A 48-Hour Guide To The Many Charms Of Colombo, Sri Lanka

A 48-Hour Guide To The Many Charms Of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Despite being a stone’s throw away from our Southern-most tip, Sri Lanka, to most, remains an enigma. But as the balms of time work its magic on a country still recovering from a brutal civil war that only ended in 2009, tourism is at an all-time high again. While some are diving head first to explore this island in its entirety, others are being more thoughtful and cautious. Either way, it’s the capital city of Colombo where most of us begin our Sri Lankan adventures. A lovely city where the past, present, and future of the country converge quite beautifully.

Colombo is full of surprises. A few minutes behind a tuk-tuk might leave you dripping with wisdom or simply chuckling to yourself at the ridiculousness of “Keep calm and be happy with your balls.” A casual stroll on the streets of the city might end in a surprising conversation with a street vendor about the reality of living in a post-war world as he serves you a plate of delicious egg appams. And whether or not you’re a foodie, sooner or later, you’re bound to come across the extravaganza that is “rice and curry” - a typical Sri Lankan dish that is more than just rice and curry. And is actually an entire feast comprising numerous variations of sambols along with some kind of meat or seafood.

Like every other city that has had a distinctly bloody history, Colombo is a melting pot of several histories and cultures. Its skyscrapers stand tall alongside the chaos of some of its decades-old markets and some of its oldest structures like a beautiful old Dutch hospital complex that houses modern-day eateries Ministry Of Crab and more. Moreover, the progress of Colombo (and Sri Lanka as a whole) as a tourist destination that attracts crowds from world over walks hand-in-hand with Sri Lanka’s strong belief in spirituality and religion.

So to experience all this and more, Homegrown brings to you a comprehensive guide to spending 48 hours in Colombo and absorbing everything the city has to offer. From the most popular eateries to the city’s busiest areas, Colombo is a treasure trove of iconic structures, interesting cultures, and timeless history.

Day 1


I. A Pocket-Friendly Breakfast At Hotel New Amrithaa

Where: 256A, Bambalapitiya, Colombo 04.

As you land in Colombo, eagerly waiting to get around to doing all the touristy things, stop by Hotel New Amrithaa for a quick early morning breakfast. Their exquisite range of authentic south Indian dishes are available from 6 am in the morning and everything is served fresh until night-time. It’s not really a fine dining experience but who needs an impeccably sophisticated ambience when you have a large paper Dosai to dig into. From Chilli Paratta to Special Ghee and Kurakkan Dosai, Hotel New Amrithaa is a clean and cozy place. Mostly recommended for takeaway but if you choose to sit comfortably and savour your meal, you won’t be decided.

Cost: LKR450 for two people.


II. Scrumptious Seafood At Ministry of Crab

Where: Old Colombo Dutch Hospital, Fort, Colombo 01.

Don’t doubt us when we declare Ministry Of Crab to be the mecca of seafood in Colombo. From Sri Lanka’s iconic Chilli Crab to other unusual varieties like baked crab, avocado crab salad and more - each dish here comes with a 2-3 line explanation of what goes into its preparation. Their prawns preparation is to die for and the clay pot prawn curry is sure to induce a food coma immediately. Pair these with the soft square pieces of Kade bread - the traditional Sri Lankan wood-fired bread that is glazed in garlic butter. If you’ve never had Japanese sticky rice, make sure to ask for Chicken curry rice which might sound ordinary but is truly a surprising burst of some of the best flavours you’ll ever experience.

Cost: LKR7500 for two people.

III. Local Handicrafts At Barefoot

Where: 704 Galle Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

One of the biggest handicraft stores in Sri Lanka, Barefoot is where tourists in search of souvenirs to take back home should go to. From quirky zippered purses to toys to trendy scarves, there’s something for every kind of shopper. A tad touristy, Barefoot has a reputation for good quality and reasonably priced products made by local artisans. There’s also a cute bookshop for all the nerds out there. Attached to the store is a beauitful garden cafe that offers a wide range of delicacies to munch on; their Jazz Sundays are the best!

Market in Colombo. Image credit: Hungry Travel Duo


IV. Visit Renowned Architect Geoffrey Bawa’s Colombo Residence

Where: Colombo 3, 11 33rd Ln, Colombo 00300, Sri Lanka.

As someone who has influenced generations of architects in Sri Lanka, Geoffrey Bawa left an indelible mark on the history of Asian architects in the world. His legacy continues to exist in innumerable structures he constructed across Sri Lanka, especially in Colombo. From the Seema Malaka temple, a meditation centre, to the remote Strathspey Tea Estate Bungalow at the foot of Adam’s Peak, Geoffrey Bawa’s works are stellar examples of ‘Tropical Modernism’. In fact, his residence in Colombo is now open for public viewing. However, you need to make an appointment in advance and pay a fee of INR 1,000 in person.

You can find more information here.

Geoffrey Bawa’s Colombo Residence. Image credit: Knoll.com


V. Japanese Dinner at Nihonbashi

Where: 11, Galle Face Terrace, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03.

One of the better-known gems of Colombo, Nihonbashi is run by a celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa and his team of incredibly warm and friendly staff. Bringing authentic Japanese flavours to Japan, Nihonbashi’s interiors, with its low lying tables and no-footwear policy, transport you to an eatery in Japan almost instantly. In Colombo though it’s tucked in a quiet little alley, to ensure solitude as you savour your meal. Not only are the sushi and sashimi platters bursting with authenticity, but they’re also presented well. The juice is prepared fresh, and the beverages are totally worth the money. Don’t forget to try their salmon ochazuke - a rice dish preparation on which tea is poured. And of course, there’s ramen for when you want comfort and are shying away from experimenting.

Cost: LKR4000 for two people.

VI. A Stroll In Colombo Fort

After having filled yourself with authentic Japanese cuisine, we’re guessing you’ll need to walk around a little just to get that whole digestive process started. Besides, who doesn’t love exploring a strange place on foot? A walk down the Fort area in Colombo is filled with stunning colonial architecture, unexpected conversations with the locals, and an array of street foot. Sri Lanka’s culturally rich history comes alive here at the tall skyscrapers stand on contrast to the old buildings. A converging point for Colombo’s indelible past and contemporary developments, you can spend hours just wandering around (if you have the time and patience) and taking it all in. If you spot a cart selling street snacks, do cave in and get yourself some egg appams, maalu paan, and fish bun.

Colombo Fort. Image credit: SriLankaFinder.com

Day 2


VII. Sri Lanka Planetarium

Where: Prof Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, Colombo 00700.

One of the few places in Colombo that have remained constant since 1965, the Sri Lanka Planterium in Colombo is a 100 feet tall structure that is made of 32 lotus petal-shaped pillars. The building is wonder to look at from outside and even more invigorating experience from the inside. Tickets are extremely economical and shows open twice a day at 10 am and 2 pm. A very out of the world experience (we mean it!), this Planetarium is located within the premises of University of Colombo. However it can be accessed directly from its gate located at the back-entrance of Independence Square as well.


VIII. Prawns And More At Isso

Where: 2, Sulaiman Terrace, Off Jawatta Road, Havelock Town, Colombo 05

Prawns take centre stage on Isso’s extravagant menu. Using only the best quality ingredients that are sourced ethically and locally, the Asian fare at Isso is your one-stop experience to relish local Sri Lankan flavours. From mouthwatering starters like Isso toast and Tempura Isso to an even more exciting main course in the form of lobster biryani and Lobster mac and cheese, Isso’s is for anyone looking to surrender themselves to pure culinary joy. They also serve a range of soups and other non-alcoholic beverages. Don’t forget to try their spicy signature dishes - ‘Eastern Spice’ and ‘Northern Twist’ - both of which are not more the faint-hearted at all. And if the menu fails to impress you, pick an Isso combo, that is served with a complimentary salad. You can also customise it by picking your own size of prawn, style of cooking, and the choice of sinful carb.


IX. Kollupitiya Market

You haven’t lived like a local unless you’ve voluntarily visited and witnessed the madness of a Sri Lankan market. Once upon a time, Kollupitiya Market was the only place where one could do their grocery shopping. Today it has evolved into something much more fascinating. From vegetables and fish to Chinese grocery stores to vendors selling imported products all the way from Italy, Australia and UAE, there’s nothing you won’t get here. We’d recommend being armed with your haggling skills and a comfortable clothing.


Where: Cinnamon Grand, 77, Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03.

There’s no place like The Lagoon to dive into the melting pot of cultures and history that is the Sri Lankan cuisine. Sitting by the glass windows that open up to the stillness of a pond, eating at Lagoon is a one-of-a-kind fine dining experience - something you’ll cherish forever. Whether it’s the a simple fish-based thai red curry or chilli garlic prawns with fried rice, Sri Lankan cuisine’s obsession with spices is evident in the flavours that will leave your mouth rejoicing with happiness. Moreover, they also have an amazing selection of seafood and you can select whatever you want from the display, choose precisely how you want it to be cooked and then eat your heart out.

Cost: LKR3500 for two people.

XI. Shopping At Paradise Road

Where: 213, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

There’s nothing like a personal shopping spree to end your trip on a gleeful note. For locally produced home decor, handicrafts, crockery and more, Paradise road is the place to go. Housed in a quaint mansion on Dharmapala Mawatha, Paradise Road is frequented by both travellers and locals, each looking out for top-notch products. It’s also a great place to pick up interesting gifts along the way.

Paradise Road. Image credit: Time Out

Where To Stay

XII. Moss Hotel

Where: 160/2 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 00400, Sri Lanka.

Located at a short distance from most of the prominent eateries and other spots in Colombo, Moss is a beautiful bed-and-breakfast in the heart of the city yet tucked away in a quiet alley. Their breakfast spread is delicious - an array of dishes including omelette, toast, pancakes, fruit, tea, and coffee - and perfect to kickstart a day of wandering around in Colombo. The staff is extremely polite, helpful to tourists, and will gladly help you figure out your daily schedule by recommending places. They even have a map of the entire area marked with all the nice restaurants and other places. Parking however is an issue and the entire place has only 5 rooms so make sure to book a room in advance.

For more information, click here.

Where: 646 Galle Road, Colombo 00300, Sri Lanka.

A cute and cozy hostel in Colombo, Drift is the perfect place if you’re the kind who loves making friends on your solo trips. You can choose to stay either in a double bedroom or mixed/girls only dormitories. Drift is very centrally located, with shops like Paradise Road and Barefoot at a walking distance from the hostel. They also provide airport pick-ups and drops. Expect WiFi, extra long mattresses, cable TV, a scrumptious breakfast and free coffee/tea/water available all day!

For more information, click here.

Feature image credit: cntraveller.com

If you enjoyed this article, we suggest you read:

Related Stories

No stories found.