Colombo – The Vibrant, Bustling Sri Lankan Capital: Best Bits

by Gavin Darvell

Colombo, vibrant, colourful, and full of life. It’s what you want from a capital city. After all, it’s the beating heart of the country, and for many, the first glimpse after touching down.

Colombo remains that way for many, as a glimpse, often overlooked as the new arrivals leave the city sprawl behind and head for the palm trees and sandy beaches. You can understand why when the beauty of the coastal region is calling. However, before settling down with your cocktail in hand. Give Colombo your time and energy. You’ll discover that this city, once named the Garden city of the East, has plenty to offer.

This is a city that has many influences still visible today. The Portuguese visited, as did the Dutch and the British. Leaving their architectural legacy, that mixes with the local cultures and religions.

Let’s hop on a Tuk Tuk and get exploring.

The Jami Ul-Afar Mosque in Colombo

The top places to visit

Hold on tight, our Tuk Tuk is weaving through the traffic to get us to the attractions. The Sri Lankan capital has several places worth visiting, including:

Gangaramaya Temple

Jami Ul-Afar Mosque

Slave Island

National Museum of Colombo

House of Fashions

The Gangaramaya Temple has a library, museum and is run by the monks, Galboda Gnanissara Thera. There’s lots to see in the bustling complex. Not to be outdone is Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque. It’s a bit of a showstopper, look out for the red and white striped brickwork. On Slave Island, you’ll find a large lake and a lovely area for a stroll. It’s in South of Fort (the central area of Colombo).

Make sure the Tuk Tuk stops at the National Museum. This is your chance to get your Sri Lankan history up to scratch! You can’t miss the building, it’s in the Baroque style. Finally, House of Fashions is a shopping mall! But from its humble beginnings, it is the go to place for all your needs. Shopping wise that is.

The Dutch Influence

Dotted around the city, you’ll find several places that will highlight the Dutch influences on the city. There’s the Dutch Period Museum and the Dutch Hospital. The museum was once the residence of the Dutch governor (from the 17th century) and the hospital is now a place of trendy shops and cafes. Most important of all is Wolvendaal Church, a place steeped in history and worth a look.

The Wolvendaal Church in Colombo

Tuk in time!

I should mention the food in Colombo. It’s time to tuk in! and try the street food! Sorry, had to put it in somewhere! Hoppers, Wadai and kothu are popular choices. You’ll find there are plenty of busy markets to explore as well, offering rich aromas and taste sensations. And if you go with an organised tour, you can expect the local secrets to be revealed. Munch away and be happy!

Colombo is a city that is mixing modern styling with its colonial past. And with this mix of cultures, religions and languages, it makes for a pot-pourri of travel pleasures. So, whether it’s on the way to the beaches or before you jump back on the plane for home, spend some time here. It’ll be well worth it.

Have you been to Colombo? Got a place we should include? Then leave a comment and we’ll be sure to add it in.

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