather to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean. Children play games on the grass and whole families gather to see the end of the day while the sky displays all shades of pink, purple, orange, and blue.
Embrace the Mother Nature at Beddagana Wetland Park
If you are looking for a perfect spot to come close to nature in Colombo, there is no better place than Beddagana Wetland Park. Situated outside the Colombo, it is a beautiful space with impressive landscaping and lush greenery. Stretching over an area of 18 hectares, this nature park houses nearly 100 plant species, 20 fish species, 80 bird species, 10 mammal species, and 5 amphibian species. It is a famous spot for its range of migratory birds that one can see from August till April.
There is also an extensive range of trees and plants that adds to the beauty of this nature park. The park also offers educational tours like boat rides, identifying various species of dragonflies, damselflies, and dragonflies, etc. From the main entrance, two different paths divide the whole place. The first path is surrounded by a wide range of bird and plant species and features a duck-filled pond as well. The other path, called the Forest Trail, takes people into the leafy dirt trail.
Seek Tranquility at Diyatha Uyana
Head towards the Parliament and spend some quality time away from the hustle and bustle of the city at Diyatha Uyana. Located on the banks of Diyawanna Lake, Diyatha Uyana (Diyatha Park) is a walking pathway and a beautiful park. It is a perfect place for an evening strolling or jogging since there are many trails. The sunset and the shimmering waters of the Diyawanna Lake near the Diyatha Uyana offer a picture-perfect scene. It is one of the best spots to visit with kids since they can enjoy boat rides in the lake. Moreover, other attractions here include an aquarium and a floating restaurant which can accommodate nearly 30-35 persons at a time.
Get Up Close with the Sri Lankan Village Life at Ape Gama Complex
Admire the simplicity and plainness of the historic Sri Lankan Village at Ape Gama Complex. Located in Battaramulla near Diyatha Uyana, it is a heritage museum that replicates the traditional old-age Sri Lankan village. The site showcases traditional industries, the village way of living, and how self-contained the society functions used to be back then. Initially, the place had the name “Battaramulla Janakala Kendraya” that displayed the local crafts. But later, it got changed to showcase the amazing aspects of Sri Lankan village life.
The fascinating recreation of life in the Sri Lankan village has been done so precisely. Every house is constructed using mud and is separated from each other with fences. All sorts of vegetables are grown near the houses. There are several trees in the village, as well as a treehouse from where the farmers keep an eye on their crops during the night. The place also features a bird-watching area and a small zoo. In addition to the shops that sell plants, there is also a food stall that offers a wide range of food to eat.
Enjoy the Best Wildlife Experience at Attidiya Bird Sanctuary
Walk through the muddy parts almost outside the city and experience its impressive wildlife at the Attidiya Bird Sanctuary. It is located right in the outskirts of Colombo and is a small place for birds and animals to take refuge in. Despite its smaller area, the sanctuary provides shelter to over 166 distinct species of birds, 71 kinds of pretty butterflies, and 44 types of fish. Some of the rare birds to be seen here include Purple Coot, Ruddy Crake, Indian Shag, Spot Billed Pelican, White Ibis, Painted Stork, and Wide Winged Purple Heron.
Moreover, it is home to crocodiles, cobras, pythons, jackals, and other wildlife. The viewing tower near the trail offers the perfect spot to do some birdwatching. It is one of the best places in Sri Lanka for wildlife photography. The sanctuary remains open throughout the day; however, early mornings and evenings of December and January are best to observe the migratory birds.
Fun Things to Do in Colombo – Food, Entertainment, and Shopping
Colombo is not just about national parks, wildlife wonders, nature, and historical monuments. The capital city of the country has so much more to offer to travelers. When in Colombo, you can find a range of fun things to do in the city, making your experience and trip so memorable.
Go for a Day-Night Cricket Match at R Premadasa Stadium
A great place for cricket lovers in the city is the R Premadasa Stadium. It is the largest stadium in Sri Lanka boasting a seating capacity of 35,000. After 1994, it got renamed after the former Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa. There are so many food stalls within the premises that offers a range of drinks and snacks.
Enjoy the Stunning Views of Colombo from Lotus Tower
Lotus Tower is the tallest man-made structure in South Asia, standing 1,168-ft high above the ground. The tower houses multiple hotels, museums, halls, auditoriums, and a revolving restaurant at the top. The Lotus Tower has an observation deck as well where people can enjoy the beautiful views of the city.
Drink All Sorts of Tea
Tea is the most important and commonly consumed beverage in Sri Lanka. The country has various forms of tea on offer, including black, white, and green teas. Every kind of tea boasts a different taste, property, and aroma. Try out all kinds of tea available and have the best time in Colombo.
Explore Sri Lankan Heritage through Food in Colombo
If you are visiting Colombo, you have to try authentic Sri Lankan food. Bring out the foodie in you and treat yourselves to the best culinary experience. Looking through the dishes, you’ll see the influences from Indians, especially South Indian, Dutch, and Indonesian cuisines. Seafood plays a vital role in Sri Lankan dishes.
Fish curries are quite popular in the city, including sour fish curry, ambul thiyal, aubergine curry, meat curry, etc. Kiri bath, or milk rice, is a rice dish cooked with salted coconut milk. Ekor soup is another delicacy of the Sri Lankan Malay community. Another dish that originated from the local Malay community is Malay Achcharu, also called Sri Lankan Malay pickle.
Food and Entertainment at Old Dutch Hospital
If you are looking for a relaxing atmosphere in Colombo, there is no better place than The Old Dutch Hospital. It is regarded as the oldest structure in the Colombo Fort region which has been around since the late 17th century. The Dutch were responsible for the construction of this hospital to manage the health of the Dutch East India Trading Company staff. However, it is now a heritage structure occupied by eateries, cafes, and shops.
This colonial-era complex dates back to the 1600s. Stay for a while and have salads, burgers, and drinks amid the amazingly wide columns of its arcade. Some of the best places to visit here include The Ministry of the Crab for its yummy crab dishes, Spa Ceylon which offers herbal body and bath therapy items, and Barefoot Gallery Café for its multicolored handloom fabric clothing.
Explore the Streets of Colombo on a Tuk-Tuk
If you don’t know what to do in Colombo or you are tired of walking around and want something more fun instead, ride in a tuk-tuk. Making life easy in and around the city, the tuk-tuk is an auto-rickshaw that helps people get around in the most convenient way.
On your tuk-tuk tour, you can explore the heritage structures, downtown streets, markets, religious places, and so many other attractions. When you are on the ride, don’t miss out on the chance to experience the local tea and taste the Sri Lankan cuisine when touring around the city.
Explore Markets in Pettah
If you are looking for one of the best things to do in Colombo, make sure you find some time and visit the bustling Pettah Market. Also called Manning Pattern, it is an open market in the suburb of Pettah, Colombo. This popular shopping area for both travelers and locals alike was redeveloped into a thriving floating market. There are nearly 100 vendors that sell everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts, fabrics, electronics, jewelry, and fashion accessories.
In addition, there is the Sea Street at the end of Pettah, which is the country’s gold market, attracting buyers of gold jewelry from all across the country. It is a long street lined with hundreds of shops selling gold jewelry. There is also an amazing food court. During weekends, you can rent a boat to take out into the water. Space is beautifully decorated with flowers and a promenade dotted with trees and benches, making it one of the best places to hang out in Colombo.
Eat Short Eats (Sri Lankan Snacks)
Though Sri Lankan food is quite similar to South Indian food, you will still find so many unusual snacks. From sweet and spicy sesame rolls to roasted rice balls and thick chocolate fingers, you’ll find it difficult to choose snacks for your teatime. While in Colombo, don’t forget to try Kokis (a pan-fried snack made from rice flour, coconut milk, and eggs), which are common during Tamil New Year.
Milk toffee is another Sri Lankan sweet that is quite similar to fudge, containing condensed milk, nuts, sugar, and cardamom. Mutton roll is also a favorite appetizer, consisting of pancakes that are filled with mutton, potatoes, and onions. Some other popular Sri Lankan snacks include aggala, athirasa, lavariya, tipitip, and lemon puff biscuits.
Try an Elephant Ginger Beer
While in Colombo, don’t miss out on the chance of drinking the classic Elephant Ginger Beer. Also called EGB, this drink is made following a 100-year-old recipe that uses completely natural ginger. The beer also supports the means of nearly 1,125 farmers due to the production of the main ingredient, i.e., ginger. It contains 100% all-natural ginger which is obtained through a sophisticated procedure of extraction. The taste and texture of the beer neutralizes and prepares the buds for more delicious flavors. This drink helps the fatty acids and oils to be dissolved, giving the drinker relief from the heaviness after a meal.
Watch Rugby at Racecourse Grounds
Head to the Racecourse Grounds in Cinnamon Gardens for a memorable experience with your friends and family. The 120-year-old Colombo Racecourse is a rugby stadium with a whole host of shops, cafes, and restaurants. The site was used as a temporary airfield during WWII. In 2012, it was reformed as the Colombo Racecourse Sports Complex and hosted all the national rugby union matches as the first International Rugby Union ground.
Now, the stadium features combined dining and shopping zones that you can visit to spend quality time. The pavilion where spectators used to enjoy horse racing is in the same space, but now the grounds are used for the most exciting activity – rugby.
Expect the Brightly-Colored Canvases on Greenpath Arts Display
If you are an art enthusiast or have an interest in artwork, you must visit this spot. Green Path, also called the Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, is a two-way street having a stretch of nicely cut grass and palm trees. The road cut straight through the roundabout juncture, next to the Colombo Public Library.
Every weekend, the wide avenue becomes alive with colors as local artists showcase their works here. This road becomes the center of local students and artists as they put up an immediate open-air art show. All the paintings and other stuff on display here are for sale at affordable rates. Moreover, a number of events like music concerts, food festivals, fairs, non-profit initiatives, and drag racing take place here.
Shop for Gems, Spices, Tea, and Porcelain
Sri Lanka is truly a shopper’s paradise and offers unique souvenirs that travelers love to stock up on. The most attractive and most expensive Sri Lankan souvenir is the wide variety of gemstones. The most popular purchases by visitors include amethyst, aquamarine, ruby, blue sapphire, moonstone, and topaz. Gems are either sold on an individual level or fitted into beautifully designed pieces. The country is also known for its local spices like cinnamon sticks, turmeric, cardamom, and pepper which are commonly used in their dishes.
For tea lovers, there are rolling tea plantations and tea factories in Colombo. Sri Lanka is known for black, green, silver, earl grey, and white teas. The country is also famous among people for its wealth of minerals and clay. People can purchase exquisite porcelain and ceramic ware like plates, teacups, and cutlery in minimal designs. You can also get the bright and heavily designed ones.
Hang Out at Arcade Independence Square
If you are looking for shopping, dining, and leisure options under a single roof in Dubai, visit the great Arcade Independence Square. It is a huge shopping complex in Colombo, consisting of a group of renovated buildings. The complex is home to numerous clothing stores and an amazing food court. Inside the arcade, there is the country’s first-ever boutique cinema named The Empire Complex, run by Ceylon Theatres. Housing entertainment, dining, and shopping facilities, this complex serves its purpose to act as a mini-city within the city.