Things to do in Colombo Sri Lanka – Today, we visit the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo! Historic cities like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy were former capitals of the country. Like Negombo, Colombo is close to Sri Lanka’s main international airport so you’re most probably going to stop there at some point during your trip.
But since it is the capital of the country, its urban atmosphere is quite different from that of other smaller cities like Ella or Mirissa. If you don’t have time to visit everything, I recommend skipping Colombo and heading directly to the south or the center of the country.
If you can afford the time, spending a day or two in Colombo will be an interesting experience. There are many nice places to visit and I’ll tell you more about them in a moment. Let’s first have a look at the accommodations you can book for your stay in Colombo.
Where to stay?
Colombo is made up of several numbered districts and as a tourist, one of the most convenient and pleasant districts to stay in is Colombo 3.
If you are looking for a hostel, book at the Island Hostels Colombo in Colombo 3. Dorm room prices are not very expensive and you’ll have access to a small swimming pool.
If you can afford better accommodation, definitely book at Marino Beach. It is also in Colombo 3 and happens to be a seaside hotel!
Rooms at the Marino Beach are also very well-equipped and prices are affordable. However, it is one of the most popular hotels in Colombo so make sure to book early.
What To Visit In Colombo
Once you’ve booked your accommodation in Colombo, here’s a list of my 10 favorite places in the city. I recommend you to stay there about 2 full days to have enough time to visit them all.
- Gangaramaya Temple
- Seema Malaka Temple
- Vihara Mahadevi Park
- Pettah Floating Market
- Red Mosque
- Sammangodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swamy Kovil Temple
- Dutch Hospital
- Saint Lucia’s Cathedral
- Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya Temple
- Bellanvilla Raja Maha Viharaya Temple
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #1 – The Gangaramaya Temple
Entrance fee: $3
If there is a temple you should visit in Colombo, it is the Buddhist temple of Gangaramaya. It is different from other temples in Sri Lanka because its structure is inspired by many foreign cultures and includes aspects of Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture.
One of the most important places in the temple is the sacred Bodhi tree. Visitors usually wander around this sacred tree while reciting mantras. They also place offerings at the foot of the tree. It was a very interesting experience and, I have to say, that tree was very soothing to be around. Come grab some good vibes at Gangaramaya Temple. 🙂
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #2 – The Seema Malaka Temple
Entrance: free if you present your Gangaramaya Temple ticket
The Seema Malaka Temple is right next to the Gangaramaya temple so make sure to drop by right after that. Keep your Gangaramaya ticket as it also gives you access to the Seema Malaka temple. As you can see in the photos, this temple was built in the Beira Lake and offers beautiful views of the city of Colombo.
Spot #3 – The Vihara Mahadevi Park
The Vihara Mahadevi Park is the lungs of Colombo. It has a small lake, grass fields, great trees, and some animals. If you pay close attention, you will see the rails of an old train line that used to lead to the park. This is the place to be for a breath of fresh air during your trip to Colombo! 🙂
Check out the large golden Buddha statue facing the Colombo City Council. It is an old building that dates back to the English colonization period; its western architecture kind of gives that detail away. The Vihara Mahadevi park was also called Victoria Park at that time in reference to the Queen of England.
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #4 – The Pettah Floating Market
The Pettah Market is a very nice floating market consisting of a few dozen shops sitting on wooden structures floating on Beira Lake. You will find restaurants, souvenir and tea shops there. FYI, Ceylon (former name of Sri Lanka) tea is one of the best teas in the world so make sure to visit tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya for example if you’ve got the chance.
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #5 – The Red Mosque
Sri Lanka is a multi-denominational country and one of its main religions is Islam. There are great mosques in Colombo but the most outstanding is the Red Mosque, in reference to its color. You can visit part of the interior of the mosque if you put on a traditional dress that will be given to you free of charge.
Spot #6 – Sammangodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swamy Kovil Temple
Also in the same area, you can visit the Hindu temple Sammangodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swamy Kovil. I was not allowed to take pictures inside but it is really interesting to visit the temple and see how Hinduism is practiced in Sri Lanka.
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #7 – The Old Dutch Hospital
The old Dutch hospital is an old building that dates back to the Dutch colonization in Sri Lanka. This place is of course no longer a hospital today but rather a commercial area with lots of nice cafes and shops.
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #8 – Saint Lucia’s Cathedral
After Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, Christianity is represented here by the beautiful cathedral of Saint Lucia. This beautiful Baroque cathedral traces its origins to a small religious building dating back to the Dutch occupation.
Spot #9 – The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya Temple
Let’s wrap up our tour of the city of Colombo with two Buddhist temples located in the outskirts of the city. First is the beautiful temple of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya which is an important place of worship for all Sri Lankan Buddhists. It is mentioned in Ramayana (Hinduism) and Mahavamsa (Buddhism). It is said that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, visited this place on his third trip to Sri Lanka.
The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya temple is gorgeous and is dominated by a large white stupa. The interior of the temple is perhaps the most interesting part because there are many statues and beautiful paintings exposed there.
Things To Do In Colombo Sri Lanka #10 – Bellanvilla Raja Maha Viharaya Temple
We are now in the Bellanvilla district to visit another beautiful Buddhist temple. Bellanvilla Raja Maha Viharaya temple is popular for its sacred tree that was planted from a cutting of the sacred tree of Anuradhapura 2000 years ago! The interior of the temple is also wonderful with a large statue of a standing Buddha who welcomes you as soon as you enter the temple.
We’re done touring Colombo, guys! Although it is a big city with a very “big city” atmosphere, you can still find nice places to visit.
Did you like this blog post? Do you plan to visit Colombo on your next trip to Sri Lanka? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
See you around,