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Not so long ago, visitors to Sri Lanka would bypass the capital city and make a beeline for the scenic highlands, palm-fringed beaches and wildlife-rich parks. Today, it’s a different story. Since the civil conflicts ended in 2009, Colombo has grown into a dynamic urban hub with an ever-growing skyline of sleek developments, a thriving food scene and lively nightlife. But that’s not to say the city has lost its soul. Look past the high-rise offices and traffic-heavy roads and you’ll discover historic and cultural treasures at every turn. Think colonial-era architecture, atmospheric temples and bustling market stalls piled high with fresh fruits, delicate silks and colourful spices. This is a city full of surprises.
For an insight into Colombo’s rich heritage, head to Fort. The city’s historic core is home to colonial relics such as the palatial president’s house, clock tower and one of the city’s oldest buildings, the Dutch Hospital, which has been repurposed into a hub of fashionable restaurants, bars and shops. Hop in a tuk tuk and head to Pettah, where you can easily spend a few hours getting lost in the maze of narrow streets lined with Hindu temples, colourful mosques and bustling markets.
Elsewhere in the city, there are museums, galleries and the sprawling Viharamahadevi Park which can be explored on foot - not forgetting the city’s main meeting space, Galle Face Green. This popular promenade is the ideal spot for a leisurely stroll with its ocean views and food stalls selling everything from spicy samosas to freshly-caught crustaceans.
So if you’re thinking about skipping Colombo and heading straight for the island’s main tourist sights, we’ve got one word of advice: don’t. The unique fusion of old and new makes Sri Lanka’s capital a must-see destination.
If the history and culture of Colombo sounds appealing, start with our Classic base itinerary and click the Heritage button to spend some time here exploring the city. Alternatively, many of our routes include an overnight stop with some free time in Colombo before flying home. You can add a whole host of other exciting destinations to create the perfect trip. Head over to our itinerary builder to get started.
A Colombo tour is the best way to cover the main attractions and landmarks such as The National Museum of Colombo, The Lady Ward Clock Tower, Fort Railway Station and the Grand Red Mosque, to name just a few.
Want to tailor your holiday around your own interests? Simply add an experience pack to your trip. Have a look at our Itinerary Builder to see what else you could be doing!
Need to escape the chaos of Colombo for a while? Look no further than Galle Face Green. A long ribbon of parkland stretching 500 metres along the coastline, this is where city dwellers and weary travellers come to take a much-needed breather from the hustle and bustle. Though the city’s incessant buzz is never far away, the sprawling lawns, sandy stretches and ocean breeze offer a refreshing respite from the busy, sun-baked streets.Discover more
Just steps from the National Museum of Colombo and the city library, Viharamahadevi Park is ideally placed for taking a much-needed rest in between sightseeing. If you’re looking to take a refreshing break from the bustling city centre, there’s no better place than Viharamahadevi Park. Grab a cool drink, take a seat beneath the trees and watch the world go by.Discover more
If there’s one building that dominates the ever-changing skyline of Colombo, it’s the Lotus Tower. Standing at 350 metres, it’s the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia and the city’s single most spectacular sight - you’d struggle to miss it even on an overcast day. A journey to the top isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the spectacular panoramic views make it more than worthwhile.Discover more
For the chance to brush up on your history of Sri Lanka - and see some weird and wonderful sights - a trip to the National Museum of Colombo is a must. Manicured lawns dotted with huge banyan trees and the Italian-inspired facade makes this one of the country's most visually appealing cultural hubs, while inside all manner of ancient antiques, art and artefacts are waiting to be discovered.Discover more
With its colonial history, flourishing food and arts scene, plus many more exciting attractions, it’s easy to understand why Colombo is emerging as one of South Asia’s most sought-after destinations. Check out our blogs for more inspiration and insider tips to make the most of your time in this cosmopolitan coastal city.
We’ve handpicked Sri Lanka’s highlights – all of its must-see destinations – and curated a customisable base itinerary accordingly.
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