48 Hours In Colombo Summary

by: Priyanka Trivedi

Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, is quickly gaining fame as one of the top places to visit in the country. This cosmopolitan city has beautiful colonial architecture, colorful Buddhist temples and a beach with spectacular sunset views. For the modern traveler, the city also offers museums, galleries, an exciting nightlife scene and fine restaurants.

Colombo has several good accommodation options close to the city center for ease of exploration. For a luxury experience, Cinnamon Grand Hotel is a good choice. The hotel features a fully equipped gym, a luxury spa, outdoor pools and 14 different restaurants. The hotel is located only 2 km from the National Museum. The Great Southern Hotel Colombo is a good option for budget accommodations. This hotel on Galle Road is located conveniently close to most attractions in the city.

Colombo offers attractions and activities for visitors of all age groups and interests. With only 48 hours to spend in the city, here are our top recommendations:

Day 1:


After breakfast, start the day by walking around the Fort area of Colombo. The fortifications date back to the 16th century and were once a Portuguese base. Today, it is the city’s economic and financial hub with beautiful colonial architecture. The President’s House, Parliament Building and the clock tower are some of the highlights of the area.


Head over to the former Old Dutch Hospital dating back to the 17th century. This colonial gem has been transformed into a popular entertainment and shopping precinct. The courtyard features cafes, restaurants and stores. The location also offers beautiful views of two of the most iconic buildings of Sri Lanka, the World Trade Center Building and the Bank of Ceylon Tower. After taking in the beautiful architecture, enjoy lunch at the Ministry of Crab. Housed in Colombo’s oldest building, the restaurant is a venture between Sri Lankan cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and Nihonbashi Japanese Restaurants.

After a leisurely lunch, visit the Colombo National Museum. The museum dates back to the 1870s and is the largest in the country. Housed in a grand white building with colonial architectural highlights, the museum showcases collections of crown and throne jewels along with exhibits related to Sri Lanka’s ancient history.


Galle Face image

As the sun gets ready to set, head to the Galle Face Promenade for a relaxing walk along the ocean. The promenade has a very lively atmosphere with plenty of street food vendors and beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. You can also rent a Segway to cruise through the promenade while enjoying spectacular sunset views.

End the day by visiting the regal Galle Face Hotel for cocktails and dinner. This is the city’s oldest hotel and has been host to international personalities like President Richard Nixon. The Verandah Restaurant of the hotel serves international and Sri Lankan specialties.

Day 2:


Beira Lake image

On the second day, head over to the Beira Lake for a relaxed morning. The lake is a very popular recreation area and features pavements, trees and a suspension bridge. After a casual stroll around the lake, hire a swan-shaped boat to go for a ride on the lake.

The Gangaramaya Temple close to the lake is one of the most colorful Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Founded in the 19th century, the temple was once used as a training center for monks. Today it features beautiful Buddha statues of various styles and sizes and the museum adjoining the temple has a collection of ivory and jade Buddhas.

24 Apr 2006, Colombo, Sri Lanka --- Tourists visit the grounds of the Gangaramaya Temple. The Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most beautiful buddhist temples in the capital of Sri Lanka. --- Image by © Maurizio Gambarini/dpa/Corbis

24 Apr 2006, Colombo, Sri Lanka — Tourists visit the grounds of the Gangaramaya Temple. The Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most beautiful buddhist temples in the capital of Sri Lanka. — Image by © Maurizio Gambarini/dpa/Corbis


After Beira Lake, make your way to Pettah to visit the Old Town Hall. The imposing Dutch building has a gothic architectural style with needle point columns and arches. Inside is a replica of a 1906 council meeting with life-sized statues.

Later, head to Odel Unlimited. This is Sri Lanka’s most well-known department store with its inviting interiors and its wide range of shopping options. The mall features cosmetics, bags, shoes, jewelry and locally designed clothing. There are several restaurants and cafes within the shopping mall. Nihonbashi is one of the best places in the area for Japanese cuisine and good sushi in Colombo.


After lunch and shopping, make your way to the Mt. Lavinia beach in Colombo’s southern suburb. Located 8 km from downtown core, the beach can be easily reached by taxi. This sandy beach is a good place to unwind and cool off after a tiring day. There are several good dining options around the beach.

From the beach, stroll up to the Mt. Lavinia Hotel. This heritage hotel has a history that goes back 200 years. With magnificent structure and old world grandeur, this 5 star hotel is a good place to enjoy breathtaking sunset views and dinner.