Discover things to do in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city, and find out more about it’s newest five star hotel, Mövenpick…
“I wouldn’t want to be on that train,” P tells me as the rain hammers down on ours. Why – because lightning is red he tells me. I look at the bright red train sitting next to us at the station and then back at him, bemused. “You know our train is red too?” I ask.
Not that it matters anyway, it is an old myth without any truth and it’s a good thing too because the lightning follows us all the way from Hikkaduwa to Colombo.
On arrival we agree to pay too much for a tuk tuk to the Mövenpick Hotel. It is the first time in two weeks a driver has tried to rip us off, but I suppose we are in the capital now.
When we get there we’re told we have been upgraded and make our way up to the 18th floor where our room has windows stretching the entire length of the room, from floor to ceiling, even bordering the shower.
The hotel, which opened in January last year, is the first five-star hotel in Colombo for 25 years and it is no wonder it holds such an accolade.
The stunning 24-storey building offers chic, contemporary and spacious rooms as well as themed restaurants, a gym, spa and rooftop with an infinity pool, Jacuzzi and bar.
Things to do in Colombo
There are an abundance of religious sites to visit in Colombo and they’re all spectacuarlyl beaufiutl. There is the oldest Hindu temple in the city with mind blowing artwork, Sri Kailasanthar Swami Devasathnam Kovil, or the Hindu Shri Ponnambalawaneswaram Kovil with with intricate carvings and artwork.
Buddhist temples are aplenty, such as the Gangaramaya adorned in artefacts, or the floating Seema Malaka, and the Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya with a bodhi tree grown from one of the 32 saplings from the sacred Anuradhapura tree.
While I found the Seema Malaka to be the most peaceful, my favourite design was that of the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque. Unfortunately, as with many spots across Sri Lanka that are popular with tourists, a nearby snake charmer sent P scarpering and I went after him before getting a photo.
If you’re after a little history, or enjoyed yourself at Galle Fort, then head to the ocean park Galle Face Green (yes this is in Colombo), Independence Memorial Hall, the Galle Buck Lighthouse or Colombo Fort Clock Tower.
For an eclectic mix of everything from culture to shopping, head to the Pettah District. The different streets have specific goods on offer, with the market also stretching onto the river on floating stalls. It can be hard to navigate and extremely crowded, so prepare yourselves and take a map.
For a quieter experience head to Barefoot. It is full of colourful textiles, clothes, homewares and general trinkets. Ok it is a little touristy and pricey, but I bought some lovely little presents here.
Liberty Plaza, just next to Mövenpick Hotel, has three fantastic tea shops and a supermarket in the basement which also has a nice little collection. For those who don’t drink tea they also had coffee, flavoured coffee and Sri Lankan curry mixes!
Where to eat in Colombo
My absolute favourite restaurant in the entirety of Sri Lanka is Life Food. This kitsch health café is spread across three floors next to the river. It is way ahead of anywhere else in the country for food trends, serving smoothies, ‘super bowls’, toasted sandwiches and innovative main dishes,
My favourite was The Moroccan with Harissa baked cauliflower, chickpeas, tomatoes, rocket, feta, mint, cashews and a tahini dressing (1,100 LRS / £5 / $7). I added prawns (400 LRS / £1.80 / $2.60) and avocado (200 LRS / £0.85 / $1.30).
P loved All About That Bass – pan-fried sea bass with tamarin asala and mashed potatoes with broccoli and chargrilled tomatoes (1,390 LRS / £6.50 / $8.40).
We were full board at Mövenpick Hotel, so ate from the all day dining restaurant AYU. The standout food spots within the cavernous building has to be the Brasserie offers a relaxed atmosphere and fine French cuisine, while the Robata Grill and Lounge is our Japanese Izakaya restaurant and sushi bar.
For food a little more authentic to the country, visit Chutneys, Curry Leaf, Harpo’s Colombo Fort Café or Ministry of Crab.