Colombo is a showcase of Sri Lanka’s Asian and European heritage. It’s where the fast-paced chaos of the continent’s cities meets a lingering colonial ambiance and contemporary fashion. In Colombo, ancient religious shrines stand next to churches, and skyscrapers rise above time-honored shops. Pretty parks are a reminder of Colombo’s “Garden City of the East” nickname while beaches offer an introduction to the island’s 833-mile (1,340-kilometer) coastline.
Discover the spiritual serenity that exists amid the mayhem of the city streets at Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple and lakeside Seema Malaka Buddhist Temple. The contrasting Gothic Old Town Hall and neoclassical New Town Hall sit on the edge of gorgeous Viharamahadevi Park. Visit European-influenced churches, including the Dutch-built Wolvendaal Church, Portuguese St. Anthony’s Church and Scottish St. Andrew’s Church.
Browse art collections that date back to the 4th century B.C. at Colombo National Museum and learn about Dutch rule at the Dutch Period Museum. Ape Gama is an open-air folk museum that brings to life the customs of a Sri Lankan village via mock rural scenes. The elaborately decorated Independence Memorial Hall commemorates the nation breaking free from the British Empire.
Pettah is Colombo’s bustling shopping quarter, famous for traditional shops and markets such as Pettah Floating Market. Go to Arcade Independence Square and Crescat Boulevard for brand-name and upmarket fashion. Witness the city’s passion for cricket while attending a match at Premadasa International Cricket Stadium. Or, play a round of 18 holes at the immaculate Royal Colombo Golf Club.
Watch the sunset and snack on spicy street food during an evening stroll on Galle Green Face Promenade. Find an aquarium, beer garden and outdoor food court at Diyatha Uyana waterfront park. Mount Lavinia Beach boasts golden sand and chic seafront bars. Spot exotic animals at Dehiwala National Zoo and ride waterslides at Leisure World.
Reach Colombo by flying to Bandaranaike International Airport, located an hour’s drive from the city center. Get around the city via low-cost buses, trains and tuk-tuks.