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48 Hours in Colombo

It’s tough to keep up with all the development and changes within the city of Colombo. However, spending some time in the capital of our island comes with its fair share of exploration and excitement in a multitude of aspects including culture, food and its people. Here’s how you could spend your 48 hours in our hometown. 

 

Day One

The mornings can be quiet, and seriously quite peaceful. If you’re an early riser, we’d recommend taking a walk up to Galle Face Green, allowing you to intake some fresh ocean air. The land was used for horse racing and even as a golf course in its heyday but is the home of small vendors and used for flying kites. Walk aside, how about some grounding and deep stretches to awaken the muscles mindfully? Yoga at the Prana Lounge or the OM Space is a holistic approach to beginning your day on the right note. 

Breakfast is a key part of setting you up for the day so after an hour of yoga or a blissful explorative walk, hit up the Seed Cafe for a scrumptious yet healthy fare of food. If you’re looking for something local, Upali’s isn’t too far to try. Their breakfast combo includes a hearty selection of stringhoppers, hoppers, milk rice, pol roti, pittu or roast bread with a choice of curries and side dish. 

Tuk-tuks are a great way to explore the city but you’ll notice plenty by walking as well. The second-hand bookstores along McCallum road provide stacks upon stacks of books that have either been donated or bought. If you’ve got the time, spend a good hour browsing the endless choices ranging from old classics to the latest in popular fiction. If architecture captures your interest, book yourself for a tour of Geoffrey Bawa’s No. 11 house in Colombo 3. Housing art and artefacts collected by none other than Bawa himself, the tour is quite the quintessential experience. 

Exploring our city can cook up a mean appetite and if the hunger pangs call, take a short tuk-tuk ride to the Barefoot Garden Cafe. A quiet getaway carefully tucked amidst the hustle and bustle that is Colombo, you could spend a few hours catching up some reading, exploring the oldest contemporary art gallery adjoining the space, sip into a cool glass of wine accompanied by their legendary black pork curry at lunchtime. A live jazz band performs on Sundays.

Ayurvedic therapeutic massages and treatments can tap into the root of your wellbeing. The Spa Ceylon Ayurveda Spas include over 20 healing therapies and rituals that soothe and rejuvenate mind, body and soul. We’d highly recommend their Ultimate Foot Ritual which also targets the head, neck and shoulders as well. Too good to be true! If this is your first visit to our city, you shouldn’t miss a sunset so make your way to The Terrace at Galle Face Hotel to enjoy a cocktail or two of your choice, some food to nibble on and catch sight of the beautiful dusky skies. It sure is a wondrous sight. Other great spots with a great view of the sunset include Ward 7 the rooftop restobar at Jetwing Colombo Seven and Botanik at Fairway Colombo. 

Both serve an eclectic fare of food and drink; however we would also recommend you hit up the Ministry of Crab to end the day on a fantastic note by trying out jumbo sized succulent crabs and prawns in mouthwatering local flavours. Digging in with your hands is NOT frowned upon! 

 

Day Two

As you may have already experienced, the mornings are the most peaceful and on your second day in our city, take a quiet walk along Independence Square or the Diyatha Uyana walkway. On a typical weekend, the latter would be teeming with local plant vendors but a weekday would ensure some solitude and scenic lake views. 

The Seed Cafe’s sister cafe The Grind as well as Black Cat Cafe and Stay serve a mean cup of coffee alongside some great open toast brekky options but we’d also recommend you try out Cafe Kumbuk if you’ve got the time. 

Interested in a bit of culture? Book a spot with Colombo City Walks that takes you through the city’s commercial heritage in terms of reflecting on the times and the ways of the Portuguese, Dutch and English. The walk is hosted by Mark Forbes, a travel-photographer and former safari ranger, now turned historian. For a quick refreshment, step into t-Lounge by Dilmah on Chatham Street – perhaps you could also be coaxed into trying one of their tea inspired cakes! They don’t disappoint. 

For an unpretentious journey into authentic northern Sri Lankan cuisine the Palmyrah Restaurant certainly packs in a punch. Alternatively the Gallery Café within the old heritage property of which was once the offices of the late (and great) architect Geoffrey Bawa is also a great choice. It has been revived via a carefully curated design aesthetic where rustic meets the tropical modernism vibe that Bawa was famous for. Expect ambient lighting, Buddha Bar beats and an eclectic menu. The margaritas are pretty good! 

Art lovers can visit the Sapumal Foundation on Barnes Place, or venture into the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery to explore current exhibitions. A cultural and religiously inclined visit to the Gangaramaya Monastery is also a possibility. As day turns to dusk, you could head to The Grove to unwind with your own bottle of wine or pack of beer and indulge in some delicious smoked meats or pizza, or Park Street Mews. Relaxed ambience aside, both spaces offer a great variety of food by home-grown businesses. 

If the night is still young, pop by Ask for Fern for some chilled beats and drinks, or call it a night if you’ve got to head out of the city by morning. 

 

Here is a list of some of our top picks categorised further:

 

What to Do and See

  • Tuk Tuk Safari
  • The National Museum
  • Colombo Port Maritime Museum
  • Independence Memorial Museum
  • Economic History Museum
  • Old Parliament Building
  • Pettah Market
  • Royal Colombo Golf Club
  • St. Lucia’s Cathedral
  • Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
  • St. Anthony’s Church
  • Sambodhi Chaithya
  • Ape Gama
  • The Red Mosque, Pettah
  • Kathiresan Kovil, Pettah
  • Wolvendaal Church, Colombo 3
  • ViharamahaDevi Park
  • Diyatha Uyana

 

Where to Shop

  • Barefoot
  • The Good Market Shop
  • The Design Collective
  • PR
  • Paradise Road
  • The Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct
  • Odel
  • Selyn
  • Tropic of Linen

 

Where to Dine

  • Kiku
  • Kopi Kade
  • King of the Mambo
  • Curry Leaf
  • Raja Bojun
  • Culture Colombo
  • Kaema Sutra
  • Dutch Burgher Union
  • Whight & Co.
  • Carnival
  • Isle of Gelato

 

Where to Stay

  • Tintagel
  • 55TG Suites
  • Maniumpathy
  • Havelock Place Bungalow
  • Prana Home
  • Nivasa

 

Images courtesy Unsplash 

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