Colombo is no doubt the first place that comes to mind when someone mentions Sri Lanka. It is the bustling, vibrant and often chaotic capital city of this island nation. Colombo’s colonial past is still very much evident today; examples of Dutch and British architecture are interspersed with the traditional and South Indian culture and cuisine. Despite the city’s size, one day is sufficient to take in the major tourist attractions. Throughout the day, there is ample time to sample some of the delectable food on offer. In this article, we explore a day in Colombo to inspire your next visit to this vibrant city.
Colombo for Foodies
To experience an authentic street food experience, head to Galle Face Green – a verdant stretch of grass that runs alongside the beach near the pier. The seaside promenade has a lot of food vendor stands offering delicious local and Indian dishes on the cheap. Some of these stalls have tables and chairs on the pavement, allowing you to relax and enjoy the evening air. You can expect various forms of rice and curry to be served, as well as juicy meat kebabs and seafood. To finish off a meal, there’s no better place to try some real Ceylon tea than its actual place of origin!
On the other end of the scale, Colombo has several more exclusive options when it comes to dining out. One of the most popular is no doubt the Ministry of Crab – make sure to book a reservation in advance if you want to enjoy a meal here. As the name implies, this restaurant’s special ingredient is Sri Lanka’s famous crab. This world’s-top-50 establishment is the brainchild of two former national cricket team captains. Renowned head chef, Dharshan Munidase cooks up amazing dishes that people flock to experience. Although prices are expensive for Colombo, at about $35 for a meal, compared to other haute cuisine restaurants around the world, you are guaranteed to get a lot more than your money’s worth.
Colombo’s Cultural Experiences
The Ministry of Crab is situated inside one of Colombo’s most prominent colonial buildings – the Old Dutch Hospital. While of course it no longer serves its original purpose, remnants of its long history are still visible today, and add character to the many shops and restaurants that have occupied it. Strolling through the hospital complex is a pleasant and relatively relaxing way to spend an afternoon, compared to negotiating the chaos of the city’s main shopping streets. After an late afternoon exploring the Dutch hospital you can enjoy dinner at the Ministry of Crab.
Out and about in Colombo
Colombo offers a surprising range of adventurous outdoor activities for such a densely populated city. The urban centre is close to a number of wildlife hotspots, such as Sinharaja Rain Forest. It is fairly simple – but generally pricey – to book a private hiking trip into the forest, guided by UNESCO rangers. These last for around 5 hours. With their expertise and training, you will be able to observe some of Sri Lanka’s most impressive flora and fauna at home in the wild.
If you have already packed the day full of other activities, why not make the most of the warm Sri Lankan nights? A great way to experience the city by night is on a guided cycling tour. These have proved very popular amongst visitors since they are essentially guided tours on adrenaline. The cooler evening temperatures allow you to enjoy the cycling. You can also avoid being stuck in traffic as you cycle through the frequent gridlock.
During the daytime, Beira Lake’s blue-green waters beckon weary travellers to the heart of Colombo city. At its centre is the graceful Simamalaka Shrine. A more active way to experience the shrine is from one of the paddle boats available for hire.
Must See Sights during a day in Colombo
Next to Beira Lake you will probably notice a collection of buildings called Gangaramaya Temple. According to general consensus, it is the most impressive of the several historic Buddhist places of worship in Colombo. There are two reasons for why it is such a unique attraction. The temple architecture is unusual but aesthetically pleasing mix of modern, Thai, Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan styles. The temple also doubles as a museum for all kinds of weird and wonderful artefacts.
There’s sure to be something fascinating for every visitor to the Gangaramya Temple. Whether it be the hundreds of rows of carved Buddhas, or the stuffed (real!) elephant on display. The halls are filled with gifts from devotees, who flock to worship a relic of the Buddha’s hair. The most exciting time to visit Gangaramaya is during the annual Navam Perahera celebration in February. At this time of year the temple becomes the city’s centre of attention.
These are just a few suggestions of how to experience a day in Colombo, the commercial hub of Sri Lanka. We can help customise your day in Colombo to ensure you get the best out of this vibrant city on any of our Sri Lanka tour packages.