Since 2009, Colombo has been enjoying a renaissance and tourism is consequently booming. Flights to Colombo will deliver you to smart new hotels, rooftop nightlife venues, fine dining restaurants, coffee shops and art galleries – all of which are rapidly reviving the fortunes of this increasingly cosmopolitan city.
Visually, this ancient port is imbued with contrasts. Between 1505 and 1948, Sri Lanka was subject to colonial rule and the architectural styles of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British are still very much in evidence. Striking landmarks include the Old Dutch Hospital, now a smart restaurant and shopping precinct, as well as the lovingly-restored National Museum and the Galle Face Hotel.
The up-and-coming Fort area is home to numerous colonial buildings in various states of repair, while the neighbourhood of Pettah boasts a multi-ethnic wholesale market.
The city has no obvious centre; sights, restaurants and shops are scattered over a large area. The affluent Cinnamon Gardens district, bordered by the city’s biggest green space, the Viharamahadevi Park, has chic coffee shops, boutique hotels and spas. Business-oriented Kollupitiya, a 15-minute walk from the World Trade Centre towers, is dotted with high-end hotel chains. Mount Lavinia, Colombo’s southernmost suburb, is where you’ll find the city’s main beach.
While Colombo doesn’t lack for smart places to stay, you can save a few rupees by opting for one of a growing number of budget and mid-range hotels and sticking to the local food joints, which dish up authentic Sri Lankan cuisine.