If you’re planning a short stay in Colombo, chances are you’ll want to head out into the city and get fully stuck into some sightseeing. And I’m going to tell you about the 9 BEST things to do in Colombo. Beyond the hipster hangouts that you’ll obviously want to visit because they’re just really… well… cool, you’ll probably want to soak up some of the cultural stuff too.
When it comes to exploring Colombo, we had no idea where to start, which is why I decided to write this post for you detailing some of the coolest things to do in the city. I’ve covered 9 awesome things to do in Colombo including a useful map to help inspire your adventures and find your bearings as you set out to explore Sri Lanka’s capital city.
#1 Red Mosque
This has to be my FAVOURITE place in Colombo, so I’m diving headfirst into the highlight! The architecture, colours and patterns are mind blowing. If you love photography or anything remotely artsy, you’ll love this place. Its also a great place to soak up the local atmosphere. The worshipers and workers at the Red Mosque are all so friendly and welcoming. Boys, you’ll need to wear a sarong if you enter (which they have there). Girls, be sure to cover legs and shoulders.
#2 Sri Kathiresan Temple
Another spot to head to if you love the cultural stuff and taking beautiful photos; Sri Kathiresan Temple is a Hindu temple featuring an impressively photogenic kovil style architecture. If you’re headed to Jaffna, you’ll see a lot of these impressive temples there! If not, definitely check out this one in Colombo.
#3 Sri Lanka planetarium
If you like stars…! Not only does the building look like it’s straight out of a Stanley Kubrick film, but it houses some incredible films of the night sky. It is recommended to book before your visit to avoid disappointment, but if you just dig the architecture you can go along and check it out from the outside too.
#4 National Art Gallery & Art street
Gaze at all the beautiful paintings both inside the gallery and on the street that runs along the road outside it. Maybe even buy a painting you fall in love with (chances are you will fall for at least one!).
#5 Gangaramaya Park & Temple
Gangaramaya Park makes for a peaceful getaway in the city hustle, but there are also swan boat rentals. Hold the phone, jump in a swan and experience a unique side of exploring Colombo. Then hop out and across the road to gaze in awe at the big buddha statues in the temple – along with all the trinkets and treasures you can imagine.
#6 Go shopping
At Odell Mall, the Old Dutch Hospital or Arcade Independence Mall you’ll find the most modern shops in the city – including Mango & Zara ladies! So if you want to splash out a little or treat yourself to a new travel tee, because the current one has really held itself well for the last 6 months on the road, then these are the spots to head to.
#7 Watch a Film at Empire Cinema
In Arcade Independence Mall. Comfy seats, laidback feels. If you’re looking for a little bit of normality among the city hustle, go for some QT and popcorn munching here. If you’ve been travelling for a while like we have, you’ll love this little slice of homely paradise! We forgot how much fun going to the cinema is!
#8 Upali’s Restaurant
Eat with the locals at this Sri Lankan restaurant in the heart of Colombo. Great for date night if you’re travelling as a couple or meeting up with your travel besties; try the Pittu and string hoppers. You’ll need to order a curry with both of those FYI.
#9 Wander the streets of Pettah
A real sensory overload kind of experience, Pettah is one of the best things to do in Colombo. Wander the market-stall lines streets, maybe even try your hand at some bartering; whatever you might need, Pettah will have it. Enjoy the sweet and savoury, the loud chants of stall sellers and city smells.
Find your bearings
Here is a useful map to help you find all the above locations!
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