Like many capital cities, Colombo provides something of a stark contrast to the rest of the country it represents. The languid, rural mass of Sri Lanka looks on a little distantly at the city with its ever-progressing ambition, glass and steel, and frenetic economy. Though not on the same scale as Bangkok or Delhi, it offers a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s future. Amongst the expensive skyscrapers, however, there’s still the bustle of old Colombo. Visceral and faded, but ever changing, the city epitomises the hubbub of urban life, and offers some of the very best street food in the country.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
It’s easy to get a little cynical about markets sometimes, as tourism has changed so many from local resources to traveller-centred attractions. Happily, however, Colombo’s Pettah Market is the real deal. Step into its organised chaos, noise, colour and aromas, and stand shoulder to shoulder with locals as they deftly navigate between stalls. Within the market’s close grid of narrow ‘streets’, you can find everything from mobile phones, toys, and toiletries to Ayurvedic herbs, chillies and very ripest fruits, stacked high and fragrant. The atmosphere is busy but friendly and offers a real window into the everyday. If you visit in the morning, you might want to skip breakfast and dive into a ‘short-eat’: Sri Lanka’s take on easy, small and filling snacks.
As dusk approaches, Colombo heads for Galle Face Green to go with the flow. Exchange smiles and friendly ‘hellos’ with families, couples and friends of all ages who throng this ocean-side promenade for a late afternoon paddle, a leisurely stroll, or to sit, relax and gossip. Let the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves soothe and cool you after a long day of exploring. Peruse the numerous food stalls with their plethora of mouth-watering offerings such as crab, shrimp, samosas and spicy chicken kotta, either by yourself or in the company of one of our local friends. As the sun sets, savour some of the best street food in the country against the backdrop of this ever-growing city, or drop by the historic Galle Face Hotel and enjoy the panorama from the iconic Chequerboard terrace.
Sri Lanka, like so many of our destinations, is a foodie’s paradise, so it should come as no surprise to learn that Colombo is packed with eating opportunities! Whether you’re seeking quick and easy street food or high-end destination dining, every angle is well represented. The world-renowned ‘Ministry of Crab’ is the best place for crab in the city - arguably, the whole country - and Colombo hosts the original site behind their Asia-wide formula for success. Tucked away in an antique enclave of the atmospheric ‘Dutch Hospital’ building, the restaurant has been thrilling diners with its eclectic variants of local lagoon crab since it opened its doors in 2011 and we thoroughly recommend it. Reservations are essential, and you can consider that done.
Combine the island’s top wildlife crowd pleasers with some magnificent hidden gems and cultural highlights before spending some time on the beach.