31 Things to do in Colombo, Sri Lanka

 

Colombo is the largest city in the always exciting island nation of Sri Lanka!

The list of fun things to do is in no particular order, and I hope it can give you some ideas of what attractions to see and do when you visit!

31 Things to do in Colombo, Sri Lanka:

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Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple

1. Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple

Gangaramaya Temple is the most famous and iconic Buddhist place of worship in Colombo. Among tourists, it has also gained a reputation as one of the more popular things to do in Colombo.

The temple is not only a place of worship, but also a school of Buddhist learning and a museum that houses a huge collection of Buddhist relics from around the world.

Address: Gangaramaya, 61, Sri Jinarathana Road,Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Hours: 8 am – 8 pm
Entrance Fee: 100 LKR

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Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil

2. Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil

Though the city of Colombo is predominantly Buddhist, there are also populations of Hindus, Christians and Muslims. There are a number of brightly colored Hindu temples scattered around Colombo.

The Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil Hindu temple is located down a quiet unsuspecting alley way and all of a sudden you arrive at the temple. The structure is supposedly the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo and it is neatly decorated, highly ornate and very colorful.

Entrance Fee: Free to enter, but they charge a mandatory 100 LKR fee if you want to take photos. They will also try to get you to put your shoes on the official rack and expect a tip too.

3. New and Old Kathiresan Kovil

Located near Galle Face and the Colombo Fort, the new and old Kathiresan Kovil Hindu Temples are another interesting set of temples to visit within the city.

One of the famous things about this temple is the annual chariot festival which is held there.

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Independence Memorial Hall

4. Independence Memorial Hall

Colombo’s Independence Memorial Hall was built in order to showcase Sri Lankan independence from British rule in 1948.

Along with the monument, which I thought looked somewhat like the parthenon, is a statue of the first president of Sri Lanka who is considered one of the father’s of the nation.

No entrance fee.

5. Wolvendaal Church

The Wolvendaal Church is one of the beautifully preserved Dutch stuctures that still exists in Colombo. A visit to the church is not only to observe it from the outside, but to also see the impressive furniture pews within the church.

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Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque

6. Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque

Located in the heart of the busy Pettah district of Colombo, the Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque is one of the coolest looking buildings in the city.

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Things to do in Colombo – Viharamadevi Park

7. Viharamadevi Park

The central and most famous outdoor park in Colombo is known as Viharamahadevi Park (it was previously known as Victoria Park). The park was set-up as one of the only green spaces in Colombo during British rule.

Visiting Viharamahadevi Park is free and if you have a little down time, relaxing at the park is not a bad way to spend an afternoon in Colombo.

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Colombo’s Pettah Market

8. Pettah Market

Colombo’s largest and most chaotic market includes everything from fresh food to wholesale clothing and is known as Pettah. The entire bustling area is an observation paradise and a great place to get an initial view into the busy side of Colombo.

You’ll probably meat quite a few friendly Sri Lankan’s if you walk around Pettah!

In my opinion, visiting the fruit and vegetables section of Pettah Market is one of the most fun things to do in Colombo.

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Kolluptiya Super Market

9. Kolluptiya Super Market

Another pretty sweet market to is the Kollupitiya Super Market located in Colombo 3. The district is home to lots of shopping and a market with a number of interesting stalls.

It was at this market where I bumped into possibly the coolest barefooted butcher I’ve ever seen in any country. He was a friendly man that looked like he was plucked straight from the Middle Ages (above).

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Watch a Cricket Match in Colombo

10. Watch a Cricket Match in Colombo

Sri Lankan’s take cricket seriously.

If you really want to get into the culture and spirit, head to a live cricket match. Watching a match is possibly one of the most culturally appropriate and incredible things you can do in Colombo.

Tickets: 35 Maitland Pl Cinnamon Gardens, Colomobo 7, the office is open from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
For more information about Sri Lanka Cricket and match schedules check out their official website.

If you are looking for another kind of Sri Lanka cricket experience, head on over to the famous Cricket Club Cafe that includes all kinds of sports memorabilia and an Australian menu. Also catch live cricket action on TV at the cafe.

11. National Museum of Colombo

The National Museum of Colombo houses many of the most important historical artifacts showing the heritage of Sri Lanka. If you are interested in museums, visiting the National Museum in Colombo is a must!

Address: Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm, but closed on Fridays and on holidays
Entrance Fee: 500 LKR entrance fee and an extra 250 LKR if you want to take photos

12. Dutch Period Museum

The Dutch have had a long history in Sri Lanka. The Dutch Period Museum in Colombo was once the residence of the Dutch governor and today it has been restored into a museum depicting how life was during the Dutch reign of Sri Lanka.

Address: 95 Prince St Pettah, Colombo 11
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm

13. Zoological Gardens of Colombo (Dehiwala Zoo)

The Zoological Gardens of Colombo is better labeled as the national zoo and animal kingdom of the city. Among the many displays of wildlife is a famous Sri Lankan elephant show that takes place daily at 4:30 pm. Seeing the elephant show is one of the best family oriented things to do in Colombo.

Website: http://www.colombozoo.gov.lk/
Hours: Open everyday from 8 am – 6:30 pm
Entrance Fee: 2000 LKR for adults

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Cool Things to do in Colombo, Sri Lanka

14. Snake Charmer

Snake charming, as you probably know, is the act of playing a flute and using hand motions to hypnotize a snake, often a cobra. Around Colombo there are plenty of nomadic snake charmers that carry their cobras in small baskets and wait for tourists to walk by so they can put on a show.

I caught a glimpse of a pretty cool snake charmer one day at the exit of Viharamahadevi Park. The snake charmer just started performing, but expected a tip the entire time.

Price: They will ask for something outrageous, but if you really enjoy their show and take photos, just give them a little tip. I gave the snake charmer 100 LKR and he was satisfied.

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Fort of Colombo, Sri Lanka

15. Colombo Fort

The Colombo Fort district of town is a historical area that is today the financial business district of Colombo. It was the Portuguese who first began to develop the fort, but thereafter the Dutch took it over.

Among the modern buildings, also check out the old General Hospital and Post Office, the old Lighthouse, and a number of church cathedrals in the area.

16. Cinnamon Gardens

Once the setting of a cinnamon plantation, the Cinnamon Gardens area of Colombo is now a nicer area of town that includes the Prime Minister’s office, Independence Monument, and a lot of nice neighborhoods and upper scale restaurants.

There are also a few art galleries.

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Visit to Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

17. Explore Moratuwa

Just south of Colombo city is the suburb of Moratuwa. The town is interesting to explore, offering a number of classic buildings, neighborhood life, and the becoming more popular Bolgoda Lake.

You can easily catch the train or bus south from Colombo to visit Moratuwa. When I stayed in Colombo, I stayed in Moratuwa, but it was a little far from the city, so I’d recommend staying at a hotel that’s more within the city.

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Sri Lankan King Coconut 

18. Drink an Orange Coconut

One of the more enjoyable things to do in Colombo every single day is to chug down a fresh orange colored coconut known as a “King Coconut.” The water is sweet and refreshing on a hot day of walking around.

Price: King coconuts go for 30 – 40 LKR per piece

19. Watch Someone Cook “Kottu”

Kottu as I mentioned on a few occasions before, is the “double cheeseburger and fries combo” of Sri Lanka. Shred a gigantic piece of greasy roti paratha bread and stir fry it with eggs, cheese, a few small vegetables, and lots of salt and spices and you’ve got Sri Lankan Kottu.

Now the cool thing is that the street chefs who cook kottu practice making the dish on a a hot griddle using double fisted hand held knives to cook it. The best cooks have composed rythmic melodies so the entire street can hear their kottu being made!

Watching someone make kottu is a lot of fun – check out the video (above) or click here.

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Sri Lankan Street Food – Galle Face

20. Street food at Galle Face

If you are looking for street food in Colombo, you’ll need to head to Galle Face in the evening.

Along with lots of leisurely activities and people watching, one of the main reasons people come to hang out at Galle Face is for the great selection of eats.

Sri Lankan food is both tasty and filling. You’ll find kottu, fried rice, a host of random curries and a bunch of deep fried snacks.

Try any of the random nameless stalls, or if you want to sit down while dining on Sri Lankan street food, head to a famous tented restaurant known as Nana Fast Food.

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Fly a Kite at Galle Face

21. Fly a Kite at Galle Face Green

If you can take a break from the Sri Lankan food at Galle Face, you may want to exercise or buy a kite to fly.

The strong winds that whip off the Indian Ocean make Galle Face Green the perfect open space for flying a kite – and lots of people take advantage of the conditions.

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View of the Galle Face Hotel

22. Walk Around (Use the Toilet) at Fancy Hotels

Central Colombo is home to an array of lovely colonial classic hotels like the famous Galle Face Hotel situated right on the water. One of my favorite things to do in Colombo and all cities for that matter is to stop by the nice hotels, tinker around and eventually use the posh toilet facilities.

Note: For more places to stay in Colombo, click here.

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Sri Lankan Short Eats

23. Sri Lankan Short Eats

Short Eats are basically little hand-held small sized snacks, and they are a love affair in Sri Lankan cuisine. Some of the little deep fried goodies are filled with potato like veggies and spices while others are stuffed full of seafood or meat.

From samosas to cutlets, sampling a plate of short eats with a cup of milk tea is one of the best things to do on a hot afternoon in Colombo!

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Sri Lankan Tea

24. Drink Tea

Have you ever heard of Ceylon Tea (Ceylon is the former name of Sri Lanka)?

Sri Lanka produces among the highest grade of tea in the world. Introduced by the British in the late 1800′s, tea in Sri Lanka has now become one of the country’s main exports.

Sri Lankan’s enjoy drinking their tea full of creamy milk powder and a few scoops of sugar to sweeten things up!

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Sri Lankan Wood Apple Juice

25. Wood Apple Juice

I had never eaten a wood apple until visiting Sri Lanka, a country where wood apples are the king of their fruit scene.

Wood apple juice is more of a thick smoothie than a watery juice, and it’s something Sri Lankan’s love and are deeply passionate about.

Wood apple juice sort of tastes like a cross between tamarind pulp and blue cheese - a little bizarre but great at the same time! Enjoying a wood apple juice is one of the absolute “necessary” things to do in Colombo!

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Lion Ginger Beer, Sri Lanka

26. Lion Ginger Beer and Stout

My favorite soda in the entire world is Stoney Tangawizi ginger soda, made and exclusively available in East Africa.

Throughout my travels no ginger beer has ever compared to the powere of a Stoney, until I arrived in Sri Lanka and sampled a Lion Ginger Beer.

It’s still not as good as a stoney, but it comes pretty close. Lion Stout is also a wonderful local Sri Lankan beer if you like dark stouts.

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Sri Lankan Rice and Curry

27. Eat Rice and Curry (with Your Hands)

If there’s one plate of food that really characterizes the cuisine of Sri Lanka, it’s a huge pile of rice covered in a mixed selection of 3 – 5 different curries.

Rice and curry in Sri Lanka is cheap – just $1 – $2 per meal. Food is one of the reason’s it’s possible to travel on $10 per day in Sri Lanka!

Eating rice and curry is among the most pleasurable things to do in Colombo, because it’s almost always delicious. Most Sri Lankan locals choose to eat rice and curry with their hands - and I’ll admit that it does taste just a bit better.

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Riding a Crazy Bus in Colombo, Sri Lanka

28. Ride a Crazy Bus

One thing that really stands out in my mind are the memories of riding on ridiculously crazy buses in Colombo.

The buses are big, bulky, and shall we say  not in top condition. The drivers choose to constantly keep their foot on the acceleration pedal, or if they need to break they will slam on the break pedal – just to see the passengers fly forward in terror.

All that to say, you probably won’t ever have a seat on a Colombo bus, but riding one is a pretty fun thing to do!

29. Shop for Souvenirs / Tea and Spices

There are a number of curio handy craft stores in Colombo where you can get all your souvenirs. I didn’t do much shopping at all (mostly eating), so I don’t know too much about this sector.

If you don’t want to go the souvenier route, be sure to pick up some Sri Lankan spices and a few kilos of tea before you leave. They are both cheap and wonderful!

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Rickshaw Tour of Colombo

30. Rickshaw Tour of Colombo

Forget about booking an official tour with a company, if you are looking for an adventurous way to see Colombo hire a personal Sri Lankan rickshaw and roll out.

On my last day of being in Colombo I decided to dish out the extra money and cruise from site to site, just to see Colombo’s attractions for the last time.

Time: The rickshaw drivers will charge by hour and take you wherever you want to go, they will also suggest some of the more popular locations.
Price: I got charged 400 LKR per hour and my fried and I went on a tour for 2 hours.

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Sunset at Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

31. Sunset at Mount Lavinia

The entire city of Colombo is blessed by insanely beautiful sunsets that reflect off the Indian Ocean and bounce off the low fluffy clouds.

Mount Lavinia, a beachside area just south of Colombo is a fantastic place to unwind, chill out and enjoy a beautiful evening sunset in Colombo.

Are you looking for a place to stay in Colombo? Click here to see lots of accommodation options for your visit!

 

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Comments

    • says

      Thanks for reading this article Lakmal. No, I wasn’t able to try the isso wade when I was at Galle Face. I did see it all over, but I had such a huge meal that I didn’t have space for it. I’ll make sure to eat it the next time I visit Colombo! Thanks for the suggestions.

  1. says

    Very good list. I would love to visit Sri Lanka sometime. Half the things you mentioned though can be easily experienced here in India too! Like cricket, autorickshaw, tea, coconuts…

  2. Dinusha says

    nice article Mark but I’m shocked to hear that they charge you to enter the gangarama temple…. :( Good that you have mentioned it so that we are aware of it and can do something to stop it…

  3. Lala says

    How about an update to make your list even better
    .
    Add Race course to walk around grab a bite fast food fusion cuisine or Chinese-evenings r best. This can b done together with independence square visit as it is in the same area.

    for short -eats try Fab , Tasty, Green Cabin

    Sample high T at one of the 5 star Hotels

    Sunday brunch at Cinamon Grand , bit costly but fully worth

    Dutch hospital area for a leisurely walk & great cuppa or chilled beer cuisine on the expensive side but a true treat with a crab speciality restaurant . Cheaper cuisine available towards sea front closer to light house.

    Parliment area in Batharamulla for beautiful, pleasant view , walk , drive . again evening is best

    Your photos r beautiful. May b another visit for the photos for the update ? !!!

  4. sach says

    Interesting u spent time in Colombo, as far as I knw many tourists skip colombo and head to kandy or Galle straightly. I dont think it’s fair. Colombo has its charm amidst all the hustle and bustle :D

    I think a bit more investment in Colombo would help.

  5. Rajib Das says

    A new place n I’m back reading Migrationology. Thanks for th le tips for BKK. A nice read.. I travel to Colombo in the next few days.. any additional tips ;-)

    Price: I got charged 400 LKR per hour and my fried and I went on a tour for 2 hours. 》Was just wondering if you got something fried ;-)

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