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, members-only The Library bar, and award-winning Balinese Azmaara spa with its extensive range of treatments from Balinese and Swedish massages to express head-and-foot treatments.
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, Number 11, is part of a row of four small houses which lay along a short cul-de-sac. It 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. Wash the moist, heavenly dish down with a glass of ice-milo or fresh juice. Or if you’re hankering for a hearty seafood meal, head to Ministry of Crab (above). An ode to the crustacean in all its forms, it dishes up everything from the Sri Lankan curry crab to garlic chilli crab. The restaurant also celebrate other seafood varieties from Sri Lanka; from king prawns found in the rivers running across the island to fresh clams and uysters from the lagoons. Reserve months ahead as it is very popular.
4. Pick up some of Sri Lanka’s biggest exports
Be sure to buy tea from Dilmah Tea Shop, the country’s biggest brand of locally produced tea. It has had a long history of staying true to its authenticity dating back to the late 1980s. The family tea business has grown into an international brand and can be found in more than 100 countries. It’s so well-known, it even has exclusive outlets in popular shopping malls such as Odel. 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, which is set in a mansion made regal with marble pillars, carved wooden banisters and chandeliers. Its 10 individually designed suites are 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. Apart from the food court, there are dozens of cafes and restaurants serving cuisines from all over Asia as well as boutiques and a cineplex.
7. Sip wine over jazz music
Relax with a glass of wine at Barefoot Ceylon Café, which has a laid-back, resort-like atmosphere with outdoor seating facing a garden. What started from humble origins serving lime juice and fish patties over 30 years ago, now boasts daily specials. This popular cafe also hosts occasional live jazz concerts. The space also houses a bookshop, boutique and art gallery.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The information is accurate as of press time. For updated information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit singaporeair.com.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings on 18 January 2018 and updated on 22 March 2021.