ColomboColombo is the financial and cultural centre of Sri Lanka, an enchanting island lying off India's southern tip. These city folks go about their daily business with a cheerfulness born of optimism in this noisy and traffic-congested metropolis. But despite being known as a chaotic city, Sri Lanka's capital offers a handful of attractions for first-time visitors, including old colonial buildings, breathtaking religious temples, a beautiful shore, and tasty food.
The CityColombo sits on the west coast of Sri Lanka and has developed from an old seafaring port into a huge urban sprawl bristling with an Asian atmosphere. Around the historic centre of Fort are colonial facades of banks, buildings and tumbledown shops and streets teeming with people, trishaws, bicycles, buses–and the occasional cow. Towering above Fort to the east are gleaming skyscrapers reflecting modern Colombo, but wherever you go in the city, you stumble across history, culture, and friendly folk.
Do & See
It would be difficult not to immerse yourself in the serenity of Buddhism, which is practised by the majority of Sri Lankans. Yet, Colombo is home to all religions as evidenced by temples, mosques, and churches sprouting amidst a jumble of Dutch and British-built buildings, a legacy of its colonial past.
One of the joys when travelling to Sri Lanka is trying the country's delicious, spice-rich food. Thanks to its location in the Indian Ocean, its close proximity to India, and past immigrants and colonisers, Sri Lanka now offers a mouth-watering blend of Dutch, Portuguese, English, Malay, Arab, and Indian flavours. A truly melting-pot of dishes such as Lamprais (a Dutch Burgher-influenced dish), chicken curry, Dhal curry and Hoppers (Sri Lankan pancakes), to name a few.
Step away from the hustle and bustle of Colombo and take a break at one of the many coffee shops around the city. Do try the local coffee, but keep in mind that no trip to Sri Lanka is complete without a cup of the country's main export, the Ceylon tea.
Bars & Nightlife
Bars are a relatively new concept in Colombo, although there are a few old favourites patronized by expats and regular visitors. Generally quiet, they erupt into life at the weekend with live music, good value food, and a reasonable drinks' list. The best nightlife revolves around the upscale hotels where you will find bars, nightclubs, and karaoke lounges. Dress is smart casual, and entry for hotel guests is free.
Modern air-conditioned malls are found adjacent to top-end hotels or in the same vicinity, and they are perfect for souvenirs such as traditional masks, batik, gems, and presentation packs of the famous Ceylon tea. For a more authentic shopping experience, visit the Pettah area and immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of a busy Asian city. Anything and everything is on sale here, and haggling is well expected.