Bambalapitiya, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Holiday: Colombo

Part of the travelling around Sri Lanka series by Jessica E.

When I first arrived in Colombo I was on my way to Kandy for the next part of my Sri Lanka holiday and I only planned to stay in the city one or two nights as I had thought it was more of a gateway city, even though it is the largest city in Sri Lanka. After driving through the capital city on the way out of the airport I already knew I may want to stay longer than I initially planned, even if it meant making sacrifices with other parts of my Sri Lanka tour. The drive was filled with lively street scenes, beautiful temples, and historic buildings. I could not wait to go and explore the colonial city but it was dusk by the time I arrived at my hotel so I decided to settle in for the evening and find out more about the things to do in Colombo to plan for the days ahead.

Paradise Road Tintagel Hotel, Colombo

I stayed at the Paradise Road Tintagel Hotel in Colombo’s Paradise Road neighbourhood. My suite was one of their royal suites with beautiful finishings and a big four-poster bed. I always try to book rooms with luxurious bathrooms and this one had a big spa tub. After unpacking my things I took a tour of the hotel and was glad to see a nice gym, pool, and spa. What really stood out was the Tintagel’s library. They had an entire colonial-style library full of leather bound books. The hotel was so charming and so was the neighborhood. When I stepped outside onto Paradise Road I was met with dozens of lovely boutique shops, art galleries, and cafes.

Sightseeing in Colombo, Sri Lanka

In the morning I set out to see the top Colombo sight on my list: The Gangarama Vihara Temple. The Buddhist temple was an interesting mix of Thai, Indian, Chinese and Sri Lankan architecture. I spent at least an hour marvelling at the stone carvings and brass work. It was so quiet and peaceful even though there were lots of people there. People had been told to whisper. I would recommend going first thing in the morning like I did before it gets too busy.Buddha Statues, Colombo


After leaving the temple I was once again greeted by the bustling activity of the streets of Colombo. I knew where I wanted to go next but was not sure how to get there. The road was full of trishaws queued to pick up tourists. I decided to hop in a red one. The driver spoke broken English but was familiar with the main attractions and hurried off to the Dehiwala Zoological Garden. I have to admit it was one of the scariest and exhilarating rides of my life being inside a Trishaw weaving through Colombo’s dense traffic.


The Dehiwala Zoological Garden was much larger than I had thought, spanning thirty acres and I easily managed to spend the entire afternoon there.


After walking around the temple grounds and the zoological garden I grabbed some traditional Sri Lankan Kothu Rotti from a small restaurant and let my feet rest. As much as I wanted to go back to the hotel and sink into the sumptuous linens it was a Saturday night in Colombo and I wanted to check out the nightlife. I went back to the Tintagel to shower and got ready for the evening.


Fortunately a friend that I had gone to school with was in the city as well and I was able to meet her at the W Lounge for drinks and a catch up. We had not seen each other in years so we spent the evening chatting before heading to a rooftop bar for an amazing view of Colombo and some dancing.


The next day I slept in a bit before heading to the famous Lavinia Beach for a more relaxing day. I had seen pictures of the golden sands of Lavinia Beach before and was happy to see that it looked just as stunning in person. Spending the day lounging on the beach and people watching was just what the doctor ordered after spending the previous day on my feet and dancing. The beachfront is dotted with amazing seafood restaurants where I enjoyed one of the best meals I have had in Sri Lanka to date.  After the sunset, I went back to the Tintagel for a relaxing evening and massage at the hotel’s spa.


On my last full day in Sri Lanka, I decided to look deeper into Colombo’s history. I took a heritage tour in the morning that took me past colonial architecture, the last Sri Lankan King’s prison cell, Slave Island area, a war memorial and countless other spots. After the tour wrapped up I went to the National Museum of Colombo and spent the afternoon learning about the ancient world of Sri Lanka. As the largest museum in Sri Lanka, it was no surprise that the museum took up the rest of my day.


On my last day in Colombo, I checked out of the Paradise Road Tintagel and thanked them for letting me keep the same room for one additional night (I ended up staying longer than planned as there was so many more things to do in Colombo than I anticipated). Then I walked around the beautiful Viharamahadevi Park and took in the flowering trees. While the garden had originally been called Victoria Park and done in a colonial style there were a few things that were distinctly Sri Lankan.


In the afternoon it was time to head to Kandy for the next part of my Sri Lanka tour. While I still felt I had not allowed myself enough time in Colombo I was reminded that you can’t see everything in just one trip. I vowed that if I ever came back to Sri Lanka for a second holiday I would spend more time in this city. Colombo has such a rich and varied history and it would take me weeks to go through all of its layers.


For more information on Sri Lanka holidays have a look at our comprehensive Sri Lanka Travel Guide.