There are so many things to do in Colombo, may it be cultural, tradition, or food! Read further to learn about them.
With a population of over 5-6 million residents, Colombo is a huge cosmopolitan city with significant changes seen over the past few years. It is witnessing a great boom of new ways, posh hotels, skyscrapers, a giant TV tower, which will also have a hotel, and a huge shopping mall, along with a recent harbor port.
Colombo is a vibrant and busy city split into 13 districts, out of which Fort Area or Colombo 1 is the heart of the city. It is a very ethnically diverse place with Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus living in Sri Lanka.
This city has a great blend of architecture and modern life, as well as old ruins and colonial architecture from the moment when it belonged to the British Ceylon, i.e. from 1815 to 1948 when Sri Lanka got independent. It is an ideal trading port between Asia and Europe. Since the 5th century, this seaport town had Portuguese, Arab, and Dutch settlers.
Hopping on a tuk-tuk and witnessing colonial architecture are some of the best things to do in Colombo. Also, do not miss the Pettah market or play golf in the manicured greens of Royal Colombo Golf Club to witness Colombo like a local.
If you want to explore the finest things in life, be sure to add these in your Sri Lanka itinerary and visit in Colombo National Museum, where you can see some great sculptures, terrific paintings, and sketches. You can see paintings by many local artists in local galleries.
Therefore, put on some good sandals or walking shoes, and you may walk through the neighborhoods packed with stunning colonial markets and buildings and history. Here are some of the must-see things to do in Colombo.
Table of Contents
- 1 Experiences and top things to do in Colombo
- 2 Top attractions to visit Colombo
- 3 Top food to taste in Colombo
- 4 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Experiences and top things to do in Colombo
Try street food in Colombo
If you are craving for delightful street food in Colombo, head to Galle Face during the evening. With people watching and leisurely Colombo sightseeing, huge ranges of eats are one of the main reasons why many tourists flock here at Galle Face.
You can enjoy a lot of filling and tasty foods in Sri Lanka, such as a range of random curries, fried rice, kottu, and some deep-fried snacks. There are several stalls and vendors out there. You may head to the well-known tented restaurants like Nana Fast Food when dining on street food in Colombo.
Learn how to cook Sri Lanka food
There are plenty of hands-on rustic cooking classes in Colombo where you can enter the royal spice world of Sri Lanka and learn cooking authentic and modern food. It is quite a unique experience to explore the hidden charm of Sri Lankan kitchens. There is nothing more popular and fun than tasting traditional Sri Lankan cuisines.
However, nothing can beat the experience of cooking it on your own. You can learn different menus reflecting the culinary and cultural traditions of the country.
Experience the tuk-tuk
Walking in the scorching heat of Colombo is not so easy. Therefore, it is always wise to take a tuk-tuk ride wherever you go. These are the main modes of transport for both tourists and locals in the city, and they are full of fun. If you are wondering what to do in Colombo, do enjoy a tuk-tuk ride. And the most thrilling, fun and fascinating, things to do in Colombo sightseeing.
Tuk-tuk is actually an auto-rickshaw, which seems to be a very convenient public transport in the city. Do not miss out on this vibrant and vivid adventure on your next Colombo travel. Tuk-tuks stop by you wherever you walk in the city, and the drivers will insist you take the ride and if you do not reply, they will ask one more time. You can take a tuk-tuk to most of the tourist places in Colombo.
Go on a cultural walk
The capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo, is full of Hindu and Buddhist temples, parks, museums, and historical attractions. You can walk it to know the city and see how locals work and live. Early morning or afternoon is probably the best time to walk in Colombo.
There are several self-guided tours available to explore the city on foot. You can easily create a self-guided walk of your own and cover the best tourist places in Colombo.
Learn about Sri Lanka and Colombo’s history in a tour
Sri Lanka is a very beautiful island, which has attracted both tourists and gods since the earliest times of the history of the Indian Ocean. You may join a tour to learn about the history of Colombo and Sri Lanka while exploring its tranquil beaches, jungles, and mountains. You can have a tour of any size as there are several mountains, beaches, and national parks located in 1 to 4 hours of drive.
Top attractions to visit Colombo
Located exactly south of Fort Area, Galle Face Green is a long green stretch of lawn located next to sea promenade and narrow beach in Colombo. It was basically cleared to give clear sight to the canons by the Dutch. Today, it is a peaceful and one of the best places to visit in Colombo known for running, walking, flying kites, playing cricket and football, and so on.
Couples and families can walk in the promenade on Sunday noon. It is also an ideal place to catch the sunset. If you are asking what to do in Colombo, visit Galle Face as it has a lot of food vendors to taste delicious street food at best prices. Some places also have tables to have Indian dishes.
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It is one of the most iconic and popular Buddhist temples and the best places to visit in Colombo. It has gained a lot of popularity among the best things to see in Colombo.
It is more than just a pilgrimage site. It also teaches Buddhist learning and serves as a museum with a vast collection of Buddhist relics from different parts of the world.
National Museum of Colombo
If you are fond of history and have a great focus on architecture, do not miss visiting the National Museum. It is one of the best Colombo tourist attractions. Established in the year 1877, the National Museum is the largest museum in Sri Lanka and is definitely the pride of this island nation. It has some of the personalized and ultimate collections of ancient rulers in the Kandyan dynasty.
Built-in Italian architecture, the museum is located just in the heart of the city. Its library deserves to be in your bucket list as it has rich manuscripts written in different languages in leaves like Sinhala, Burmese, Telugu, and Tamil. The museum remains closed on national holidays and opens every day from 9 AM to 6 PM.
If you’re interested in culture and tradition quite similar to Sri Lanka, check out also our post about the top places to visit in Kerala in India.
Pettah ( the old district in Colombo)
Located in Colombo 11, Pettah is one of the oldest districts, and it is really an adventure to walk around with streets full of smells, noise, and people watching. Get into the craziness of stalls, shops, and markets.
You can also spot some religious landmarks like churches and mosques along the way. There is nothing you can miss at the Floating Market here, including bags, footwear, accessories, electronics, jewelry, and fruits.
Built on a bridge above the busy Beira Lake, this fascinating market is truly unmissable and one of the best places in Colombo. You can also buy some souvenirs back from this market. We recommend you to take some breaks in between so it will not get much overwhelming.
Independence Memorial Hall
On February 4, 1948, Sri Lanka got its independence against Britain. The Independence Memorial Hal is a giant stone complex covered by a lush green, peaceful garden. There is a statue of the first president of Sri Lanka in front of the complex, Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake, aka The Father of the Nation. Its architectural design seems to have got inspiration from the Royal Audience Hall in Kandy.
The Kandyan Convention was signed in this hall on March 5, 1815, and the Kingdom of Kandy was ended and marked it as a British country. Today annual national day and religious events are held in this hall. The Independent Memorial Museum is also located here. For the tourists, it is a great escape from the hustles and bustles of busy streets in Colombo.
This is probably the only and largest Public Park named as a tribute to Queen Viharamahadevi, making it one of the best places to see in Colombo. No matter how many times you visit here, this park will never fail to excite you. There is no lack of attractions like the mini zoo, aquarium, kids play area, lake, war memorial, and the breathtaking suspension bridge above it.
You can simply relax in the soothing and resting places on the park if you get tired of walking along the park and try different delicacies like corn, candy floss, and ice creams from different sellers here. It lends a serene ambiance with the canopy of green trees.
Jami Ul Alfar Mosque
Positioned in the heart of bustling Pettah district, Jami-Ul-Alfar is a mosque known for its amazing architecture. It is a cool white and red brick complex, which dates back to 1909. You can even join a lecture to learn about Islam by one of its imams.
If you are interested in Colombo, you might also like Kerala! Here’s out post about the top things to do in Kerala.
Located at just walking distance from Gangaramaya Temple, Beira Lake is a huge lake of green-colored water. There is a small island in the middle of this lake, which has the Simamalaka Shrine, which was built by Muslim sponsor’s donations.
It is connected to other lakes via steep canals, and it finishes in the Indian Ocean. The lake and the canals were used in the colonial period to transport goods in the city.
Seema Malaka is a Buddhist temple, which is mainly used for resting and meditation, instead of worship. The temple was originally built in the Beira Lake in the 19th century. It belongs to Gangaramaya Temple and is just a few hundred meters towards the east.
It is built on three platforms above the water, connecting to the mainland and one another through pontoon bridges. The main roof of the temple is capped with blue tiles and is made of collected handrails and spindles in wooden finishes.
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Colombo Dutch Museum
There is no better place to explore the history of the Dutch colonial empire in Sri Lanka than the Colombo Dutch Museum. It must be on your list of Colombo places to visit. It is located exactly north of Colombo Fort Railway Station in the well built-up region of Pettah.
It was one of the few examples, which were left from that era in history. It is a tall building, which is painted white and can be seen from afar. You can spot a row of amazing columns that are holding up a red roof ahead of the street.
Top food to taste in Colombo
Cheese Kottu is a well known and authentic Sri Lankan fish made of veggies, flatbread (chapattis), oil, herbs and spices, and cheese. The bread is finely chopped on a hot plate with two blades, and Kottu chopping can be heard from a mile away. It is like Pad Thai in Thailand and cheeseburger in America.
These are the Sri Lankan variant of thin pancakes with crisp edges. They seem like a bowl and are made of coconut milk, fermented rice flour, and coconut water. Then, the batter is fried in a little wok and swirled to cover edges of the pan.
Egg hoppers are also prepared in the same way. The only exception is egg cracked in the midway and cooked. Both of them are served with chili paste, coconut sambal, or just with pepper and salt.
It is always great to eat like locals. String hoppers are simply the noodles made of pure rice flour, pressed in the shape of noodles, and steamed. Then, they are served with dahl curry, coconut sambal, and coconut milk curry.
It is also known as the fresh coconut relish. It is actually a blend of red onions, well-grated coconut, dried whole chilies, salt, and lime juice. You can enjoy it with virtually anything available in Sri Lanka, such as rice, bread, roti, curry, hoppers, or even alone.
Being one of the most common streets eats in Colombo, Samosas are all-time favorites for tourists. These small savory triangles are either stuffed with beef or veggies and a whole lot of spices.
You can find this delicious dish in almost every street corner. There is no lack of suggestions on where to find the best samosas because different vendors have different specialties.
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