Colombo is an interesting and exciting city because there’s no real central point. Perhaps it’s best described as a group of different neighbourhoods, with the core of this old colonial city being the Fort district.
Before you move on towards the beaches and mountains of this welcoming island and beyond during your tour, it is most definitely worth spending time in Colombo. To help maximise your time, we’ve mapped out the perfect itinerary for how you should spend 48 hours in Colombo. This will ensure that you get to enjoy some good Sri Lankan food and hit all the main sights.
Whether your Start your day feasting on an egg hopper and sip on some fresh tea at any of the small eateries located close to your accommodation. Just follow your nose to somewhere that looks busy with locals.
Next, head towards the Fort. This area is one of the city’s most important commercial hubs and it’s also home to Colombo’s busy harbour. Take time to walk around and find a fascinating array of colonial buildings representing various eras of the historic past of this city.
Be sure to visit the Old Dutch Hospital, now a heritage building and dining and shopping precinct. It’s estimated to be the oldest building in the Colombo Fort area, dating back to 1681 during the Dutch colonial era in Sri Lanka.
Browse the many shops inside the old hospital, a must-visit is a shop called ‘Barefoot’. Here, you’ll find lots of colourful linens, blankets, sarongs, books and so much more. The colours and quality of these products are beautiful and they’re all made in Sri Lanka.
Next up, take a short 5-minute walk to the T-Lounge by Dilmah; only located in Chatham St, super close by. You’re in tea country now and here you can order a pot of Sri Lanka’s finest tea, fresh from the plantation.
Time to walk 15 minutes towards Pettah – one of the oldest districts in Colombo. Wander around for an hour or two in this multi-ethnic area.
Don’t miss Pettah Market and shopping streets, located in the Old Quarter. Here you will find anything and everything at Pettah’s many markets stalls and shops. This place is huge! You might get lost, but that’s just part of the fun. After visiting the markets, take a little time to explore some Hindu temples before you go in search of lunch.
You’re in Colombo, what better area to go and eat lunch than where the locals do and enjoy a crab or prawn curry with rice for about RS 400 along Kathiresan St.
Another notable place that is worth your time and attention is the Mayura Hotel, located at 46, Sri Kathiresan Street, Pettah, but don’t be deceived by the name – it’s not a hotel at all. This is a hole in the wall restaurant, so you won’t find any tourists here. What you will find here is seriously great food!
This meal is as Sri Lankan as you can get. No plates, but instead, your rice and curry are placed on a banana leaf right in front of you. Sri Lankan food tastes better when eaten with your hands, however, just make sure you remember to use the right hand only.
Walk off your lunch and journey 15 minutes to Kotahena. This area is north of Pettah and is home to some old neighbourhoods, great to gain insight into how the locals live. Next up, take a tuk-tuk and go visit the Buddhist Gangaramaya temple, then go and rest in Viharamahadevi Park, only a short walk away.
If you’re searching for the perfect way to end your day, it’s worth noting that sunsets in Colombo are pretty spectacular. Make your way to Galle Face Green to watch the sun go down and the colours are mesmerising. After soaking up the views of a stellar sunset, grab a snack or cheap dinner from the local vendors.
Rise and shine, it’s time to enjoy a local Sri Lankan breakfast of string hoppers and fresh tea in one of the many cafes along Marine Drive, Col 3. This is your chance to enjoy eating breakfast with views of the Indian Ocean and watch the hustle and bustle as Sri Lankans go about their day.
Next, go and visit the fantastic National Museum where you can take in Sri Lanka’s history and remarkable treasures and learn about how this country came to be.
Later, set your sights on the Cinnamon Gardens, just a 20 minute walk away. Weave down the streets lined with fine trees and mansions that are home to the country’s elite.
Also, check out Kollupitiya and wander through the boutique shops and quaint little stores. By now, it’s well and truly time for lunch! Take a tuk-tuk to the Ministry of Crab and this should cost about Rs 300–400 ($2- $2.50) for the 15-minute journey. Treat yourself to some of the best crab curry available in Sri Lanka.
Tuk-tuks are the cheapest ways of getting around this busy city as they can dart in and out of the chaotic traffic. Most tuk-tuks have meters now, so always ask the driver to use it. They might try and convince you to pay cash or claim that his meter doesn’t work and if this happens, be firm and agree on a price that you’re happy to pay in cash before you jump in or just hail another one.It’s best to hail a tuk-tuk that is driving past, rather than approach a parked tuk-tuk, as these guys will generally try to charge you more.
After lunch, walk 20 minutes to Slave Island (not an actual island) and Union Place. These are old neighbourhoods filled with small alleyways and streets that are well worth a short visit.
Walk south until you reach South Beira Lake – this is an enjoyable stroll and allows you to enjoy the immaculate gardens and stunning views of the lake.
Hail a tuk-tuk and make your way to Mt Lavinia to watch another beautiful sunset and you can expect to pay around RS 1000 or US $6.50 for the 15-kilometre ride.
There are many cheap dinner options at the many beachside cafes. Lots of simple food and seafood can be found along here too, plus you can buy a cold Lion Beer for RS 250-400 to go accompany your beachside eats.
If you’d prefer to watch the sunset with a drink and then perhaps go somewhere a little more special for dinner, this is the place for you. The restaurant is called Kaema Sutra. Address: Arcade Independence Square, #30, Independence Square, Colombo 7. The food here is pretty special. The chef cooks with love (the most important ingredient of all) and we’re sure it will be a meal you will remember when reminiscing about your 48 hours in Colombo
If you’ve been to Colombo and want to share your best tips simply comments below.
Ready for your next adventure? Find your perfect tour in Sri Lanka right here.