14 Best Things To Do Colombo, Sri Lanka
I always think of Sri Lanka as a more relaxed version of India, and therefore a great place to go as a couple, a family (I took my mum there!), or for an adventure. It’s cheap, easy to get to in terms of flights and visas, and offers you some true travel experiences. One of my favoured countries in Asia, Every trip to Sri Lanka starts with flying into it’s Capital of course, which is great because there are some awesome things to do in Colombo upon arrival. My advice to anyone taking a trip to Sri Lanka, is not to rush off out of Colombo, spend a couple of days there first, check out how life is in Sri Lanka’s Capital before you move on. And to help you enjoy your time there, don’t miss any of the Top 10 Things to Do in Colombo here:
These places are all accessible by independent travel. But if you’re lazy (like me these days!) and prefer a driver, guide and car to pick you up and take you from spot to spot, book that here:
1) Visit Galle Face Green Promenade (ideally at Sundown)
An awesome long stretch along the Indian seafront, with vendors, buskers, picnickers. It’s one of the city’s heartbeats, and you can’t say you’ve visited Colombo until you’ve wandered along the promenade at some point, stopping for some street food. I wouldn’t swim here though, the water is a little dirty, save that for Mount Livinia beach further down.
TOP-TIP: This is Colombo’s premier sunset spot, so come about an hour or so before that and get yourself a nice seat to say goodbye to the day.
OPENING HOURS AND TICKET PRICES? Always open, and it’s FREE!
2) Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque & Wandering The Streets Of Pettah
Time to sample the ‘real’ Sri Lanka. Go and get lost in the winding streets of Pettah. It’s the oldest district in Colombo, so expect a hectic atmosphere and friendly locals. The highlight of Pettah is of course the iconic Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, but the Pettah Markets and the Old City Hall are also worth a stop. The general idea is to wander around though, it’s a fun hour or two.
TOP-TIP: The Clock Tower there is an ideal starting point.
3) Go Up The Lotus Tower for EPIC City Views
The Colombo Lotus Tower is 356m, Sri Lanka’s highest building and the 2nd highest in all of South Asia. The 7th floor houses an observation deck, and for the not-so-cheap price of $20, you can check out the whole city from 250m up.
4) Mount Lavinia Beach to either Swim or Party!
This is Colombo’s main ‘swimming’ beach and also the place to party. It’s about 10km from the city centre (20 mins, $3 in a rickshaw/tuk-tuk), if you’re ready to party hard, clubs open until around 4am at the weekends. Special mentions to Amusuem, Silk and Kama for your bar hopping in the evening.
TOP-TIP: If you’re there for the swimming, try to avoid the weekend, it gets PACKED!
5) Independence Memorial Hall and Independence Square
Sri Lanka was granted independence from the British on February 4th, 1948, and the Independence Memorial Hall has stood proudly since then. The hall holds the Independence Memorial Museum inside, and the ticket price is…. FREE!
6) Wander the Fort Area and all its Colonial Architecture
The Colombo Fort Area is next to the Railway Station, and it’s a great area to get your camera out and soak up Colombo’s city vibes. It’s all right next to Galle Face Green, so ideally head to the Fort area 3 hours or so before sunset, check out the architecture, walk around and then head to the Green for sunset. The Colon
7) Gangaramaya Temple
Found just off Beira Lake, Gangaramaya Temple is Colombo’s most famous temple, and one of top places to visit in Colombo, so don’t miss it! It’s also home to the world’s smallest Buddhist Statue, so go hunting for that one. Tickets run around $4 per person.
8) Cirque Lanka cultural show
Found at the South-East corner of Viharamahadevi park, the Viharamahadevi Open Air Theatre hosts an awesome cultural with up to 20 local performers. Traditional music, wild acrobats, fire and summersaults. really impressive. The theatre itself is amazing, and the 1-hour show is the perfect way to end your evening
9) Chill at Beira Lake
Combine your chill time at Beira Lake with the Gangaramaya Temple just next door. The watercolour is a little (read: VERY!) green thanks to the crazy levels of pollution in the city, but even that can’t take back from the relaxing atmosphere the park offers. It’s a great break from the chaos of the city. Don’t be scared if you see some huge monitor lizards wandering around the place. You have been warned!
10) The huge Buddha, and a Walk Around Viharamahadevi Park
The Cinnamon Gardens are the richest area in the whole country, it’s a great place to walk around and with it playing host to the massive expanse of Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo’s largest green space, it offers genuine respite from the hawkers and noise. Check out the huge Buddha statue, and then take a book and kick back.
11) Turtle Conservation Villa
This non-profit has been saving turtles for almost 20 years. Founded in 2003, they protect the hatching and release of Sri Lanka’s endangered turtles, and all ticket entry goes to the projects themselves. Let’s support them and their beautiful work, and at $3 a ticket, we can even consider donating a small amount in addition.
12) Colombo National Museum
Not actually my thing, but I know many people love them, so fair enough! Sri Lanka’s National Museum holds all the info (and more) than you could ever want into their ancient and modern history. Over 11 galleries of the stuff. Fill your boots. On the plus side, the building is gorgeous. Only $4 a head too.
13) Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil
Colombo’s oldest Hindu Temple, and it’s a feast of colours. Indian-inspired architecture, if this is your first visit to a Hindu temple, prepare to be amazing. Remember it’s closed between 10.30am and 16.30pm each day, it is free to enter but they expect a small donation (less than $1), and remember to keep your knees and shoulders covered guys and girls
14) Day-trip to Negombo
Just 40 minutes outside crazy Colombo is the gorgeous, somewhat-traveler-vibe, seaside town of Negombo. They have a famous fish market, but it’s the chill vibes, the Dutch Canal, and the beaches that people go for. If you prefer more relaxed atmospheres, you could even base yourself here rather than Colombo city, it’s just 35km into town.
Do I need a Visa to Visit Sri Lanka?
Yes, but you can do it online. Click here and sort it out the week before you come.
When Is The Best Time to Visit Colombo, Sri Lanka
The best time to visit Colombo is during the dry season, so January, February and March. But from November to April should be ok.
Getting around Colombo is pretty easy, taking a tuk-tuk ride is a rite of passage for travellers in Sri Lanka, but in terms of travelling to Sri Lankan hotspots outside the city, it’s easier to book your transport in advance HERE.
How Long Should You Spend in Colombo?
I’d recommend at least 2 full days in Colombo, so 2 or 3 nights.
Is Colombo safe for female travellers?
Yes. It’s safer than Pakistan, Bangladesh and India by a distance. Although I still wouldn’t recommend 100% female solo travel as there are a lot of reports of guys constantly hitting on females when they’re alone. But more than 1 person and you’re good.
Thoughts on My Top 14 Things to Do in Colombo?
There are lots of places to visit in Colombo, and beyond, but these are the Top 14 things to do when you come. Give yourself a couple of days to explore, and appreciate the beauty and history of where you are. The architecture in Colombo is the most beautiful in the whole country, and if you want access to the cultural history of the place, Colombo is the place for it. It’s also home to the best hotels, restaurants and nightlife, so make the most of that!
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