Colombo is an ever growing city in Asia, buzzing with an alluring combination of the new and the old; offering culture, shopping, restaurants, boutique hotels and so much more. With a multitude of experiences awaiting across the rest of the country, it’s not necessarily somewhere you will spend a lot of time but having explored the city extensively myself, I’ve put an 2 night guide together to make sure it remains one of the highlights of your travels.
I’m delighted to introduce my 2 night city guide in collaboration with Uber; a safe, reliable means of transport in Colombo. Don’t get me wrong, an open aired tuk tuk is great fun, but with pollution & traffic combined with the heat of the city, cars are inevitably a safer, more comfortable option. With rates from Rs.30, they’re also the same price as a tuk tuk, allowing you to arrive at your destination cool and calm from the bliss of AC.
The itinerary below is relaxed, well-paced and suitable for all, combining the larger ‘must see’ destinations with smaller, lesser known places too.
1:00pm Check in at Havelock Place Bungalow.
Havelock Place Bungalow, No 6-8, Havelock Place, Colombo 5
One of the smaller, more intimate hotels in the city beaming with a combination of homely ambience and old world charm, I was delighted to be hosted by Havelock Place Bungalow during my 2 nights in Colombo. After checking in, I suggest a leisurely lunch and a swim, and if jetlagged most importantly a nap. It inevitably takes time to readjust to a different climate/ time zone so taking it easy on your first day is wise.
The food at Havelock is a fusion of local and international flavour. The most important course is dessert, with a delicious array of homemade ice creams- try a combination of coffee & arrack and jaggary. The patioed garden is a charming little spot to dine, with a tropical english garden ambience- a hidden gem close to the heart of the city.
4:00pm– Enjoy a drink in the Travellers Bar at Galle Face Hotel.
2 Galle Rd, Colombo 3
Feeling refreshed and revived, head over to the Galle Face Hotel, one of Colombo’s oldest colonial hotels, built in 1864. The travellers bar is a fabulous place to unwind and soak up the magnificent surround of a bygone era, still very much alive in spirit today.
Recently refurblished to withstand the test of time, the interior of the bar is adorned with photographs of notable guests; from Mahatma Gandhi to Roger Moore- its worth having a look.
5:30pm – Walk along Galle Face Green at sunset
Galle Face Green is a magical corner of Colombo with an energetic buzz of local food vendors,loved up couples shying under umbrellas, fitness addicts, kite flying- not to mention a spectacular view at sunset.
Wet your appetite with a taste of Sri Lankan street food, my personal favourite is parippu wade (deep fried lentils), also available with prawns called isso wade.
7:00pm- Dinner at Paradise Road Gallery Cafe.
2 Alfred House Rd, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Once the office of Sri Lanka’s famous architect Geoffery Bawa (a principle force behind art movement ‘tropical modernism’), the space is now occupied by Paradise Road, a leading local company founded in 1987 by designer entrepreneur, Shanth Fernando. Paradise Road also hosts an art gallery, fashion & homewear shops in addition to super-chic design hotels in Colombo and beyond.
Shanth Fernando’s innovative eye-catching interiors married with the visionary architecture of Geoffery Bawa makes The Gallery Cafe a feast for both the eyes and culinary senses. Their signature black pork curry is a must for meat eaters but to be honest, everything on the menu is good. For a jetlag boost, try the fresh tamarind juice.
Before dining, pay a visit to the shop where you will find all kinds of souvenirs (cultured yet stylish!) to take home and give to loved ones.
8:30am: Sri Lankan breakfast at Havelock Place Bungalow.
Enjoy a local Sri Lankan breakfast of pol rotti, a freshly made flat coconut bread in the cosy dining room inside. Outside guests can also dine at Havelock Place Bungalow (breakfast, lunch or dinner) when booked in advance.
10am– Visit Geoffery Bawa’s house, Number 11.
No: 11,33rd Lane, Off Bagatelle Road
Ask your concierge or hotel manager (preferably the day before) to book as tours are by appointment only. The historic and cultural relevance of this building to Sri Lanka is exceptional, with Geoffery Bawa’s fusion of nature with architecture both poignant and aesthetically beautiful.
12:00pm- 60 Minute luxury foot massage at Spa Ceylon.
Spa Ceylon, Park Street Mews, 48d, Park Street.
Inspired by traditional Sri Lankan ayurveda, Spa Ceylon is the leading luxury spa in Sri Lanka, using their own line of products (also available to purchase) made with locally sourced ingredients and scents. The 60 minute luxury foot massage is a rejuvinating acupressure treatment using reflexology; de-stressing and calming both mind and body.
Tip: Spa Ceylon’s hand creams, flamboyantly packaged with traditional Sri Lankan artwork make fantastic gifts.
1:00pm- Lunch at Park Street Mews.
50/1, Park St, Colombo
A stones throw from Spa Ceylon, tuck into a selection of fresh seafood tapas at Park Street Mews. Although not traditional Sri Lankan cuisine per se, the flavours are fresh, light and full of flavour for a sophisticated lunch on the go. I also had the ‘powerpack’ juice to continue my health kick from the spa, filled with natural goodness and energy.
Clockwise from left; Marinated aubergine wrap with feta cheese, grilled vegetable bruchetta, crab croquettes and flash-fried prawns with chili, lemon and tomato.
2:30pm– Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple.
61 Sri Jinarathana Rd, Colombo 2
The most ecletic buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, Gangaramaya temple/museum is home to a prismatic array of buddhist artifacts from all over the world. Worlds apart from the minimalist temples of the Sri Lankan countryside, Gangaramaya is tucked amongst the very heart of the city and is a fascinating visit. In February it celebrates the ‘Navam Perehera’, a traditional procession of dancers, drummers and elephants.
4pm- Tea stop at Uga Residence.
No 20, Park Street, Colombo 2
Craving a cup of ceylon tea by now? One of the leading hoteliers across Sri Lanka, Uga Residency is a small boutique hotel with friendly staff and an unpretentious ambience in true comfort for a stylish pit-stop. From traditional ceylon tea to fruity infusions, the lounge area is the perfect setting to catch your breath, cool down and (lets face it) browse your photos and update facebook!
5:30pm- Sunset at Seema Malaka buddhist temple on Beira Lake.
Sir James Pieris Mawatha, Colombo
Colombo’s quaint lake temple designed by Geoffry Bawa in the 1970s, Seema Maaka is the perfect spot to admire the city as the sun goes down. Or if one temple per day is enough, head to The Kingsbury for a sunset cocktail instead. Decisions!
7pm Dinner at Ministry of Crab.
Old Dutch Hospital, Fort,, Colombo
Ministry of Crab at The Old Dutch Hospital is arguably the hottest eatery in Colombo, owned by famous Sri Lankan cricketers Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and chef Dharshan Munidasa. Dining here is as much about the experience as the food. Book in advance to reserve your spot, it’s fully booked most nights!
Download the Uber app here
Enjoy your time in Colombo!