Colombo is the commercial heart of the tear of the Indian Ocean, meaning there is a lot of stuff to do in the capital of the little island nation. This will breeze through some of the things to do however it will be just scratching the surface. Hopefully more content will come but for now, let’s dive in.
Jami ul-alfar mosque
While strolling through the streets of pettach one of the most iconic and identifiable monuments you would come across is this beautiful mosque. It is a large beautiful building painted completely in red and white stripes resembling a candy castle. It is however one of the most important mosques in Sri Lanka and one of the oldest as well. In a city filled with homages to the old colonial rule, this building adds a little twist. Only a small section is open for the tourists and there’s not a lot to explore, most of the mosque is reserved for the locals who come here however it is still worth it to take a little peek inside and enjoy the architecture, the artistry and the serenity it provides for a while and take a snap or two while you are in it. The streets are packed and narrow as it is the case with most streets in Pettah and there is no place to park, hence it also requires a little maneuvering in your part to reach the destination, and before entering you do have to wear special clothes covering yourself as this is, of course, a Muslim mosque. These are few things that you must keep in mind before going there and of course, respect the fact that this is a religious institute and behave accordingly and if you do it will reward yourself.
Dutch hospital complex
It is another complex that was originally built y by, you guessed it, the Dutch. This is one of those places that pays homage to the colonial rule as previously mentioned. It is a complex of old colonial buildings and walking through the streets here gives the vibe of strolling through the streets of an old Dutch town, this experience alone would make it worth it however this place has so much more to offer. It has been effectively turned in to a shopping complex with a lot of shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, spa and etc. including the seafood restaurant owned by the Sri Lankan cricket legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardane. However the time this place really gets to life is when it’s night. You can see several places with open bars where live bands are performing and street lights make the whole place colorful in fact it is one of the places to experience the nightlife of Colombo and for a relatively cheap price as well, If you plan to stay in Colombo for a couple of days it is a place not to miss.
Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country, with 70% of following the religion that combined with its rich history means it a hotspot for various religious monuments and especially Buddhist temples so calling Gangaramaya Temple the most iconic would be a disservice for all the other beautiful temples around Sri Lanka however it is within a shot of being called the most iconic and is certainly more unique than any other temple you find in Sri Lanka or anywhere in the World. It’s been more than a century since it was built and has a collection of hundreds if not thousands of Buddha statues and all with different origins and styles from Indian to Thai to Chinese to various other styles which also reflects the temple itself. There is an entry fee of 200 rupees which is honestly menial when compared to what it offers.
If you ask me to name a place that fully encapsulates what Colombo really is I would recommend Galle Face Green without a heartbeat, don’t get me wrong I don’t think this is a place that is impressive by any stretch of means but if you go to Colombo you have to visit here. It is basically small park were small kids come to come to play or lovers come to hang out to families come to see the sunset, there is always the cold breeze of the ocean in front and many street vendors selling you all the junk food you can stuff that you would regret the next day immediately with a view of old parliament in the back and the luxury hotels and the harbor of Colombo on the sides and more likely than not you would spot a ship on the outskirts of the ocean. In the afternoon the skies become velvet and it would set the perfect somber relaxing atmosphere, you might spot kids flying kites maybe buy one and join them, or simply take couple snapshots and leave but if you come to Colombo visit the Galle Face Green.
Arcade Independence Square
Ok, now it seems we have come across a running theme of old colonial facilities converted into modern use because this is exactly that. This former lunatic asylum (out of all the things) is also like the Dutch Hospital an old building converted to a shopping complex but these two places give different vibes where Dutch Hospital is certainly a place for nightlife, Arcade Independence Square is a standard shopping complex and certainly less impressive, however, it still boasts impressive old colonial vibes and worth looking into if you have time.
This, not a specific place it is rather an area called the Park Street in the Slave Islands otherwise known as Colombo 02. It is within a stone throw away from the Gangaramaya Temple and the Beira Lake and in close proximity to the VIharamahadevi park. It is also a place filled with nightclubs, cafes, and all sorts of other fancy things that you could experience in Colombo. This is certainly a place that lets you enjoy many different things and throw your cash around however just walking by this area is also not a bad choice. Park Street Mews and Cafe Francais definitely come to mind when mentioning places to eat but you can find many more.
Marine Drive and Galle Road
This is the area near to the beach basically composing of Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, and Wellawatta. What you are going to find here are again places like cafes, restaurants, clubs, spas, and bars that are sometimes in open-rooftops that lets you enjoy the view of the sea, certainly a place again that comes to life at night which boasts restaurants like Barefoot Cafe, Wight & Co, The Fat Crab, Banana Leaf Curry House or shopping malls like the Majestic City, or Barefoot Gallery and many, many in fact most of the luxury 5-star hotels that you can find in Colombo. All in all, it is definitely a place you might want to visit to fully capture the experience in Colombo.
As mentioned earlier this list doesn’t even cover the tip of the iceberg of what Colombo has to offer, it will be an initial guide, and many more will come in the future of Colombo and obviously other beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka.