Sure, you’re probably visiting Sri Lanka for its beaches, historical monuments, wildlife reserves and colonial tourist attractions. But Sri Lanka’s economic hub and most populated city Colombo, cannot be simply overlooked. Here is the blueprint of one day in Colombo itinerary with a Colombo walking tour to explore the city’s tourist attractions.
Many travellers are surprised on their first visit to the chaotic city of Colombo, however, the Colombo city tour and the Colombo walking tour is beloved by lots of travellers and its residents. Colombo is a place of surprise and calm and order.
One day Colombo itinerary and Colombo walking tour are two popular short trips in Sri Lanka. A large number of travellers, especially foreign travellers book Colombo one day outing trip during their short stay on the island. Both tours are mostly booked by foreign travellers, who visits the island on short trips as well as transit passengers.
What are the 12 Best places to visit in one day in Colombo itinerary?
- Galle Face green
- Wolvendaal church
- Cinnamon garden
- Colombo museum
- Viharamahadevi Pak
- Gangarama temple
- Independent memorial hall
- Lotus tower
- Galle Face park
- Racecourse precinct
- Floating market Colombo
Map of Colombo Walking tour
Below is the map of Colombo walking tour, which start from Pettah and goes through Galle face, Gangarama, Cinnamon garden and Independent square.
What is the best time for one day in the Colombo itinerary?
Colombo is a year-round holiday destination with a tropical climate. The temperature of Sri Lanka hovering around 30 degrees Celcius throughout the year and humidity measured to be between 85% to 90%. From November to April is the best time to visit Sri Lanka west coast cities like Colombo. Visit Colombo from November to April and August for the best weather, during this period the effects of the monsoon is minimal and very little rainfall, which means you get the best weather for sightseeing tours.
The day leading to Vesak full moon day (Full moon day of May), is always a good time to visit Colombo. During this period various interesting activities are taking place in Colombo and the city is filled with beautiful decorations in view of the celebration of the birth of Buddha.
A few facts about Colombo
The former capital of Sri Lanka is still playing a major role in the island, today it is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka while the administrative capital is Jayawardenapura Kotte. Colombo is a cultural melting pot with Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and dozens of other ethnic groups and religious groups. The population of Sri Lanka is nearly 2 million people.
One day in Colombo itinerary
The Colombo one day itinerary includes a great amount of walking in Colombo and travelling in a luxury vehicle with your own driver-guide. It is highly recommended to wear comfy shoes during the Colombo walking tour, during which you walk around 5 km. However, you can reduce the amount of time spent on walking and opt to drive. The adjustment can be done while talking to your guide, who is with you through the tour.
As always in Colombo, make sure to have plenty of fluid (drinking water) and a packet of wet wipes will never go amiss. Below is the comprehensive guide to one day Colombo itinerary with a Colombo walking tour.
What’s old is new again
Colombo is recently crowned as the Ramsar wetland city in Asia, in fact, Colombo is the only city that bags the prestigious status of being nature-friendly. The green cover of Colombo spreads far and wide and there is a healthy green cover even in the middle of the city.
Have a Tea on your Colombo walking tour
Colombo is a great city to wake up in if you are a tea drinker. Sri Lanka is still one of the biggest producers of tea in the world. The world-renowned Ceylon tea is coming from this tropical nation, therefore, don’t fail to sip an unblended Ceylon tea if you like to know how it tastes like to have a freshly brewed cup of good tea.
Head to a Restaurant such as “Tea avenue” that serves the best Sri Lankan tea. They primarily serve Ceylon tea but you can also purchase Coffee. You can get hold of tea in various flavours as per your choice, however, all are manufactured in Sri Lanka. They are not specialized in single estate or tea coming from one particular region, therefore, you can order many different varieties of tea such as BOPF, BOP, dark tea, Oolong tea, green tea, flavoured tea, silver tips etc. As they collect tea from different regions of the island, the tea you order has a unique flavour, colour and aroma depending on the tea variety. Usually, the characteristics of tea vary depending on the elevations where they grow.
Your waiter can help you to find the best tea variety that suits your taste, at the same time he will recommend you it should be consumed with milk and sugar. Certain tea varieties such as low-land dark usually drink milk and a bit of sugar due to their bitter taste. Unlike the usual morning tea at home, most visitors spend here for a bit longer, perhaps they opt to have another additional cup of tea or a fresh-baked pastry from its kitchen.
Must experience: sip a glass of arrack
Arrack cocktail! The classic Sri Lankan cocktail resembles many hard liquors around the world such as Rum, whiskey, Gin and consumed with orange juice, pineapple juice, Soda or any other soft drink. The description, as well as the taste, is truly delicious. It is purely a natural drink based on palm syrup while garnishing with a piece of lemon, pineapple, apple and some times with a lotus flower. Arrack is a drink for any occasion and served at parties and all other important occasions. It is also a popular evening drink among working people of Sri Lanka and has become synonymous with Sri Lankan beaches and seafood. Not to be missed.
Must Eat: Rice and curry
Rice and curry is the staple diet of 90 per cent of Sri Lankan people. Usually, the lunch and dinner of most people of Sri Lanka is consisting of rice and curry. Over the last few centuries, the Sri Lankan kitchen has developed its own rice and curry culture, which is embraced not only by Sri Lankans but also by foreign travellers. Despite the facts been one of the fast-developing economies in the region, and being a popular tourist destination, Sri Lanka attracts a large number of foreign visitors every year.
But Sri Lankans has been able to avert the internationalization of their culture, customs and traditions and maintain their own identity. Sri Lanka food habit may have been changed a little bit in the cities, over the last few centuries, and some people have made a habit of depending on fast food such as burgers, fried chicken, potato wedges etc, but still, a majority of people love to eat rice and curry.
Colombo is one of the busiest cities in Sri Lanka that provides plenty of opportunities for foodie travellers. Be it rice and curry, That food, Mongolian food, Chinese food or any other food variety you crave, Colombo is a city that gives you the opportunity to appease your tastebuds.
Drop into Pettah market before you leave Colombo, and witness the largest open shopping complex on the island. Pettah market spreads over a large area in central Colombo. Many hundreds of wholesale and retails shops as well as street vendors selling various items at an affordable price. Clothing, leather products, medicine, elater items, electronic equipment, stationery, toys, foods, vegetable…the list goes on. Have a walk along the busy streets of pettah with your guide, that’s the best way of exploring this busy market. In fact, it will be a daunting task to travel through pettah because roads are very crowded.
Colombo floating market the newest addition to the shopping experience in the city resides a few hundred meters from pettah. As the name suggests it floats on the nearby lake and it is a place to buy various items such as Gems and Jewellery, textiles, souvenir, food, leather items etc.
What are the places to visit on a Colombo walking tour?
- Viharamahadevi gardens
- Gangarama temple
- Galle face
- Independent square
- Wolvendaal church
- Colobmo floating market
1. Visit Galle Face on a Colombo walking tour
Galle Face is one of the most popular parks in Colombo, located adjoining the ocean. Usually, most tourists visit Galleface green during their one day in the Colombo itinerary, it is a place to embrace the refreshing sea breeze while enjoying calm and quietness within the city. Even though it is located amidst the busiest areas of Colombo, It is very calm and quiet here.
The park spreads over 5 hectares or 12 acres, which stretches about 500 meters and it has about 100 meters of width. This ocean-side open park is located at the heart of Colombo.
Galleface was a project initiated by Governor Sir Henry George Ward in 1859 and it was spreading over a much large area than today. The Galle face green was used for horse racing at the beginning and it was a multipurpose playground as well and used as the venue for tennis, cricket, golf, rugby and football play.
A large number of city dwellers gather here every day to engage in jogging and other sports, especially in the morning and evening, Galle face green is the largest open area in Colombo today.
Galle Face is a popular spot among kids, teenagers, lovers, vendors, merrymakers, kite surfers, and all those who wish to engage in their past time activities next to the sea under the open sky. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the Galle face green is busy with picnickers, day-trippers, vendors selling various items such as peanuts, deep-fried potatoes, cooked crabs and prawns, fruits with pepper and salt.
2. Pettah-one day in Colombo itinerary
Pettah is the busiest corner of Colombo and located towards the western border of the city near the harbour and Fort. Pettah is most popular on the island for its market, which has a series of open-air bazaars and markets selling various items from gift items and toys to sovereign gold, Pettah is popular among the people of Sri Lanka as a market to buy good products at a lower cost.
A large number of wholesale and retails shops, restaurants, building, commercial institutions and other organizations are concentrated here. The Pettah market is huge and the main segment of the market looks like a gigantic crossword puzzle, where travellers can walk through the entire markets from dawn to dusk, but not completely cover all parts of the market.
Pettah is the English name of the open bazaar that derived from the Tamil word Pettai, which is an Anglo-Indian word indicating the suburb outside of the fort. The same place is named pita-kotuwa, which is a Sinhalese name that also means the area outside of the fort.
3. Visiting Wolvendaal church on a Colombo walking tour
Wolvendaal Church (Wolvendaalse Kerk) is one of the most popular monuments built by the Dutch East Indian Company of Sri Lanka in 1749. This historical monument is part of everyone day in the Colombo itinerary.
Wolvendaal church sits in Pettah at one of the highest points in the city overlooking the Indian Ocean. It is one of the oldest Dutch built buildings on the island.
This protestant church is still in very good shape and few families are still gathering regularly at the church. The church is built after the Doric style of the period, and has the shape of a Greek cross (i.e. legs of equal length), with 1.5 meters (five feet) thick massive wall. Large Kabok stones (clay ironstone) had been used to make the structure while the outer layer of the wall is made of coral and lime plaster.
4. Cinnamon garden
Colombo 7 better known as “cinnamon garden” is the most picturesque part of the city, where you find spacious gardens and mansions, ones occupied by wealthy British planters and government officers. Most of those spacious bungalows built in the early 18s.
Admire the tropical neo-Victorian architecture here, those are still in very good shape and occupied by wealthy people. Some of the buildings have been converted to hotels, restaurants, shops and galleries where you can stop to purchase souvenir, clothing, spices and many other things or grab a bite for lunch.
Colombo 7 is one of the oldest areas of Colombo with many interesting places to explore such as townhall, BMICH, independent square, Gangarama temple, Simamalaka. Here you get plenty of options for fine dining and shopping too.
5. Visiting Museum of Colombo for a Cultural attack
If you like to explore the rich historical past of Sri Lanka, make a visit to the historical museum of Colombo.
The museum is located in Colombo 7. The official residence of the British government has been converted to a museum and features a large collection of valuable artefacts from the pre-Christian era to modern time. The valuable artefacts from Sri Lanka as well as many other countries around the world.
Most artefacts that are been displayed here are found in the historical cities of Sri Lanka such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya. Some of these artefacts date back to the 3rd century BC. The museum is demarcated into several parts depending on the artefacts that are being displayed such as historical artefacts, paintings, artefacts from the colonial era.
Afterwards, head to the Laksala, which is managed by the government and offers a large collection of cloth, batik, souvenir, masks, lacquer works, gems and jewellery as well as many other things required by foreign travellers. All the pieces being displayed are from indigenous artists.
6. Visiting Viharamahdevi – one day in Colombo itinerary
Viharamahadvi park former Victoria park of Colombo is an important attraction in the city and is the most popular and post spacious public part in Colombo. Most Colombo city tours include Viharamahadevi Park and this walking tour also cover the beautiful Viharamahadevi Park. Viharamahadevi Park is situated in the influential resents area Colombo7 and next to Colombo Museum. The park was opened during the British colonial-Era of Sri Lanka and it is the oldest park in Colombo.
History of Viharamahadevi park
In the beginning, the park was called Queen Victoria Park and later renamed Viharamahadevi Park, the mother of King Dutugamunu. The land that occupies the garden was a gift to the municipal council during the British rule of Sri Lanka it was donated by Charles Henry de Soysa. It was occupied by the British army with the Australian 17th Brigade during world war ll. With the ending of world war ll, it was reopened to the general public in 1951.
It had also been used as a cricket gourd in the past (1927) and served as a venue for first-class cricket, the national team of Sri Lanka played against a touring English team at Viharamadevi ground in 1927 and against an Australian team in 1935.
Well maintained and landscaped garden features exquisite lawns, small lakes, fountains, play areas for kids and a jogging track. Viharamahdevi jogging track is very popular among the morning joggers, city dwellers and people, who come to Colombo from faraway destination because it is a place to have leisure and rest while enjoying the company of thick tropical vegetation.
Viharamahadevi garden is very spacious; it has a large collection of tropical trees and plants and they are providing shelter for the visitors. Viharamahadevi provides permanent residence to variety of different bird species such as kingfisher, parakeet, mynah, Bats and Squirrels. Pay a visit to this fascinating garden on your walking tour in Colombo.
7. Visiting Gangarama temple on a Colombo walking tour
Gangarama Buddhist temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Colombo and located near Viharamahadevi Park. The temple is very important and showcases modern architecture and cultural essence; the temple is visited by a large number of devotees every day.
The beautiful temple has a unique architecture demonstrating an eclectic mix of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Sri Lankan characters. The temple has a large collection of finely crafted Buddha statues and god figures. The precious items are housed in the temple’s museum, where the visitors can see thousands of valuable ancient artefacts, gem-studded Buddha statues, figures made of gold and various other items.
The headquarter of the temple is only 100 meters away from Beira Lake; even today a part of the temple, which is known as Simamalaka is located on an island in the middle of the lake. Simamalaka is made of wood and designed by the veteran Sri Lankan architecture Geoffrey Bawa.
Even though the temple is located at the heart of Colombo, it spreads over a huge plot of land and has all the elements required by a Buddhist temple such as Stupa (dome-shaped reliquary), sacred Bo-tree (ficus relgiosa), Image house (Vihara ge) and assembly hall for monks. In addition to the above-mentioned building, a three-storied school for monks, educational halls, a museum, a library, and a residential hall can also be found on the premises.
All visitors to these sacred places suppose to dress in a particular manner to uphold its religious value. There is a set of rules that every visitor of religious site observe while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are? Check this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE AND TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRESS CODE“.
8. Visiting independent memorial hall on a Colombo walking tour
Independent square and the Independent Memorial Hall are included in most Colombo city tours such as the Colombo walking tour. It is one of the most popular landmarks in the city, which is a reminiscence of Sri Lanka’s independence from British rule. Next to the Independent memorial hall is the Independence Memorial Museum.
Towards the northern end of the building is the statue of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake, who had been a key player in the independence struggle. Independent square had been used as the venue for many independent day celebrations in the past. The building follows the architecture of the celebration hall of Kandy better known as “Magul maduwa”, which shows the characteristics of typical Sri Lankan architecture.
9. Lotus tower
Lotus tower is the newest addition to the city, which opened its door to visitors in 2019. Lotus Tower, in Sinhalese “Nelum Kuluna”, is the tallest structure on the island. The lotus tower is consisting of two parts, a Highrise tower and on top of it is a structure built in the shape of a lotus flower. The main building takes the shape of a lotus flower because the lotus flower is special to the island since it is closely related to Buddhism.
Most importantly, the lotus tower is depicting a new chapter of Sri Lanka’s economic development, the massive structure is not only the highest building on the island but also in South Asia.
The lotus tower occupies 3.6 hectares of land in the heart of Colombo and located on the D.R Wijewardena Mawatha. The tower rises up to 350 meters above the surrounding area. There is a 30,600 sqm of floor area in the tower, which is divided among 27 floors. The imposing structure is equipped with 8 elevators and 2 of them are highspeed elevators. These high-speed elevators can lift you up to 350 meters in 33 seconds.
There is 4 entrance to the tower and 2 of them are reserved for special occasions, means only 2 doors are open to the general public. A special passing system is in operation in the tower to regulate and issue permits to visit the site. Visitors need to buy a separate entrance ticket to each floor. For instance, if you buy the entrance ticket to the revolving restaurant you can t enter the banquet hall with it.
One of the most striking features of the lotus tower is the revolving restaurant, which gives you the ability to have a panoramic view over the entire city, within 1 hour 30 minutes, as the restaurant revolves 360 degrees in the clockwise direction.
10.Galle Face park
Galle face park is the latest addition to the collection of interesting places in Colombo. This modern park was opened to the public in December 2020. As the name suggests it is located next to the Galle face green and the park spreads over 2 acres. The beautifully laid park is consisting of jogging areas, open cafeterias, shops. A large extent of the park is harbouring various trees and plants and there is a large number of flowering plants among them. The park is ideal for a leisurely walk, for jogging, to have a delicious meal under the stars or just sit on a bank and relax while enjoying the sea breeze.
The racecourse precinct is a plush dining and shopping complex, located at the heart of Colombo. It was established by British colonial rulers in 1893. The racecourse was later converted to an airfield during world war II.
The pavilion of the racecourse is one of the iconic colonial buildings in Colombo owned by the Ceylon Turf Club in the early 19s and it was frequented by wealthy British planters, politicians and businessmen, where they enjoyed horse racing. However, horse races were not given a prominent place in the society after the independence from the British in 1948, therefore racecourse was largely neglected by the local people. The mini pavilion was not used for commercial activities for many decades and poorly maintained.
After many decades of the interval, it was given its former glory and turned into an upmarket shopping complex and sports complex. Which is a part of the program of the government to improve the infrastructure of Colombo in order to improve the Colombo’s attractiveness. The racecourse was opened to the public in 2012 after the refurbishment.
The racecourse was given a facelift by Sri Lankan forces making it one of the best places for shopping and dining in Colombo. Part of the racecourse is a sports complex with state-of-the-art facilities and it is capable of hosting international rugby matches. Today racecourse is the main venue for rugby matches and it harbours facilities confirming to international standards.
The mini pavilion of the racecourse, which was existing since the beginning of the racecourse is fully restored and converted to the shopping complex and sports complex with restaurants, textile shops, gift and craft shops.
12.Floating market Colombo
Floating market Colombo is a novel concept for the people of Sri Lanka and it was opened to the public in 2014. Colombo floating market is the first of its kind on the island. The floating market is a part of the ambitious program of the government of Sri Lanka to make Colombo a tourist hot spot in the future. Under the development program, many changes have been done in Colombo such as renovating the colonial building, building new parks, building walking paths, re-establishing busy government office outside of Colombo, protecting wetlands located writhing the borders of Colombo are some of them.
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