The Big Smoke - Colombo
A day’s outing to Colombo, taking in the best in food, shopping, art and history that the city has to offer

 

Distance: Round trip = 168 miles. 

Car costs (1-3) $127.

Van costs ( 1-6 people) $165.

 

 

 

Founded by Muslim Arab traders in the eighth century, in the game of musical chairs that is Colombo’s history, the Arabs were expelled by the Portuguese.  

The Portuguese built their fort and trading centre on the same spot, pushing out the Kotte kings from neighbouring lands until they themselves were forced out by the Dutch after an epic siege in 1656. In 1796 the embryonic city was captured by the British who made it their capital. 

Mansions, warehouses, jetties, palaces, churches, offices, pleasure domes and parks followed, most still situated in or close to what is today referred to as Fort. 

Despite the official capital moving slightly south to Kotte in 1982, the city is still regarded as the capital, washed by a salty tropical ocean air that makes you sweat and smile. Unusually for any capital, still less an Asian one, it remains largely low rise with offices and homes, restaurants and services jumbled together in beautiful, functional, chaotic harmony.  Twinned with Shanghai, St Petersburg and Leeds, it is a most lively, lovely, and liveable-in place.

Of the many things to do and see there our recommendation for a day’s outing is to start the tour with a fresh lime soda and some retail therapy at The Barefoot Café & Gallery, home to fabrics, books and collectibles, before moving on to take in Galle Face Green and the old Fort area by car, The Gallery Café for an unbeatable lunch, a quick shop at Hermitage for curios and then back via the capital’s best two independent art galleries, Gallery Fourlife and the Saskia Fernando Gallery.


Actual itineraries can be adjusted to suit whatever replacement options you might wish to make to this schedule.

 

You may wish, for example, to make a whistle stop visit to The Colombo National Museum. Museums are the same the world over: full of stuff to see, but in the shaded chambers of the grand 1887 Italianate Colombo Museum, lies one of mankind’s greatest and most beautiful works of art – a small bronze statue of Buddha, The Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, relaxed, a leg hanging down, an arm resting on a thigh, holding, for some fourteen hundred years, its spectators breathless.