Colombo the bustling, largest city in Sri Lanka is home to 5.6 million people. As an urban hub, it is often overlooked as a tourist destination and is treated as a quick stop on the way to more scenic areas of Sri Lanka. We’re here to change your mind about that and prove that Colombo has a number of worthwhile things to do to keep you busy. Read on to find out 5 cool things to do in Colombo.
Relax in Viharamahadevi Park
Feeling frazzled from the heat, crowds and insistent tuk-tuk drivers? We recommend visiting the oldest and largest public park in the Colombo Port area, Viharamahadevi Park. Walking paths wind among garden beds, beautiful old trees, water features, a big Buddha statue, a playground and grazing ponies. Viharamahadevi Park is perfect for a picnic, some exercise or just to laze around. So, grab a bench (if you can find one without a couple on it) and do some people watching. Viharamahadevi Park is free to enter and open 24 hours.
Learn some history at the National Museum
Conveniently located next to Viharamahadevi Park is the National Museum, which is also worth a visit. This grand building is home to many historical artifacts and showcases the cultural and natural heritage of Sri Lanka. The Museum is split into galleries that guide you through Sri Lankan history beginning with the first life on earth. Since the space is not air-conditioned and the collection is large, consider making a beeline to galleries that interest you the most to start. Some of our favorite, beautiful artifacts were found in the galleries from most recent history, such as items from the royal family of the time. The National Museum costs 1000 LKR for foreigners (5.50 USD) and opens between 9am – 5pm (the second floor closes at 4pm). You should budget a minimum of two hours if you want to do the museum justice.
Haggle your heart out at Pettah Market
Another central must-see spot is Pettah Market, a large covered market comprising of fresh fruits and vegetables, clothes and household items ranging from high quality to low-quality fakes. It can be a little overwhelming, but even for the most introverted traveler, it’s worth a determined power-walk through the stalls. Expect to be charged tourist prices if you’re from out of town, be skeptical of “real” brands and don’t be afraid to do a bit of haggling. Next to the market, make sure to gape at (and take a photo of) the beautiful candy-cane colored Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque or Red Masjid. There is a tourist entrance to go inside the mosque, but open hours are unclear. Make sure to ask permission before entering, and dress in modest clothing. Pettah Market and the Mosque are both free to enter and best visited in the morning.
Snacks at sunset on Galle Face Green
Located on the edge of a wide, modern road in an elegant hotel area, Galle Face is a locally popular recreational space next to the ocean. It consists of a worn-down grass field beside the beach with stalls selling seafood snacks and an observation deck on the ocean. Traverse the field and grab yourself some tasty fried shrimp fritters, then head onto the observation deck to admire the waves lashing the shore. Please note that this is not a swimming spot due to the violent waves and strong currents – you can dip your toes in but don’t go deep. Visiting Galle Face Green is free and best experienced for sunset to enjoy some snacks under the setting sun.
Enjoy some curry – on a banana leaf!
Somehow, serving rice and curry on a banana leaf just makes it taste so much better! This serving style is well-worth trying out with plenty of options whether you’re vegetarian or a carnivore with delicious meat and veggie curries, fried meats and sides. One of the more popular banana leaf restaurants in the city is called New Banana Leaf. Located in the Colombo 3 area, New Banana Leaf is famous for its biriyani and chicken combo served in a restaurant setting with reasonable prices. Try it out first here, then keep your eyes peeled for other restaurants that serve it or ask a local for a recommendation.