Colombo Mini Guide
Can you Recommend Colombo as a Holiday Destination?
Yes and no. It’s not your typical beach holiday on an island that is renowned for its beaches. Colombo used to be the capital of Sri Lanka and is now the financial heartbeat of the country. The city has been an important trade route for over 2,000 years because of its large and deep harbour. Even the Romans were aware of the city and through it, the Chinese Empire. It only became the capital after it became part of the British Empire. Over the centuries it has been Portuguese, Dutch and British before gaining independence in 1948.
How do I get to Colombo?
The international airport known as Colombo Airport is actually closer to Negombo and if flights get in late, it’s often recommended to stay over in Negombo before continuing the 22 mile journey the next day. Buses are a popular means of getting to the city from the airport or perhaps try a private taxi although that can be expensive. Many people pre-book a hire car for collection at Bandaranaike Airport
to get to Colombo as well as explore the island.
What is There to see and do in Colombo?
It’s mainly a commercial city and centre for the country’s finances but it has its attractions. The National Museum is fascinating with the history of the island over two millennia mapped out and illustrated with displays of artefacts from the eras. There is also a natural history museum which shows the flowers and creatures of the island in mocked up settings. Galle Face Green Promenade is a brilliant place to spend the evening. This is where all the locals come out to socialise whilst the cooling breezes blow in off the sea. The sunset from there is amazing too.
What Should I buy in Colombo?
The island produces some amazing handicrafts ranging from jewellery, carvings made in local hardwoods gathered from fallen timber in the rainforest and clothing made from locally produced and dyed material including Batik. You are likely to take home much more than you expected as prices are cheap and the quality very high.
What Kinds of Food can I eat in Colombo?
Street food is incredible there with a mixture of pastry based food filled with meat, fish or rice. Much of it is very cheap, tasty and filling. The style of food in restaurants is generally spicy but has Malaysian and Chinese influences upon it. Fruit, much of which may be unfamiliar to you, is often served for breakfast along with dry rice crackers. Sri Lankan coffee is world renowned, as is their tea, so try a cuppa from beans or leaves not long off the bush.
What About Festivals and Celebrations?
Almost all festivals and festivities there revolve around Buddhism, with New Year festivals, spring festivals, Buddhist weddings and many more. There are a couple of festivals aimed at western tourists but many of these are not authentic and are designed to simply pull in the tourist dollar.
Colombo is an interesting city which has had Portuguese, Dutch and British influences over the centuries. These are reflected in some of the city’s colonial buildings. Spend some time driving your hire car around to see examples like the National Museum which documents the development of the city over the centuries.
For more detail on the Dutch rule of the island, there’s a Dutch Period Museum which has fascinating displays with material from the time. Finally, for a relaxing time, head to Galle Face Green Promenade where a mile long stretch of park edging the sea is perfect for picnics.