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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 31, 2019
Headline for 5 Cool things to do in Colombo - Enjoy the city like the locals
Joanna James Joanna James
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5 Cool things to do in Colombo - Enjoy the city like the locals

The city of Colombo is a captivating reflection of the many elements that make the country. Here's a list of interesting things to do in the city if you've got time for a little exploring.


Enjoy a tuk-tuk ride

Colombo's tuk-tuk drivers, are busy guys with appointments to keep, at least that's the impression you get when you experience a high-speed ride through the city (much appreciated if you're late for an event). The skilled three-wheeler drivers know every street and short-cut imaginable and use them to tread their way through Colombo's traffic. Painted in various colours, each tuk-tuk has its own unique style, with posters, plastic fruit, religious statues and colourful bling decorating the interiors. The swankier ones include flashing neon lights and sound speakers pumping out an assortment of club music.


Explore the streets of Slave Island

One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Colombo, Slave Island got its sinister name during the Portuguese rule when they held their slaves on a now long-gone island in the middle of Beira Lake. The narrow lanes that criss-cross to form the maze, that makeup Slave Island today; offer up a feast for the senses. Brightly painted houses in shades of blue, green and yellow, all crammed next to each other, fight for space with small businesses that have managed to creep in between, a stark contrast to the new modern structures popping off all over Colombo. Hotels the likes of The Kingsbury Colombo are an example, but still, the tiny houses remain.


Eat at a hotel

No, not one of the fancy hotels, but small, inexpensive eateries found on the corner of almost every street. Don't be put off by the peeling walls or plastic furniture, because this is where you'll find some of the best local food. Order a plate of rice accompanied by a variety of delicious curries, or tuck into a roti, a flatbread made of coconut and flour, with a side of fiery sambal. Each hotel has its own version of a particular recipe, so you'll never get bored with the same thing.


Visit the fresh produce markets

The weekly outdoor markets or 'Pola' as they are known in Sinhala, take place every Sunday and offers up a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables. Each neighbourhood has its own pola and if you're willing to brave the morning sun, do take a walk among the vendors selling everything from organic produce to meats, household items and even clothing. Everything is a bargain here, so if you want to buy something, be prepared to haggle for it.


Watch the sunset over Galle Face Green

A green strip of the promenade, overlooking the Indian Ocean, offers the best sunsets in the city. Families gather here to enjoy the cool sea breeze and fly kites, while young couples can be seen huddled together on benches, whisper sweet nothings to each other. Food vendors are parked all over the strip, dishing up plates full of crispy snacks and cool drinks to hungry customers. This is the perfect place to end a long day, settled on a bench, watching the golden sunset over the city.