Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, has a long history as an important port on the old east-west trade routes and has been variously ruled by the Portuguese, British and Dutch. That heritage is shown in its architecture and unique culture. The city is growing fast and transforming into a regional business centre, filled with exciting things to do and see.
We spend 3 nights at the Shangri-La, Colombo, a 5-star hotel located in the heart of the city, between the Galle Face Green promenade and Beira Lake. The hotel was opened just 4 months before our visit and we had the chance to stay in one of its beautiful suites, overlooking the Indian Ocean. The property has 500 rooms, spa, 24-hour gym, outdoor pool, conference/event spaces, and several restaurants and bar.
During our stay, we enjoyed some of the native-inspired cuisine and beverages created by the Celebrity Chef, Dharshan Munidasa at Kaema Sutra Restaurant and also the famous duck at the authentic Chinese restaurant Shang Palace.
Colombo is definitely a city you should add in your travel itinerary to Sri Lanka.
THIS IS OUR LIST OF TOP THINGS TO DO IN COLOMBO:
1. TAKE A TUK-TUK!
It is pretty tiring walking around Colombo as the temperatures are all year long above 30 degrees. That’s why it is better to take a Tuk-Tuk! They are everywhere and it is very affordable as they are the main transportation for both locals and tourists in Colombo. We did the Tuk-tuk Safari tour with a local guide called “Bob Marley” and it was one of the coolest experiences we had in entire Sri Lanka.
2. VISIT THE TEMPLE OF SRI KAILAWASANATHAN SWAMI DEVASTHANAM KOVIL
This really impressive, inspired by the South-Indian architecture temple, is the oldest Hindu Temple in Colombo. It’s decorated with beautiful bright paintings and many different statues of Hindu gods with the main god – Easwaran (Shiva) and Ganesh. We were pretty lucky to visit it during the ceremony where we could see the praying ritual and making offerings.
- Address: 11/15, Captain’s Garden Kovil Street, Colombo 10
- How to get there: Take a tuk-tuk
- Opening hours: 06:00 – 10:30 and 16:30 – 18:00
- Entrance is free, but if you want to take photos you have to pay a little fee
- Dress respectfully. If you are not prepared there is a place to rent a sarong
3. VISIT THE GANGARAMAYA TEMPLE
This is one of the most important temples in Colombo, and it consists of several buildings. It is a place of Buddhist worship and a centre of learning. The temple’s architecture is a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese and is filled with a large number of things. Some of which are really unusual and a little scary. It includes, for example, a giant elephant, Buddhist statues positioned around a central atrium and sacred Bo tree, while the larger temple is a prayer and meditation sanctuary as well as a museum of religious statues, cars, antiques and jewels from around the world.
- Address: 61 Sri Jinarathana Rd, Colombo 2
- How to get there: Take a tuk-tuk
- Opening hours: 05:30 – 22:00
- Ticket price (donation): Rs100
4. SPEND AN EVENING AT GALLE FACE GREEN
It is a great place for a seafront-stroll and a sunset watching, especially on the weekend evenings. Galle Face Green is a large open park and promenade, created by the British in 1859. It covers 13 acres between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean and it gets packed with local families, street food vendors and groups of kids flying kites. This was one of our favourite things to do in Colombo.
5. PASS BY THE STREETS OF PETTAH
Pettah neighbourhood is one of the oldest shopping districts of Colombo and walking around in this area is an adventure. We decided to visit it from tuk-tuk and it was a great choice. The streets are full of sound, smells, and people. We were passing hundreds of shops, stalls, markets and religious buildings like Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque (Red Mosque) and churches in between. This is the best places to visit in Colombo if you want to do some shopping.
6. LOCAL MARKET
One of our biggest joys of travelling is visiting the local markets. We believe that they hold the secrets of the culture. We are not sure where exactly was located this one, but it was something beautiful. The halls full of colours and friendly, smiling vendors.
Colombo is the gateway city to discovering the rich culture, wildlife, mountains and beaches that make Sri Lanka so unique. Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo was the perfect start for our first time in this beautiful country. Thank you for having us!