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Most trips to Sri Lanka either start or end in Colombo, the once dubbed Garden City of the East


Most trips to Sri Lanka either start or end in Colombo, the once dubbed Garden City of the East, and sprawling Sri Lankan metropole. Highlights include Fort, the National Museum, and the bustling markets of Pettah. Colombo lacks what we’ve come to know as “must see landmarks”, so the charm of the city is found in the markets, neighbourhoods, temples and gardens visitors found often exploring the city north to south, from Fort to Pettah.

If in Colombo only for one day, explore the city starting from the thriving markets of Pettah such as Manning Market or Pettah Floating Market. Discover the Hindu Temples in Sea St., Wolvendaal Church (the most important Dutch building in Sri Lanka) and admire colonial architectural gems like the Old Dutch Hospital on your way to Fort. Visit the Buddhist Gangaramaya Temple and take a stroll along the sea at Galle Face Green to enjoy the dramatic sunsets.

Time permitting, perhaps include a visit to Cinnamon Gardens in your walking adventure through Colombo. Once covered in actual cinnamon plantations, Cinnamon Gardens is now Colombo’s swanky district that houses not only colonial mansions and trendy shops, but also the National Museum and the stunning flowering trees of Viharamahadevi Park.

I love independent walking tours as I enjoy the thrill of discovering and the flexibility of managing my own time. But truth be told, there are many things a first-time visitor could never discover on his own. Fortunately, there’s lots of guided tours available to visitors to Colombo. From specialist walking tours to jeep and the classic double-decker bus tour. I found these are a great introduction to Colombo you can complete in 2-3 hours, and help familiarise yourself with the city layout and main attractions before venturing on your own to explore the thriving markets, go for a bit of retail therapy.

Barefoot ( is popular for its textiles and household items. Plate ( for antiques and art, and Dilmah Tea Shop for its posh shops selling Sri Lanka’s top tea brand.

Colombo, Sri Lanka. Essential travel guide

Foodies will be happy to learn that the restaurant scene in Colombo seems to get  better every time I visit.  There’s great Sri Lankan food, but also regional and international choices. It changes so fast that we’ve stopped recommending specific restaurants and instead refer our clients to and which are really good resources to explore the ever changing dining scene in Colombo.

Colombo, Sri Lanka. Essential travel guide

Travelisto’s Discover Sri Lanka Tour begins and ends in Colombo. If you’d like to learn more about Colombo, plan ahead of your trip, book the Discover Sri Lanka Tour, or start planning your own tailor-made experience with the help of our travel experts, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help you craft the perfect holiday in Sri Lanka based on your personal likes and dislikes, time, and budget.

We know Sri Lanka from personal experience and have done ourselves most of the activities we recommend here. If you’d like more information, tips and advice, and help planning and booking your holiday in Sri Lanka, feel free to get in touch by chat, phone, videoconference, or email. We are always here to help.

Travel Designer and Founder at Travelisto

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