First up, think a bit on where best to base yourself.
Colombo doesn’t have an obvious town-centre; there’s no real cluster of restaurants, bars or noteworthy shops so working out where to park yourself can be tricky.
If you think of Colombo 7 (see Google Maps) as a de facto centre and don’t veer too many miles from it then you’ll be in decent shape.
Maniumpathy is about as Colombo 7 as they come – a very good hopping-off point.
You’ll not get far in Sri Lanka without hearing mention of Geoffrey Bawa – the island’s most lauded architect – so why not jump right in and visit No. 11, his former residence.
Tours can be arranged, when pre-booked (set times only), and will show off a style you’ll likely see much-borrowed across the island.
Morning in the Museum
As the day heats up the cool chambers of the National Museum offer a suitable retreat. Since re-opening after considerable renovation, the collection offers a clear picture of a very rich cultural history.
The building itself is as impressive as the artefacts it houses but getting in will cost just a nominal amount. You can, on occasion, find a guide to add a little colour – don’t count on it, though.
Lunchtime approaches and for casual midday dining, Barefoot on the Galle Road is the ideal spot.
Combining shop, gallery and restaurant/café, it offers a perfect hour or two of browsing, buying, eating and drinking.
Grab a shady table before the crowds pitch up.
Horizontal half-hour (or longer)
Urban sightseeing between 3 and 5 isn’t a great strategy in Colombo – the mercury’s up and you’re best advised to get horizontal, recharging for more exertion in the late afternoon and evening.
In the late afternoon head up towards Fort and into the markets of Pettah. The tight streets seem to offer everything from handkerchiefs to hanging baskets; the businesses most often serving as wholesale suppliers for Colobo’s swankier retailers.
In the early evening there’s a great teeming atmosphere as the last deals of the day are closed out.
An anomaly in the middle of all the bustle, if heading down Princes Street you’ll notice a grand old building – the Dutch Museum. A former Dutch mansion the not-so-known building is an oasis in this part of town and showcases authentic Dutch architecture as well as a smart collection of period furniture and antiques. You’ll see the style, columns and courtyards, re-created time and again across Sri Lanka.
Sundowners and dinner
Post-Pettah you may be in need of a drink and the Galle Face Hotel offers an ideal spot. Make your way south, adjacent to Galle Face Green and reach the grand old hotel in time for a sundowner on the Checkers Board, overlooking the ocean.
If there in time (around 5.30pm) you’ll see the Sri Lankan flag lowered to the sound of bagpipes being played; a resurrected tradition that not everyone appreciates!
Continue south after your aperitif and finish up at The Gallery Café. Colmbars might not praise the originality of the choice but the restaurant, formerly an office of Geoffrey Bawa (there you go) still boasts the best dining atmosphere in town.