1. Relax by Beira Lake
Thanks to its idyllic location on the shores of Beira Lake, Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo makes for a perfect city break. The romantic vibe is highlighted by the hotel’s floating restaurant, and award-winning Azmaara spa with its express head-and-foot treatment centre.
2. Visit the home of Geoffrey Bawa
The prominent Sri Lankan architect’s house, where he lived between 1960 to 1970, is now open to the public for guided tours. The building has all his signature touches including plentiful courtyards and verandas, and a stark white palette – definitely a treat for Instagrammers and those who appreciate fine architecture.
3. Try sought-after local cuisine
Nobody dishes out Sri Lanka’s signature street dish kotthu (roti sliced and tossed up with onions, meat, spices and sometimes cheese) better than Hotel de Pilawoos, which attracts even the rich and famous despite its humble facade. Or if you’re hankering for a hearty seafood meal, head to Ministry of Crab (below). An ode to the crustacean in all its forms, it dishes up everything from the Singapore chilli crab to Sri Lankan garlic pepper crab curry. Reserve months ahead as it is very popular.
4. Pick up some of Sri Lanka’s biggest exports
Be sure to buy tea from the Dilmah Tea Shop (below), the country’s biggest brand that has exclusive outlets in popular shopping malls such as Odel and Crescat Boulevard. While at Odel, don’t forget to shop for souvenirs from local brand Luv SL, including a range of T-shirts and trinkets.
5. Stay in an elegant colonial building
Some of the most attractive heritage buildings in Sri Lanka – which evoke the country’s colonial past – have become elegant hotels. These include Mount Lavinia Hotel, which has a history dating back over two centuries. Just a 30-minute drive from the city, it showcases some of the best colonial architecture of the region. Guest rooms are modestly laid out with wooden antique furniture. Then there’s also luxurious boutique hotel Paradise Road Tintagel (below), which is set in a mansion made regal with marble pillars, carved wooden banisters and chandeliers. Its 10 suites is furnished with sumptuous canopy beds and surprisingly contemporary bathrooms with mosaic accent walls and stone tubs.
6. Mingle with the locals at popular gathering spots
Galle Face Green is easily the city’s most recognisable seaside promenade, and used by locals of all ages as a rendezvous spot. Walkers, joggers, couples and happy families jostle for space here, providing plenty of business for snack vendors. If you’d like something a little more upmarket, spend a couple of hours at the modern and leafy Arcade Independence Square, which is part of Colombo’s recent gentrification process. Apart from the food court, there are dozens of cafes and restaurants serving cuisines from all over Asia.
7. Sip wine over jazz music
Relax with a glass of wine at Barefoot Ceylon, which has a laid-back, resort-like atmosphere with outdoor seating facing a garden. Try their legendary black pork curry and order from the daily specials. The popular cafe also hosts the occasional live jazz concert and pub quiz.
– TEXT BY CHARUKESI RAMADURAI
PHOTOS: CINNAMON LAKESIDE COLOMBO, GEOFFREY BAWA HOUSE-NO 11, MINISTRY OF CRAB, DILMAH TEA, FLICKR USER PATTY HO (COLOMBO CITY), PARADISE ROAD TINTAGEL, BAREFOOT CEYLON
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.