A colourful clash of the past and the future
Colombo, on Sri Lanka’s west coast, is a busy and bustling clash of old and new, where colonial history and contemporary commerce meets amidst a colourful, multicultural community. Colombo is Sri Lanka’s biggest city, a cosmopolitan waterfront town of leafy boulevards, ornate colonial architecture, teeming fruit markets, temples, mosques and gleaming skyscrapers. Dig deeper and you’ll find tiny charms amidst the warp-speed development – local cafes, interesting galleries and museums. Hang out with the locals along Galle Face Green, a massive, ocean-side urban park full of people picnicking and enjoying the outdoors or take your appetite and head to Dutch Hospital, one of the major drawcards in Colombo’s dynamic central area of Fort. This complex was built in the 1600s but is now spruced up to showcase some of the city’s best shops, cafes and restaurants, including one of Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants (The Ministry of Crab).Back to top
Things to do: Colombo
Get a dose of historyColombo is home to Sri Lanka’s largest museum, the National Museum of Colombo, which will give you a good overview of Sri Lanka’s heritage. This magnificent, lily-white colonial building, its entrance helmed by a 9th century stone Buddha, houses an impressive collection of pieces from Sri Lanka’s past, including art, weaponry, jeweled antiquities, antique demon masks, and even the throne and crown jewels of the last King of Kandy.
Enjoy some park lifeLocated just in front of the Town Hall, Viharamahadevi Park is overseen by an enormous, glowing gold Buddha. It’s Colombo’s only large-scale public park, and within this expanse of greenery you’ll find a lake with ducks paddling on it, jetting water fountains, a mini zoo, a children's play area and some stunning flowering trees. Time it right and you can also catch a concert at the park’s open air stadium too.
Get lost in the detailsYour camera won’t believe what it’s seeing when you arrive at this amazingly decorated Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesha and Shiva. The towering Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil is the largest and oldest one in Colombo and it’s wildly and extravagantly adorned in hundreds of expertly carved and colourfully painted sculptures.
Go al fresco with the localsGalle Face Green used to be used for sporting events, but now this urban park, situated right in the heart of the city between Galle Road and the water, is a leisurely gathering spot for locals to picnic and promenade, fly kites and watch the sun set on the Indian Ocean. Bookending this popular promenade are two large hotels, including one of Sri Lanka’s oldest, the Galle Face Hotel.
Go Dutch at Colombo’s best eateriesThe centre of Colombo’s city is the happening Fort area, and the jewel in Fort’s crown is the heritage Dutch Hospital, a colonial-era complex that was built in the 1600s and has been polished up to now house some of the city’s best retail and dining. In the past it’s been a hospital (natch) and a police station but, since 2011, it’s been a hub of restaurants and boutiques positioned around two courtyards.
Bandaranaike International Airport opens in new window
Distance to central Colombo 32kms
Bus: There are direct public buses that go express to Colombo. The journey should take around 25 minutes.
Taxi: Head to the Airport Taxi Service counters in the arrivals hall to book a taxi to your destination. There are no taxi ranks outside the airport.Back to top
When to go
Sri Lanka can be pretty hot and steamy. The best time to visit Colombo is between late November and April. It’s still very warm but not monsoonal. The wettest time is between June and September.
For some fun festival action, Sri Lanka’s National Day falls on 4 February, and Buddha’s Birthday Festival (Vesak) is celebrated in May.Back to top