This post has been updated on February 7th, 2021
Colombo was the first city that we visited in Sri Lanka. Usually, when planning a Sri Lanka itinerary, people prefer to keep Colombo at the end. We did the opposite and spent 2 days in Colombo. We started our journey in Colombo and we ended in Negombo, on the coast, after 10 beautiful days in Sri Lanka.
To be honest our two days in Colombo were pretty hard, it was our first long haul trip. But our jetlag was different. Toti was already active within the day, and discovered the city in the early afternoon. Me, Alessia, I was a bit tired, so I started my adventure in Sri Lanka later.
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT COLOMBO IN 2 DAYS
Is worth visiting Colombo, even for just a few days. Threat it as an arrival point, or departure at the end of your trip. The airport is around 45 minutes away from the city centre.
For many years Colombo has been an important centre for commercial trades with the Asian Countries. Well known by Romans and Arabs, it is today taking his place in the future market. Colombo is worth visiting, because it is fast developing from the end of the destructive civil war.
In the last few years, it has become a tourist attraction. Thanks to investment in the industry and well-done marketing action, Colombo is finally taking the place it deserves
Visiting Sri Lanka, Colombo should be included in your top list of places. Willing to spend more time in this beautiful country, you can read our guide on how to spend 10 days in Sri Lanka.
If you are visiting Sri Lanka for the very first time or, if it’s your first time in Asia, make sure you are prepared. Spending 2 days in Colombo will help you to get confident with the country and this part of the world. We are really happy to have done it, because Colombo is a city to don’t miss.
IS COLOMBO SRI LANKA SAFE?
Yes, Colombo is safe. After the question, if Colombo is worth a visit, our friends and readers have asked us if Colombo is safe.
Unfortunately, this country, which was growing steadily after the end of the civil war, encountered another problem on the way. On Easter Sunday 2019, it was hit by a bloody terrorist attack in the heart of the main city, Colombo. This attack had undermined the certainties of a recovering country. The tourism sector had received a bad blow from which it would be difficult to get up.
Despite the fear of a second attack, we decided to go over the fear and visit the country the following August. The measures at the airport were tight. Controls in and out of the area, soldiers and security at every corner.
But returning as if Colombo is safe, we can clearly say that we didn’t find any danger visiting the city. We have been walking in a crowded market, with our cameras without any problem. Like in any country be careful and don’t wear anything flashy. You are discovering a city, not going to a gala.
THINGS TO DO IN COLOMBO IN 2 DAYS
If you are planning to visit Colombo in 2 days this itinerary might help you to organise your days. Always take a moment to plan your own itinerary, this is the best way to understand what might suit our preferences.
We always try to mix history and culture with funny and colourful places. Toti loves the photography spots, I love the streets (shopping).
Below is what we suggest to include in your Colombo Itinerary.
MAP OF PLACES TO SEE IN COLOMBO
COLOMBO MARKET STREET & PETTHA MARKET OF COLOMBO
When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, after a long journey we went straight away exploring the city. As Italian coming from Naples, we are used to the busy and crazy environment around the city. Colombo was completely different and even the Pettah Market Streets.
This market is huge, you can easily get lost walking through the streets full of shops and stands.
The area around Colombo 11 is the great Market street in the city, and is the main and busiest part in Colombo. If you are looking for typical and local food you are in the right place. From the delicious and strong smell of Sri Lanka spices to the electronic section. The Market is one of the things to do in Colombo in 2 days.
Be aware that there are a few streets of this market that are really strong smelly, avoid it and discover the busiest parts.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | Pettah Market Colombo
How to get there | Take a local tuk-tuk, it is cheap and gives you a little tour of Colombo. Many drivers are waiting for you outside of the hotels. You can also book your ride using Uber or PickmeUp.
Tips | It is a busy area of Colombo, be careful with your belongings. Secure your camera and go on a tour if you can.
Tours | Pettah Market walking guide
THE RED MOSQUE (Jami UI-Alfar)
Considered one of the most instagrammable places in Colombo, the Red Mosque is another stop to don’t miss. This building is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo and it’s an important landmark of the city. Visiting the Pettah Market you will face the Red Mosque.
The unusual red colour of this building will attract you. But more than just the external aesthetic, are the interns of this place to leave you breathless.
With its beauty and stunning architecture is something that you can’t miss in your 2 days in Colombo itinerary. If you wish to visit the Red Mosque, you can. The entrance is free, because it is a religious place. As per rule, you should follow strict instructions to visit the place, the first in order of importance is respect.
Yes, respect for the religious rules. If you are a woman, you can enter inside but you need to have your legs, shoulders and hair covered. Remember to remove your shoes before entering and if you are not quite sure about what to do, just follow the locals when entering so you won’t disrespect the culture.
Things to do know before visiting the Red Mosque
Where | Red Mosque of Colombo
Entrance Fee | Free
How to get there | Several buses are taking you to the Red Mosque of Colombo. From the foremost Hotels Area, where we stayed in Colombo, you can go by bus with the 101, 138, 100 and 400.
Tips | Locals are here to pray, please don’t bother them. Enjoy your time and don’t be noisy. You can visit the top of the Mosque, but just through a tour guide.
Tours | Morning Tour with an English Guide
Read Also | Sri Lanka bucket list
GANGARAMAYA BUDDHIST TEMPLE
As you might know, Sri Lanka is a mix of cultures, people live specifically helping each other. You will see a Buddist Temple next to the Hindu Temple. Located in Beira Lake, the Gangaramaya Temple has considered one of the most important ones in Colombo.
Gangaramaya Temple has got a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Chinese and Indian architecture and this makes this temple worth visiting. All of these cultures are put together in one beautiful temple.
This temple is not only a worship place, which attracts many faithful in prayer, but it is also a learning place for new monks.
If you want to make the most of your Colombo itinerary 2 days you should visit the temple inside and don’t miss this beautiful experience.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple
How to get there | With bus 101 you can reach Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple.
Tips | Locals are here to pray, please don’t bother them. Enjoy your time and don’t be noisy. Please give a donation to the temple before entry.
AVUKANA BUDDHA REPLICA
If you are looking for things to do in Colombo in 2 days, don’t worry you won’t get bored as there are so many places to visit and go. One of the most visited landmarks in the city is the Avukana Buddha statue which is a standing statue of Buddha located opposite the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall.
This is just a replica of the stunning masterpiece in Anuradhapura. This is a 40 metres statue of Buddha. It is the only well-preserved piece in the ruins of an old temple.
The Avukana statue is considered one of the best examples of standing statues of the Buddha from ancient Sri Lanka.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | Avukana Buddha Replica
How to get there | The local buses 99 and 138 will take you there.
Tips | It is a bit far away from the central area of Colombo, we suggest to take private transport or book a tour.
Tours | Tuk-Tuk ride and Visit
TEMPLE OF SRI KAILAWASANATHAN SWAMI DEVASTHANAM KOVIL
During your Sri Lanka itinerary, you will see how this country is a mix of cultures with different religious beliefs. This is one of the main reasons why we loved Sri Lanka so much.
The variety of cultures makes everyone feel welcome. You will pass from temple to temple and discover the many differences between each other. Despite that, they have in common the way that they make you feel welcome.
The Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil is a Hindu temple, like the others, stands out for the beautiful colours. The inner roof of this temple is decorated with magnificent paintings. It is said that the temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami DevasthanamKovil is the most ancient Hindu temple in Colombo.
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CINNAMON GARDENS | Colombo travel itinerary
Located 2 kilometres south-east from Colombo’s city centre, Cinnamon Gardens is an affluent neighbourhood in Colombo which you should visit.
The name “Cinnamon Gardens” comes from the former cinnamon plantations in the area. This was one of the main products exported from Sri Lanka to the rest of the world, before the explosion of the tea plantations. In ancient times there were many legends about cinnamon, like the one regarding the Arabs, who first imported this spice in Europe. They were telling people that it was the product of a particular bird nest, present just in this land.
But this neighbourhood is today popular not because of that, instead because of the many landmarks in the area.
If you are visiting Colombo in 2 days, you can find some time to visit the location of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Independence Hall and National Museum.
If you wish you can stroll around the area with a double-deck bus tour, bike or with a tuk-tuk.
What you will find in Cinnamon Gardens neighbourhood?
INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL HALL
This stunning monument was built to commemorate the independence of Sri Lanka from the British. As mentioned before, this memorial is located in the Cinnamon Gardens neighbourhood and is a must-see in Colombo in 2 days.
Walking through the colonnade of this memorial you will feel how it is powerful. The energy of the architecture is unique. The shades produced by the sun inserting in the stone colonnade, between one space and another, will create a fair game of light that will inspire your photography skills.
What to know before visiting the Indipendence Memorial Hall
Where | Colombo Independence Memorial Hall
How to get there | The local buses 99, 210 and 122 will take you to Independence Square.
Tips | The Area is crowded, but is worth a visit. You can reach this place at the first and visit the rest of the Cinnamon Gardens space.
Tours | Colombo Private Tour for 20$
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF COLOMBO
In our tour of Colombo, we couldn’t miss a visit to a local museum. While the city is developing the touristic structures devoted to the local heritage, there are not that many museums in Colombo.
Considered one of the largest museums in Sri Lanka, the National Museum of Colombo it is supported by the Department of National Museum of the central government.
If you wish, you can visit the National Museum of Colombo from 9 AM to 5 PM every day. This building remains closed on public holidays. The National Museum is also home to a huge collection related to the natural history of the island.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | National Museum of Colombo
How to get there | Bus number 2 and the 99 will take you to Independence Square, walking through the area is easy.
Entrance | Free
ROYAL COLOMBO GOLF CLUB
Our first day in Colombo was overwhelming. We were involved in many activities that stressed us a bit. But it was our first time in Asia. After a full day discovering the city we were taken to a great lunch, in typical Sri Lanka Style to one of the best places in Colombo. We had the opportunity to see another aspect of Colombo, going back to the British Era.
You might don’t know but Colombo is home to the second oldest golf club outside the UK. What makes this Golf Club particular is that in the middle of this huge space, there is a scenic railway track that runs through it.
The golf club itself is a great place to learn a bit of the history of Sri Lanka before the independence from British. Today this place is renamed as one of the best golf clubs in the World.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | Colombo Royal Golf Club
How to get there | Bus number 2 and the 99 will take you to Independence Square, walking through the area is easy.
Tip | The club is a member-only club which if you are not there to play golf, you have to be in the company of a Club’s member to be able to access the Royal Colombo Golf Club. If you wish to visit this place, you can also book a Colombo Tour, that will give you access.
Tour | Colombo Hidden Gems Tour
GALLE FACE GREEN
If during your 2 days in Colombo Sri Lanka, you are looking for the right place to watch the sunset, this is the perfect spot. Gaelle Face Green is a magnificent urban park located in the city of Colombo.
Being the central point of the city, Gaelle Face Green has got a lot of fun things to do. It is the ideal place to stroll around, have a picnic or relax a bit while discovering Colombo.
Once you arrive here, switch off your brain and listen to the sound of the sea. You will enjoy an incredible view over the Indian Ocean, with the waves crashing on the shoreline.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | Galle Face Green
How to get there | The best beaches of Colombo are located in a central area. You can reach it from the hotels walking, or by bus. For the second option, the most frequent buses are the 2, 100 and 400.
Tip | If you wish a swim in the Indian Ocean, Galle Face has got an awesome beach, looking at the high buildings of Colombo. Head here to chase the sun in Sri Lanka.
OLD COLOMBO DUTCH HOSPITAL | Shopping Area
Another pin on your map of Colombo, located in zone one. Considered one of the oldest buildings in the Colombo Fort area, this hospital was originally designed to recover for the soldiers of the Dutch East India Company.
When Sri Lanka gained independence, the government emptied it and converted it into the Colombo Fort Police Station. Following the damages during the Civil War, the building was left and abandoned.
Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? You might also like:
THE LOTUS TOWER | Go up to the tallest building in Colombo
When we first arrived in Colombo, even if it was early in the morning, our driver decided to tour around.
He proudly showed us an imposing structure of over 350 metres that stood bold towards the blue sky. As you might understand by the name, the shape of this building is a lotus flower. With its impressive and stunning architecture and structure, this is today the tallest second tower in Southern Asia, which opened its door in September 2019.
This is considered one of the new symbols of Sri Lanka, it’s the way this Country is shouting to the rest of the World now.
Over than just a big office space, up in the clouds overlooking Colombo, this tower is a huge paradise for tourists and locals. Here you will find restaurants, hotel rooms, museums and food courts.
Every morning we wake up in our hotel room in Colombo at the Cinnamon Lakeside. ADV This hotel is right on the opposite bank of the lake, looking at the Lotus Tower. Was the perfect scenario for our best photos of Sri Lanka.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Where | Lotus Tower of Colombo
How to get there | Almost all the buses are now heading to this spot in Colombo. What are most functional for a little tour before arriving at the Lotus tower are the buses 120, 121 and 125.
FORT RAILWAY STATION
If you want to experience every single day and minute of your trip to Sri Lanka, you can’t miss the famous train journey. This is one of the things to do at least in your life as the scenic train ride has to offer the world’s most spectacular view.
If you have ever heard about Sri Lanka, you straight away associate the famous blue train from Kandy to Ella. In Colombo, we are not talking about that famous train, but the view from the train can be pretty much the same. While in Colombo you should pay a visit to the old Fort Railway Station and see with your own eyes how is incredible and crazy this station.
Remember that Colombo is a very busy place with so many people and the amount of locals jumping to catch the train is incredible and impressive.
COLOMBO STREET FOOD TOUR
When it comes to food we are always up to everything. Being in Asia for the first time it wasn’t easy to get used to the local food. We must say that we tried almost everything to be able to have a complete experience of Sri Lankan food.
It’s even true that I can’t stand the spicy food, actually as Toti, I cannot survive either with a mild one. In Sri Lanka, you need to be prepared to a Hot or super hot spicy ingredients.
The first couple of days we were laughing and joking at that, trying to gradually get to our friends level of endurance. I must say that after four days, my tolerance was trained to a bit of spicy. Toti instead was enjoying the local products, being careful to the high spicy, but tolerating a lot more.
Going back to the Street food, the local products are delicious and so tasty. The fruit is genuine, and you will be amazed at how it is fresh. While visiting the Pettah Market of Colombo in our 2 days, we saw fruit and spices we never saw in our life.
Try the Jackfruit, a typical exotic fruit grown in tropical regions of the world. It is native to South India and Sri Lanka, but thrives abundantly in tropical countries such as Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, but also in South America in Brazil.
Street Food Tours we Suggest
ENJOY COLOMBO ON A TUK-TUK RIDE
If you don’t get a ride on a tuk-tuk it seems you have never been in Sri Lanka. Very typical in Colombo and the whole of Asia is a tuk-tuk ride. Forget about Taxi or Uber, in the country, your new Uber will be a tuk-tuk.
Over than just book a ride on your phone through the Uber App, you can use PickmeUP. This is the most used application for android and iPhone to book your transportation on a tuk-tuk.
Let’s say something first. As Italian, from Naples, we are used to the crazy driving, horn sounds and chaotic streets. In Sri Lanka, in Colombo, everywhere was even worse, in typical Asia Style. Everything we knew about the craziness in Naples was nothing compared to how locals are driving in Sri Lanka.
At the same time, it is funny and nice to see how locals are confident in driving around the country. If you are planning a Colombo itinerary for 2 days, you should definitely experience a tuk-tuk ride. Book yours here.
How to get around Colombo
BUS | You have different options if you are looking for the right way to stroll around Colombo. If you are looking for a very local experience you can easily move around Colombo by public transport, such as buses or tuk-tuk.
PRIVATE CARE | If you want something quieter and without stress yourself you can think about having a private driver and explore the city with it. We discourage you to rent a car, especially if you are not confident in driving.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTS | Transportation in Asia is so cheap. The local service is efficient but always crowded. Withdraw cash to pay the drivers, is not accepted credit card on local buses. Avoid scammers while getting a ride on a tuk-tuk and agree on the price before boarding. Locals are friendly, but be aware of scammers.
TIPS | Avoid who will take you to a tour ride on a fee, they will just grab your money. Please, also aware that some of them can put forward the speedometer, check that is blanked before getting on board. If you want more information on how to stay safe in Sri Lanka, check our dedicated blogpost.
Taking a trip to a foreign country is always an insightful experience, but sometimes we don’t know what to do or how to react to difficult unexpected circumstances.
Think about us, it was our first time outside Europe, hard to plan how our mind and body will feel about our new experience. Overall we managed pretty well, thanks to our prior research and preparation.
After this amazing adventure in 10-days in Sri Lanka, we are proud to suggest a few things coming from our experience.
- Respect the others and the rules when visiting a new country
- Don’t miss the local cuisine
- If you are visiting a Buddhist temple and you want to take a picture, never and never turn your back to the statue to take a selfie. It is considered very disrespectful
- If you are not sure how to act, ask
- Plan in advance where to go and where to stay to make your journey easier
- Skip riding elephants
- Choose the right month to visit Sri Lanka to avoid rainy days
WHERE TO STAY IN COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
Depending on what is your budget, during your 2 days in Colombo, you can find different types of accommodations. From the luxury and more expensive hotels to a moderate one.
AIRBNB AND GUEST HOUSES
Honestly, in our view, Airbnb is your best option when looking for cheap accommodation everywhere, Sri Lanka too. We used it almost exclusively throughout our trip! But Sri Lanka is so cheap that it is worth checking how much it will cost you a couple of nights in a hotel in Colombo.
The city has a wide range of options for every budget. It will be your opportunity to have a closer look at locals’ lifestyles. If you are travelling for an extended time, Airbnb is definitely the option you have to look for. The average price is around 20$ to 100$ depending on the period you are visiting Colombo and also the location you choose. Book using our code will help to save on your trip, you will receive up to 40$ off your first booking!
HOTELS IN COLOMBO
Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo Hotel | With its luxury and elegance, the Cinnamon Lakeside is a great place where to stay in Colombo. We spent a couple of days in this hotel before moving around the country. The staff, the structure and the rooms are absolutely amazing and the food, for Alessia’s happiness, was intercontinental cuisine.
She was able to choose between spicy and not! If you are booking this hotel at the right moment, in the off-peak months you can find a room from £54 per night. Check availability and prices.
Mövenpick Hotel Colombo | An alternative hotel which you can think about is the Movenpick Hotel Colombo. What made us want to stay in that hotel was the fantastic view and pool located on the rooftop. A huge structure where you can easily spend a couple of days. A 5-star hotel where rooms start from £70 per night. Check prices and availability.
Siddhalepa Anarva Mt. Lavinia | That was for us a pleasant discovery, while we were not keen to any Ayurveda clinic we found this really interesting and relaxing.
Other hotels in Colombo we suggest to check out
BEST TIME TO VISIT COLOMBO
If you are wondering when is the right time to visit Colombo, for sure is during the dry season, between January and March. You might have a slightly different Sri Lanka itinerary compared to ours which was to the North of the Pearl of Indian Ocean. If you are planning to explore the west and the south coasts, you can think about a trip from November to February.
Summertime in Sri Lanka is when March is approaching, other than that we suggest you plan an April trip to Colombo and not go over when it starts to be too hot. The dry and humid temperatures are exhausting, this will discourage you from going around. Instead, we will advise you to avoid visiting Colombo in May, even if it is the best time to get deals for accommodations and tours, it is too hot to visit the landmarks of the city. And visiting other parts of the country you will incur in heavy rains.
The southwest monsoon hits Colombo from May to August and brings rain to western and southwest coasts.
We visited Sri Lanka in August and had only one rainy day. With all this climate change you never know how the weather is going to be but, it’s better to have an overall idea.
The winter season approaches in November to February. This is when the rain doesn’t affect Colombo and that’s why it is considered another good period to visit the city.
How to reach Colombo Airport
Colombo has got a busy International Airport, which serves as a hub for other locations in Asia. You can get a direct flight from Europe, like from London, Heathrow. We flew from Madrid, Spain, and we had a beautiful layover in Abu Dhabi, and Doha at the return.
Colombo International Airport is 35km away from Colombo city and it can take from 45 minutes up to 2 hours. It will always depend on traffic. Local buses are much cheaper, but if you don’t feel comfortable you can always take a taxi and avoid stress before going to the airport.
AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN COLOMBO
We have to be honest, we went to Sri Lanka, completely blinded about things to do. We were interested just to go with the flow and enjoy as much as possible our first trip to Asia. In your list of things to do in Colombo, you should include a proper food tour, willing to try the traditional tasty local cuisine. What we also found amazing was a ride on the most traditional transport vehicle in Asia, the Tuk-tuk.
There are many ways to enrich your trip to Sri Lanka, including visits outside of Colombo. The Triangle of Asia is full of history, culture and heritage. Think that in a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean there are 8 World Heritage Sites. Considered that there are just 22 million inhabitants on the island this is pretty awesome.
Plan other trips outside of Colombo to the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, hike up Pidurangala and watch the Jungles from the ancient ruins of Sigiriya. Take a ride on the scenic blue train, arrive in the magic holy city of Kandy, or just relax in the green hills of the Ceylon Valley while trying the best tea in the world.
BACKPACKERS ESSENTIALS TO TRAVEL TO SRI LANKA | EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR YOUR SRI LANKA ITINERARY
Backpacking the world one country at the time we have developed a way of listing what we need for each trip. From essential medicines to tools, kit and reusable stuff.
Our first trip to Sri Lanka wasn’t the same as the others, so we did a lot of preparation before. We are pretty happy on what we carried in our trip to the Pearl of Sri Lanka.
Hand Sanitiser | We actually didn’t pack it but bought it at the local supermarket once in Colombo. This is essential for every trip.
Reusable water bottle | In our preparation for Sri Lanka, we ask much advice to our blogger friends who have been there before us. Everyone agrees in saying to carry a Reusable water bottle. We usually carry one of it in our daily life back in London, but because it is not suggested to drink from the tap, you can buy a filter water bottle, which allows you to refill from every water source. Check this is amazing.
Biodegradable wet wipes | Together with hand sanitiser, this is the essential kit of backpackers for every trip. You can carry with you and are low weight or buy at local supermarkets once landed. Remember to throw it away in the bins and respect the environment.
Reusable straws | Being environment friendly, and watching out for your own health, we suggest buying Iron Straws for your next trip. This allows you to drink from your own piece, clean it on the way and don’t throw away other plastic. Buy yours!
OTHER ESSENTIALS | Working more on our contents, recently we have come up with an entire list of essential kits for backpackers. This is the ideal list of things you need for the next trip to Sri Lanka.
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SRI LANKA? CHECK OUR GUIDES
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