Most travellers to Sri Lanka tend to overlook the capital city of Colombo, eager as they are to discover the island’s treasures, such as its stunning nature and spectacular beaches. Who can blame them? Yet Colombo is really worth spending some time at. This is why we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in 2 days in Colombo so as to inspire you to sit back and experience the ambience of this vibrant city before starting your magical journey across the rest of the country.
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Why stay 2 days in Colombo
First, we believe that one hasn’t seen a country unless they’ve spent some time in its capital city. Sure, there may be more attractive places in a destination than a noisy city made of concrete but a glimpse at the surroundings and way of life of people living where the country’s heart beats is priceless. Secondly, Colombo is a rather compact thus easy city to explore. Spending a couple of days discovering Colombo at a leisurely pace is the best way to recover from jet-lags, get used to the new weather conditions (super hot and humid), decompress and relax before embarking on a journey around the rest of the country. Last but not least, Colombo is an excellent introduction to the magic that is Sri Lanka. Although modern, the city also has its traditional side and is a unique blend of cultures. As for its people, they are pure gold.
Where to stay in Colombo
During our 2-day trip to Colombo, we stayed at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel and experienced what we’d call affordable luxury at its best. Rooms were super comfortable while breakfast and dinner buffets had great variety of tastes to choose from. What we loved the most about our stay at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel though was the huge swimming pool. Nothing beats an evening swim in the pool’s warm embrace after a long day sightseeing. Views to the quaint Beira Lake and Colombo’s impressive skyline were also among our favourite things about this stay.
Mövenpick Hotel Colombo
If you feel like splurging on a lavish room in Colombo, then Mövenpick Hotel is the best option. Featuring the highest rooftop bar in the city, a gorgeous infinity pool with views to the Indian Ocean, many restaurants, one of the best spas in the country and floor to ceiling glass windows in all of its rooms, Mövenpick Hotel Colombo offers luxury accommodation right in the heart of vibrant Colombo.
Things to do in Colombo in 2 days
1. Pettah Market
Pettah is one of Colombo’s oldest districts. It is home to a series of vibrant open-air markets which fill the air with exciting sounds and smells of the East. Wandering around the busy streets of Pettah district was literally the first thing we did after landing in Colombo and we must say that it was a fascinating experience for us. It was Asia the way we had dreamt of it. The Khan Clock Tower, one of Colombo’s most popular landmarks, marks the entrance to the market area.
2. Jami Ul-Alfar or Red Mosque
If you wander around the streets of Pettah Market, you will inevitably stumble upon the impressive Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque. Also known as Red Mosque, Jami Ul-Alfar is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo. It is also one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Built between 1908 and 1909, the Red Mosque has a unique architectural style and colour scheme. Next time we’re in Colombo, we hope we’ll have the chance to see the interior of the mosque as well.
3. Open top double decker bus tour
The most fun way to get to know with the city of Colombo is by joining a sightseeing tour on an old-fashioned open top double decker bus. Colombo City Tour operate 2,5h – 3,5h tours of the city, during which happy passengers marvel at Colombo’s iconic landmarks in the most comfortable and fun way. Some of these include the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, Colombo Town Hall, Dewatagaha Mosque and the Replica of Aukara Buddha Statue. All along the ride, you get to experience the busy city life and admire exquisite examples of colonial architecture such as the Old Parliament Building.
4. Independence Memorial Hall
The Independence Memorial Hall is a magnificent monument built to commemorate the independence of Sri Lanka from the British which took place on February 04, 1948. The memorial is situated at the lovely Cinnamon Gardens neighbourhood. More of a casual hang-out than a museum, the monument itself and the fresh lawn area surrounding it is an ideal place to catch one’s breath after a stroll under the scorching sun.
5. Beira Lake
Built by the Portuguese as a means to protect the city from invasions of local kings, Beira Lake offers opportunities for pleasant lakeside strolls in the heart of Colombo.
6. Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Colombo. Situated right next to the tranquil waters of Beira Lake, Gangaramaya Temple is a complex of various imposing buildings. Among them, there is a museum with a nice collection of Buddhism related items on display. We were lucky enough to visit the temple while musicians in the traditional Kandyan attire performed a kind of ritual which involved drums playing as locals knelt before Buddha statues for their evening pray.
7. Royal Colombo Golf Club
If you feel like practising your golf skills, Colombo is home to the second oldest golf club outside the UK. The Royal Colombo Golf Club is a place packed with history and the only golf course in the city. If, on the other hand, you’re not keen on playing golf, the Clubhouse is a fantastic place to have a meal or drink before you go on a stroll around the golf course and the scenic railway tracks that run through it. However, keep in mind that this is a members only club. Therefore, if you’re not there to actually play golf, then you’ll have to be in the company of a Club’s member in order to be allowed entry to the Royal Colombo Golf Club.
8. Galle Face Green
Galle Face Green is a spectacular urban park which stretches along the coast of the Indian Ocean. The largest open space in the city of Colombo, Galle Face Green is ideal for a stroll, a picnic or just about any pastime that you’d like to enjoy while listening to the crashing waves and gazing at the vastness of the Indian Ocean. The area is particularly popular at weekends when locals flock to Galle Face Green so as to spend time relaxing by the sea.
9. Lotus Tower
The lotus flower is one of Sri Lanka’s symbols. This is why the impresssive 356m tall construction, which aspires to become the country’s most iconic landmark, has the shape of a lotus flower. The tower opened its gates to the public on September 16, 2019 as the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. The Lotus Tower is a paradise of recreation for locals and visitors alike. It is home to quite a few restaurants, food courts, museums, ballrooms and hotels.
10. Old Colombo Dutch Hospital
The Old Dutch Hospital, as its name suggests, is one of Colombo’s oldest buildings. It is believed that it has been around since 1681. A prime example of 17th century Dutch colonial architecture, the Dutch Hospital was designed to keep heat and humidity outside of its walls. Nowadays, the Old Colombo Dutch Hospital houses a popular shopping and dining area.
11. Viharamahadevi Park
Viharamahadevi is the oldest and, actually, the only park in Colombo. Formerly known as Victoria Park, it is home to a large Buddha statue and it is a wonderful place to have a refreshing stroll. You can’t miss it as it is right across the street from the gorgeous colonial-era building of Colombo Town Hall.
12. National Museum
The National Museum of Colombo is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. It was established on January 01, 1877 and has a valuable collection of items related to the country’s past on display. Plan your visit here.
13. Fort Railway Station
During your trip to Sri Lanka, you should plan a train journey at some point. This is because the country boasts some of the world’s most spectacular scenic routes. Even if you don’t plan a train trip, you should at least pay a visit to the old Fort Railway Station in Colombo. Situated right in the heart of the city, the old train station is a travel back in time for so many reasons. The 1908 building is beautiful in its own right but what got us completely under its spell was standing on the footbridge inside the station and watching, as if in a dream, the old-fashioned trains come and go.
Are you aware of any other fun things to do in Colombo? Do let us know in the comments because we plan to be back to the Sri Lankan capital soon!
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Disclosure: We travelled to Sri Lanka on a press trip organised by Sri Lanka Tourism. That said, we always share our very own and personal opinions about places we visit and services we try. Under no circumstances would we ever recommend anything we didn’t actually enjoy ourselves.