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50 things to do in Colombo!

50 things to do in Colombo!

The capital city of Sri Lanka is none other than the vibrant city of Colombo. This national hub drives the country’s economy with its skyscrapers, offices, and world-famous hotels. Rich historical monuments coexist with the city’s never-ending development. Let’s journey through time to understand the significance of this city.

The Portuguese introduced the name “Colombo” in 1505, deriving it from the Sinhala term “kolon thota.” Different rulers with various cultural backgrounds and styles have ruled Sri Lanka. Each left significant marks, creating a distinct atmosphere around the city. It was strategically formed and became a prominent place for international trade and customs. Astonishingly, even after seven centuries, it remains a key trading hub.

Colombo is a tourist hotspot, usually the start or endpoint of a tourist’s trip to Sri Lanka. The city is home to many expats and locals and is a prominent workplace in the city center. With 50 landmarks and locations to visit, It offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Many of these locations date back centuries, offering a glimpse into the city’s storied past. We have also listed some fun activities to help you truly feel like a local.

1. Diyathu Uyana – B240, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte

Diyuthu Uyana is located near Water Edge Hotel Battaramulla, this park has been constructed on marshy land on the banks of Diyawanna Lake.

The things to do and see around the park can be categorized as:

  • Flower shops
  • Walking along the riverside
  • Riverboat ride
  • Cement seats and tables to relax.
  • Central water fountain which changes colors at night.
  • Children’s play area
  • Floating hotel and restaurant
  • Walking, Jogging, and Cycling path.
  • Aquarium

2. Seema Malaka – Sir James Peiris Mawatha, Colombo

Seema Malaka is a Buddhist temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The temple is mainly used for meditation and rest, rather than for worship. Situated in Beira Lake, the temple was originally constructed in the late 19th century, The original structure slowly sank into the water in the 1970s. In 1976, Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa was brought in to redesign and construct the temple Seema Malaka which is a part of the Gangaramaya Temple and is situated a few hundred meters to its east.

3. Bally’s Casino – 34, McCallum Road, Colombo 01

Be it fine dining, accommodation & spa, table games, live betting, or non-stop entertainment, Bally’s Casino is the place to be for those who want to enjoy the best nightlife in Sri Lanka. From live concerts to DJ nights, play poker through the night at the one and only Bally’s Casino.

4. Colombo Dutch Museum – CPP Building, Prince Street, Colombo 01

This two-storied large building reflecting the features of a 17th century Dutch Urban house was built by Thomas Van Rhee, the Dutch Governor of Sri Lanka from 1692- 1697 where he used the house as his official residence. During the British period in 1796, this building was used as an arms store, army hospital, police training center, Pettah post office, and telecommunication center. This building was preserved by a special preservation committee with the assistance of the Netherlands government in 1977 and opened for the public as a Dutch museum by the Department of National Museums. It has displayed over 3000 museum objects related to the Dutch who ruled coastal areas of Sri Lanka. (1658-1796).

5. St Lucia’s Cathedral – Colombo 13

St. Lucia’s Cathedral is one of only fifteen cathedrals in the country, and it’s one of the most beautiful. It is the center of the Colombo Archdiocese (Roman Catholic) and is more than 200 years old. St. Lucias Cathedral is the house of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The Cathedral is located at Kotahena, in the northeast of Colombo, on 18,240 sq. ft. of land, and is dedicated to Saint Lucy. It traces its origins to a small structure for worship built during the Dutch occupation.

6. Independence square – Colombo 07

Independence Memorial Hall is a national monument in Sri Lanka built for commemoration of the independence from British rule with the restoration of full governing responsibility to a Ceylonese-elected legislature on February 4, 1948. Located at the head of the monument is the statue of the first prime minister of the country Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake “The Father of the Nation”. Most of the annual National Independence Day celebrations have been held here.

7. Vihara Mahadevi Park – Colombo 07

Viharamahadevi Park is a public park located in Colombo, next to the National Museum in Sri Lanka. It is the oldest and largest park in the Port of Colombo. Situated in front of the colonial-era Town Hall building, the park is named after Queen Viharamahadevi, the mother of King Dutugamunu. The park includes a statue of the Buddha, a children’s play area, and also a mini zoo within. The big old trees standing tall will add serenity to the park within a concrete jungle. 

8. Attidiya Bird Sanctuary – Colombo-Horana road, Borelesgamuwa

This is one of the only places in the entire city that is known for providing shelter to a minimum of 50 different species of birds. This includes both migratory and local birds. Here you will be able to witness a large number of butterflies, water monitors, insects, and other types of birds. But what is sure to get your attention is the mud-strewn paths of the sanctuary which adds to the rustic but natural charm of the place. You should also keep in mind the biodiversity of this place. Make sure to cover yourself up while visiting this place as it has a lot of mosquitoes around.

9. Old Galle buck lighthouse – Chaithya Road, Colombo 01

Old Galle Buck Lighthouse is situated in close proximity to the Galle Face Green within the area of the Sri Lankan Navy. It offers solitude to those who want it and you can climb up to the rustic lighthouse and take in the panoramic visions of the crashing Indian Ocean as you feel the wind in your hair. Always head over here after 5 PM to get the best views as this place works its magic after sunset. Constructed in the ’50s, this one of our older pieces of architecture.

10. Colombo Harbour

Considered the largest and busiest port of Sri Lanka as well as in South Asia, the Colombo Harbor in Sri Lanka serves as an important terminal in Asia due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean. With a capacity of over 4.1 Million TEUs and a dredged depth of 15m or 49 feet, the Colombo Harbor is ranked in the top 35 ports in the world and also one of the world’s busiest. The port also serves as a naval base for the Sri Lanka Naval Fleet.

It was widely known by Roman, Arab, and Chinese traders traveling across the silk route and it was regularly busy. By the 8th century, Arab Muslim traders used Colombo as a base for trading in this part of the world.

11. Traditional puppet art museum – 34, Anagarika Dharmapala mawatha, Dehiwala

Puppet shows hold a lot of meaning and importance in Sri Lankan as it connects greatly with culture and religion within the community. So this museum is single-handedly responsible for upholding a lot of the folk tradition and values of the island country even to this day and even promoting the. Most of these puppet arts are built in the southern province and are greatly influenced by the Rajasthan province of Southern India.

12. The Khan clock tower – 136, Main street, Colombo

Guarding the entrance to this industrious zone is a century-old clock tower known as the Khan Clock Tower. The tower was built in the early 20th century by a Parsi family of the name Khan. The Khan family were a particularly illustrious Parsi family of Bombay who had many trade interests in Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then called. They owned many large businesses, including the Colombo Oil Mills, which was quite famous at the time for producing many varieties of high-quality oil.

The Khan’s clock tower used to have a functioning water fountain, which is not in use today. The Tower is approximately about 450 feet in height and is at a roundabout which marks the entrance to the famous Pettah market

13. Gangarama temple – 61, Sri Jinarathana road, Colombo 2

Your visit to Sri Lanka is not a complete one if you miss out on the great Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. A sacred and site of great significance to all travelers and locals alike, this temple is the epitome of architectural brilliance. Featuring the intricacy of Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture in its design, the temple also houses a museum, and a library within the premises and is one of the top tourist locations in Colombo.

14. Old Dutch Hospital – Hospital St. Colombo 01

Built during the years 1681, this building is one of those which have persevered their charm for the centuries that have followed it. Originally it was constructed for the main purpose of giving medical help to the people who worked for the Dutch East India Company. Currently, a shopping complex but it served as a lot of places before being what it is today.

15. Sri Kailawasantha Swamy temple – Sri Murugan St. Colombo 02

This is the oldest (125 years old) and the largest Hindu temple in the city. Like most major Hindu temples, the architecture is incredibly ornate. Hundreds of sculptures and carvings of Hindu deities adorn the high, sloping blue roof, the top of which is 80 feet above the ground. The inside is relatively plain, but the walls have some religious paintings and murals.

16. Galle Face Green – Galle main Rd, Colombo

Located in the heart of the business capital of the country; Colombo, the Galle Face Green in Sri Lanka is a five-hectare ocean-side urban park, which stretches for a half kilometer along the coast. It is a magnificent place to witness a marvelous sunset over the western coast of Sri Lanka. The area was initially put to plan and laid out in 1859 by Governor Sir Henry George Ward, although the original Galle Face Green extended over a much larger area than is seen today.

17. Wolvendaal church – Wolfendhal Ln, Colombo 13

The Wolvendaal Church was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1749. It is one of the oldest Dutch Reformed Churches in Sri Lanka. It is also one of the oldest archaeological religious sites in Colombo. It is built in the Doric style, in the form of a Greek cross. The walls are almost five feet in width with gables above. There is a dome in the center which had a gilt weather-cock that was destroyed by lightning in 1856. As a result, the brickwork was replaced with a wooden roof.

18. Pettah Market 

In the heart of Colombo, Sri Lanka is the madness of Pettah Market.

It’s possibly the best place in Colombo to get initiated into the local Sri Lankan hustle and bustle, to ingest the sounds and smells, and to get a flavor of life in Colombo. Pettah market is a full-on trading location and a one-stop shop for all that you’re looking for. The entrance of the market is showcased by the Khan Clock Tower, built by the Khan family of Bombay. At the end of the market is Sea Street where all Sri Lankans go to purchase their jewelry. 

19. The Floating Market – W E Bastian Mw, Colombo 01

Approximately twenty years ago, in the late 1990s, the area where the Floating Market is on Bastian Mawatha and the adjoining Beira lake was one of the most heavily polluted areas in Pettah. The area was cleaned and cleansed into a marketplace promoting 92 local entrepreneurs of different industries. Some stalls are allocated within boats in Beira Lake to showcase the calm and serenity of the lake.

20. Sri Lanka Planetarium – Prof Stanley Wijesundara Mawatha, Colombo 07

Sri Lanka Planetarium is a public planetarium located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is the first and only planetarium in the country and is maintained as an institute under the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Research. A perfect place for all stargazers and school children for their field trips to learn and gather information about the solar system. The architecture of the building itself speaks volumes, where it was designed to represent a lotus flower at its full bloom.

21. Sambodhi Chaithya – Chaithya Rd, Colombo 01

Sambodhi Chaithya (also sometimes called Buddha Jayanthi Chaithya) is a stupa, a Buddhist shrine, built with reinforced concrete. The stupa is located in Colombo Harbour, Sri Lanka.

It was designed by renowned Sri Lankan engineer A. N. S. Kulasinghe and construction began in 1956 to commemorate the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi by the Colombo Port Commission and completed by the Colombo Port Authority. Built on a platform supported by two interlocking arches, the stupa is placed above the Marine Drive at the entrance of the Colombo Harbour. This main road leading to the harbor has since been renamed Chaithya Road after the stupa. The walkway has 123 steps.

22. Geoffry Bawa’s home – 11, 33rd Lane, Bagatalle Rd. Colombo 03

Sri Lanka’s most beloved and iconic architect, Geoffrey Bawa is renowned across the world for his incredible designs which won him the title ‘u7father of Asian architecture’. Although Bawa’s legacy is scattered across the island – beautiful buildings which are now enchanting hotels – he lived and worked in Colombo for many years. 

23. National Museum – Sir Marcus Fernando Mw, Colombo 07

The Colombo Museum as it was called at the beginning was established on 1st January 1877. Its founder was Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the time. National Museum of Colombo, also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum is one of two museums in Colombo. It is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. It is maintained by the Department of National Museum of the central government.

24. Bellagio Casino – 03, 430 R. A. De Mel Mawatha, Colombo

Bellagio Colombo, established in 1998 is Sri Lanka’s premier casino and a leading nightlife spot & gaming arena situated in Sri Lanka’s capital. The casino hosts a range of games, events, promotions throughout the year and pays the highest winning percentage in the world!

25. Royal Colombo Golf club – Model farm Rd, Colombo

The Royal Colombo Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Sri Lanka. Established in 1880, it is located in the capital city of Colombo at The Ridgeway Links also known as the Anderson Golf Course. It is home to the Sri Lanka Golf Union, the governing body of Golf in Sri Lanka, and maintains links with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland.

26. Old Parliament Building 

The Old Parliament Building is the building that houses the Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka. Situated in the Colombo fort area facing the sea, it is in close proximity to the President’s House, Colombo, and adjacent to the General Treasury Building. The building housed the island’s legislature for 53 years until the new parliamentary complex was opened at Sri Jayewardenepura in 1983.

27. Grand Oriental Hotel – 2 York St, Colombo 02

The Grand Oriental Hotel, also known as the Taprobane Hotel, is a 3-star heritage hotel located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The original building on the site was a simple, single-story structure with an open verandah to the street. A Dutch Governor initially inhabited it. Later, in 1837, the building was converted into barracks for the British Army. Eventually, in 1873, it transformed into a hostelry. Reconstruction began on 23 February and concluded on 27 October of the same year.

The hotel features 80 rooms and two suites. Notably, the suites are named after two famous personalities who stayed there. Dr. José Rizal stayed in May 1882, and Anton Chekhov stayed in 1890 for five days, during which he began writing “Gusev.”

Moreover, the Grand Oriental Hotel offers various dining and entertainment options. It has two restaurants, the Harbour Room and the Sri Lankan Restaurant. Additionally, guests can enjoy the nightclub (B-52), the Tap Bar, and a cafe called Tiffin Hut.

28. Nuga Gama (Cinnamon Grand) – 77, Galle Rd, Colombo 03

Nuga Gama, a rustic haven in the middle of an urban atmosphere, serving a delicious traditional Sri Lankan buffet cooked by local ammes (mothers) and a unique village experience.

Trust this restaurant set around a 200-year-old banyan tree, to cast its rural charm on you. ‘Nuga’ the pet cow who was rescued from the butcher, moos in the background, while the ‘kade’ or local grocery shop plays classic songs on the radio. 

29. Zoological Gardens – Anagarika Dharamapala Mw, Dehiwala, Colombo

The National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka is a zoological garden in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, founded in 1936. Its sprawling areas are host to a variety of animals and birds. The zoo exhibits animals but also places an emphasis on animal conservation and welfare, and education.

30. Leisure World – Avissawella Rd, Hanwella

Standard water park offering slides, rides & snacks, plus separate women’s & kids’ pools. It’s one of the first Theme parks of its kind to be surrounded by a great serene location blending in with the biodiversity around. The total land size is 57 acres, and about 27 acres have been built during the first phase of their development stage.

31. Water world – No:95, Biyagama Road Thalwatte Kelaniya

Aquatic park with underwater tunnels, tanks & ponds, plus exotic birds & educational programs.

32. World Trade Center – Bank of Ceylon Mw, Colombo

The World Trade Center is a 152 m tall twin building in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The towers 39-storey towers are built over a 4-story retail podium, and thus each tower has a total floor count of 43. WTC is run by Overseas Realty Ceylon PLC and you will find most of the high-end companies in Colombo residing within the twin towers.

33. Old City Hall –  Colombo Municipal 

Dating to 1865, this municipal building from the British era is mostly empty today, save for some old trucks and municipal equipment on display in the ground-floor galleries. But let the attendants lead you up the vintage mahogany stairs (tip them Rs. 100) and you’ll discover something of a waxwork in the old council chambers. There, covered in dust, are replicas of the town’s first councilors in 1906.

34. Nelum Kuluna – AC6, Colombo 01

Lotus Tower also referred to as Colombo Lotus Tower is a tower of 356 m (1,168 ft), located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It also reflects the symbolic landmark of Sri Lanka. As of 16 September 2019, the tower is currently the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. It is also the second tallest structure in South Asia after the guy-wire-supported INS Kattabomman in India. The tower is also the 11th tallest completed tower in Asia and it is also the 19th tallest tower in the world.

35. Nelum Pokuna Theater – 110 Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 07

The architecture of the building draws inspiration from the 12th-century Nelum Pokuna (lotus pond) in Polonnaruwa. King Parakramabahu the Great built Polonnaruwa’s Nelum Pokuna, shaping it like a stylized eight-petalled lotus flower. The building spreads over 14,000 square meters of floor area.

The theatre boasts ultra-modern facilities, including an auditorium with 1,288 seats, a library, and training facilities. It features two permanent theatres: the main auditorium and an open-air theatre. Additionally, the front steps can convert into another open-air theatre.

The 690-square-meter moving stage in the auditorium can raise and lower the orchestra pit to and from stage level. The building also provides facilities for conducting educational and research activities. It includes parking for 500 vehicles.

36. BMICH – Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07

The Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), is a convention center located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Built between 1970 and 1973, the convention center was a gift from the People’s Republic of China in memory of Solomon Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, Prime Minister (1956–1959).

The construction of the hall was carried out by a joint Sri Lankan and Chinese workforce with a considerable portion of the building materials being imported from China. In 1998 a small Exhibition Centre, the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre, was built on the grounds as a gift from China. The BMICH premises are managed by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike National Memorial Foundation (BNMF) which is chaired by the President of Sri Lanka.

37. Galle Face Hotel – 3, 2 Galle Rd, Colombo 03

South Asia’s leading Grande Dame, the Galle Face Hotel is a testimony to both Sri Lanka’s colonial past and its independent present. Celebrated within the hospitality world, it blends historical splendor with crafted modernity to form a new model for heritage properties. International guests are immersed in the Galle Face Hotel’s rich traditions and compelling stories, while Colombo society perceives the hotel as the most prestigious, desirable destination in the city for memorable dining and special events. Whether at the hotel for dinner or for a month-long stay, the experience of the Galle Face Hotel is one of timeless grandeur and exceptional hospitality.

38. Mt. Lavinia Hotel – 100 Hotel Rd, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia

With a history spanning over 210 years, Mount Lavinia Hotel Colombo is one of the oldest hotels in Sri Lanka. This premier colonial heritage hotel in Colombo has earned a reputation over the years for its magnificent structure and ambiance, the old world charm which harks back to the grandeur of old Ceylon, a romantic legacy left by the colonial Governor-General who used it as his residence, the exceptional service offered by its well-trained staff and its popularity as a venue for weddings.

39. Jami Ul Alfar Mosque

Construction of the Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque commenced in 1908 and the building was completed in 1909. The mosque was commissioned by the local Indian Muslim community, based in Pettah, to fulfill their required five-times-daily prayer and Jummah on Fridays. The mosque’s designer and builder was Habibu Labbe Saibu Labbe (an unqualified architect) and was based on details/images of Indo-Saracenic structures provided by South Indian traders, who commissioned him. It is a hybrid style of architecture that draws elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture and combines it with the Gothic revival and Neoclassical styles. Originally it had the capacity for 1,500 worshippers although at the time only around 500 were attending prayers.

40. Colombo City Center – 137 Sir James Pieris Mawatha, Colombo 02

Colombo City Centre is at the forefront of the dynamic changes transforming Sri Lanka and its capital into one of the world’s most exciting cities. Conveniently located, Colombo City Centre represents the best of our country with an innovative design inspired by Colombo’s rich cultural heritage and integrated with the style of a progressive Sri Lanka.

41. One Galle Face Mall – 1A, Centre Road, Colombo 02

Columbo’s first prestigious shopping development. A premier retail, entertainment, and dining paradise to unite local and global shoppers. From the outset, the design was planned to offer a fusion of clear sightlines, ease of access, and an environment rendered in high-quality materials. Providing the globe’s best known and best-loved names with optimal display and foot traffic opportunities and ensuring that visitors are engaged and satisfied with an experience unlike anything else in Colombo.

42. Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara – Peliyagoda

A famous Buddhist temple in Kelaniya built alongside the Kelani river, it is one of the oldest temples in Colombo built in 543 BC. Inside you will find great historical monuments and a stupa. The temple thus has a very strong connection with the political powers of the country. 

43. Colombo Port Maritime Museum – 19 Chaithya Rd, Colombo 01

Sri Lanka Ports Authority Maritime Museum commonly known as Colombo Maritime Museum adjoining the Colombo Port and is maintained by the Sri Lanka Port Authority. Inside you will find significant historical items pertaining to the maritime industry and the ocean around Sri Lanka. Sculptures of kings who ruled in Sri Lanka, other model exhibits of ships, artworks, and many more.

44. Shri Ponnambalawaneswaram Kovil – 38 Srimath Ramanathan Mawatha, Colombo 13

This beautiful Hindu Kovil is entirely made out of south granite, full of great architectural ideas. The temple is colorful and the smell of flowers and fragrance will relax your mind. 

45. Crow Island Beach Park

A family-friendly park or a recreational park where you can walk to watch the sunset or to have a close look at the harbor where the ships come in and out. There is a children’s play area, shops, and restaurants as well. There is a timber deck over the sea to enjoy the oceanfront, mangrove, freshwater lake and bicycle tracks, etc. 

46. Laksala – 215 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07

This is the only government-owned handicraft gift and souvenir shop in Sri Lanka, they have branches around the island. This shop offers clothes, Sri Lankan handicraft items, gems, and many more products in one-stop shop for you to remember this amazing island. 

47. National Art Gallery – 106 Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 07

This is the island’s first art gallery, this is located at the Cinnamon Gardens Hotel. There are two sections of painting showcased, one for permanent paintings and the other to show off some of the paintings done by our amazing local artists. 

48. Barefoot – Galle Rd, Colombo 04

Formed by Babara Sansoni who is a textile designer, colorist, and artist in 1964, Barefoot is a textile shop in which it reminds the connection between humans and nature. Barefoot is a retail shop that exports high-quality garments around the world. It is definitely worth visiting their main shop in Colombo named Barefoot Gallery, in which they include a cafe, an art gallery, and also their amazing designs. 

49. Airforce Museum – Ratmalana, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia

A museum which is run by the Sri Lankan air force showcasing some of the historical aircraft, weapons, and vehicles to the public and also for school children. The Airforce Museum is located in Rathmalana.

50. Kopi Kade

Last but not least, how can you ever forget about enjoying a cup of Sri Lankan freshly brewed coffee. Kopi Kade is a small cafe that has been around for a long time. They do offer many other tasty bites to go with your coffee. 

Fun activities to do in Colombo

  • Duck Paddling in Beira Lake
  • Snake Charmer
  • Drink a king coconut
  • Watch someone make kottu, and taste it.
  • Fly a kite at Galle Face
  • Eat Sri Lankan short eats
  • Drink tea or plain tea with ginger
  • Eat rice and curry with your hands
  • Riding a crazy bus
  • Market tour and cooking class
  • Cycling tour at Boralesgamuwa park
  • Get a tattoo to remember Sri Lanka
  • Scuba diving in Sri Lanka
  • Scenic tour of CMB in an airplane
  • Tea and Herb Tasting

1 Comment

  • Posted November 21, 2022 4:19 pm
    by Fazli Sameer

    The street market on Abdul Hameed Street would be useful to include on this site

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