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Top Things to Do in Colombo

Written by
Rachel O'Leary, Keith Jarman & Kate Herz

Full of colours, curiosities and culture, Sri Lanka’s capital city is a fascinating place.

From galleries, museums and heritage homes, to restaurants, bars and shops, there is so much just waiting to be discovered.

Here’s our guide to the top things to do in Colombo, no matter how short your visit.

1) Eating and drinking

There are countless places to grab a great meal in Colombo, but some spots stand out more than others. The Old Dutch Hospital has been transformed into an dining hub where you can visit Ministry of Crab and the Taphouse bar. Sample modern Sri Lankan cuisine at Kaema Sutra in the Arcade Independence Square, or take a table at nearby Flamingo House before heading to the Love Bar. For more top Sri Lankan dishes, don’t miss Raja Boujoun or Nuga Gama at Cinnamon Grand.

If you’re on the hunt for great coffee, try Black Cat on Vijeyrama Mawatha of head to Coco Veranda on Ward Place. For somewhere a little more cosy, visit Café Francais and Park Street Trattoria at the Park Street Mews. Spend the evening admiring the views from rooftop bars Cloud Nine at Cinnamon Red or the Sky Lounge at The Kingsbury.

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2) History and culture

Colombo has so many interesting historic attractions. Colombo Fort, the central business district of the city, is home to several noteworthy buildings from the British and Dutch colonial periods, such as the General Post Office and the Old Dutch Hospital. Head out on a walking tour with a local history buff to hear the inside story on attractions like the Pettah market area, the National Museum and Independence Square Monument. Take a stroll along the Galle Face Green, an urban seaside park dating back to 1859, and stop for a bite of authentic Sri Lankan street food.

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3) Shopping

Like the eateries, the shopping in Colombo is spread out across the city. On the top of many a shopper’s list is the department store Odel, or handloom shop Barefoot. Browse the lifestyle store Paradise Road, and choose clothing and accessories made by local designers at PR. Find new outfits for your little ones at Milk & Honey. And don’t miss the chance to start your Sri Lankan art collection; work by local designers is beginning to grown in popularity.

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Visit Saskia Fernando Gallery and Hempel Galleries to find out what’s hot. The Sapumal Foundation and Barefoot are also worth visiting if you’re seeking something for your wall. If your design tastes lean more towards jewellery, see what Trunk has to offer.

4) Relaxing

The city has a variety of spas, but amongst the best are those belonging to award-winning Spa Ceylon, such as the spas of Ward Place and Park Street Mews. Prana Lounge also offers a full menu of health-related therapies including yoga, meditation and body conditioning. You’ll also find spas at some of the larger hotels, such as Cinnamon Grand.

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5) Where to stay

Renovated colonial manor house the Wallawwa is located in five acres of manicured tropical gardens that date back 200 years. The boutique hotel has 17 guestrooms and three two-bedroom suites, and guests can make themselves at home in these elegant surroundings. Cool off in the swimming pool, stroll through the plentiful kitchen garden and dine at the hotel’s restaurant.

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