24 hours in Colombo

Kelaniya Temple

What can be done with just one day in Colombo? Well, an incredible amount as it happens. My brother and his friend came via the city from nearby Bangalore en route to London. And we showed them a good time.


After an early start and a delicious Sri Lankan breakfast we squeezed into a tuk-tuk we’d hired for a few hours. The driver Dudley, now a good friend of ours and our go to man for a local journey, took us out into the countryside to the stunning Kelaniya temple, and then a tour of some of the sights of Colombo.

The Blue Bar


After a Sri Lankan lunch at the Salaka Senkada foodcourt, a regular eatery of ours, we browsed in some top-end shops followed by a beer in expats’ favourite, Barefoot.


My brother’s visit was an opportunity for us to sample the best of Colombo’s nightlife. First it was the Blue Bar, part of an excellent pizzeria housed in an old colonial villa in the city’s embassy district. A short tuk-tuk journey along a quiet boulevard lined by giant cinnamon trees took us to Lemon. Its position five stories up gave wonderful views of Colombo. From the rooftop terrace we drank cocktails and watched the twinkling lights of Sri Lanka’s capital.

Cocktails on Lemon's terrace

Dinner was at the Gallery Café, widely recognised as Colombo’s best restaurant. The building and ambience are breath-taking: you enter through a small courtyard with candlelit pools on two sides leaving a bridge to the main restaurant. The building was once the office of internationally renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, famous for mixing modernism with Sri Lanka’s vernacular, and designing buildings that work with the tropical climate. As such there’s a subtle interplay between indoors and outdoors in his work; minimal concrete, exposed brickwork, and hardwoods are organised to create natural cool and shade alike. It was all very zen.

Detail from the Gallery Cafe

The food was superb, a fusion of Sri Lankan and European to give dishes such as fillet of modha fish, coconut crusted on a bed of mashed potato, vegetables and drizzled with an orange and saffron sauce. And we had white wine, for the first time in three months. Splendid.


Colombo’s nightlife could well be the thing of legend. There are lots of bars and clubs that are extremely trendy, extremely glitzy, extremely expensive, and frequented by expats and wealthy locals. A strict dress code exists at them all – no shorts or sandals allowed.

It all gets a bit blurry at the Museum

We had time to kill. The clubs in Colombo don’t get going until midnight and it’s not the done thing to get to one before then. So we had a quiet beer in the courtyard of the colonial Galle Face Hotel; grand, old, and on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Then, finally, it was a club known locally as the Museum. At one in the morning the place began to get busy and by two it was packed. Glitz, glam and bling were everywhere. All manner of liquor flowed. At four (or was it five?) we got a tuk-tuk back.

24 little hours: 21 of wonderful Colombo, 3 of sleep.



3 thoughts on “24 hours in Colombo

  1. Really enjoyed the weekend. Much more developed and civilised in places than I’d expected (think world-class hotels, shops, bars, restaurants, etc.), yet in others beautifully untouched. Highlight was definitely drinking Timbali (sp.?) juice freshly cut open from a street vendor on the back of trishaw. Istuti.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s